I went into city hunter expecting decent action and adventure with lots of knee slapping comedy, something much more lighthearted and less impactful then what I thought Angel Heart, its spin off from 15 years later, was.
For the first four episodes that’s what I got from City Hunter, action stories that take place in the dark corners of a city teeming with crime and a main character who can come across as a complete scum bag in his manner of treating woman when he finds them attractive that its laugh out loud funny.
Then there’s episode five.
Angel Heart literally hit me in the feels almost every single episode, giving me something to get misty eyed over. Episode five of City Hunter gives me a backstory, a death and a keepsake to make me cry. Gosh darn it I cried. This series wasn’t supposed to do that.
After finishing episode four I knew what was going to happen, because the teaser for episode five pretty much spoils what’s going to happen, but if your doubting what your seeing its followed by the episode five title Goodbye Makimura: A Tearful Birthday on a Rainy Night. So, I don’t feel bad spoiling this episode. Its from 89, its already spoiled, and you need to go watch this now! (Takes a deep breath, repeats that spoilers are ok).
The series strings us along for four episodes, giving us what we think is the status quo, two men Saeba Ryo and Makimura Hideyuki who work together as a team to insure the success of Ryo as the sweeper City Hunter. The amount of screen time Makimura receives still isn’t much, because its setting him up as the supporting character, but it’s enough for us to grow a little bit attached to him.
In episode three we hear about Makimura’s sister, which in its implementation gave me the impression that they were making her an unseen but consistent element of the series, even though I knew different. In episode four this impression is broken because we are introduced to his sister, the other Main character, Kaori, and we learn of the importance of their sibling relationship through Makimura’s worry for her. It’s a slow and interesting move. Rather then start with Ryo and Kaori as the main characters we get a fake out that I applaud, because its something I don’t see outside of modern TV shows and certainly not in animation for a series like this.
For some the purpose of Makimura’s death might be a turn off, because it is essentially setting up the status quo for the rest of the series, bring the main male character and the main female character closer together so they can become entangled in a romantic relationship, which is spelled out in the opening of every episode. This opening downplays the slow change in status quo, because we know that Saeba Ryo and a female are the main characters because of it, but I still think it was well done. Despite the obvious reason for Makimura’s death, I thought it was tactfully accomplished and I was happy with the execution. (not an intended pun! Forgive me!)
First in the episode, we are introduced to the killer, a man who is obviously very good at his job and a force to be reckoned with. Due to the nature of how he kills he made me think of a 70’s Bond villain and I love old Bond villains. He has a trick up his sleeve that any combatant would be hard pressed against, and I think this choice says a lot about Makimura. He isn’t killed because of a stupid mistake on his part. In fact Makimura enters a den of criminals shortly before his death, where they are all set upon killing him and comes out on top by showing off his resourfulness and prowess.
Instead of a mistake Makimura is brought down by something he couldn’t have seen coming and I believe, if the tables were turned would have resulted in Ryo’s death and still would have, had Makimura not found the strength to make his way back to Ryo and warn him about the killers secret.
Following Makimura’s death and Ryo’s promise to take down the organization that killed him, we get a grim determination from Ryo that is almost shocking in its contrast from his manner in the previous episodes. While Ryo has been shown to be serious he has never been so for long until this episode. And I feel his change in manner is brought home the most through his subdued reaction to a beautiful woman. Ryo is angry, sad, his best friend is dead and his world is forever changed.
Kaori’s world is also changed forever. Early in the episode it is revealed the she and her brother only had each other. Now in the wake of his death we are shown that she isn’t the type of person to just run away. Upon being given the choice to leave town and go somewhere safe now that she has no reason to stay, she decides that she would rather stay in the city where her brother lived and did good, filling the blank in Ryo’s life despite the dangers.
So even though the death in this episode is merely to change the status quo the series, and in the end is basically pointless plot point, I thought it was incredibly well done and I’m glad it’s there as opposed to not having Makimura’s character in the show to begin with.