This Week in Anime
Is City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes Worth Watching?

by Nicholas Dupree & Michelle Liu,

Ryo Saeba is back with guns blazing to introduce all the new kids to his City Hunter charms, but is the latest installment in the decades old franchise bringing anything new to table? Nick and Micchy discuss what works well and what should have stayed buried in the tech bubble.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Micchy
Hey Nick, you know how anime reboots in this day and age like to update themselves with modern tech and themes of technology and stuff? Like how the (unfortunately delayed) Digimon Adventure: remake goes all-in on cybersecurity threats, or how Gatchaman Crowds has a whole thing about social networking? Well what if I told you the new City Hunter is firmly Not That.
Nick
Ah the 80s, when every shonen protagonist was a pervert and every heroine had a handy slapstick dimension to hold their comically oversized weapons of discipline.
To be entirely fair, City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes does feature anime Elon Musk, so it's not completely stuck in the past. But if you were wondering if its shiny new veneer is representative of something truly fresh, well. Hope you're ready for '80s anime comedy!
City Hunter is one of those properties I've only ever vaguely known about. Other than Ryo's inclusion in that Jump Force nobody remembers, I knew next to nothing about it, so just as a history lesson I was interested in checking out this revival movie. That interest promptly deflated when the OP song ended with the JP equivalent of shouting "MY DICK!!!"
City Hunter has been around for some thirty years, but at least in my experience it doesn't seem to come up as often as other titles from the era, old guard fans notwithstanding. Prior to seeing this movie last year at a convention screening, I was only ever familiar with the (rather liberal) K-Drama adaptation of it. The original manga (and TV series), in comparison, is very '80s in a lot of ways, some good and some really, really bad.
The bad mostly coming from our titular City Hunter, Ryo Saeba, who's like if James Bond was also Mineta.

Ryo Saeba's bullet-dodging coolness: timeless.

Ryo Saeba's running joke of yelling "boner!" and creeping on random women: can we please leave that in the '80s, or preferably on another timeline altogether?
Really glad that shonen series have decided to (mostly) offload that particular character trait onto crappy side characters who we can edit out of group shots. Now, there's slightly more to this movie than just Ryo being insufferable, but that's still like the first 30 minutes of it.
I understand that City Hunter wouldn't really be City Hunter if that part of his character were excised, but it's still pretty damn painful to sit through, especially if you're a woman in a room full of dudes laughing at his antics. Like even if he does suffer slapstick consequences for his transgressions it's still majorly uncomfortable to see that kind of behavior coming from the ostensible hero of this whole shebang.
Thing is you don't have to neuter him. There are plenty of ways to have your character be horny and have him get around a lot without having him be a weirdo. Instead the only thing they really update about him is he gets a drone to help him violate women's privacy.
Like hey, there's a bit where Ryo cheers up his stressed out client by taking her to a bar where he has a sidegig as a stripper. That's like, professionally inappropriate, but at least he's not playing grabass.
Ai at the bar is pretty much me at most of this movie tbh.

