City Hunter Handbook: Episode 1

June 13, 2006 on 11:56 pm | In City Hunter Handbook | 3 Comments

Last night, I got a most excellent, crazy idea: I would watch City Hunter. Like, the first episode ever. City Hunter is easily one of my most well-documented series, and one of the few titles that I would place among my favourites (there being far too many titles to categorise by degrees of “like”). Part of this is because I can see its flaws and acknowledge them: that the idea of the series is probably better than the show itself. Way back when I watched Million Dollar Conspiracy, I partook of the episode that introduced Kaori to the world of City Hunter. That provoked much thought, particularly in regard to the representation of the characters and the changes that occurred to the basic structure of the series.

Now! The episode that introduces City Hunter himself: Saeba Ryo. The show is nothing like this when it gets underway!

The episode begins with Ryo and Makimura working together on a sniping job so simple that Kaori-era yo would never accept it. Consider also that Kaori-era Ryo eventually ran out of money and never really made it back. This is indicative of the fact that City Hunter was a much more professional business in its formative years, with frivolous cases overruled by personal tales of revenge and other such rough justices.

The very first episode features Ryo killing a man, something that he would not do in the future unless he had a very good reason. The man in question happened to be a serial killer, so there’s really no dirty moral ambiguity about it. The conclusive line, “He was not worth dirtying your hands with: that is the job of a sweeper” proposes a series in which innocent maidens are saved from succumbing to animalistic homicidal urges by the hard-hearted, sexually licentious Saeba Ryo. Most enemies become small time, though, and most of the clients become simple instances of Ryo helping them through troubled times in their lives.

What I found most interesting about the episode is that it presents all of these set pieces and ideas that it never follows up on: Ryo presents his base of operations as a club in Kabukicho, where the waitresses wear naked aprons and cover their nipples with star tape. There exists “Master”, who gives Ryo information in exchange for protection from petty thugs. Master looks disturbingly like Ricardo Montelban and is, to my knowledge, never seen again over the course of the series. Goodbye, friend Master: you were hardboiled, but ultimately unnecessary.

The obvious reason for this difference is the presence of Makimura, who could not exactly help Ryo in future episodes on account of being dead. Makimura is that which makes City Hunter a well-oiled machine and keeps Ryo in line in a much “softer” way than Kaori ever did. His gentle chiding is perhaps more effective than any megaton hammers that Kaori could ever care to produce. The contrast is that Ryo’s stupid behaviour, and the delineation of his personality, is more pronounced under Makimura: in the early episodes of series one of City Hunter, Ryo is concerned about his gun play and the series obsessively plays up that angle. To show how cool Ryo is, in the first episode he fires a bullet through his hand so that he can shoot a bad fellow without harming people outside. Never again does the series care about the potential of collateral damage of the magnum .357 that Ryo packs, but here he has to be totally cool and hardcore … so that he can scream in pain as soon as he gets outside.

Basically, the first episode of City Hunter is a blueprint that almost totally fails to be followed by the rest of the series. It’s great to watch again, if only to see the pure difference. I’m going to go through the rest of the series, trying to get in at least one episode a night (which will take me 143 days! Hurrah!). I’ll keep you posted.


  1. That’s great, i’d been wondering how different City Hunter was to Angel Heart, as I started watching that series without knowing City Hunter existed. When i eventually watch City Hunter I hope the intro/ending music isn’t as nauseatingly ‘pop’ as Angel Heart! :S

    Comment by Hazel — June 14, 2006 #

  2. I’m still making my first run through City Hunter. I saw City Hunter 1 back in September and I just bought City Hunter 2. Sadly I’m having a hell of a time finding City Hunter 3 and ’91. Ebay is failing me…

    Comment by KT Kore — June 14, 2006 #

  3. I had no idea it had gone out of print. Hence my site’s unofficial policy of “writing about stuff you will never watch” has come to the fore once again!

    Actually, that really sucks.

    As for the music: I’m working on it.

    Comment by Alex — June 14, 2006 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^