Anime Meta-Review


City Hunter : Secret Service


By Date




Title Info

  • type: movie
  • grade: flawed
  • made: unknown
  • Review created: Wed Jan 3 13:20:46 EST 2001
  • mod: none

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.

But enough of the general guff. What this anime brings to the screen is a plot so complex and soapy it almost defies description. Clearly it's an attempt to focus on the human issues side of the city hunter formula, but it's somewhat less than successful. In essence some small country, previously ruled by a vicious military regime, is about to have its first true election. One of the candidates, the popular one who has some hope of actually fostering true democracy in the country, has come to Japan on a tour. It seems there's someone gunning for him however, and while he's an ex-rebel, protected by the Japanese secret service and fairly fearless he arranges for his assistant (a female ex-rebel) to hire city hunter. While city hunter calmly informs them he doesn't guard men it turns out the real mission is to guard a female member of the secret service. It seems that the situation is even more complex than it seems.

And indeed it is. In fact it's a bit more complex than is truly believable, but in order to avoid spoiling it I really can't spell it out. Let's simply say that there are no shortage of hidden agenda, historical connections and emotional links between many of the characters. And they are doled out over the course of the series while the somewhat bemused city hunter is largely side-lined. Although once everyone has revealed their hands, and things are turning violent, he's there to save the day. He's also there to provide the epic battle required for the finale.

The problem is that it's more than a little bit too much. The plot is so twisted and interconnected that it passes by a believable sense of reality. Likewise the history revealed seems highly improbable to the extent of being a bit corny. And then there's the emotional interaction, which gives evidence of hamfisted writing, and is a bit soapy and brutal. In all it simply twists too violently, and seems a bit too improbable, for the limited writing to make it work. As an example the main character has about 3 flashbacks which add major new story elements. You really start to fear seeing another. And, worst of all, it takes the focus away from the familiar city hunter figures. It also shows in city hunter actually being so super-hentai at the start that he fails in his responsibility, something well outside the familiar character.

The animation is a touch dated, back to the enhanced TV version look and feel. It has complex backgrounds, character detail and coloring but as a result looses in the smoothness stakes. It also feels a little dated and lacking in flash compared to more modern examples. It eminently watchable mind you, and the final shoot out is quite entertaining. Although even the final shootout doesn't have the complexity or belieavability of other examples. The character voices, barring the regular crew, don't seem to work well enough to give the characters the required depth to make us care. The opening music is dated but pleasant and the ambient sound and music didn't bring itself to my attention.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:16 WST 2009