Angel Heart – episode 1 (raw)

October 5, 2005 on 6:53 pm | In Angel Heart | Comments Off on Angel Heart – episode 1 (raw)

So hungry was I for Angel Heart that I obtained it raw. If I hadn’t known the story’s premise, I might have had more trouble: but, armed with what I know, I was able to interpret what was going on almost exclusively through Hirano Toshiki’s excellent direction. This first episode, at least, is close to cinematic in its presentation.

The entire original voice cast of City Hunter returns, and all I can say is yes: the trousers of time work.

Warning: I really am not sure how suitable it is for people who are just about to get into City Hunter to read this.

Angel Heart begins with a woman standing atop a building. She reflects upon her latest kill: after shooting a man in a park, his daughter runs up to him. When the little girl realises that her father is dead, the woman’s heart shatters.
Faced with this, the woman jumps off the building. “I have become free,” she says. “This is freedom.”
Some time later, a group of men have placed this woman, known as “Glass Heart”, on an operating table, trying to revive her. The men relate her personal history of being trained to kill under unreasonably harsh conditions as a child as she lays in her coma.

Come the second half of the episode, we get the City Hunter characters. The first word that Ryo utters in Angel Heart is, suitably enough, “mokkori!”. Saeko watches quietly as he tries to hit on girls at a pool. Then she takes him aside and, to the best of my knowledge, they discuss Kaori’s death [I have since found that they were discussing the fact that there have been no leads on the theft of Kaori’s heart]. Ryo appears to say that Kaori is not dead, that she still lives on, somehow.

A voice inside Glass Heart tells her that she wants to live, and shares her memories of a man named Ryo, including details of proposal and of death. Glass Heart feels the will to live, but also to break free of her employers …

In my mind, Angel Heart was much worse. I don’t mean qualitatively, I mean in the sense of emotional impact. I expected to be crushed when Kaori died, but some of the edge is taken off because of the blending of Kaori and Glass Heart’s features; this early in the series, do I really care if Glass Heart is hit by a truck? Not really. Sure, it’s sad, but it’s not as bad as seeing the well-loved (as she has been, in the eyes of fans, for more than 18 years) visage of Kaori doing the same thing.
So, while we get the aftermath, which does hit hard:

The blow is slightly softened.

Fans should keep in mind that Hojo Tsukasa said that this is either an “alternate universe” or the characters are not those of City Hunter – they just coincidentally look the same, have the same names, and visit the same locations.
I’m not going to pretend that City Hunter is perfect, but it was easy to grow attached to and the announcement of Angel Heart caused me to realise that City Hunter does mean a great deal to me.
Still, I accept this as part of the continuity. What I said back then still stands, but I wanted to point out that Angel Heart is one leg of the Trousers of Time (Terry Pratchett’s idea that dictates that time is bifurcated and that every possibility exists, each in a different pant leg). Therefore you can either imagine that, in the other leg, Ryo and Kaoru were happily married and City Hunter was retired.
If it’s any consolation, Kaori died at 28, which means she and Ryo had a good nine years together.

Something that I documented fairly extensively over the course of my City Hunter reviews is that I love that, while Ryo does a lot of stupid comedy, he can turn deadly serious. This continues here and, as I have always theorised, “mokkori!” is a defence and coping mechanism. Kamiya Akira keeps up his excellent performance of Ryo, almost as if he’d been doing it just yesterday rather than not having played the character for six years (in the unlicenced Death of the Vicious Criminal Saeba Ryo). His delivery, particularly during the penultimate scene of the episode, was spot on.

Kaori has aged eight years, so Ikura Kazue has not trotted out her exact same performance: what once was harsh is now soft and gentle, and I got the total sense of kindness that her character (or, at least, her heart) is trying to portray in Angel Heart. Ikura is one of my favourite seiyuu, because she voices two of my favourite characters: the other being the effing hilarious Volcan from Orphen.

Artistically, this show is almost perfectly done. The opening scenes are portrayed exactly like a film, with the lighting and silences creating an excellent sense of drama. Glass Heart’s story is a tragic one, and even though I do not yet know the character it’s difficult not to feel for someone who has to endure all of the rubbish that she has in her time.
The introduction of the City Hunter characters was perfect, with Ryo’s “mokkori!” and Saeko’s anchoring of said mokkori maniac. Kaori’s intro is less perfect, but this is because she’s not exactly alive in a conventional sense and therefore can not be introduced in a conventional sense. Ryo looks fundamentally the same as he did, but Saeko does not look as pretty: it’s the hair colour – it’s just not quite right. Kaori has aged well, but her hair has become more brunette than the red that it once was (keep in mind that City Hunter 3 turned me off with Kaori’s weird hair and Ryo’s outfit changes; I’m sensitive to these things).

Hirano has also harnessed a use of metaphor that is not exactly subtle, but works; “Glass Heart” is not a good name for an assassin, but it’s a good name for the character: each time we see Glass Heart take a life, her own (blue CG) heart takes a crack. The man at the start of the series is the final crack.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes from here: with a new heart, that’s essentially a free pass for her conscience. Of course, freedom won’t come cheap, and Ryo’s going to have to take his guns out of retirement. Umibozu is in next episode – which I would say I can’t wait for, but I will wait for the subs before I continue this series: Hirano won’t be able to tell a story entirely visually, especially knowing City Hunter‘s tendency to sit around in Ryo’s loft apartment.

I will write this episode up again when I obtain the sub (because someone will sub it or everyone will suffer my iron fist). This first episode was easy because of its nature as an orientation; I was lost in Saeko’s investigations, and I want to know exactly how Ryo bumbled his way into his proposal, but it worked well enough: I understood perfectly the emotions of Kaori and Ryo on that rainy night.
Angel Heart is great – I know I unfairly favoured the City Hunter cast in these screens, but Glass Heart will come into her own soon enough.

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