What They Say:
His targets never see it coming and he’s never caught. If there’s a witness to the kill, that poor SOB winds up dead too. People say he’s a ghost. A machine. A monster. He’s Golgo 13, the most feared assassin in the world, the professional’s professional, the killer of killers. And now he’s back with 50 targeted missions that will keep you glued to the screen (and away from the windows). Load up for high-powered, bullet-riddled action with Golgo 13!
Golgo 13 gets a solid bilingual presentation here with the English and Japanese tracks done using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec with both tracks in stereo. Similar to the DVD release, the show has a lot going on during it but it has a fairly restrained soundtrack when taken in total as it’s not all about the huge action and explosions, though we do get some explosions here and there. Instead, it’s focused on the quiet and chilling moments along with a fair amount of dialogue. Where the soundtrack gets a decent workout is when it comes to the music as it uses the forward soundstage to very good effect to add a lot of atmosphere to the various events. The opening and closing sequences are also really good shining moments for the audio mix as it gets you moving nicely. Overall, the lossless mix does add a bit more punch to the series but not to the point where it becomes a radically different show. It adds a bit more nuance to it though and that helps to make it more engaging overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing from early 2008 to early 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This collection contains all fifty episodes spread across six discs where the first couple have nine each and the remainder drop down to eight, which is fairly standard for anime TV series releases. When we saw the series on DVD, it was definitely noted that it has a very dark and gritty real world style to it and the animators chose to use a strong amount of digital grain added to it in order to increase the atmosphere of it all. While it can be distracting at times, it gives the show quite an interesting raw feeling that works well in enhancing the mood of most scenes. Colors are very dark and drab overall, owing to Golgo working in the shadows of the world, and colors generally hold up well. There are very few moments of vibrant colors to be had here and even those are fairly muted. To some degree, it is the kind of show where you wonder just how much of an upgrade a high definition release has. The grain is obviously still here and the show is still dark, but it has a more solid feeling throughout when you get down to it and the clarity of the detail in the darker scenes is definitely stronger and more appealing.
After getting four collections on DVD for this series, what we get here is a space saver to be sure but it’s also something that has a strong appeal to it. The set holds six Blu-ray discs with hinges inside so we get a slightly thicker than normal Blu-ray case, but not a double sized one which is a plus in my book.. The front cover makes note of the episode county (FIFTY!) and the number of discs while giving us a darkened image of Golgo dead center with a bright explosion right behind him. The back of the case plays out more like the DVD releases with some angled section for the tagline, a decent summary of the premise and another breakdown of the disc and episode count along with the extras. Production credits are clear and easy to read and the technical grid covers everything clearly in an easy to read fashion. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this series is fairly straightforward but it works well for the property as we get the same kind of basic layout throughout all six discs while changing the artwork with each one. The left side gives us the navigation itself, which is used during playback as the pop-up menu, and it has the episodes by number and title with different blocks of shades of red with a nice black border to it all. The bulk of each main menu is given over to character artwork of Golgo from different episodes where we see him in various manly poses with weapons of choice that look great and definitely set the right tone overall. Submenu navigation is minimal as one might expect but it’s easy to get around and there’s little you have to select as it’s easy to just use the arrow navigation on the remote to get where you need to be.
The extras for this release mirror what we saw on the DVD releases as we get just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences that are used throughout it. There are a couple of different sequences here and they’re all covered well. I really wish a show like this had some sort of domestic commentary track to it just to see what the cast and director have to say about it all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name originally created by Takao Saito, Golgo 13 is a fifty episode series that looks to be all about the standalone stories. Golgo 13 is a very old property with the first manga chapter out in 1969 and it’s still ongoing (though how much Saito is involved in the day to day is unknown to me) and there have been a couple of live action films and some previous OVA adaptations as well. In 2008, this series kicked off to help celebrate the forthcoming 40th anniversary of the franchise and has given it what I think is its best adaptation yet. I’ve read some of the manga over the years as Viz Media put some out way back in the mid 80’s and repackaged a bit of it later on as well so there’s familiarity with it from there and from the previous animated adventures.
Golgo 13 is a series that’s all about the standalone stories, the weekly adventure that takes us to different places where we see the kinds of people that he’s brought in to kill. Having seen the series before, it was definitely interesting to marathon the show over a few days like this and to see which ones stood out and which ones left me feeling a bit blase about. What Golgo 13 is about is one of the world’s best assassins. Using the name Golgo 13 or Duke Togo depending on the situation, he’s able to do things that are considered impossible by anyone else. When the series opens, he has to take out a hijacker on a plane from just over two kilometers, something that’s considered damn near impossible, but he pulls it off with relative ease by shooting over the SWAT snipers that are half that distance and laying in wait. It’s these kinds of shots that make up most of the series as we see him getting involved in impossible situations and making it possible, shooting between buildings from distances that are simply too far for the accuracy involved and even taking into account the wind and other conditions.
