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July 5, 2012 / Bradley

Golgo 13 Works, Kind Of

I’m still working on other, longer posts, but after watching another five episodes or so of Golgo 13- yes, that’s how I celebrated the Fourth of July- I had some quick thoughts on this show that seem worth writing down. It’s a thoroughly decent series, though I think too much of its appeal lies in simply being very different from other anime. Novelty counted for quite a lot of my entertainment, but once that wore off after a couple discs into the series, I still found myself enjoying it. It does some smart things consistently that solve a lot of the potential problems in its premise, because let’s face it, a “perfect sniper” easily makes for a story with zero tension. Snipers seem sexy in video games and power fantasies, but story-wise, they’re thin gruel. Wait for your target, shoot, and either you hit him or you don’t. It’s as almost as interactive as masturbation, with a similar level of potential for story and character development. There’s a good reason why all our action heroes get their hands dirty in face to face combat.

Ask someone what they liked so much about Golgo 13, and they’ll probably talk about how Duke Togo is a bad-ass among bad-asses and that he pulls off the craziest kills. But that crazy kill that Duke Togo will pull off at the end of each episode only last a few seconds, and frankly, most episodes have serious pacing issues, so it’s not like the build-up to it is anything great. The reason I think some of the stories work- and this is especially true in the series’ best episodes- is because the episodes are told from someone else’s point of view, and develops someone else’s character.Togo has been one of the only recurring characters in the series, so everyone else gets their story laid out, developed, and then wrapped up in quick succession. It has made for some tantalizing glimpses- I’d especially love to get more story about AX-3, the detective from episode 2, or the Polish sniper from episode 6. This also means that the stories are almost never told from Togo’s point of view, and that makes someone who should be boring a bit mysterious. The series has established that Golgo 13 has skills so godlike they defy the comprehension of lesser men- it’d be a shame to ruin a thing like that by letting us into his head.

Experts in this sort of thing tell me that Golgo is supposed to be a power fantasy- its appeal is that we get to pretend to be a bad-ass sniper who doesn’t even need to exert effort when getting laid. I don’t doubt that, but the fantasy doesn’t work for me. That’s a point in its favor, though. This is dark, dark stuff, since Togo is an equal-opportunity employee. He kills the good and the bad for the same price and with the same ruthlessness. Sometimes, he even kills people simply because they know too much about him. I get that this is part of being an anti-hero, so he’s not necessarily supposed to be  aspirational. But he seems like more of a monster than any other anti-hero I’ve seen anywhere. And my squickiness over him makes the anime that much more absorbing. I suppose monsters are just more interesting than heroes.

Personally, I like pairing it with episodes of Pretty Cure, because whiplash tickles my brain. By the way, Pretty Cure is a much better sitcom than Golgo 13. That’s real talk.

4 Comments

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  1. spankminister (@spankminister) / Jul 6 2012 7:41 pm

    Golgo 13 strikes me as less of a monster than a lot of anti-heroes because in a perverse way, he’s not really self-interested. He’s not an egotist or a nihilist (that we know of). He takes payment of large amounts of money, but doesn’t really seem to care about it either way; when are we ever shown Golgo 13 taking his millions and spending it on something nice for himself? He lives by his code, and is pretty businesslike about his job. Compare that to Western transgressive anti-heroes like Hannibal Lecter and Dexter, self-absorbed serial killers who take extreme pleasure in their work, and see their targets as objects, toys, and sometimes as food.

    • Bradley / Jul 7 2012 9:31 pm

      I see your point, which has encouraged me to really dig in and figure why Duke bothers me more than those two “heroes.” And I think it has something to do with how hollow he is, and how he has no emotions and seems to care for nothing but doing his job correctly, and that really bothers me. He’s like the coolest possible drone worker- he gets in, he does his job, he gets out. At least Lector shows emotions, none of which are pleasant, but they are recognizably and categorically evil. Duke seems above that whole good/evil thing. That makes him inhuman, and combine that with how he is so good at killing, he is downright inevitable, that makes him much scarier and interesting than Lector or Dexter.

  2. predederva / Jan 20 2013 9:19 am

    Duke has the personality of a block of wood. This is intentional. I do think just the concept of someone like Duke Togo existing out there is interesting to think about. What type of person can live like that? The TV series has some stale episodes here and there but from what I’ve seen of it most of them follow episodic characters, and wisely so. They are always more interesting then Duke. And there is at least one reoccurring character, his gunsmith. I feel the TV series is great, but the movie really demonstrates all the draws of this franchise. Duke is the man, that’s a given, but you have to see how he accomplishes incredible tasks, or deals with really insane/tough people, and watch hm screw the hot babes. Not to mention the movie is just epic, and wonderfully directed. The TV series tried to replicate this, and to some success. But no one out there can direct like Osamu Dezaki, it’s not their fault really because Dezaki wasn’t human.

  3. Reno / Sep 27 2013 8:53 pm

    I showed interest in the Golgo-13 series after remembering an ad for one of his video games called ‘the Mafat Conspiracy’ when I was a kid. When I was about sixteen or seventeen and was collecting anime DVDs (still do today), I saw a copy of ‘Queen Bee’ and then later after watching that one, I bought ‘Golgo-13: the Professional’. Personally, I think the movies are a little better than the t.v. series (granted, I’ve only seen twenty-five of the episodes so far and am currently watching more as we speak). The movies were a little more interesting because in the movies Golgo comes dangerously close to getting killed by his adversaries as opposed to the series in which barely anyone can come close to killing him. There were some episodes that I saw with endings that had me with a ‘WTF’ style expression on my face particularly
    -Pretty Woman
    -Sharp Shoot on the G String
    -Eva, Heading for the Rising Sun
    -Afterglow

    The kills at the end of ‘Afterglow’, ‘Eva’ and especially ‘Pretty Woman just didn’t make any real sense and it made me ask myself, ‘How in the world can the writers end the story the way that they did?’ Basically, the deaths of the characters in those episodes just seemed unnecessary and it kinda left me with a dull taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I think Golgo-13 is a fantastic anime but because Duke Togo is a man shrouded in mystery, he’s a total enigma and therefore his actions are an enigma too. The reasons behind why he does something isn’t fully explored and it makes him kinda hard to root for depending on the circumstances or the situation. I guess that’s why many of his adversaries are doomed to failure when they face him because like a game of chess, Duke always thinks three moves ahead of the opponent he faces.

    Usually when I watch an anime or a movie about assassins in general, I like to be able to feel something for the character who pulls the trigger most times. Since Golgo’s personality is like ‘a block of wood’ as predederva said in his post above, we don’t really know if we should root for Golgo or just say ‘will somebody please kill this S.O.B. already?’

    Either way, the anime is still good…just don’t expect too much character development from the lead character of the series.

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