City Hunter : .357 Magnum
If you're in deadly danger, are willing to travel to japan, and just happen to be an attractive woman then your safety is assured. Simply go to a certain train time-table and write XYZ on it and let City Hunter take care of the rest. This anime, from a long running, much loved, but sadly rare television show has spawned a host of movies and OAV's, that are often good fun.
The series revolves around a staple cast of 5 people. There's the awesomely talented ex-mercenary city hunter, who's skills have made him feared (and often challenged) throughout the criminal underworld. He's also making a serious play towards being Japan's number one hentai (pervert) going pretty much out of control (in a humorous way, of course). The one woman in Japan who's immune from his attacks is his partner, whose also a bit tough herself, although many clients realise she's also the only one who might welcome them. As it is she's restricted to solidly malleting or crushing city hunter, both to release her own tensions and to protect the female half of the population. Needless to say, while city hunter never mentions any true feelings for her (which would make her a target) her (frequent) kidnapping turns city hunter into deadly serious mode.
Other characters include a beautiful female police officer who hires city hunter with tokens good for one sexual favor, although he's never managed to redeem one yet. Then there's the proprietors of city hunters favourite coffee shop. They make average coffee, but since both partners are elite mercenaries they're good friends to have. Indeed the character of these two are delightful in themselves and a good balance to the others. Along with all sorts of locations, items and minor characters the movies have the rich heritage of the TV series to draw on...although it's a shame the TV series is so rare that a summary like this is somewhat neccessary. It's important because the human interaction, and complex characters, are so vital to the city hunter experience.
This particular instance instance demonstrates this well, being a nice mix of shady political violence combined with the search of a young woman for a part of her history. To be more precise, a young virtuoso violinist engages city hunter to search for her father, who abandonded the family when she was 5. She believes her mother still loved him, and that there may have been reasons behind the departure, but she has no idea what they are. Sadly she also only knows one letter of his initials, so the search would seem to be impossible.
Meanwhile a fictional, and apparently rather brutal, country is facing some problems. It seems that an amount of rather damaging information has gone missing, hidden by a broker hoping to sell the information to the japanese police. The country in question has dispatched their most (and deservedly) feared agent, the crimson grim reaper, to deal with the problem. He's calm and incredibly deadly, but he's worried that the new ambassador is so focused on gaining fame that he'll do something overly agressive to solve the problem. And since it seems that the only contact to the information is the violinists manager and grandfather, who also seems to have other connections as well, it looks like things are going to become more complex for all involved.
Like many of these stories it revolves on a couple of outrageous co-incidences to make the whole thing work. Additionally those not familiar with city hunter are likely to find the whole `super-hentai' thing either not funny or even downright annoying. However in the end it does work. The story has a couple of nice twists in it, with the three parties playing off each other nicely, and the exact position of each not always being too obvious. And the crimson grim reaper makes a very interesting comparison and opponent for city hunter. It also means that city hunters strengths, both in combat and in being perceptive about human nature, are quite well demonstrated. It must be seen that his transition from `foolish' at the start of any movie to `impressively serious' at the end is a part of the city hunter experience.
Of course the other part of the city hunter formula, especially given the time limitations of movies, is an impressive action rich finale. And this piece does a very good job of impressing in this regard. The earlier cloak and dagger (well, pistol) stuff gives way to some more impressive action in the endgame. And the conclusion is both impressive in scale, imagination and in being a lot of fun too watch...although there's a suprisingly high bodycount. There's also some signs of `white' blood being used, which was unexpected. However, once again showing the strength of the writing, the human drama continues to develop, leading to a possibly questionable but very satisfying conclusion on both fronts.
This is probably no classic, because despite it's long running time, it feels like an extended TV series story. But, on the other hand, it's a pretty entertaining watch and a good introduction to these incredibly interesting characters. To be honest i'm not entirely sure why this one, which seems to have everything, didn't grab me as much as I expected. Another watch may be in order.
It may be that one of the reasons it isn't overly impressive is the animation. At least some of the city hunter `movies' are actually `specials', which effectively means for television movies. Regardless of the reason the animation is like an enhanced TV series. It's got a somewhat dated style, with detailed backgrounds and attractive character depictions which comes at some cost in the smoothness of the animation. Indeed it tries a number of scenes which are simply too ambitious to be well animated. At the same time the action has a nice sense of style, and some imagination, but is somewhat limited in it's depiction. It's certainly competent work, and it looks quite good (and does cute girls well) but it lacks `punch'. The voices are good, the opening music is dated and disconnected, and the ambient music and sound seemed fine.