Seven anime Christmas favorites to watch with a cup of hot cocoa.
Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Jul 23rd 2003
DVD 3: Abduction in Chinatown
With Crying Freeman concluding after three volumes and six episodes, it may very well be the viewers that are left crying. After 100 minutes of visual anguish and mental torture, some viewers will be hitting their heads against the walls, begging for the OVA to just stop already. Of course, there will also be viewers doused in a stupor of testosterone-induced happiness, but as with many things, it all depends on what you look for in a series. If you've ever wanted to know which category you'd fit into for a show like Crying Freeman, well, here's your chance. The folks at ADV are giving (un)lucky viewers the chance to finish off the series with their release of episodes five and six. Armed with a whopping total of zero extras, the disc finishes out the OVA based on Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami's respected, and much better, manga series.
While the series started out by trying to explore the psychological goings-on in Freeman's head, it's ended out as a full-blown violence and sex fest—and quite a random one at that. The episodes can be watched in their entirety without viewers having a single inkling of what's actually going on. The fifth episode is vaguely about kidnappers (named, in a mind-shattering burst of creativity, the Kidnappers Organization), hostages, a trap to lure out Freeman, and a chronic masturbator. Alas, there are so many pairs of breasts and butt-cheeks floating around that one is torn between trying to pay attention to the incredibly weak plot, blinking in blatant disbelief at the screen, or feeling rather anti-aroused. For some reason, everyone is always naked. There are scenes when fully clothed women will walk into a room full of subordinate men, take off their clothes, and then utter phrases of wonder along the lines of, “all of my men are perverts!”
Amusingly, it's these acts of pointless nudity that make the show so incredibly disturbing (and oddly funny). Of all the 50 minutes that comprise the first episode, at least five minutes are filled up by a woman masturbating (regardless of who's watching), another five minutes of her trying to rape Freeman, three of a woman talking about Freeman's wife, and then having sex with him anyway, eight of an incredibly obese woman prancing around topless, three of miscellaneous orgasm shots, and another five of stripping and fighting. That adds up to 29 minutes, meaning that 58% of the episode is filled with brain-injuring wannabe masturbatory material. If the sex scenes fit with the plot, this could be excused, but under no conceivable military circumstances would your commanding officer prance into a crowded arena, strip, writhe about in heat, and then use up more stock masturbation footage. There are also scenes (that don't include sex, surprisingly) that seem to serve no purpose other than to illicit audience giggles and take up time, such as a tangential gang meeting that has no bearing on the plot where the leader ends by slowly slicing a cabbage for 41 seconds.
Alas, the last episode isn't much better. While there is less stripping, there is certainly enough nudity and sex to the point that at the end, it transforms into porn, complete with exaggerated orgasms and a colorful variety of sex positions. Of course, the plot is just as badly drafted and scripted out as the first, so there is nothing in that realm that salvages it. What's particularly important to note about the last episode, though, isn't the gratuitous sex or bad plot, but the voice acting. For the most part, the Japanese voice actors in Crying Freeman are talented, although the only emotions required are stoic deadpans and lustful gushing. However, in the last episode, the characters take it upon themselves to engage in a spout of Russian. Fans have long since poked fun at the bad way that English comes out in anime. It may be hard to believe, but the Russian is much, much worse. To viewers that have absolutely no knowledge of the Russian language, this doesn't matter too much, but for anyone that speaks any Russian at all, the words induce a series of negative emotions, beginning with laughter and ending with sadness.
To be fair, one can't expect the actors to have a perfect command of Russian, or even any Russian at all, but the few lines of Russian are so insignificant, that it would have been infinitely better to just have all of the dialogue in Japanese. (It's not as bad when the actors try to speak Chinese, but that certainly isn't fun to listen to, either.) This is where the English dub picks up some pointers, as all of the lines are in English. The dub also scores massive points for not trying to force any fake Slavic accents, something which would have cheapened the quality of the language track. For the most part, the English actors do a great job, skillfully voicing a script that is surprisingly accurately translated. Given ADV's unimpressive track record of bad scripts, this feat deserves much commendation.
As much as the Japanese dialogue is a bit unnerving to listen to, the music in Crying Freeman manages to salvage any auditory faux pas. Although the soundtrack isn't something that would inspire anyone to tears, or even give them the impulse to buy the CD, it's still one of the highlights of the otherwise unflattering disc. During a few select moments, the orchestra ensemble wails up and almost makes you forget what you're watching. Moments like those are what make you want to stand up, strip off your clothes in glory, and sport full-body tattoos of animals dancing majestically all over your naked body—well, almost.
Auditory aspects aside, it's always possible that the entire production can be saved by the visuals. Luckily, violent anime series always have well animated fight scenes, right? Sadly, this myth is untrue. Regardless of all the fights that happen in the Crying Freeman, the animation is still as chunky as your average 300+ episode mahou shoujo series. With the characters and their unattractive statures and frozen-in-time hairstyles (also known affectionately as the Getter Robo Effect, the way they jerk about the screens punching each other and having copious amounts of sex only rubs acid in the wound. The one thing that can be complimented is the character facial design. In spite of how bad they look trying to seductively walk across a room, all the characters have rather attractive faces.
It's rather hard to describe Crying Freeman to people who are unfamiliar with the show. The plots are standalone and rice paper thin, so the only way that the series can truly be explained is with the generic, “well, it's got guns, fists, and lotsa tits.” While this may please fans that are choking on testosterone, it certainly doesn't do much for the poor quality of the series. If the first volume was interesting, it just got steadily worse from there. Fans attracted to the concept of the first two volumes may as well complete the series, but for people who have yet to watch this show, it's best to watch it while inebriated and in desperate need of a good laugh/masochistic adventure.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D+
Animation : C-
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Hooray for sweeping orchestral scores
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