City Hunter – A Sure-Fire Classic! (Anime Review)


So you’re bored and wondering what you should watch? Well it sounds like you might need a little mokkori in your life! If that’s the case then the man you need to see is Saeba Ryo, otherwise known as City Hunter! He’s got enough mokkori power to keep you entertained for days! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you’d better read on…

The Stats:

City Hunter is based on the manga series created by Tsukasa Hojo that was published in Weekly Shounen Jump from 1985 – 1991 with 35 volumes produced. Incidentally,Takehiko Inoue (best known as the creator of Slam Dunk and Vagabond mangas) was an assistant to Hojo and also worked on City Hunter at the time. The show was picked up and produced by Sunrise Studios in 1987 where it has been adapted into 4 full seasons, 3 TV specials, 2 OVAs, a feature film and has a spin-off anime called Angel Heart (sort of an alternate reality setting starring City Hunter characters and follows a similar premise). The manga has also inspired a live action Hong Kong movie adaptation (starring Jackie Chan) as well a more recent live action Korean tv series adaptation. Sunrise Studios is of course one of the most prolific names in the anime business, especially in the mecha genre, having been around since 1972 whilst bringing us timeless classics such as the Gundam series, Patlabor (the TV series – not to be confused with the OVAs that were done by Studio Deen), Cowboy Bebop, Gintama & Tiger & Bunny. They have also worked with different studios, e.g. Toei Company, to create various animes and within the company itself they have around 13 studios that handle the various productions. So you know straight off the bat that City Hunter has the backing of one of the best. The majority of the various series was directed by Kenji Kodama who has also worked on Cat’s Eye (another Tsukasa Hojo creation), The Rose of Versailles and still works on Detective Conan (820 episodes and counting!).

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Some of the legendary shows that Sunrise Studios has given us over the years.

The Plot:

The premise of the show is rather simple and this is why it’s effective. The show follows the adventures of Saeba Ryo – a former special ops military guy turned “sweeper” who now uses his skills to help keep the city he loves clean. Shinjuku is the city in which the stories are predominantly set and being one of the bigger, metropolitan cities there is always crime potentially lurking around every corner – whether it be petty or the more organised, yakuza-like kind. Realising his niche in the dealings of the underworld, Saeba spends his days running an underground business of sorts where he lends his services to those who need help – whether it be the need for protection, to help find missing persons, uncover crime or any other odd job that the police wouldn’t be able to help with. This job also allows him to help the cops too because any criminals that fall through the cracks of the system are usually caught in Saeba’s net and sent right back to the cops.

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Although Saeba has a silly side, when it comes down to it he’s a professional who will always get the job done.

Although Saeba is more than willing to help, he usually has a particular criterion that he adheres to – the people that he helps are all women! Not satisfied to help just anyone, Saeba insists that that beautiful women are the only ones he will help… And the reason for this is because as reliable as Saeba is, in reality he is actually a huge flirt and is oftentimes called a pervert… And his key word? Mokkori! So while he helps people on a case by case basis, he also tries his darndest to either date, sleep with or flirt with any beautiful woman he can find. But the one to try and keep him in check is his partner, Kaori Makimura – the sister of his former partner. Together, they run the business, help clients and make their money all while keeping the streets of Shinjuku clean.

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Saeba’s determination with the ladies knows no bounds…

All in the name of Mokkori!

The Review:

This is by far one of the best shows I have ever watched! There is no doubt in my mind as to why this anime can easily be considered a classic as it blends action and comedy together to create a show that is always entertaining to watch because cases are usually handled in 1-2 episodes. The action is always a good draw card because it’s something reliable – who doesn’t want to watch an expert marksman use his Magnum .357 to put the bad guys out of action? The show was created in the 80s and the nuances of the time are all there – after all, this was the generation that were raised on action heroes like Rambo and the like. So to have this type of action show suited the times perfectly. Saeba is macho, in control, cool and a professional in the field – very unlike a number of the heroes of today who are constantly dealing with their feelings and having teenage angst moments. Saeba is a straight shooter (pun!) and faces enemies head on. That said, this show can also be rather informative because details on specific weaponry is mentioned so you know you’re dealing with the real thing. He also has his allies/friends that he has made throughout his career: Umibozu (also former military) and Saeko (a detective with the Shinjuku police department) being the predominant two. Saeba also has plenty of informants where he can keep his ear to the underground. A true slice of 80s action hero fare…

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Saeba has plenty of allies that have his back when he needs it.

