Monday, March 23, 2009

Movie Monday No. 9 - City Hunter: The Motion Picture

Apologies from me for this late update -- I had a super-crappy week last week due to the death of an old acquaintence here in Dallastown that I went to school with and things got complicated. Aside from that, I would like to present to you the first anime-related review of Movie Monday, a look at ADV Film's 2002 entry, City Hunter: The Motion Picture.


“Nookie never lies.”
--Martin Blacker as Joe Saeba, a.k.a. City Hunter

Let it be said that I’ve been an unabashed fan of anime, or Japanese animation, since I was twelve years old. The very first ‘real’ anime I ever saw was The Guyver: Bio-Booster Armor OAV put out by U.S. Renditions, and it’s been an on-and-off-again ride ever since. Right now, it’s on again, and I’d like to commemorate this ninth review by being the first anime-related review of Movie Monday -- City Hunter: The Motion Picture, a made-for-TV special to celebrate ten years of the TV series City Hunter being on the air.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the City Hunter story, and that included me, it’s fairly simple -- Ryo Saeba (Joe Saeba in the English version) is Shinjuku’s number one troubleshooter and ladies’ man, also known as City Hunter. If you leave a message on the XYZ board at the downtown Tokyo train station, he’ll come find you and offer assistance. If you happen to be a pretty lady, then he expects to be paid with some nookie. To stop his relentless nookie quest, his assistant Kaori has a variety of hyper-dimensional hammers that she smacks Joe over the head with, ranging from a 50 pounder to a 1,000-ton ball on a chain.

The lass in need of assistance this time is dancer/performer Ami Munto, whose brother disappeared some time ago. Recently, Ami received a bundle of black roses, which always held significance for her and her older sibling. Simultaneously, a criminal mastermind known as The Professor has entered Tokyo, with the purpose of committing a terrible terrorist action against the Japanese government. Could this Professor be Ami’s long-lost brother? What’s his purpose for challenging the City Hunter? If I said anything else, I’d spoil what is probably the most thrilling anime I’ve seen in a long time, so I’ll just stop right here and let you watch it for yourself.

I watched both versions of the film (the original Japanese version and the English dub) and found the English dub to be more enjoyable, even if it does have some serious mistakes and mispronunciations in it. Most notable of the changes in the dub is the switch of Ryo’s name to Joe so it would fit the lip flaps. The same probably happened with Saeko, the sexy female police inspector, whose name got changed to Sandra. Kaori’s name got mispronounced by each character at least a dozen times, and I don’t think any of them got it right. And finally, the most notable mistake was the mispronunciation of the city Shinjuku, which got pronounced as "not SHIN-juku," not "shin-JU-ku."

But this dub makes up for what it did by giving these characters more flavor than the Japanese version had. In the Japanese version, Ryo is simply a tough guy with a case of wackiness that could be controlled with some anti-psychotics; Martin Blacker, his English voice actor, brings more balance to the role, giving “Joe” a unified persona. The arguments between Falcon, a tough mercenary who runs a coffee shop, and Joe are absolutely hilarious, whereas they fell flat for me in the Japanese version.

As for the hyper-dimensional hammer thing, I have only this to say to City Hunter fans -- when you get to be my age (27 in May), whacking someone over the head with a hammer because they chase after women is like watching a Looney Tune, not an anime. Sorry, but all that fighting between Joe and Kaori didn’t make me laugh once. I’m guessing the hammer business is something only die-hard City Hunter fans understand, ‘cause it was lost on me.

As an added note, the final battle between Joe and The Professor is probably my favorite part of the movie, because it takes place on a speeding bullet train against a rusty orange sunset. The gunplay in City Hunter is very realistic, with the guns actually looking like their real-life counterparts. The fistfight between Joe and The Professor wasn’t bad either, as it didn’t have them pulling out rapid-fire martial arts on each other and just going totally over-the-top with it.

Overall, I’d say that City Hunter: The Motion Picture isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a big action fan and you like your anime to be a little more realistic and believable than something like, say, The Guyver, then you might want to give this film a shot. I did -- I found a like new copy of it on the Marketplace for a smidgen below six dollars, and that included the shipping. Unfortunately, used is probably going to be the only place you can find the City Hunter movies and TV series, as they have all been discontinued by ADV Films and are now probably out-of-print. But if you like to hunt, and you know this bargain bin barbarian does, then you’ll find your dose of Joe, Kaori, and the hyper-dimensional hammer-whackin’ soon enough.

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