Genre(s): Action, Geki-ga, Drama
Director: Osamu Dezaki
Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Licensed? Yes (Urban Vision)
Golgo 13 is a professional. A deadly assassin, he always completes his missions, and he is never late. However, when he takes a job to murder the son of oil baron Leonard Dawson, Golgo (also known as Duke Togo) faces his most deadly challenge yet. Faced with the hired military muscle of multiple government organizations, three insane assassins, and treachery at every turn, Duke must fight for his life and put an end to Dawson's mad plot for revenge.
Let's get this straight: If James Bond was in an anime, he wouldn't be half as cool as Golgo 13. Heralded by many as a pinnacle of the gekiga movement and as a prime example of 1980's anime, The Professional: Golgo 13 is a powerful example of what anime can do when it gets down and dirty with its darker side.
Golgo 13 is a quick-paced ride that flies Duke Togo all around the world, and the action almost never stops. In this regard, fans of the 80's era of testosterone-filled action flicks (both animated and otherwise) will find much to like here. Golgo 13 faces insurmountable odds, and like heroes such as James Bond or John McClane, he rises above them in thrilling and often extremely unique ways. The movie starts off somewhat slow, but picks up near the halfway mark, when Golgo 13 gives us it's first out of quite a few mouth-gaping "wow" moments.
Sadly, the film also follows another widely used 1980's anime stereotype: the frequent use of sex scenes. Yes, in Golgo 13, there are three, count 'em, three full sex scenes, and two rape scenes. Each of them shows as much detail as is possible while remaining with only upper-body nudity. This detail is, truthfully, not neccessary at all, as a simple suggestive version of the scene without any nudity would still illustrate the idea that Golgo 13 has sex with a lot of girls. Even worse than the frequency or detail of the scenes is that many times there are important plot details provided during them, forcing those wishing to skip past them to watch through the uncomfortable moments of what is essentially animated softcore porn. (One time, Duke is actually given mission data from another man standing in the room while he is having sex)
Being that this film was adapted from Takao Saito's original manga, it is understandable that the animation style would take much from its original. Most noticeable in this regard is the use of still shots in action scenes. Almost every time that a blow lands on someone, the camera stops moving and a highly-stylized, manga-esque still appears. These are a jarring addition, and definitely did not age well, but as an example of an older style of anime--one more firmly rooted in it's manga origins--they work great. The character designs are distinct but not particularly standout, except of course for Duke's face, which is famous for never moving, whether he is killing someone, escaping a burning car, or even having sex.
In addition, Golgo 13 is well-animated overall, and much of the joint work between director Osamu Dezaki and animation director Akio Sugino results in some very unique (for the time) uses of animation. Even so, there are a few times when the animation shows its age quite clearly. The first is during the opener, when stop-motion skeletons shoot guns at cheap CG skulls. Next is the comically bad 3-D helicopter scene thrown into the middle of the final battle. While both of these must have seemed incredible to audiences in their day, today they are nothing but humorous additions to an old film.
Streamline Pictures, an older dubbing company that is responsible for the oft-criticized dubs of such classics as Akira and Robotech, produced the incredible dub for Golgo 13. Contrary to what many would say, the Streamline dub for Golgo 13 blows away some of the better dubs of today. The lines are performed well all across the board. Additionally, it is clear that the lines were adapted for American audiences, as opposed to the modern methods of either following exactly or completely changing the original Japanese script. This is made most clear by the abundant use of curses in the dub, which was definitely not in the Japanese version, but adds considerable gravity to the words of the English voice actors. (EDIT) The work of Carl Macek, director of the English language version and founder of Streamline Pictures, is widely reviled by parts of the anime community, but as my first Streamline dub, I found Golgo 13 to be very entertaining.
Quite simply, Golgo 13 can get by on the cool-factor alone on its first viewing. While the sex scenes can get a little annoying, by the time you get to the second half or so, you will be in pure action heaven. The plot is not too complicated, so once the setup is done, Duke can get straight to some badass assassin-killing business. If you can survive the sometimes tedious first half of The Professional: Golgo 13, you will find an awesome action movie at the end. And it you don't like it... Well, Golgo 13 may have a new job on his hands.