City Hunter: The Secret Service

November 6, 2005 on 8:30 pm | In City Hunter | Comments Off on City Hunter: The Secret Service

Note: Prime time TV special, not OVA.

“The first mokkori in four years!” boasts Ryo in one of the promos for this TV special.
“This isn’t the Olympics, you know,” says Kaori.
The first City Hunter property since City Hunter ‘91, this is one of the better efforts of all of the extraneous City Hunter productions. It is true that it could have been handled in 40 minutes, ala a two part episode, but The Secret Service miraculously fails to drag.

The story of City Hunter: The Secret Service is surprisingly not as derivative as it could have been, given that it is based on that old City Hunter standby, the visiting foreign diplomat. Jim McGuire is running for the presidential office of the Guinam Republic, in the hopes of furthering the cause of democracy for his nation. On a visit to Japan, he finds that Anna, his estranged daughter, is being targeted. Naturally, City Hunter Saeba Ryo is the only man for the job!

Amazingly, The Secret Service begins with a teaser ala the James Bond films, a little three minute piece that emphasises the idea that “it takes two to make City Hunter”. The teaser works on several ridiculous premises, so it is good that it is not part of the whole body of work, but it is an interesting thing to have done. I would wager that it would have been considerably more interesting if the teaser did not echo the conclusion of The Million Dollar Conspiracy.

The Secret Service actually exceeds some of the narrative expectations that City Hunter has established over the years. Almost without fail, every visiting diplomat storyline that the franchise has produced has featured treachery on the part of the second in command. The Secret Service makes it blatantly clear that the character in question is of questionable moral character; when City Hunter does this, the beauty is in letting the audience know that Ryo knows this but is withholding the information. This is handled fairly well, but even more impressive is the fact that the traitor’s behaviour is actually, for once, justified.

This is a post ’91 story, so Umibozu has been declared blind. This does not seem to faze him in the slightest, so I would wager that it is blindness of the legal variety; Umibozu should not be doing what he does, but he can do it with relatively little incident. This is, of course, due to the honing of his sixth sense; definitely something to strike terror into the hearts of Ryo and Kaori.
Packing itself with little things like this, City Hunter: The Secret Service manages to while away its ninety minutes in a largely pleasant fashion; with one arbitrarily enforced death along the way, that’s something of a miracle!

The scripting is a bit confusing, not making it clear if Anna is aware of her father. This can be credited to aloofness after about five more minutes of the show, but they were certainly five minutes spent in confusion. I can not really say if that was actually symptomatic of the script, or if the translation was clumsy.

There is a point, later in the film, where the subtitles are blatantly incorrect on Kaori’s family history; they say “my parents and little brother died when I was very small. They were killed by one of the crime families”. If you’re at all familiar with City Hunter, you should instantly recognise that this history is bunk.
If I were to take the liberty to apply my limited skills in Japanese to this, I would translate the lines Kaori says to “My parents died when I was very young, and my older brother was killed by a crime syndicate”. I’ve put it out there to alleviate any suspicions.

Keep in mind also that ADV went as far as to translate “mokkori” for all of their City Hunter features, so it’s not quite the same level of service that you may be used to if you’re a devotee of the TV series. It is, of course, not enough to ruin the enjoyment of this feature, but I spent a large amount of the film inserting “mokkori!” into the subtitles of my mind.

The production values are more in line with the TV series than the previous specials, which were significantly more polished. As a result, the “vibe” of The Secret Service is more inline with one of the television episodes, which is likely what makes it more pleasant. The only issue that I can take with this is that the values that they’re trying to match are those of City Hunter 3, which means that Kaori never quite has the right hair colour. I know it’s a small thing, but it angers me.

Still, I get the feeling that the City Hunter staff simply didn’t care what they were doing when they wrote the new characters’ names. The Guinam Republic is obviously supposed to be a war-torn state ala countless South American nations; why, then, is their leader called Jim McGuire? His compatriots go by the names Martinez and Gonzales, but he’s distinctly … Irish.

Strangely enough the DVD actually offers a semi-substantive extra in the form of a 2:30 spin off of the teaser that acts to forge another tender Kaori and Ryo moment. It would be very easy to miss and, while it does not really add anything, it’s certainly pleasant enough.

City Hunter: The Secret Service is pleasant enough City Hunter, the closest to being on par with the TV series. As always, I leave my caveat: for fans only; don’t even think of watching this without having seen at least City Hunter 1!
Now I’ve only got one City Hunter left: Goodbye My Sweetheart. Anyone know how I could get my hands on The death of the vicious criminal Saeba Ryo?

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