Anime: The Professional: Golgo 13 Preview
Seldom does a DVD produce an “Oh, hell yea!” when I open the anonymous brown envelope the PR companies use to mail me DVDs. This is even more exciting than the space-pirate-Moby Dick that arrived in the same batch. The DVD that sparked this little outburst was The Professional: Golgo 13, a title I’d heard of back before I became Head Anime Monkey, though it was mainly through the wonderfully baffling NES game I wasted many a weekend on. This is one of those “I’ve always wanted to see…” releases and now it was in my hot little hands.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series (or with swearing and trying to snipe in the video game), Golgo 13 is the codename for an assassin. His name, age, and nationality are all unknown, but if you need someone killed, he’s your man. The Professional opens with an amazing sequence. There’s an eerie silence as a red-tinted scope lens scans over a crowd of distinguished looking men in suits. There’s the high-pitched whine as the silenced M-16 fires, and the target in the scope topples, in near-absolute silence. It’s a wonderful few minutes of introduction to a wonderful ninety minutes of movie. Murder, sex, betrayal, revenge, and one cool-as-ice assassin at the center of it all.
In this particular flick, the hunter becomes the hunted. When Golgo takes down the son and heir of a rich oil baron, said baron seeks revenge and will spare no expense to get it. The FBI, the CIA, the cops, and even psychokillers of a different stripe all converge on the ace assassin, who faces the fight of his life with an icy panache. He doesn’t take a lot of joy in what he does. Golgo isn’t quite a robot, there’s far too much love in the way he holds a bullet so it shines in the sunlight, but this doesn’t seem to be about the thrill of the kill, either. Maybe he’s just what the title says: A professional.
The sound’s been remastered, but it does vary some in quality. For example, I watched an airplane wobble all over the screen and heard the prop in the appropriate speakers, so it really seemed like the plane was bobbing all over in front of me. Unfortunately, this doesn’t extend to the music, which sounds like something played off vinyl or AM radio. I’m willing to understand there’s only so much they could do, but it is a real detriment to an otherwise-good presentation.
The animation is definitely the older-style of anime, but it makes up for that with some visual flourishes that give it an aesthetic of its own. It’s very late-70s/early-80s in the look and visual techniques, and the music track definitely sounds older, but eh, retro. There’s a definite appeal to a herky-jerky headless animated skeleton firing shots in a demented James Bond-but more opening sequence, you know? And then out of nowhere, they break out the CG animation. Unfortunately, the CG is also very 80s, causing me to crack “Oh, no, Golgo, 80s CG choppers!” at one point. Golgo 13 is also very fond of split-screening, the standard three most of the time, moving up to four, five, or six when it feels saucy.
It’s got some rough edges, but I’d say Urban Vision has a very nice release to put next to Wicked City, Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D, and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Though make no mistake about it, The Professional is a mature film. That doesn’t mean it’s porn-the plot’s way too good-but it’s got some sex and lots of ultraviolence with bloods spraying around, heads shattering like piñatas, and dead people left and right. In the first fifteen minutes of the movie, the body count is approaching the double digits. If that sounds as cool to you as it does to me, then this is one to add to your fine collection of action movie anime.
Special Features: 5.1 Digitally Remastered Japanese and English Audio, Interview With Producer Mata Yamamoto, Art Gallery, Trailers