There are things I like about it - the movie kicks off with Ryo shooting down a missile in mid air before it hits the TOHO Godzilla in Shinjuku, and I do get a kick out of the absurd number of bazookas that show up in the third act. But the journey there is an absolute slog if you're not down for its brand of humor.
That's the main issue. The first 40 minutes are stock thriller stuff interspersed with Ryo just being an ass. Once the actual action kicks in that mostly goes away since he's in Serious Dude mode, though I have to role my eyes at the main villain being motivated to prove his dick is bigger than Ryo's.
Well they got that part of not!Elon Musk right. It's a silly motivation for sure, but you can't say it's not accurate to the tech moguls out there who melt down on Twitter over divers doing their job.
I mean yeah, a technocrat trying to revolutionize war profiteering to prove he's enough of a man to bang the girl he's been obsessively crushing on his entire life is the most down to earth part of this whole thing.
I guess there's also the whole arc about Ryo's client Ai coming to terms with her father's absence and passing but that's kind of secondary to the whole mind control drone thing and Mr. Definitely Not Elon's weird inferiority complex.
It's there? I guess? But it's totally separate from the emotional stakes of the rest of the story and gets resolved 30 minutes before the end credits so it's barely a B-plot. She thought her dad hated her but he actually loved her and died protecting her. Time for Explosions.
Sure she's the character who hires Ryo in the first place and sets the plot in motion, but in practice she amounts to little more than a MacGuffin who kind of stops being relevant as soon as Not-Elon gets her biometrics.
Which I gotta say, real great plan on Tech Dad to protect his daughter by making her retina scan the key that unlocks the villain's psychic drone control console. That definitely won't make him go after her or anything.
Tech Dad has a whole 15 seconds of screen-within-a-screen time and yet he's still more relevant to the conflict than any non-eyeball part of Ai though. Well, except her ass maybe.
There's exactly 1 dude in the movie who isn't a creep, and it certainly ain't the camera man. It's Umibozu, who just wants to run a cafe and love his cute robot son.
We got a top ten saddest anime death right here.
Give me a whole movie about this large man and his slapstick adventures with robots.

I'm really a fan of how many bazookas he has stashed around Shinjuku Park. Umibozu's a good dude.

I'd also invite a movie about the 3 cafe owners who are also international art thieves. If only so I can actually learn their names. Because they just show up before the 3rd act and the movie expect me to get excited. They even get an insert song!
A movie, 73 episodes, whatever. I imagine the Cat's Eye cameo is really exciting if you're invested in the Tsukasa Hojo Cinematic Universe, which I am not. Mostly, anyway.
I guess their outfits work after all.
I will say though, I do like the character designs in this movie. They're subtly revamped without totally rewriting their DNA, namely their amazing/terrible '80s hair.
There is that. It certainly does a better job of translating the original art style to HD better than, say, Nu-LoGH where everyone has the same face and hair.
The character designs do a good job of balancing their modern shine with a retro feel! That's a balancing act that the rest of the movie struggles to pull off. It tries so hard to put the old gang in a modern context without sacrificing its identity. Unfortunately, that identity apparently includes Ryo Saeba's nymphomania.
Ryo at least knows when to turn it off and just go full Action Hero during the big climax. Or maybe he just can't sexually harass military drones.
I'm pretty sure he would find a way if he weren't busy playing bullet pinball.
That's basically the final 30 minutes of this thing. Muskman sends literally billions of dollars in military tech at 1 guy to show how cool his warbrain helmet is, then gets clowned by a man armed with 2 guns. Also Kaori, despite being the fulcrum point of this whole love triangle, just kinda gets captured off camera? Like she breaks in and holds the dude at gunpoint, cut back to Ryo fighting for a bit, and BAM she's in zipcuffs in the corner.
Gotta make time for the big strong man doing his thing amirite.

Now, it is extremely cool when Ryo shoots down missiles midair. I just wish that spectacle didn't come at the cost of every female character in the movie.
Look I know a shonen property from the 80s is not where I should look for stories where women get to be important, but at LEAST show her losing the fight so it doesn't look like she just magically tripped into handcuffs the moment she left Ryo's eyeline. Hell, her big important moment in the climax is LITERALLY BOWING OUT so Ryo can save the day.

That's a sweet moment of trust between the two of them, but yeah, it's pretty damning that her biggest contribution is stepping out of the way so that the boys can settle the score.
And then the story concludes with the moral that the real City Hunter was the friends we made along the way. Or something.
Though the only theme I really got out of it was
So yeah that's City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes. If you're already a big fan of the franchise I imagine this serves well enough as a bit of nostalgiabait, but as one of the un-initiated I can't say I get the appeal.
Me leaving this whole mess behind.


discuss this in the forum (31 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

This Week in Anime homepage / archives