City Hunter – episodes 37 to 44

September 21, 2004 on 8:38 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter – episodes 37 to 44

City Hunter is not only the home of some happy mokkori and good two parters, it is also the home of M & M’s. In this group of episodes there at least seven viewings of the branding, from Kaori’s grocery bag, to a truck, to Ryo’s toaster. His toaster, dangit!

The first two parter out of this set was about one of those old style, kimono wearing, yakuza warrior women. The scene where she goes to exact her revenge was poetic in its execution, and practically cried out for blood on the snow. City Hunter‘s weakest aspect is at its most obvious here: there is no sense of justice because, since Kaori came on to the scene, no one has been killed by Ryo. He lives in a section outside of the law where the only real way to teach a criminal is to kill him. It’s not even as if he’s taken an oath or anything, it’s just sanitisation. Sometimes people whom Ryo has failed to put down have come back to get him in the same episode.
Consider that many criminals spend their time inside planning their next crime – consider that many are back in almost before they’re out. Ryo’s “stern admonition” approach to dealing with the underworld’s ne’er do wells is highly ineffective.
This episode also highlights that sometimes it would be better if the hero or heroine could succeed without Ryo’s intervention. It would be that much more effective if it could happen with just Ryo’s guidance, not Ryo’s “shooting direct into the barrel of the other guy’s gun, thus making it explode” trick, which frankly wasn’t that impressive all the other times.

The rest of the episodes had some great moments, including Ryo’s way of showing up a gang of punk women (threatening to tell everyone in town the colour of their panties). Ryo is not only taken as a “baby-sitter”, but sometimes as a vicarious boyfriend. These women, who invariably have not yet had a taste of the real world, for some reason look to this man as the ideal model of masculinity. On that note, only my mind could think that a woman could be cured of a grandfather-con by replacing it with shota-con.

The best episodes are always those which display the care and trust that Kaori and Ryo have for one another. That Ryo can make fun of Kaori while she’s wielding a rocket launcher is proof that they are the best of friends. Their relationship is questionable though, because Kaori is always worrying about their lack of work. Is it due to lost credibility from Ryo going so soft? Somehow even the kids on the street know about City Hunter and play at being him; at least he’s not instantly recognisable, which is a small mercy.
It’s hoped that as the series progresses, Ryo will gain credibility, because he can’t stay as he is. The OVAs look more like the serious side of City Hunter (or, depending on who you ask, the more creatively bankrupt).

Unsurprisingly, the specifically best episodes of this set were the two parter wherein justice was served. This episode tackled important questions such as “is it corruption if it’s for a noble cause?” and “how do you fight corruption at the highest level?”. This episode not only featured the major criminal getting what was coming to him, but also featured him killing one of his subordinates. I’ll bring it up again, but the writers seem to think that killing someone is dehumanising. They have a point, but Ryo is too “human” for the profession. Softening is not good. The episode also does quite a job of answering its own improbabilities, which is something too infrequently dealt with all along the board. It also featured one of the best ending lines ever.

Ryo also works on his brilliant non-sequiturs: when everyone looks on him after he makes a mokkori move, he changes tact with “I say, waiter, what do you make of the latest developments in the Persian Gulf?” His abilities as “the man” are beyond doubt as he somehow manages to remove a bra without touching a woman.
Surprisingly for a program seventeen years old, only one thing seems out of date – the cultural reference to tanka: short poems. It just didn’t seem to mean anything. It might still be in Japan, but it’s not something that really has much cross over appeal and it seemed odd to base an episode around it in part. On the other hand, scissors paper rock baseball (featured in the same episode) is always fun, as is the smooth manner of Hayami Sho.

There was some great animation and design in the episode about the moon princess but, as always with City Hunter, this show is from a time when long shots weren’t very good. Anything that’s not a close up is low on detail and not that interesting. That’s not to say that the whole thing is ugly – such shots are generally avoided – but it’s not pleasant to watch those particular scenes.

City Hunter is undoubtedly enjoyable, but still feels like it needs more bite. Despite its seemingly high amount of fan service for the era, the violence seems less than was acceptable for the day. Not to say violence is cool, but it is necessary for the subject matter to mean something. Even though Ryo is the “good guy”, he has to accept the way his world is. He can’t tone it down on account of his partner who, coincidentally, has no problem with violence.

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