One thing that greatly bothers me in the world of media is how a creative work can be ruined or wrongly popularized by one singular scene, moment, frame, or internet meme. Especially since that is what the popular culture consciousness is going to remember about the show going forward. Today’s piece of media of discussion is a victim of that. I think that most of you walking into this review are going to think about the bad cg helicopters from that one moment in the film when there is a lot more interesting things going in the film visually then that. I also think that this film is alright, but one of Dezaki’s least interesting works. Not a miss fire, but there is something very off about it.
This film was my first introduction to the world of Golgo 13. The main man in question has a normal world name of Duke Togo, but his alias, which has already been mentioned, is what he goes by in the professional assassin world. He is a very tall man that never talks unless he has to. That is basically his entire function and personality. Golgo 13’s skills are top notch and he will accept any sort of job no matter what if it’s the right price. Also, he is a bit of a chick magnet as well for some reason? I suppose the guy is handsome and he does belief in consent so I guess that counts as sexy. This is a film version of Golgo 13 and it starts with Golgo murdering the son of an oil tycoon by the name of Robert Dawson.
In this movie, Golgo 13 is only a character in the story. Despite setting the movie into motion with that assassination, he merely reacts to what happens to him until the final moments when Golgo 13 can’t take it anymore. That is the life of a contract for hire I suppose. Otherwise, Golgo 13 goes on different assassination missions, like killing an ex-nazi official by a wealthy holocaust survivor and other cases around the film itself. The story comes in when the assassins after him come in and that feels sort of natural for Golgo 13’s life style. A past job from the people his killing left behind going after him as well.
All of that together makes this film Leonard Dawson’s story as he gets more and more insane in demanding for Golgo 13’s death. This is also how the movie functions and the stakes grow. Golgo 13 goes through out the movie leveling up like a video game character as Leonard’s moral event horizon is passed by. A rich man like him has attachments to all sorts of government craziness. This means things hiring the 2 out of 40 hitmen who survived in the jungle without resources for an extended amount of time named Gold and Silver, the genetically modified Snake man, and Apache helicopters during the invasion of Dawson Tower because of all of that. In the end, as he falls to his death, Leonard finally realizes he went too far. It’s just kind of “eh” in the end despite it all. Very good in that way.
Except there are some flaws in this film too. Like really bad ones in terms of content warnings. I first want to say that it doesn’t come from Golgo 13 himself. He does have sex with his “Q” like character, but she wanted to have sex and asked for it, so it was consensual and sexy. On the opposite end is Leonard Dawson who locked his son’s widow, Laura, up in the room with Snake to be raped and it actually showed a lot of it until the act itself. It was scary and decently animated too until the actual act itself cut away from it. So just clothes tearing off and even that didn’t need to be shown on screen. If you had to do that, just close the door and say that’s that. At least like some other things, Kite, it didn’t frame it as good. Still, there was a bad end here. Laura ends up as a prostitute in the end which makes it seem like she never had control over her life after the Dawson empire fell apart.
Golgo 13: The Professional is a very interesting film to talk about on a visual level. For instance, there is creative art styles, creative character designs, tons of detailed locations, tons of characters, and some very good action animation. The show also tries its best to look like a spy film or feature from the 1960’s and I think that’s interesting. Dezaki certainly has style. Some of it is animation cost saving measures that have a lot of style and I think that is what the kaleidoscope, somewhat acid tripped style of framing and using devices adds to the experience here. It saves time, it looks cool, and it never deters or distracts from what is happening on screen at all so actions that happen are really cool and on full force. This is the one part of the experimental aspect of this film that is just ignored. It’s annoying.
Lastly, before we close out, I think we need to discuss the experimental cg used in this film. Can we just say that this was 1983 and no one used this amount of cg in animation yet? Also, this probably cost more or at least the same as animating them in hand animation. That is knowledge that I don’t know. I know that films in that era have, but mostly in contexts that make sense like Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan who used it for the genesis scenes. You know, the scenes on screen were seen through computer consoles, so those makes sense. This? There wasn’t any compositing back then either and this is where we learned that combining the two art forms was going to be the struggle arc of anime coming from 1983 forward? The transition between the bad cg to the good art was…what it was. It was a bad decision, but it was going to happen eventually.
Golgo 13: The Professional is just an ok film by me. Very watchable, except for that one part which is just awful, and has some good action except for the obvious thing that everyone talks about. If you want a pure action film with lots of cool moments like James Bond, you know where to look. If you don’t, then there really isn’t a lot of substance in this film so it’s kind of a pass really.
I never saw any of the Golgo 13 anime series or movies. The closest thing was Excel Saga with the Puchuus having those Golgo eyebrows when they get attacked. Wow, that CGI is all kinds of dated!
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Hmm, that bit in Excel Saga was pretty funny 😁.
And it’s from the early 80’s so it was just going to be bad no matter what.
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I know, right? Haha! That was one funny anime.
Very true, Scott.
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