Every year, I make it a point to watch at least one long anime, and the first series of City Hunter filled that need. Without much prior knowledge, I dived into the show.
I instantly fell in love.
City Hunter is an 80′s Shounen Jump title. Shounen manga nowadays tend to use gimmicky premises to rein readers in, but City Hunter has a very simple formula: Ryo Saeba is a perfect shot and a pervert, who takes jobs from beautiful women. There aren’t any ninjas or pirates or death gods here–City Hunter is a classy show that doesn’t rely on fancy settings or eye-catching visual styles to sell.
Melding action, comedy, and drama together, the writing is excellent. It’s an elegant title, having aged well–the jokes are still funny, and the lewd ones still show some restraint–Ryo may be a lecher, but he never crosses the line to become creepy or disgusting. If I were to hazard a guess, it’s because Ryo is upfront about his perversions. There’s no blushing or any of the awkwardness that your regular perverted anime lead would exhibit, he just tries to grab a woman, leading to slapstick situations.
The cast is very robust. Kaori is the obligatory foil, the woman sidekick who runs into trouble all too often. There’s some sort of minor romantic tension between her and Ryo, which may be addressed in succeeding series. Saeko is a detective who owes Ryo a lot of (sexual) favors, yet always manages to slither out of Ryo trying to collect them. There’s a scary-looking, misunderstood rival named Umibouzu, who plays the part of a nominal antagonist on occasion.
When I think about it, Ryo seems to be the prototype of dual heroes like Kenshin. He has a goofy side and a badass side, and Akira Kamiya’s voice talent allows him to switch voices in a jiffy. Ryo is strong and kind, and the show throws out some hints to his past, which might come to bite him back.
What about the show itself? City Hunter looks very good for its time. Sunrise gets a lot of flak nowadays, but I never saw a single bad frame in the show. The animation is fun and endearing, able to handle the light, comedic parts as well as the action. There’s approximately a 70/30 comedy-action ratio, and there are a lot more light episodes than serious ones. In fact, most of the serious, heavy episodes happen in the first half of the show, which is also the stronger half. Looking back, it felt like the second half fell into a routine, with less and less serious action happening.
(There are still really cool ones, though, like Ryo fighting a hitman one-on-one, or various helicopters blowing up. Ryo eats helicopters for breakfast.)
There are 51 episodes in the first series alone, but it never felt like a chore. City Hunter is mostly episodic, and I watched two episodes every day until I finished it. One is too short, and any more than two would saturate the experience.
If you want a consistent, long-running show that will stick with you, it’s impossible to go wrong with City Hunter. I can’t think of any cooler choice.
PS: It also has the best fade-in in anime. Suck it, JoJo TV.
PPS: Baka-Raptor has a stronger message, which is “drop something and watch City Hunter“.