City Hunter: The Motion Picture Anime Review
City Hunter スペシャル 「グッド・バイ・マイ・スイート・ハート」
City Hunter Supesharu - Guddo Bai Mai Suiito Haato
City Hunter Special - Goodbye My Sweetheart
US Release By
Mad Bomber Action-Comedy-Thriller
What's In It
- Gunfights (good stuff)
- Mad Bombing
- Wire Cutting
- Chases and Races
- Unexpected Slapstick
- Parody (of itself!)
- Violence: 3 (significant)
- Nudity: 2 (moderate)
- Sex: 2 (moderate)
- Language: 2 (moderate)
Ryo Saeba--the City Hunter--is the best man for any job in Tokyo as long as it involves an appropriate amount of danger... and women to ogle. (Good thing he has Kaori, one of his sidekicks, to violently keep him in line.) When Amy, a famous actor, hires Ryo and friends to help her find her long lost brother, it looks like an easy mission. Well, it would be if "Professor," an infamous assassin, hadn't just arrived in town... and not by coincidence. When Professor puts his plan to hold the city hostage in motion, the police are helpless, the girl's in trouble, and it'll be up to Ryo and a few of his multi-talented friends to unravel the mystery and save the day.
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Those not already familiar with City Hunter may be surprised at The Motion Picture's weird mix of standard anime pervert humor and standard very serious mad-bomber drama. Weirder still is that this odd-couple pairing works very well, producing a good, tense thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously and so never gets overwhelmed by the weight of its own drama. With sharp, realistic visuals, a solid, well written plot worthy of any live-action thriller, serious characters with plenty of personality and unserious ones with plenty of laughs, and a side-dish of realistic action, this is a movie with everything on it.
Fun, interesting, and dramatic all at the same time, City Hunter: The Motion Picture is a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Existing fans are pretty much guaranteed to like it, but don't be put off if you haven't seen the rest of the series--it's fine on its own.
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City Hunter: The Motion Picture is certainly an odd beast. Fans of the City Hunter franchise need know no more than that it is a quality movie-length story with everything from the series you've come to know and love. For people not in the know, you might expect a standard too-cool-hero action flick at worst, and a quality too-cool-hero mad bomber thriller at best, but what you'll get is the latter injected with a strong shot of skirt-chasing-loser slapstick humor and one heck of an enjoyable ride.
This movie is an episode in the ongoing City Hunter saga rather than an adaptation of it, but those not already familiar with the setting need not worry. It might take a bit to figure out who's who, and you'll miss a few in-jokes here and there, but you should have no problem getting up to speed, and the movie can be enjoyed without any prior experience.
That said, as with all good things City Hunter, the Motion Picture sets itself apart by delivering a funky mix of action thriller and anime comedy.
The drama department is a complete success; a solid, well-written plot worthy of a live-action Hollywood thriller with a sprinkling of realistic action for extra flavor. All the necessary elements are here: an insane but clever villain, a grandiose scheme to blow up a large part of town, a damsel in distress, incompetent authorities, and a few dedicated heroes left to save the day at the last minute.
With just the dramatic elements, this would have been a pretty good movie, but there is one big thing that distinguishes City Hunter from other movies of this ilk: nookie. Ryo may be a cool customer and plenty capable of staring down death and saving the day when the time comes, but his never-ending search for nookie (that's his own oft-used term, by the way) is constantly milked for laughs. Not just "Oh, and he's also a perv." kind of jokes, but the drooling, peeping-tom, will-work-for-nookie, 100-ton-hammer kind of humor. In fact, Kaori (one of his female sidekicks) always has at least one of huge, collapsible baka-hammers handy, and she's not afraid to use it.
You might not expect a movie trying to go in two opposite directions at once to work, but City Hunter somehow does. The gags (and Ryo's overall cheesy demeanor) keep the characters from ever taking themselves too seriously, but they are still allowed to get serious enough when the story calls for it, and the plot is put together well enough that you actually care when it does. It goes so far as to turn a tense bomb-trigger scene into a gag by playing off the hidden hammer effect, yet still manages to hold the serious end of the story together, and definitely doesn't pull any punches.
Speaking of the characters, they also help with the balancing act by making a solid distinction between the serious and not-so-serious ones. Ryo and Kaori provide the bulk of the humor (although Ryo is serious when necessary, and Kaori tries when Ryo isn't around), while the villain and Amy (the female plot-mover) both have real personality and the level of depth that it takes to make a good drama work. I'm sure there are people who will be annoyed that Ryo keeps hamming it up and throwing off the serious moods, but I particularly liked that. I've never been fond of ultra-cool types, so seeing the "studly" hero involved in a constant, ill-fated girl hunt is a big plus in my book.
The visuals are just as mixed-up as the rest of the production. The overall look is sharp and quite realistic... until one of the realistic characters goes goo-goo eyed and gets thwacked with a huge mallet thoughtfully labeled "50t."
Everything certainly looks good: The character designs, in addition to being attractive and unusually realistic, are notably subtle--despite a lot of similar faces, they are still recognizably distinct. The animation, both character and action, is of equally high quality in both the dramatic scenes and the sillier ones. And the action, which is punctuated by a few particularly cool set pieces such as a train-top shootout at sunset, is quite realistic by anime standards, if a bit extreme on occasion. Some of the backgrounds are on the plain side, but even those look good with the crisp character art, and there are a few particularly nice cityscapes.
The background music is a jazzy score appropriate for Ryo's laid-back character, and while not particularly memorable, it is sufficient.
I've only seen the dub, which is quite good. The English dialogue is well written (both the sharply-timed humor and the drama), well cast, and well acted. Both of the dramatic characters are backed by quality performances, but Ryo stands out more: he shifts abruptly between his lecherous persona, with an amusing nasal voice, and his "cool" version, with a kind of cheesy tone and what sounded like a hint of an Australian accent. Very funny, though it probably would have helped the plot a little if he had been slightly less artificially-cool sounding during the serious moments. (On the other hand, that tone works great when he's feigning cool in the funny parts.)
In all, City Hunter is a weird mix of standard anime pervert humor and standard very serious mad-bomber drama. Weirder still is that this odd-couple pairing works so well, producing a good, tense thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously and so never gets overwhelmed by the weight of its own drama.
Fun, interesting, and dramatic all at the same time, I for one thoroughly enjoyed City Hunter: The Motion Picture, and although I'm sure there are plenty of people who will probably wish it had stuck with one or the other of its two plot directions, you might want to give it a try. And don't be put off if you haven't seen the rest of the series--it's fine on its own.
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The City Hunter series is extensive--a long TV series, OAVs, and several movies to check out--but pretty unique. The closest match in terms of production quality and mixed genre is probably Cowboy Bebop. For a similar theme without any humor whatsoever, try Golgo 13.
Notes and Trivia
This is actually a 10th anniversary special to commemorate the long-running City Hunter series of manga and animation, most of which is available in English now, though it wasn't when ADV first released this movie on video.
US DVD Review
The DVD features English and Japanese stereo audio and English subtitles; the movie was 4:3 to begin with, so the DVD isn't widescreen. Extras include a credit-free opening and closing, the original Japanese TV ads, and character bios.
A lot of mature humor and some serious violence, but nothing extreme. ADV's 13-up rating is probably appropriate, though it might rank higher if you're strict.
Violence: 3 - Not gory, but with realistic violence in some scenes and very unrealistic humorous violence in others--some parents may object to this mix of "funny" violence and serious fare.
Nudity: 2 - Little actual nudity, but a couple of close scenes.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - A lot of raunchy humor.
Language: 2 - Some occasional strong language, but surprisingly little overall.