Golgo 13: Queen Bee
It's sort of like being an anime archaeologist, digging down into the fossils of our anime heritage to find the primitive creatures that once flourished. This is a sequel to the first Golgo 13 movie and is much less common, perhaps because the first didn't encourage too many repeat customers.
Golgo 13 is not really a very nice person. He's strong, silent and makes a living killing people. And since he has a reputation for getting the job done, and some impressive skills to help, he attracts some fairly large sums of money for his work. This movie begins with just such a contract. The partner of the most likely next president has been intercepting death threats, signed "Queen Bee", and wants the threat neutralized. He even knows who and where she is... although since she's at the head of a revolutionary commando unit the kill might not be easy.
That's not enough to stop Golgo 13 though, perhaps it even adds to the excitement. However it all seems a bit too simple, too direct. The person paying for the job represents order, but can he be trusted? While the target is a warped creature of violence and passion, but strangely honest. Things may well be a bit more complicated than they at first appear... not that Golgo really cares too much, once he takes on a job nothing will stop him from making the kill.
Strangely enough this movie is actually better than the first one. Though I'm not too surprised most people, having experienced the first, didn't hold much hope for the second. The main difference is that the first one, in order to add drama, used something between super-men and monsters as opponents for Golgo, since the "normal" types could never be expected to stand up to him. That ended up being a little bit corny. This one focuses more on a mix of intrigue, manipulation and twisted psychologies to add mystery and drama to the story progression. This works much better with Golgo whose meant to be a believable "tough guy" and a professional assassin... rather than a super hero. The more real world setting allows it to be a bit more gritty.
However Golgo does manage to lose out somewhat. He's not really a very expressive person, just looking stoic and tough, and if he has a complicated logic behind his actions he's not likely to talk about it. As a result his dramatic role is almost eclipsed by some of the supporting characters. The scheming politician and the rather over-dramatic, but sometimes intriguing, "Queen Bee" (better known as Sonia) are distinctly more interesting. It turns out they have a lot of motivation behind their actions... which is another thing Golgo doesn't really have, he just wants the money. Sonia in particular dominates the running time of the movie.
Admittedly rather a lot of that screen time is due to her impressive sexual appetite. As we get to understand her character some reasons for the way she acts are given, and they're not totally un-reasonable, but that does not change the fact that the movie is perfectly happy to spend time in voyeur mode. If you don't like seeing soft-core sex in anime then you want to keep well away from this title. It also doesn't really add much to the story or pace of the title. I could see the case being made that it's impressive to have a strong, sexually aggressive, female character... but at the end of the day it's a lot more about having sex on screen.
Needless to say if you don't like depictions of violence I can't imagine what you are doing considering this title. Violence, with an impressively high body count, pretty much fills up the rest of the movie. There's also some drug references just to make sure it has the "adult" trio. Sadly enough there's no actual investigation, or tactics, because Golgo doesn't really go in for those. He seems to have a limitless pool of people who do all the detective work for him and his tactics are generally of the "frontal assault" variety. This is a real shame, showing him as skilled and clever would have made him a more interesting character and given him a larger role on screen. The conclusion is probably appropriate and fitting, but it also makes Golgo look like a really limited person.
In conclusion it is probably fair to say this is a fairly unlikeable film. If you really like the concept of a "tough guy", who doesn't let wounds or morals get in the way of making the kill then you might like this. However the writing really isn't strong enough to make this the atmospheric thriller it would so like to be. And Golgo 13, even more than before, is a howling void of a character who sucks the life out of the movie.
It is actually the production of the title that provides the killing blow however. Much of the anime takes place at night and the animators happily break out the subdued colors and a couple of gallons of black. This is somewhat atmospheric but one can't help feeling it is mostly about hiding detail. The movement of the characters is even worse, definitely with an eye on the budget, and any complex action almost immediately drops to arty still frames or cheap visual effects. The frequency of their use making it clear that they are more about cost-cutting than visual expression. It does not take long to grow tired of them and wish for some more interesting, and sustained, action. It is also surprising, considering how skilled he is meant to be, how often Golgo 13 manages to get wounded... although of course never enough to kill him, or even slow him down (and the M-16 continues to be an unlikely choice as a sniper rifle). The voices are alright, but lack dramatic depth (which could be because the script is a too direct). The music is pretty awful, lots of cheap synth and soft pop vocals for the opening.