Review: GOLGO 13 (Episodes 1 - 13)
Golgo 13 is an anime based on the long running manga of the same name by Takao Saito that has been in release since the late 1960s, the same golden era as other classics like Speed Racer and Wild 7. The popular Golgo 13 franchise also includes a number of live action films, animated features and video games.
Duke Togo, nicknamed 'Golgo 13', is a hired assassin with incredible skills and a reputation of being "an unimaginably talented elite-class sniper". He has the ability to hit his targets with unequalled accuracy. Besides these basic facts, viewers don't really get to find out a lot about this mysterious contract killer, who seems always calm and rarely shows any emotions even under the most difficult situations he finds himself in.
Golgo 13 is like a fantasy come true for every ordinary man. He can get rid of any opponents, avoid getting caught and also attract the ladies. In each episode, titled 'Target' rather than 'Chapter', he gets paid 3 million dollars to carry out a mission that is seemingly impossible, and really could only be completed successfully by someone like Golgo 13. One thing is that he always demands a reason for the mission. In a way, he is the modern day equivalent of a samurai, who values honor and carries out each mission with true professionalism.
The series is episodic, with each 'Target' representing a completely new adventure for the hero. What makes it interesting are the variety of tasks that he has to carry out and the details of the meticulous planning that goes into ensuring every mission is a success, whether it is by careful surveillance of the surroundings, close observation of the targets or clever modification of the weapons. So it is really not about whether he will complete his assignments and avoid getting caught, but how. For example, a great episode involves Golgo 13 getting asked to kill an impossible target, a task that he completes within the first 5 minutes of the episode, and the rest of the time is focused on the police investigation and how the man walks free despite all the evidence pointing towards him as the prime suspect.
There is a gritty and hard-edged aesthetic to the anime. The video appears grainy most of the time, but it does give it a classic feel. Some of the background, especially the cityscapes, is beautifully drawn. The action scenes tend to be short but slick, which is understandable considering Golgo 13 only ever needs one shot to hit his target. The Japanese voice cast is fantastic, and Hiroshi Tachi with his deep voice is wonderful as Golgo 13.
Golgo 13 is a show that is easy to pick up and enjoy an episode when you have 20 minutes to spare, perhaps a bit like the mini-games on your favorite video game console system. Ultimately, how much you enjoy the series will depend on your ability to accept 3 facts about Golgo 13: He never misses, he never loses and he never dies. If you find that difficult, the series may not be for you. But if you can, you will have a very enjoyable time seeing an old-school action hero carry out some dangerous missions.
Golgo 13 is distributed in Australia by Siren Visual, and is now available on DVD.