City Hunter – episodes 1 to 7

August 21, 2004 on 2:07 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter – episodes 1 to 7

City Hunter is the kind of anime that, if you’re truly “into” anime, you’re not supposed to like. Of course, the people who say that have a tendency to fall into ditches and get struck by lightning – so, in short, I like it.

From 1987, City Hunter is the story of sweeper Saeba Ryo – a professional killer/bodyguard who also doubles at the world’s greatest sexual harasser. Along with his agent, Makimura (later Makimura’s sister, Kaori), Ryo takes on the requests of almost exclusively beautiful women. Ryo is notable because he likes to get a “feel” for his clients before taking their jobs, and his clients like to throw tables at him before they realise that he’s the man that they hired.
As it stands this is a series that provides a nice balance of drama and comedy.

While each episode may seem the same, and adhere to a formula, Ryo’s clientele come from a variety of backgrounds and not all of them want exactly the same thing. In fact, not all of them fall for Ryo, so there aren’t as many teary pillows as there are clients. Kaori in particular is immune to Ryo’s charm, to the point that he questions her gender. Ryo’s missions vary from revenge to protecting the secrets of a sterility virus to guarding an actress from the hitman she hired to kill herself.
The order of Ryo’s emotions shift; sometimes he’ll do the really cool thing first, like shooting through his hand to impress a girl and prevent street fatalities, and follow it up with his comedy act, such as screaming in pain as soon as the girl leaves him. Other times, he switches from comedy to drama. Admittedly it’s not something that can provide that much variety, but it should not go unappreciated. Ryo clearly can see the finer things in life, but he understands the grit that goes with it.

The growing and contracting cast offers a good selection. Besides Ryo there’s his original partner who acts as an “agent”, Makimura. Makimura was protective of his sister Kaori and seemed to tolerate Ryo’s antics. When he’s replaced by Kaori, for reasons that I won’t go into, there’s a different dynamic. Kaori is the sort who looks like she’ll grow to be quite violent towards Ryo to put him in his place. One of the most encouraging scenes from these episodes is when Kaori decides to join Ryo. He doesn’t try to talk her out of it, he simply makes sure that she understands the risks associated. Sometimes the man has a feeling of social responsibility, even if he does have a tendency to go on panty raids. The only other recurring character so far is Umibozu, another hitman who looks like he could become Ryo’s rival, friend and comic foil.

Perhaps the most impressive facet is the pacing. Each episode tells a different story, and is tightly paced out of necessity. It’s not a format that one might expect from a crime/underworld series, but it works. The villains are very rarely all of the suited variety, and everyone wants something different. Even when it seems the story won’t be resolved in the set time, it somehow is without feeling rushed at all. This makes City Hunter a very suitable series for taking bites out of.

Kamiya Akira’s acting as Ryo is first rate: when he’s serious he’s dashing, and when he’s comedic he sounds somewhat akin to a frog. Ryo’s favourite word is ‘mokkori’, which the subtitles don’t translate. It’s a cute word which should be vaguely construed as ‘sekushi’ – the reason that it seems to have gone untranslated is because it’s a character in itself, and no one other than Ryo would ever use it ever. The remaining cast is made up of eighties stalwarts, many of whom survived well into the nineties. The whole production smacks of Sunrise’s high values and is a great example of the era. Characters are mostly attractive with the exception of a few shots and the drug abusers. The OP, “Don’t Disappear My Love”, is great, with wonderful animation that includes Ryo and Kaori dancing with hat and cane – something one simply can’t afford to miss to be happy in this life. It will be sad to see it go. The ED is slightly too long for the animation allotted, so it actually starts at the end of each episode, making them feel “dynamic” or perhaps “empowering”. The good thing is that this works for both happy and not so happy endings. This song also boasts some good rhyming English hooks, such as “Get Wild and Tough!” followed by “Get Chance and Luck!”. There are even insert songs, which is one of the best ways to add colour to scenes.

So far, City Hunter is highly enjoyable. Maybe it will wear thin over 143 or so episodes, but I don’t plan to watch them all at once.

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