Clockwise from left: Saeko, Umibozu, Kaori and Makimura.

Apart from the action, the added element of comedy truly will have you in stiches! The jokes rely quite a bit on slapstick because Kaori is constantly whacking Saeba with a gigantic hammer in order to stop him from doing perverted things to his clients. And while that can be rather amusing, for me it’s the dirty jokes and the obvious changes in Saeba’s personality that make me laugh. Much like how Gintama isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of dirty jokes, City Hunter was almost like its predecessor (since they’re both created by Sunrise Studios) when it came to testing the limits. In addition, there are plenty of pop culture references of the time which are instant laughs – characters that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, references to popular movies like Jaws – the options really are endless… It works though because I know that one of the main reasons I watch the show is for the comedy… I am guaranteed a laugh at some point and that’s also what always keeps me coming back for more.. And with well over 150 episodes in total, it must be a winning formula because the show got 4 seasons as well as movies and a spin-off…

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80s pop culture references, in addition to making you feel old, bring a whole other element of comedy to the show.

So we have action and comedy but what about romance? No action hero would be complete without some femme fatales and City Hunter is no different. There is the main ploy of having his clients be predominantly beautiful women and while he does face a number of challenges along the way (mainly because he does come initially across as a pervert and Kaori is a huge obstacle), most of the ladies eventually come to appreciate Saeba and quite a fair number of them end up falling for him. However, Saeba is ever the ladies man (usually interested in just “ippatsu” – one shot) and isn’t tied down by any one woman, with the exception being his partner Kaori. Kaori and Saeba have a somewhat antagonistic relationship mainly because Kaori doesn’t like that perverted side of Saeba, but when it comes right down to it they are a sort of odd version of “family” almost. As to whether romance blooms for those two? You’d have to watch it to find out.

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Whenever Saeba seems to be getting out of hand, Kaori is always around with her trusty hammer to knock some sense into him…literally.

Unlike other animes which rely on character and plot development to move a storyline forward, this show doesn’t dwell too much on this – not because it’s overlooked, but just because it’s not entirely necessary. Yes, characters like Kaori do show some development as they get older but not enough to have the show jump the shark. Lack of development might be considered a drawback to a certain extent, because if characters never progress fully we have to encounter the same annoying traits of particular characters time and time again, however it’s because of this very reason why seasons can be 50-60 episodes long and why there are opportunities for movies and spin-offs. It’s because the characters are reliable in their own stereotypes and thus you get a tried and tested product that uses a particular formula of storytelling. And because of this format, there is never the worry of encountering “fillers” or anything of that nature.

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If you need a lesson in weapons, then you’ve come to the right place. Saeba has you covered. 

I usually give a shout out to the music that peppers each anime I watch but City Hunter gets an extra special honourable mention because the tunes you get treated to throughout the various series are just amazing! I will admit that maybe it’s not everyone’s cup of tea since music is quite a subjective thing but if you’re like me and you love yourself some 80s vibes with the synth, bass and a splash of jazz here and there then you are in luck! Rather than just relying purely on an instrumental backing track, this show incorporates contemporary pop/rock songs that reflect the sounds of the time. OPs and EDs like Ai yo Kienaide, Sara and Get Wild will put you in the perfect frame of reference as you watch the show and with the addition of vocal tracks throughout, you’ll feel like you’re watching an epic mini-movie with each episode. The animation style is as expected of the 80s so if you don’t have an issue with older animation styles then you will have absolutely no problem here because the quality is definitely up to scratch.

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City Hunter comes armed with a number of original soundtracks that will have you rocking out to those classic 80s Japanese jams.

Parting Shot:

Simple in nature, the plot of this series is rather uncomplicated however don’t underestimate its power because it can definitely pack a punch! Action, humour and a different storyline every time keeps the show interesting but also reliable, which makes this anime one of the best I’ve watched by far. Oh and if you’re wondering what mokkori means… *ahem*  Well, I’ll just leave that up to your imagination…

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Image credits: Sunrise Studios

End: City Hunter Anime Review

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thedigitalpen

About thedigitalpen

"If you truly want to escape from everyday life, you've no other choice but to keep evolving. No matter whether you're aiming higher or lower." - Orihara Izaya ("Durarara!!") My escape from everyday life is anime, manga, Japanese music (rock, pop, hip-hop etc.), a bit of gaming and writing about those very same things that bring me so much joy... And the cherry on top? Getting to share those interests with like-minded people.. so if you're reading this, then that means you! Want to see my evolution? Then watch this space!