Crying Freeman Complete Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 17, 2011
Release Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Dragged into a world of violence, sex and assassinations, one many weeps when the killing ends but cannot stop what he must do.
What They Say
Brainwashed by the powerful Chinese crime syndicate 108 Dragons, Yo Hinomura is transformed into a killing machine, known as "Crying Freeman" for the silent tears he sheds for his victims. When a lovely artist witnesses one of his killing missions, Freeman is ordered to eliminate her, but the heated chemistry between Emu Hino and her would-be killer spurs an immediate reaction. Hunted by the police and the mob, victim and assassin vow to face whatever fate has in store for them together.
Contains OVA episodes 1-6.
The bilingual presentation for this release has the same audio tracks as we saw on the ADV Films release with the Japanese and English language tracks encoded at 192kbps in stereo. We've listened to both tracks over the years but the Japanese track is what draws us back after having only the English track for so long. While it is a stereo track, it’s primarily center channel based for the dialogue, though the music utilizes the stereo channels well enough and some of the larger action sequences fill the soundstage fully. There were no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the transfer for this six part OVA series is presented in its full frame aspect ratio. The show is spread across two discs evenly with three fifty minute episodes on each of them. Crying Freeman continues to show its age in a lot of ways but some of it may just be in the source materials that were on hand. The show has a flat look to it for the most part, especially in the early episodes, as it doesn't start to use some vibrant colors until the last couple of them. The traditional animation that at times plays more like illustrations that have some movement to them that's quite beautiful, does suffer from some cross coloration and minor line noise but it's relatively small overall, but still present. The show in general looks comparable to the past releases since there's only so much you can do with the materials at hand.
Done up in a standard keepcase, the cover design here is pretty nice as it has a somewhat full color shot of Freeman in the foreground, weapons in each hand, while behind him is a red and white image that has the dragons and other players from the series. There's a lot of passion and energy to it but the Crying Freeman releases have never been able to look great simply because of the lack of materials and the dated feel of it. But this does have a manly nature about it that separates it from just about everything else out there. The back cover brings a lot of the artwork from past releases out to play as the white background dominates it and the red text is hard to read, but seeing the various pieces and the stills from the show along a strip brings it all together well. The production credits and technical grid is solid, but the eye is just drawn to the artwork over and over as it's very appealing and deserving of much larger display. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Crying Freeman is similar to some of the other Discotek releases out there with a very simple layout where it's a black background that has a single panel of artwork on the left side while the episode selection and language setup is along the right. There's not much to it, though the artwork is definitely nice, but it's just a small piece overall and doesn't do anything other than to say it's a basic effort. With no submenus and no extras here, there's not much in the way of anything to do here. The discs do default to English language with sign/song subtitles rather than reading our players' language presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Crying Freeman was one of the earlier titles that I had been able to see way back in the day when there was very little coming out. At it’s release, while it paled compared to the manga, it was faithful for the most part and it was violent. Violent and sexual, which was the bulk of the early titles that Streamline used to pick up. Naturally, it gained some attention and helped the English release of the manga pick up some steam. What a change since those days. When this was first released, it was dub only and while not radically changed, there’s enough differences. The manga release at the time was colored and monthly. It’s like a whole different world now, though the original dub makes its return here instead of a new one being done up.
The story of Crying Freeman is one that Koike and Ikegami can tell very well, as both have done some fascinating work on the underside of both Japan and China. Freeman is the deadliest assassin in a Chinese criminal organization known as the 108 Dragons. Their society, though criminal in nature, is the kind that’s displayed with much respect, tradition and honor as there is along history to it. Several years ago, Freeman was known as Yoh Hinomura, a pottery artist who was growing in fame and was having his first New York Exhibition.
Through someone using his pieces of art as a way so smuggle something into the country, he found himself being blackmailed to turn it over instead of the police. When he refused, the 108 Dragons captured him and turned him into one of their own, forcing their training so fiercely and with cold calculation that Hinomura would only be able to truly be himself after he completes a mission. It’s from this he’s earned the name Crying Freeman, as his tears flow freely after an assassination.
His life gets to change again after he performs an assassination in Hong Kong only to be seen by Emu Hino, a woman in her late twenties from Japan who was visiting to paint the scenery. She’s calm as can be as he introduces himself after the killing and she returns the introduction. But she knows that the introductions mean that he’ll come for her one day to kill her. But in this she doesn’t care, because she’s found herself completely in love with Freeman.
When Freeman’s next target brings him to Japan, he and Emu end up entangled again as well as the corrupt police department and the remnants of the yakuza gang whose leader Freeman just eliminated (in a very well choreographed attack sequence). The two struggle to deal with their new found relationship and feelings as well as the consequences of it as their world changes together. This just sets up the opening for the series, but it well defines it as we know exactly who the two of them are and how strong their bond is. With this as the foundation, we see the paths that they're on, which are pretty closely tied together, but they each have their own things to do. They're totally bonded to each other, but they won't die themselves if the other one is lost to them. They know their positions as Freeman takes over the 108 Dragons and Emu becomes his partner in every sense of the word.
The problem that the series runs into is that as it progresses, it moves away from the wonderful material that the pairing of these two has. Of course, it's following the manga fairly well, but there were more moments that showed these two that helped to tie it together. Here, Freeman's journey to power in the 108 Dragons places him against a number of foes, from an African group to a Russian group and certainly issues within the Chinese heavy 108 Dragons itself that doesn't want a Japanese man taking control of it. The strangest yet surprisingly fun introduction is that of Bayasan, a very large woman who has been kept out of sight for so long because of her blood relations to a past leader that has her believing she should be the one taking the reins of power for the organization.
Even by today’s standards, Crying Freeman is a violent show. While there are certainly more bloody, there’s an underlying darkness to this with the look and feel of the characters and the real-world styling of the show. This isn’t pretty boys slicing and dicing, but rather cold hard killers doing their jobs. Freeman himself is a very adept combatant and some of the moves he provides, whether using guns, fists or knives is impressive. What adds to his impressiveness, though will likely get a chuckle out of those not getting into the right mood for it, is the body wrapping dragon tattoo that he has. We see into his past and how he acquired it, though much of its meaning is lost in the translation to the anime. As disappointing as that is, the remainder of what’s brought over is very well done, but as good as the people who worked on this are, I don’t think Ikegami’s work can ever be truly animated. His style is just belongs on paper more than anything else with all its loving lines. There’s just a certain raw sensuality and power to his designs and pages that just doesn’t come through in the anime.
Crying Freeman has a lot of meaning to me since the manga was one of my first exposures to the medium and the anime was an early one when I started exploring what was out there beyond the world of broadcast TV. This is the kind of series that really deserves to be kept continually in print as there are few shows like it. It's brutal, it's violent, it has a very strong man's world approach to it but the women are just as powerful and stand among them as equals in just about all ways. While the show is somewhat uneven at times when you look at it as a whole, it's a fascinating work that in a lot of ways does stand the test of the time because it's unlike so many others. Watching it over the course of a single day may not be the best idea, as it can get overwhelming, but Crying Freeman is one of those shows that doesn't flinch or hold back in the slightest. And you have to have a lot of respect for that.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Discotek
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Crying Freeman