Classic Anime in Review – Crying Freeman

If ever there was a show featuring manly tears amidst a swirl of violence that you needed to watch, then this is the one…

Original video animations (OVAs) are pretty hard to come by in this day and age but back in the day a lot of specialist genre mangas got their anime adaptation dreams fulfilled by way of OVAs. Crying Freeman is one of the many, falling into the seinen genre with plenty of violence, nudity and sex, which is probably why it was limited to an OVA series rather than a television series. In case you were wondering – OVAs are animated works that go straight to DVD (or VHS back in the day) rather than being shown on mainstream television. While some portion of OVA series might be televised for promotional purposes, for the most part you had to get it in-store if you wanted to watch it. While it does mean that these series cater for fans of the manga and wouldn’t get as much exposure and mainstream anime, it does allow the creators a lot more freedom to do what they want with the show. Crying Freeman is a perfect example of just that…

This show, brought to us by the one and only Toei Animation, comprised six OVA episodes that were aired from 1988 to 1994. The premise of this manly show revolves around the main character who goes by the codename Crying Freeman. He’s actually a Japanese pottery artist who was kidnapped by the Chinese Triad group 108 Dragons while he was at an exhibition in New York because he saw some photos he shouldn’t have. Under the care of the 108 Dragons, our man was hypnotised and trained to become the perfect assassin, since this is the main business of the 108 Dragons – paid assassinations. Because of this hypnosis, Freeman’s feelings of remorse are usually repressed while he’s on the job but once the mission is over, the “trance” is lifted and Freeman cries for those that he’s killed. Being a trained assassin, Freeman is skilled in the use of various weaponry and switches from using guns to daggers as well as hand-to-hand combat and performs his hits with precision. This is one man you would never want as an enemy. The first OVA gives you the background of Crying Freeman, including how he came to meet his future wife and eventually takes charge of the 108 Dragons. The subsequent OVAs are about the various missions he goes on and how he counters plots from his enemies who are looking to take down the 108 Dragons.

If that description didn’t quite do the trick to convince you that you should watch this show, then let me tell you why you would be missing out if you passed this one over…

Manly manliness:

The amount of testosterone coming from these OVAs is palpable because we have got ourselves one of the most badass assassins around. The action scenes are frequent and while he starts off using a gun to take out his targets, eventually we get to see that this is just the tip of iceberg because he’s able to wield a dagger using both his hands and his feet with amazing accuracy. He’s athletic and is able to hide out of sight of his enemies at a moment’s notice, but even if they found him it wouldn’t be a problem because he’s also highly trained in martial arts which he uses effectively to disarm and take down his opponents. And after all that action, he sheds them manly tears… You know what I’m talking about…

Censorship? What’s that?:

A serious advantage of not having to air a show on tv is that you can go as crazy as you like with the nudity, sex and violence in a show. Crying Freeman is out of control on this front because I can promise you, you will never see as many naked people in fight mode as you will see in this show! I can understand the principles (at a stretch) behind not having clothes to restrict your movement when you fight but taking pretty much everything off seems a bit excessive… But this is Crying Freeman and he’ll go to any length to make sure that he wins the fight. Additionally, it’s only after he gets married that he discovers the power of sexuality and proceeds to tame his female foes in the most errr… natural way. And you best believe he must have the most understanding wife on the planet because she leaves her man to tend to business while she gets on with business of her own – being the joint head of the 108 Dragons. Now I’m not saying that you should be watching this for all the nudity and sex scenes itself, but rather for the fact that you don’t feel cheated out of getting all the details. Manga has very little restrictions and when stories like this are adapted for mainstream it can sometimes lose the essence of what made the manga so great. So while the nudity does become a bit of overkill, it’s pretty refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t hold back with regard to being more graphic in nature.


Okay so I wouldn’t say that everything about this show holds to realistic expectations, e.g. I highly doubt that trained assassins these days go around stripping down before getting down to business, but there are elements of this show that hold to the realism of what it is to be part of the mafia, whether we’re talking about the triads or the yakuza. Contrary to regular stories where the objective would probably be for Freeman to break free of the 108 Dragons and go back to living his normal life back in Japan, this show goes in the opposite direction where he more than embraces his new life, takes a new wife and changes both their names while taking up the position of the new head of the 108 Dragons. This also comes with its share of internal problems within the organisation, e.g. Freeman is a Japanese man taking charge of a Chinese group. So Freeman deals not only with internal issues of becoming the new head, but he also has to conduct business and face challenges from the many rival groups that want to be rid of the 108 Dragons.

The tattoos:

Special mention goes out to the full body tattoo that features heavily in this series because when you see that thing come out and the “tough guy” stance, you it’s about to go down… And in keeping with tradition, his wife also gets some pretty bad-ass tattoos as well… I’d venture to say it’s sort of a trademark of the show, in addition to the manly tears.

This show may only be six OVAs long, but each one is almost an hour in running time so it’s like watching Crying Freeman anime movies. However, if you wanted to, you could go ahead and watch the live-action version of Crying Freeman featuring Mark Dacascos which is based on the “Portrait of a Killer” arc, which serves as the basis for the first OVA. For me though, the anime is probably the more satisfying version because of the freedom the OVA format offers and the fact that there a six stories you can enjoy. There are some crazy characters, some whack moments and moments where people get whacked, but I enjoyed it! Perhaps this sort of show isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me I have no regrets about adding this to the list of classics that I’ve had the pleasure of watching. And who knows, you might be so moved by the manliness that it might just bring a tear to your eye…

Image credits: Studio Deen

End: Crying Freeman 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!