Golgo 13 is the man.
Golgo’s jobs are varied but it’s very intriguing that the majority of the locales here are in the United States. There are a couple of overseas missions, such as Hong Kong and England, but most of them take place in the US. El Paso, New York, Washington DC and so forth are all the main settings as he’s hired by the DOD, mafia bosses, women wanting their life back and athletes and musicians who are threatened by others. With his three million dollar fee, it takes a bit of money to get his services but what the buyer understands clearly is that Golgo 13 always accomplishes the job. The precision and planning with which he works is the stuff that you find in many movies taking an entire two hour run to accomplish. Granted, details are lost in the short form format and there’s some flavor of serious improbability among a lot of it, but the animators and creative staff here manipulates things in a way that if you give yourself over to it and believe that he can do the impossible, it’s a very rewarding experience.
The visual design of the series is really quite strong, grain noted, as it’s all about the men. The men here are by and large big men, manly men, who live in a rough and tough world where only the strong survive. There are a few meek men along the way and they pale next to those who kill for a living. Suits are the norm here, high rise buildings, money and power. Women fill out a good portion of the series and more often than not they’re just moments of pleasure in a very dark world for Togo. There are numerous sex scenes throughout where we see him engaging in it during the downtime before a mission, but he’s cold and hard throughout it just like his jobs, though everything about him seems to entice the women in very strong ways. Having this sort of bluntness about it while keeping it minimal, and keeping him distant from it all, only adds to his allure and mystique.
With Golgo 13′s long history, it’s a real testament to the property that the manga is still ongoing and that it’s kept to its core premise. The first set gave us thirteen episodes that showcased exactly what Golgo is all about with his minimal dialogue, cold killings and a healthy dose of carnal relations with beautiful women. Provide numerous international settings and a whole lot of style and you have a really fun show. The downside is that with it being an episodic show, you know it’s all going to be resolved in one episode and someone is going to die. But that tends to work well if you go into it with the right mindset – and that you don’t marathon it.
Golgo 13 offers up a fair bit of variety to the stories that are told and the way they have to get him to kill people. One of the things that makes Golgo so interesting is that he really is a cipher for the most part. One story has one government trying to get various terrorists to off each other by using them to target each other without knowing it. Golgo gets drawn into it as a target, though there are some that aren’t sure they want him killed since he’s so useful. When the discussion comes up about him and his lack of ideology, the way you find yourself viewing him is that he’s not really a person. He’s a tool used by those who can pay to do the jobs he agrees to, but there’s nothing behind it the majority of the time outside of the paycheck. He’s worked all sides of the fence and has no problems with any of it from what’s been show. While it keeps him from being a hugely engaging character in one sense, it does make him extremely different from just about every other show.
Thankfully, Golgo 13 does not enter Lupin III territory by having someone regularly chasing him, but he does have the past come into the present a few times. One has him returning to San Francisco for a job where he ends up having a former detective he dealt with finding out that he’s there and coming up to try and slow him down some since he’s up to something himself. It’s got a bit of a buddy cop show in a way as you have the two people who have a lot of experience in the world coming across each other and treating each other very civilly considering what’s going on, but it has a decent if obvious little twist to it as Golgo gets down to his actual mission. Similar is another story that has him going after an assassin he had come across previously, Eva, except she knows that he’s come for her and he has the right level for respect for her. She won’t take flight and he’ll allow her to finish returning him before he offs her. In fact, the two have such professional respect for each other that they’ll engage in a night of passion, or what is considered passion for Golgo, before things move into the right phase.
From Paris to Florida and seemingly everywhere else in between with some cute nods towards some name people, such as an episode that deals with a wealthy businessman named Mr. Crump who owns Crump Tower and wields a lot of power. Golgo’s hired to kill him by a man who was wronged by him in business a decade ago but it’s the kind of job that’s more personal in a way. While Golgo often kills from afar as a proper sniper, here he’s requested to bring in a small and up close weapon that has him being in the presence of the requestor in the midst of a private play. It’s a creative approach and one that is filled with some very neat bits of preparation as well as making sure it can be pulled off cleanly.
