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17 home / october 2002 / reviews Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

City Hunter: Secret Service
Bilingual DVD
90 minutes
ADV Films
A nostalgia trip that's a fun little romp.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
City Hunter: Secret Service
By Ridwan Khan

When I popped City Hunter: Secret Service into my DVD player, I wasn't expecting much. The character design is reminiscent of the late 80s/early 90s action anime that came over to the U.S. in droves. While that genre of anime was big on excitement, it came up short on plot (and often sense). However, I was pleasantly surprised with my first encounter with Ryo Saeba, the City Hunter.

Secret Service opens Ryo Saeba ogling girls in pornographic videos. It seems like the wrong place to find one of Japan's best bodyguards. However Kaori Makumura grabs our bumbling Ryo and forces him out; someone's left a familiar XYZ on Shinjuku Station's bulletin board. It's a telltale request for the services of the City Hunter.

The interested caller turns out to be Jim McGwire - a former freedom fighter for a third world country, who is now running for president. However, the military faction of the nation has targeted McGwire's daughter, who is also serving as his bodyguard. Ryo has to protect the bodyguard, as well as McGwire, while attempting to find out who exactly is after them.

If it sounds like something straight out of Lethal Weapon, it is. Plot is not Secret Service's strong point. In fact, the periods when the special takes a breather to move the plot forward are mind-numbingly boring. Secret Service's strong points seem to come from the television series; the humor and action keep this film alive.

As mentioned before, Ryo Saeba is a letch on the caliber of >Goldenboy's Kintaro Oe. In fact, Ryo oscillates between the lecherous Oe and the strong-hearted silent hero of films like Armitage III. Ryo's search for sex keeps the film going and adds a lot of flavor. This does add some objectionable content, but for the most part it is pretty tame. His partner Kaori's over-the-top reactions (she tends to tie him to logs and smash him with mallets) seem out of place in a series drama, but adds a Lum-style visual comedy style.

From the packaging forward, City Hunter promotes itself as an action film. In this respect, for the most part, it does not disappoint. The action is fluid and truly exciting - something hard to achieve realistically in animation. There are gun battles, car chases, helicopters, and more firearms than you can shake a stick at.

The animation for Secret Service is a mixed bag. The characters are realistically drawn (except for Ryo's more lecherous moments). The animation, however, is rigid. In a number of places, the background setting and characters are stationary. In others, the characters remain completely still except for mouth movements. For the most part, however, it is a minor quibble that not many will notice, though I would have expected better from a 1995 production. The music too is reminiscent of late 80's/early 90's anime. For me, it was a nostalgic trip.

The Secret Service disc has a number of extras. Easily the best of these is a short film about the relationship between Ryo and Kaori. Also included are clean openings and closings, promotional Japanese and English commercials, and trailers for a number of ADV titles. The trailers are terrible - clips of the show put to music. Even the trailer for the City Hunter Motion Picture is terrible.

As mentioned above, Secret Service's plot leaves plenty to be desired. The story will feel familiar to anyone familiar with action movies, either anime or American films. The plots contains a number of clichés; McGwire hanging on to his daughter's toy, for example. And the plot elements between McGwire and Anna serve only to slow down the show's action and comedy. I was waiting for the plot scenes to end, so the insanity could again ensue. As an established anime, the introduction of the City Hunter's other characters seem formulaic, especially for Umiboshi.

For fans of fans of action and Goldenboy style comedy, City Hunter: Secret Service will be a treat. Others should tread with caution; Secret Service is not without redeeming qualities, but it is certainly not Shakespeare. Like much of ADV's catalogue, Secret Service appeals to the more visceral emotions.

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