City Hunter: Secret Service -

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Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: City Hunter

City Hunter: Secret Service

By Chris Beveridge     April 28, 2002
Release Date: June 25, 2002

City Hunter: Secret Service
© ADV Films

What They Say
Joe Saeba, the globally adored hero, is back in another adventure of a Third World country and into the pain and anguish of one man’s tortured past.

James McGuire’s life is so dangerous he has to hire bodyguards for his Secret Service agents. It doesn’t help that his chief agent is actually his long-lost daughter. Luckily for him, Joe and Kaori are behind on the rent and need the work!

But a dark secret from McGuire’s past threatens to destroy him and his lovely daughter Anna. Will he live to rescue his country? Will his resentful daughter learn to love him again? Will Joe finally get some action?

The Review!
Though my video shelf has something like eleven volumes of the City Hunter TV series, City Hunter: Secret Service is the first time I’ve actually seen anything from this show. Too many DVDs and too little time to watch VHS. But what I’ve seen, I like.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Being a mid 90’s TV special, it features a decent sounding stereo mix that makes some good use of the forward soundstage with some minor directionality for gunshots and occasional voices will filling things up nicely with the music. Dialogue is clean and clear and we noted no dropouts or distortions on either track.

This looks like it’s one of the first discs where out Skyworth has had problems. During the opening piece of animation, the opening itself and the first few seconds of the following scene, there’s a lot of staggered animation going through where it looks like the cels are stuttering across the screen. I had attributed it to the video being edited to put in the US version of the logo (even though the Japanese one is in English). But in playing the disc on our Toshiba TV/DVD combo, none of the stutter is there at all. And replaying it on the Skyworth does show it again. Barring that, this is a good looking disc whose only problem is some aliasing throughout. That’s fairly normal during camera panning sequences on traditionally animated shows to begin with though. Colors look good and we didn’t see much in the way of macroblocking or backgrounds breaking up.

Kaori and Ryo get the front cover here in a nice serious look set against a sunset orange background. The back cover features various animation shots and a good summary of the show. Production information is clearly listed but nothing related to the DVD outside of region coding is listed. You can’t even tell if this is a bilingual disc going by the back package. The insert features another shot of the cover while the reverse side lists the chapter stops, extras and what previews are on the disc.

The main menu is a good looking static piece from the cover of Ryo, Kaori and the City background, Music plays along, but otherwise it’s a pretty simple menu with minimal selections. Access times are nice and fast and moving around is pretty straightforward.

There’s some good extras included with this release, including textless versions of the opening and ending sequence. The opening lets you see the original Japanese logo as well. There’s a few original Japanese TV spots that show its progress from a tease to a full commercial as well as the English versions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The City Hunter TV series originally started airing back in 1987, so by 1995 with this special, the fifth one I believe, it’s characters, motivations and general design was pretty well known by it’s fans and by the general audience. It’s like most people will know what to expect from a James Bond movie when they go to that.

The show revolves around Ryo Saeba, the City Hunter who is one of the best professionals for doing those kinds of jobs that need to be done. He’s ably assisted by his partner Kaori. Although for the most part, it seems like her role is relegated to making sure Ryo doesn’t get out of control and just plain attack all the cute girls he comes across as opposed to being an integral part of the team. But that’s likely just the way this special played out. Ryo and Kaori find themselves hired by James McGuire, a very prominent figure whose running for president in the Republic of Guinam. He’s in Japan to build up support among other things as the election draws closer.

Things from his past are coming back to haunt him. He spent sixteen of the past eighteen years in prison under the rule of the military junta that controlled the country. His years prior to that was part of the anti-government movement, which is where he first met his wife to be, the Japanese aid work Ruriko. The two married and had one child named Anna. When Ruriko was killed, he sent Anna to Japan to live. Anna had seen her mother killed though, but not as it really happened. Ruriko was gunned down by someone McGuire knew, but all Ruriko saw was her father holding her as she died. Anna has since held a grudge against him, though the two haven’t seen each other since she was six.

McGuire is surprised upon his arrival in Japan that Anna is assigned to the secret service detail guarding him. Using his connections with Saeko, who is handling security for him, he gets Ryo and Kaori to protect her while she’s protecting him. Anna can’t stand it, and can’t stand McGuire either. Having a character like Ryo watching her is practically the final straw, but it’s the kind of show where as time goes on, the two end up conversing more and more and Anna learns things about herself that she had forced out of her mind.

The special in general is a pretty decent storyline if essentially formulaic. What makes it work is the characters, with Ryo being the primary reason. What makes him different from so many other lead male characters is simply that he’s older than 15. While he may act like a horny fifteen year old, he balances it out with a lot of serious moments. Even better, there aren’t any children in the show at all. Anna comes in at 24, McGuire’s assistant Rosa is in her mid 30’s and McGuire himself is easily in his forties. This alone provides a great change of pace from the pretty boys we’re often stuck with in high school age situations.

The animation for the special is pretty good overall as well, with plenty of detail in the backgrounds and some good character designs. Anna is made to be attractive but not a bombshell. This is the way most of the women are done in fact, which provides another pleasant change of pace. Ryo being a tall and fairly muscular guy also works well, especially when he goes goofy and has the “dot” eyes and huge smile as he flips up a skirt.

City Hunter: Secret Service plays out for its full 90 minutes with little real downtime to be bored by. There’s plenty to learn as we go along with new secrets coming to light, though you may see several or all of them along the way. The villains are bad, but not Evil bad. It’s easily a story you can see happening, that’s told well and executed with some nice style. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the movies and hope to see the TV series sooner rather than later.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese TV spots,City Hunter Extra,Textless Opening,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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