Another episode goes in a completely different direction, as is expected, where a ship is taken over by a group of criminals and Golgo is brought in to deal with it in place of some highly trained military snipers. It’s rather amusing to see the high ranking soldier being stiffly offended but the truth of the matter does make sense to them as they need a sniper that can take out someone on the deck of a ship in the middle of a storm from a moving helicopter as the rain whips by with the heavy winds. It’s over the top but it’s so much fun to watch unfold and it again shows the way Golgo gets drawn into things that you normally wouldn’t imagine that he would with governments and military officials considering his status. But when you get to a certain level, there are things that can always be worked out.
There are a couple of episodes that deal with others trying to take down Golgo for their own reasons, and an episode that has a group trying to use him within a film they’re putting together that’s just unusual and leaves you wondering what the real truth is to it. But there’s also several episodes that involve some beautiful women that get caught up in his jobs, sometimes as collateral damage both in terms of lives and bodies, but often just as a sexual release in the cold and stern way that he operates. I do enjoy the fact that they don’t pull back from the nudity here and the sexuality of it all, mixing in some passion on their part but also some that just want to bed such a powerful man, even if they haven’t a clue who he truly is. Having these sequences of release for Golgo is important to show that he does have more to him than just the job but it also has him as someone that’s quietly intense that makes it all the more disturbing.
On the somewhat less than enjoyable side, there are a few stories that hit that threshold and it unfortunately starts with one. Golog’s job is to take down a powerful man that uses a bank in a slummy part of the city. It’s filled, as his guards say, with lowlifes, druggies and prostitutes. What better place for a high end bank with lots of money for its clientele? Golgo’s mission has its personal history for the client, but that doesn’t matter much in the end as it’s all about the job. The problem is that there’s no clean line of sight to target him. Spoiling it, the idea of him destroying a slum building isn’t bad, but it just pushes the show further than I’d care for since his already mythical abilities are made even more so and it just lacks a proper graspable concept in a way.
The other story that really bothered me was different but hit me because it felt like it was too cliched. The episode kicks off early with Golgo having lost his memory and trying to figure out what it is he’s supposed to do. Bit by bit, in short form of course, he realizes that he’s familiar with weapons and bits of his mission starts to come back into play. He naturally gets wrapped up with a woman and there’s confusion about the truth of his mission, but the whole lost memory angle just rubs me the wrong way as a plot point that’s just too easy to work with. The episode doesn’t feel forced or poorly done, it just doesn’t feel like it belongs with what the series has done overall.
Golgo’s skill is shown well in another episode where he has to take down a criminal that’s in prison but stuck in a private cell in an intricate layout. As the title suggests, there’s one second in 36,000 in which he can target him, but it requires exceptional skill for that alone, never mind the patience of body and physique to sit still for hours on end until that window of opportunity opens. There’s some neat stuff to how it unfolds and how he prepares, but I didn’t care for the epilogue aspect of it, even if I did understand why he went back when he should have gone elsewhere. It just felt like the one out of place element in an over the top episode that was technically a lot of fun.
The same could be said for one of the final episodes where Golgo, flying a small plane, gets shot down over an island and finds himself surrounded by a lot of other men with weapons. It’s got the whole Battle Royale aspect except that they’re all being hunted by a new prototype military armor suit. Naturally, Golgo is the one to stand out amongst all of those that are there that are being hunted and we get to see how he goes up against the most advanced of machines. The awkwardness comes in that it feels a little too science fiction for the series and the CG animation for it is kind of awkward. But I liked his ability to push the suit and its operators to new levels and seeing how the people behind it kept the whole operation going in order to really stress test it.
Golgo 13 is a series that won me over handily while I watched it the first time around over the course of a couple of years of DVD releases. Sometimes you need a show that’s done in a weekly format that’s about people doing bad things (for money) and making it clear what it is. It’s not as seedy or scummy as some prime time live action shows or movies, but Golgo is not a character you empathize with. He’s a living weapon that moves, breathes and pulls the trigger with cold calculation. Even the little bit of heart you see at times is part of a calculation. He’s a character that you can’t exactly love, but it’s a series that you can really love and enjoy because of what it presents and how well it presents it. This release is just a fantastic deal through and through with fifty episodes in high definition that looks great, sounds great and is really at a great price when you get down to it. This is not a show to marathon, it’s one I definitely recommend spacing out, but it is one you want to revisit and savor. Golgo 13 is a series that definitely warrants a solid presentation and getting this release is the best it’ll be. Highly recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai FIlmworks
Release Date: September 17th, 2013
Running Time: 1250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.