Golgo 13 TV (Episodes 1-13)
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? A firefighter? How about a cop? An astronaut? I wanted to become a writer myself. Did any of you want to become an assassin? Because I kind of think Golgo 13 always knew he was going to be an assassin. He was born for this.
The Golgo 13 manga was created by Takao Saito, and the first volume was released in 1969. And it’s still coming out today! Although he hasn’t written it the entire time. While it’s true he has written and drawn some stories, many are done by ghostwriters/artists who work with him or under him. While he has the final say, they pretty much have free range to do what they want. And since the manga is so old, it’s had countless artists and writers, but with one constant Takao Saito, always there giving his thumbs up or thumbs down. And I’m sure he comes up with story concepts, and even writes/draws a story or two from time to time. But since the series has such a large amount of people involved, the individual stories vary greatly in quality (especially in regards to the art). Luckily for us when the series was adapted into an anime, they chose some of the better tales (at least for the first batch).
The TV series has a whopping 50 episodes to it. But the first batch released by Sentai Filmworks contained 13 episodes and that’s what I’ll be reviewing. Golgo 13, as I explained in my review of the movie is the world famous assassin for hire. He’s able to make incredible shots, shots thought impossible, with his personalized M16 sniper rifle. He will kill anyone you want, for a price, and not stop until the target is dead. In a way he’s like the Terminator. “He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead. ” He’s stone cold, has the personality, of a block of wood, an amazing shot with any gun, and bangs a lot of chicks. There’s not a lot too him. But he’s still downright cool. Anyway the first 13 episodes of the TV series has some really interesting stories to tell, all of which are completely stand alone. You can just watch whatever episodes in whatever order, as there is no grand story to tell here. Just a lot of people for good ol’ Duke Togo to kill. The best episode of this bunch is easily the one where Golgo must assassinate a politician. He get’s caught by the FBI after the fact, and they integrate him. Not only is this episode very interesting to watch because of how difficult it is for Golgo to kill the man, but it’s also a treat to watch him get out of hot water. And right on cue a lawyer, who reminds me of the chicken lawyer from Futurama, appears to give our man Duke Togo a hand. Another excellent episode involves Duke trying to kill a diplomat at the airport, and another top notch sniper trying to figure out how Duke will do this, and kill Duke before he can accomplish his goal. Then you have the amazing episode where Golgo actually leaves some evidence behind, thanks to a certain cat, and the cops are about to prove he murdered someone! That was a real exciting episode. And how can I not mention the episode with the rivalry between the old grumpy cop and the new CSI cops trying to pin a murder of Golgo 13. Excellent writing in that one there. My least favorite episode is the first one, in which Golgo 13 has to kill someone on a plane from an insane distance. This episode had terrible pacing, felt clumsy, and was sort of boring. I think they could have done much better then this. Good thing it only gets better from there. Still there’s much more good then bad in this batch. Way too many top notch stories to mention in this review. Let’s just hope they don’t run out of steam now.
While I feel the TV series doesn’t quite have the edge that Osamu Dezaki gave the movie, Shunji Oga does an admirable job with these episodes. He even uses a few “patented Dezaki still shots” throughout the show, although sparingly. And the TV series still has some of the power of the movie. This makes perfect sense, because Oga was the assistant director on the Golgo 13: The Professional, under Dezaki. Oga and his team at Answer Studio Company (who ever heard of them?) manage to capture the essence that is Golgo 13 quite well. Most episodes are exciting to watch, even though we know there’s no way Duke Togo is going to die. The series wisely focuses in on the set of main characters for each specific episode, rather then always on Duke Togo. These characters manage to be quite interesting and well fleshed out, despite only hanging around for one episode each. My favorites include an old cop about to retire, a mafia boss with a girlfriend who wants out, and a young sniper out to beat Duke Togo.
The animation is actually a bit of a disappointment. After watching the movie again recently, I was hoping for some impressive stuff, but sadly what we get is below average. It’s not terrible, but way too often things just move awkwardly. Things just don’t flow naturally. The way people run, or the way things happen fast just don’t look to good. The series is much better at animating the slower stuff, like Duke getting ready to take a shot, or a person playing the violin. And although the animation is a let-down, the artwork is great. Backgrounds are pretty detailed, the color scheme is dark and gloomy, yet looks great. You really get sucked into this dark world of Golgo 13. There is a great use of camera angels in this show, that along with the art design, makes everything seem very cinematic. And I must say I love this. And in still shots things look even better. Character designs are excellent, with busty beautiful babes, ugly bad-guys of every ethnic group, pretty-boy politicians, and old grungey cops. Each person looks distinct and quite authentic, although I will admit most people are buff, and perhaps a little too tough looking. Is everyone on the planet either a meathead or a smoking hot babe? Golgo of course looks the same as always, and keeps that smug look on his face, while screwing girls, walking around, driving, or killing people. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. The background music doesn’t really standout, and in fact feels a bit generic. The opening and ending theme songs fit, and I like them, but they’re nothing to write home about either. Gone is the epic soundtrack from the film, replaced with this modern stuff sadly enough.
As for the dub, it’s a great effort by Seraphim Studios (aka Amusement Park Media, ADV’s old production studio). In a time where most dubs are generic, and boringly cast, this dub really stands out. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as ADV’s final dubs, it’s still a great dub on it’s own. And again it sounds very different. David Wald makes for a good Golgo 13. He fits the role quite well, and has the right voice for the character. Chris Ayres plays the only other recurring character in the entire show (up to now anyway), Golgo 13’s gunsmith, and he’s truly amazing. He has a Peter Lorre quality to his voice that fits the creepy little gunsmith perfectly. The episodic characters are done very well. Some have appropriately sounding accents, that help make the show seem worldly, and the cast varies enough so your not hearing the same three guys play all the characters in the show. While not an A+ or anything, I think it was very good, and I can’t wait to hear more dubs by my old favorite studio! They are off to a good (re)start.
The stories are mostly well written, and manage to avoid a complete lack of suspense, even though Golgo 13 is a frigen tank. The animation is subpar, but the artwork is perfect for this type of show. Gritty and detailed, and very cinematic. The background music is lackluster, but the opening and ending themes are fine. The only real bad part of this show, is that it can get real repetitive, real fast. I have a high tolerance for that, but still had to take this show at a few episodes at a time. And I worry with 37 more episodes to go, can it continue to be this good? Surely it must get boring after awhile. I mean with no larger story to tell, how many times can we possibly sit down and watch Golgo kill someone. But the first 13 episodes are great, and I do recommend buying this. Sentai Filmworks really surprised me (us? the world?) as I never imagined we’d see this show on this side of the pacific, never mine dubbed. Hopefully their gamble will pay off, as there’s nothing else on the market like this, except for more Golgo 13 ! Do check it out!