Crying Freeman Vol. #1: Portrait of a Killer -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Crying Freeman

Crying Freeman Vol. #1: Portrait of a Killer

By Chris Beveridge     March 01, 2003
Release Date: March 11, 2003

Crying Freeman Vol. #1: Portrait of a Killer
© ADV Films

What They Say
Brainwashed by the 108 Dragons, a powerful Chinese crime syndicate, Yo Hinomura is transformed into a killing machine known as "Crying Freeman" for the silent tears he sheds for his victims.

When the lovely artist Emu Hino witnesses one of his killing missions, Freeman is ordered to eliminate her. But the heated chemistry between the artist and her would-be killer spurs an immediate reaction. Hunted by both the police and the mob, victim and assassin vow to face together whatever fate has in store for them.

The Review!
Another release from the old Streamline catalog surfaces after years of being out of print.

Having heard the dub many times many years ago, this was our first chance to take in the original language track so we went strictly with that. Though it’s 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, some areas of this show is really showing its age, but that may just be in the source materials that were on hand. The worst area is the opening couple of minutes which in addition to being rather soft, suffers from a lot of grain and a blocky feel due to the grain interacting with all the dark blue night sky areas. Once it moves into the rest of the show, and particularly into the two episodes done in 1993, the transfer is fair bit better and more defined, but still a touch soft. Colors look good if somewhat flat, cross coloration is almost non-existent and there were only a few noticeable areas of bothersome cross coloration.

Wrapped in gold, the cover here looks pretty decent but also a touch gaudy I’d say due to the gold. Te front cover has the strong image of Freeman disrobing and showing his chest tattoo while imprinted behind him is the symbol of the 108 Dragons. The back cover has a few shots of the show itself and a couple of small paragraphs describing the premise. He discs production and basic technical information is also clearly listed here. The insert provides a gorgeous full color piece of artwork by Ikegami of Freeman tattooing his woman while the reverse side has a full color illustration of one of the female assassins next to the chapter listings.

The main menu is surprisingly stylish, as I would have figured this would be a simple static screen type of release, but instead we have a great piece of artwork of Freeman with knife in mouth that’s gaussed and blurred across the screen while some of the music plays along. Episode selections on the top and setup along the bottom, it’s easy to move about and transition times are nice and fast.


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.

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.

For me, Crying Freeman is something fairly nostalgic as it brings back the time when all this stuff was new and each release taught me something more about anime and what could be done with it. Some aspects of it have held up well over the years, but others not so much.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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