ADV Films // 1988 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Byun (Retired) // December 16th, 2004
Hunted by both the police and the mob, victim and assassin vow to face together whatever fate has in store for them.
Sex. Violence. Violence, sex, sex, violence, violence. Reduced to its essentials, that's Crying Freeman in a nutshell. Based on the popular manga series written by Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) and drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami (Mai the Psychic Girl, Sanctuary), this 1988 anime series, directed by Daisuke Nishio (Dragon Ball Z), tells a gritty, noir-drenched tale of murder and sex in the criminal underworld of Japan and Hong Kong.
Yoh Hinomura, an artist turned assassin, is the Crying Freeman of the title (a nickname earned because he weeps after each kill). Hinomura, you see, is a sensitive hit man, the kind you'll recognize at once if you've seen Leon (a.k.a. The Professional) or Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. He's a lethal weapon, but also a caring nurturer, as we will soon discover. When a young woman, Emu Hino, witnesses a series of assassinations by Hinomura, she assumes, correctly, that she will likely be the next target. Rather than boarding the next plane out of the country, however, the lovely and virginal Emu resigns herself to death. Then, in an unusual plot turn that recalls the Looney Tunes cartoon "Cheese Chasers" ("cat don't wanna eat mice...cat wants dog to massacre 'im..."), Emu falls in love with Hinomura, Hinomura falls in love with Emu, Emu wants Hinomura to make love to her. It just don't add up!
It's all pretty far-fetched, and only becomes more so as the series progresses, but that's okay; realism and logic aren't exactly hallmarks of the hardboiled crime genre, and the viewer is too busy being catapulted from intricately choreographed violence to sleazy sex and back again to worry much about whether any of this makes any sense. Crying Freeman: Complete Collection comprises three volumes (Portrait of a Killer, A Taste of Revenge, and Abduction in Chinatown) that were originally released separately. There's an overall story arc involving the deepening relationship between Yoh and Emu, but most of the episodes deal with Yoh's gang, the 108 Dragons, and its struggle against numerous rival gangs, and are only loosely connected.
That lack of cohesion is a serious weakness in Crying Freeman, which packs plenty of action and eroticism into its 300 minutes but fails to fill in the gaps between shootouts and sex scenes with much (if any) solid character development. Yoh, the reluctant super-assassin, feels more like a walking plot synopsis than a fully formed character; we get enough of his story to establish that he's a stone-cold badass with a blazing romantic heart, but not enough so that we really get to know the character beyond his surface coolness. The overall plot (which, in fairness, is a distillation of a much longer manga series) is too episodic and rambling to coalesce into a solid story, and too often it feels like little more than a backdrop to the blood and sex that are the real stars of the show.
The DVD presentation of Crying Freeman is competent but not especially remarkable. This being a 1980s-vintage title, the print shows its age, and not very well; colors are flat and muted, and the image as a whole is soft and a little murky, with considerable grain. Audio, too, has not aged well, with a so-so English dub in stereo that sounds muddy and somewhat indistinct, but not as much as the original Japanese audio track, which fares even more poorly. There are no extra features to speak of, except for the usual set of ADV trailers.
Crying Freeman, with its heavy emphasis on sex and violence, caused quite a stir upon its initial release, but it feels dated today, its impact dulled by a flood of hyperviolent anime, including Kite and Ichi the Killer, that has upped the shock-value ante considerably. With competent but not especially dynamic animation and similarly uninspiring voice acting, Crying Freeman is more likely to appeal to hardcore fans of the crime genre than the casual viewer.
Review content copyright © 2004 Bryan Byun; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* ADV Trailers