animefringe october 2003 / reviews

City Hunter Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: Raijin Comics / Hojo Tsukasa
Comments: An innuendo filled manga extravaganza.
Animefringe Reviews:
City Hunter Vol.1

This is oh-so-much a guy's manga. It easily cancels out any frilly aftereffects I may have from reading the enjoyable (but undeniably feminine) Forbidden Dance last month. Every once in a while, it's good to read a book that's just plain fun, and for October, Raijin Comics seems to be providing quite a bit for my amusement.

City Hunter features Saeba Ryo, an urban mercenary (or sweeper) known for helping out citizens in need, provided they can pay him. He may be a bit of a womanizer, but once he's decided to take a job, his devotion to the task at hand is only overshadowed by his love of the female form. Ryo is a crack shot and possesses a keen wit that enables him to get past obstacles that most people would find deadly. For the City Hunter, it's all in a day's work.

While I get a kick out of Ryo's character, I can't help but think of other invincible male protagonists in other series. For the most part, Ryo is untouchable, and while his nigh-invulnerability to death is enjoyable to watch, it's hard to invest too much, emotionally, in this series. Just like James Bond, Ken in Fist of the North Star, or the titular assassin Freeman in Crying Freeman, it's hard to fret over Ryo's situation no matter how battered he becomes - it's an almost guaranteed certainty that he'll survive somehow.

Now, that doesn't mean that the characters around him are safe, and that's where the story gets interesting. Different jobs show alternate sides of the sweeper, and the variety offered from new people in distress help break up the certainty of knowing who's going to live and who's going to die. Such conflict is necessary if readers are going to stay interested.

The art style screams 1985, but rather than an offensive noise, it's more of the nostalgic crooning of your favorite 80's metal band. Hair is big, women are full-figured, and cars are more angular than those of modern manga, but the characterizations are spot on. Tsukasa does a fine job of depicting emotions, and much of Ryo's charm comes from how he looks.

Following the successful formula of TOKYOPOP, City Hunter has been printed to read from right to left and maintains all of the original Japanese sound effects. There's also a brief introduction by the author along with a couple of photographs of him, which I appreciated. It's nice to see what the man or woman responsible for what I'm reading looks like.

One difference from most other publishers you'll notice is that Raijin actually numbers each panel to help people figure out the order to grasp the order in which they're to be read. While I'm not too sure if I like a little number bubble in every panel, I have to admit that I didn't even notice them until I went through the book a second time. They're not very obtrusive, and if it helps people get through the comic, then that's fine by me.

If you're looking for a masculine tale featuring a cocky, skilled protagonist seeking to make the world a better place, then City Hunter should do the trick. The dated artwork is a nice change from all of the recent stuff I've been reading, and while it's not the most intellectually stimulating piece of fiction I've experienced lately, it's a blast to read regardless. A little mind candy is good every now and again, isn't it?