Golgo 13 – because you don’t need a lucky number when you’ve got a gun!

If you like your action heroes hard boiled, then this is the man you need… Want to know who I’m talking about? Then read on…

The Stats

You may find it hard to believe but this series is based on the oldest manga that is still in publication, with a whopping 183 volumes having been published since 1968. Just let that sink in for a minute. 1968! This being the case it has inspired an animated movie, OVA and series as well as two live-action movies and six video games. The manga’s creator Takao Saito states that because this character has been around for so long that it’s like it is no longer something that belongs to him, but rather to the people. Golgo 13 falls under the seinen genre and is an action series focussing on the various missions of the main character of the same name. The main series, which was created by The Answer Studio (known for working on movies such as Garden of Words, some of the Votoms series and Kimi no Na Wa), is what I’ll be talking about here. The series comprises 50 episodes and was released in 2008.

Some of the many, many Golgo 13 mangas that have been released over the years.

The Plot

Golgo 13 is slightly different from the norm in terms of how the anime is structured, but let’s give you some background information about who we’re dealing with. So we have a man named Duke Togo is may/may not be 3rd generation Japanese American – he’s a true man of mystery so his background is never fully revealed and is something you have to infer instead. But whether that information is correct is also questionable. He has extensive combat experience and his speciality is sniping. No matter the target he always gets his man/woman/object and, where possible, he relies on his sniping skills and superior gun handling to get the job done. You guessed it – he’s a hitman. He works alone, but does have a few people he pays to help him get information or design/create/modify guns from time to time, and his usual fee is $3 million. He’ll listen to your request before accepting the job, but once it’s accepted he will follow through no matter what, i.e. he never leaves a job unfinished. And he’s not limited to any particular country either, but manages to find most of his work in America. The jobs can be anything from personal vendettas to political assassinations as well helping government agencies or mafia bosses out with situations that require his skills. He’s even gone mercenary, taking out entire guerrilla groups. If he has the information he needs and he knows he can get the job done, then he usually accepts. And there are no feelings involved, no right or wrong – just a job that he needs to get done. Oh and no international man of mystery would be complete without banging a few babes along the way – so you can expect some steamy scenes here and there since women are just automatically attracted to such a man. The plot itself essentially revolves around the various cases that Golgo 13 takes on and how he manages to get his target or escape from the guys that want to take his life or land him in jail. So while there are lots of different scenarios, there isn’t a steady thread throughout the show, where each episode can be viewed as a standalone story.

The Review

The reason I started watching this was probably because of the many references to it while watching Gintama, combined with my wanting to watch some older seinen stuff. So while the anime is something more recently produced, the feel of it remains true to the older action style of the 70s and 80s, where international men of mystery wore suits, drank the best liquor, slept with hot women, got the job done and lived a high roller’s life while still remaining under the radar. There are many comparisons of this show to others that share a similar style, e.g. James Bond, and I would have to agree. This show is like watching a Japanese version of James Bond. However, unlike 007, Golgo 13 isn’t part of any organisation and doesn’t adhere to anyone’s rules but his own. This means that his killing style, weapons, methods and targets are left up to his own discretion and it’s this freedom that gives the stories some unexpected outcomes.

Gintama, famous for its Japanese pop culture references, doesn’t miss out on an opportunity to give a shoutout to Golgo 13. 

Most shows usually have the protagonist be the “good guy” where the missions he takes on are righteous and you feel that you should be supporting him because he’s choosing these tasks which will have a positive impact on someone’s life at the end of the day. Golgo 13 is truly unique in this way because he takes on any sort of mission without the need for a moral compass to get involved. Yes, he has his own opinions on certain things but he doesn’t let that interfere with the job request because he’s a professional. This leaves you sometimes questioning whether you should actually be supporting him or not because his sense of morality is definitely different to that of the average person. It’s this sort of contradiction that makes the show more interesting than others of its kind because you never know how things will end up. I know I’ve been surprised a number of times due to the realistic approach the show has to the stories where Golgo prioritises his own agenda over anyone else’s, which can have some interesting consequences.

There is also the issue of the many sex scenes in the show. It might seem a bit gratuitous at times – mainly because the women can be rather dramatic about Golgo’s skills in the bedroom – but I think that this sort of thing just speaks more to the character itself than being strictly fan service. It should be remembered that this is a show that would probably be predominantly aimed at guys so having these scenes is pretty acceptable. For myself, I sometimes end up laughing at times at these scenes because Golgo has to be the most silent lover ever – he almost looks bored while these women are losing their minds with pleasure. I guess you could call this a character quirk because he’s a generally quiet and expressionless guy, but against those dramatic sex scenes, it’s rather amusing to watch. And the “action” is even more, ahem, intense in the OVA and the movie than in the series.

Oh and as a point of interest – the music is the show is rather cool too. Where the OVA and movie have a smooth jazz thing going on, the new series sort of updates the sound by keeping it cool yet modern. And the OP and ED tracks are pretty awesome too, accompanied by very “spy versus spy”-esque animated sequences, using bold pictures in a red, black and white theme.

Bold ending animation sequence for a badass “businessman” who gets the babes.

Parting Shot

If you’re looking for a show that you can watch at any time without fear of being confused as to what’s going on when you pick it up again, then you’re in luck. Golgo 13’s standalone storylines in every episode means that whenever you need a testosterone fix (but you don’t want to start an entirely new series) you can choose any episode at random and be assured that you’ll get exactly what you’re after – proper action with no strings attached. The converse of this is that you never really get to know the backstory of the character or get to create connections with any characters other than Golgo himself. However, Golgo 13 is a legacy at this point and in some respects perhaps it should have been reviewed as a classic, but since the series was released after 2000, it gets a more traditional review this time around. If you need a manly series in your life, then Golgo 13 is a great choice and it’ll also help you catch on to all the pop culture references in other shows such as Gintama. This is a show that pulls no punches and delivers exactly what you would expect – action, thrills, spills and plenty of epic bad-assery provided by our main man, Duke Togo.

Image credits: The Answer Studio

End: Golgo 13 Anime Review

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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!