Red Hawk Anime Review
Purk Eun Mai (Bulg-eunmae?)
The Red Falcon
US Release By
Martial Arts Action
The Camellia Blossoms gang (think of the Mafia in fictional ancient times and you'll get the picture) plague the innocent with fires, death and using counterfeit coins to cripple the economy. Within this gang are the Five Dragons, a group of men and women trained in deadly martial arts. When the youngest and fifth ranking member of the group simply can't take anymore of the death, he rebels. With the aid of his brother, Muklyong, he escapes certain death. However, his brother must pay the price; with his soul...
Three years later, the counterfeit coins are taking their toll on the innocents of a small village. When a craftsman is killed, her daughter and her love interest, Junchung, begin to suspect there's a connection. Joined by the mysterious Yungyung, they travel to where he was last seen to unravel the mystery. And maybe the mysterious Red Hawk (the title's namesake) will make an appearance.
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For the most part, Red Hawk is pretty standard fighting action. So standard, that lot of it is not very exciting. Not completely boring, but don't expect any real surprises or plot twists. The idea is decent and the characters aren't terrible, but until it finally picked up near the end it seemed to just kind of drag itself from fight scene to fight scene and what was put in-between just didn't keep my attention. The production values were quite good--fluid animation and attractive art--but until it finally kicked in at the end the fights were rather boring: Punch, kick, yell, fall down, get mad, and repeat until the bad guy loses. The dub is functional but not much more and unnecessarily heavy on the profanity.
In all Red Hawk wasn't awful, but it wasn't really all that good. If you're a fan of the genre, giving this a rental on a rainy afternoon wouldn't be a bad idea.
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While debatable whether it's anime, this animated theatrical release is a Korean film. For some odd reason, Manga picked it up for a North American release. Initially fooled into thinking it was Japanese, I happened upon giving this a watch. In all honesty, anime or not, Red Hawk was not particularly special or even all that good but it was semi-decent.
For the most part, Red Hawk is pretty standard fighting action. So standard, that lot of it is not very exciting. Not completely boring, but don't expect any real surprises or plot twists. I suppose if you don't know anything about this title, you may be somewhat surprised Junchung is Red Hawk, but that is about it. Speaking of the plot, however, it was actually fairly original, though not as well written as it could have been. The pacing was pretty even throughout and probably a little slow for some. That is until the end, where it started to get fairly good, or at least exciting. Unfortunately it was a tad too late, and had it decided to kick into a higher gear earlier then Red Hawk would be much more enjoyable. Not to say it wasn't enjoyable at all, but even fighting action fans may find themselves yawning a few times.
To analyze a little farther, I kind of liked the whole gang idea. While the inner groups of the Camellia Blossoms could have stood to be explained a little better, they were interesting enough. Danlyong/Junchung/Red Hawk's past and inner conflict were actually pretty well done in the few scenes we actually saw of it. It would have been nice to see that played out a little more in depth. Although it was a more predominate theme towards the end, where the film got a tad interesting. But all in all, it seemed to just kind of drag itself from fight scene to fight scene and what was put in-between just didn't keep my attention.
At least the characters were decent. Nothing terribly noteworthy or even original, but I didn't not care about them (though to say I actually cared about them isn't really correct). The bad guys were what you'd expect from a movie such as this, cocky, arrogant and not willing to give our hero a chance, though they end up losing and are baffled as to why. The supporting characters were decent enough, and I thought Danlyong's friend was kind of amusing. Speaking of our hero though, he was rather above average compared to the rest of the group. Then again, he was the only one given any depth. Again, I would've liked to see his inner conflict brought out more, but at least the scene that shed some light on it was done well enough. There was a character that saved Red Hawk's life, and we didn't find out who he was or even his name. Strange, but the film ended with a potential sequel possibilities so maybe the creators wanted to save him for a later movie. I don't know weather there actually is one or not.
As for the production values, they were actually quite good, as the 4:6 ratio on this film would hint at. While most of the fights before the high point in the film were rather boring, consisting of punch, kick, yell, fall down, get mad, and repeat until the bad guy loses, the animation was fluid throughout and the fights towards the end looked pretty good. Particularly the fight with Muklyong. The character designs were sharp and obviously anime-inspired. The art was all around attractive, and the ancient world (where ever it was) looked nice. Of particular note is how much our hero looked like Gokou near the end, due to losing his mask and costume in a fight, then using a technique to make himself bigger, stronger and grow more hair. In fact, the entire anime could be considered a Dragon Ball Z rip-off to some degree (though certainly not as good).
The acting in the dub (the only version released) was okay for the most part. The casting functioned and the acting was generally passable. I can't say the writing was all that great. It got the job done, but not all that well, and the amount of profanity used was rather out of place. There was a noteworthy performance in the dub and that would be our hero. For an above average character he was backed up by an above average voice and performance. Though not award-winning, the personalities were all pulled off well. Red Hawk's brave speeches and his alter ego, Junchung, with his silly personality and demeanor and his emotional dramatic parts. It would have been nice if all the acting was at this level, but it was used where it counted at least.
So all in all there isn't much to say about Red Hawk. It wasn't awful, but not really all that good. If you're a fan of the genre, giving this a rental on a rainy afternoon wouldn't be a bad idea.
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Rather like a medieval Dragon Ball Z with a lot of Fist of the North Star mixed in.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a comic series of the same name by So Joo Wan and Ji Sang Weol. It has been translated into French, but is apparently not available in English.
In an effort to head off people dead-set on insisting that if it's not Japanese, it's not anime, the editorial staff at AAW will politely point out that you're wrong. If you would like details on why, please see our essay on the subject. That does not necessarily mean that Red Hawk is anime, merely that the determination should be based on the style of the production, not its country of origin.
Note that the Korean title given above and its romanization are theoretically close, but were produced by someone who speaks no Korean at all; if you do and would like to correct it (or tell us that we got it right), we would appreciate it.
US DVD Review
Manga's DVD claims English dubbed audio in your choice of Dolby 5.1 and 2.0, character bios, and a photo gallery.
About a 13-up on account of violence and profanity in the dub.
Violence: 2 - There was a lot of fighting and some death, but not much blood and most of it was, oddly, white.
Nudity: 1 - A scene with the two love interests of our hero swimming in a lake with towels on.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Just a light, possible love-triangle.
Language: 2 - Not overly offensive, but there was a lot of profanity used that seemed really silly for this title.
Formerly available in North America from Manga Video on dubbed (only) DVD or dubbed VHS. Both are out of print, and Manga's license for the title had expired as of this writing (2010). (If you're looking for it, you can still get it new or used from Amazon:Red Hawk - Weapon of Death )