Based upon the original manga by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami
Written by Higashi Shimizu, Tatsunosuke Ohno, Ryunosuke Ohno
Directed by Daisuke Nishio, Nobutaka Nishizawa, Johei Matsuura, Takashi Yamashita, and Shigeyasu Yamauchi
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Graphic sex
- Graphic violence
- Naughty language
Released by: ADV
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Get it if you like gang/gritty crime dramas, but only then
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The first OAV, Portrait of a Killer, tells the introductory story of Yo Hinomura, a talented, famous potter, turned by the 108 Dragons criminal organization into the emotionless assassin known as Crying Freeman, because he weeps when he kills. When one of his hits is witnessed by reclusive artist Emu Hino, they both know that Freeman will soon need to eliminate her as a potentially dangerous witness. Add to this the fact that the Yakuza is after Freeman, since he is cutting into their business and they are at war with the Chinese 108 Dragons.
Shades of Death has Yo consolidating his control of the 108 Dragons syndicate along with Emu, who seems none the worse for trading in the quiet life of an artist for a Chinese criminal syndicate. The further OAVs throw cultists, degenerate, crooked cops and more at Yo and Emu, all the while trying to wrest the 108 Dragons from his control.
If you’re a fan of the first-rate manga by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami, you might be a bit disappointed by this adaptation of it, even though it is in some ways very faithful. The manga contains sex and violence of course, but the OAVs emphasize this aspect of the stories at the cost of characterization and finesse. Freeman and Emu–very complex, emotionally unique characters–are reduced to stereotypes that fail to become archetypes.
Animation snobs will protest that much of the series relies upon sub-standard numbers of cels for the animation, relying instead upon freeze-frames. While this approach could lend a noir feel to a series like this, instead here it looks cheap, as if the producers were trying to cut costs (despite having a talented group of artists on board). ADV did their best restoring this release, but the quality of original animation just isn’t there for them to work with.
The audio is similarly problematic. Much has been made of the poorness of the Chinese accents in the dub (especially the UK version), as they play upon the worst anti-Chinese racist stereotypes to be found in Japan–or the US, for that matter. The quality, however is good enough–better than the questionable animation, at least, and the actress doing the English version is Emu is actually pretty good.
A small quibble is that the disc labels are a bit misleading. For example, the first disc is labeled only with Portrait of a Killer, but also contains part one of the two-part Shades of Death. Disc Two has part two, but only lists the second OAV on the disc, A Taste for Revenge. The third disc has both of the final two OAV installments in the Freeman saga, Abduction in Chinatown and The Russian Connection, but the disc only lists the former. The one-page insert only lists all six titles and doesn’t tell you where they can be found.
Despite the limitations of the plot and the rather gratuitous sex and violence, Crying Freeman is still worth watching, if only because it’s a classic of anime. Be forewarned that it contains that great deal of sex and blood, and has absolutely no socially redeeming value. If that’s what you want in a title though, then you’ll eat this criminal syndicate goodness up with a spoon.