City Hunter: Secret Service
Private detective (and lecherous bastard) Ryo Saeba is hired by presidential candidate James McGuire of an obviously fictional South American republic to protect the candidate's long-lost daughter Anna Shinjo, who is herself an agent of the country's Secret Service. Somebody knows about the family connection and is targeting Anna to put pressure on McGuire: it's up to the City Hunter team to stop them. But first, some nookie? Ahem, secret service?!?
Not if Ryo's partner Kaori can help it!
The omission of City Hunter from the THEM annals up to this point ranks as one of the most egregious and puzzling holes in our reviewing repertoire. The TV series is a quirky, idiosyncratic, and fantastic mix of slapstick comedy and guns-blazing action, and you'd think that the TV specials created after the end of the TV run would be able to recreate that magical combination. Not so: this feature is so badly conceived and the plotting so unsophisticated that it takes everything in the City Hunter team's arsenal just to drag this film out of the gutter.
Problem one is the very premise of this film, as mentioned above, which feels drawn straight out of any number of terrible, embarrassing 80s TV plots or bad action novels - it makes The A-Team and Magnum P.I. look positively subtle by comparison. Let me get this straight - the estranged daughter of the presidential candidate is in the Secret Service? Yeeeaahhhh.
And that's just the beginning of the plot's predictable inanity (problem two), which is laden with gunfights and betrayal and then the inevitable revelation and celebration, right where you'd expect all of them to be. And the random traitor, right where you'd expect THAT person to be - this really is a plotting-by-numbers sort of affair! This all would be a forgivable misstep if Secret Service were a regular TV episode, but at 79 minutes, it's outright brain-cell murder.
Problem three is the pain-inducing dialogue, which is silly enough in the TV series, but here it's cheesier than a Green Bay Packers game, when it's not mistranslated entirely. Any attempts at drama are so overwrought that they cross the line into laughable, but unfortunately just not exactly in the way the creators actually intended - City Hunter as a whole compartmentalizes its slapstick and drama so effectively that it's clear where you're supposed to laugh and where you aren't. Unfortunately, in this particular case it makes the unintentional comedy that much more flagrant - I mean, really, some of the lines in this film have to be heard to be believed.
This isn't even worth lauding on a technical level: the animation is only barely above television average for the mid-90s when it was released, but the designs are definitely stuck in the 80s, and looked dated even when this came out. Sure, the art is intentionally retro, but so's the music, and we all know how amazing 80s BGM can be! (It's a montage, SOMEONE CALL KENNY LOGGINS!)
The ONLY thing worthwhile about this whole ordeal are the characters - Akira Kamiya in particular is at his manic best as Ryo Saeba - but there are so many better venues in which to enjoy the City Hunter team that this film ends up being utterly superfluous to that end.
Sure, there are a couple of amusing sequences here and there (Kaori and her constant "corrections" of Ryo's lechery are actually welcome after all the lame plot points are ticked off) but all in all, this is probably the single worst City Hunter experience one could go with. What's worse is that ADV made the equally inane decision to rename half the cast in the dubbed version, giving us the infamous lecher detective "Joe" Saeba. Uh, why? (Calling Ted Woolsey! Calling Ted Woolsey!) And did they really name that fictional South American country Gainan ("foreign south")?!? Wow, this film really does get worse once you've studied Japanese ...
Derivative and head-scratching at best, Secret Service is a disservice to the City Hunter name that should've stayed a drawing board secret.
The likable characters and their comedic hijinks are quite literally the only thing keeping this from the bottom of the barrel. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: There's some raunchiness and violence here that relegate this to teens and up.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD from ADV Films
Review Status: Full (1/1)
City Hunter: Secret Service © 1996 Tsukasa Hojo / Shueisha ・YTV ・ SUNRISE
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