When Golgo 13's animated OVA hit the States back in the 90's I became an instant fan. Unfortunately it wouldn't be until 2008 that an actual series based on the classic manga by Takao Saito. This new show ran for 50 episodes and the Region 1 license has fallen into the hands of Sentai Filmworks.
If you've never seen or heard of Golgo 13 before, all you really need to know is that he is the ultimate badass. Basically the show is about an assassin who goes by the names Duke Togo and Golgo 13. He's a Japanese native who operates around the world, though primarily in the animated series he works in the United States. All assassins pretty much have a set of skills they master, and in the case of Golgo 13 it's an inhuman ability with a sniper rifle.
It's that unparalleled skill at sniping that has made him world renowned. Frequently in this first collection of 13 episodes Duke masks his presence at a scene by taking a shot from ridiculously far away. The mark is two kilometers away with crosswinds and glare from a sunset in between? No problem!
Golgo 13 is an episodic show by nature with each episode representing a new contract and mark. As the series progresses we get very little insight into who Duke is and what makes him tick. Instead the show builds his character through his murderous talents and the reactions of the people around him. He appears to be a man of honor, however, he is the epitome of the anti-hero and doesn't bat an eye to kill somebody in cold blood.
Really, Duke is handled kind of like a James Bond type character. He finds experts to modify weapons for him, he is presented with information on a situation, and always sees the job through no matter what. He constantly stays one step ahead of the game and it seems like he knows the outcome of events before they happen. Spotting someone that is undercover, calculating how a bullet will fly, and taking inventive measures to dispatch of murder weapons are all ways he stays one step ahead of the grave or jail. Little surprises add flavor to the character, such as an episode where a startled cat causes him to leave behind evidence.
The nice thing about this series is that even though it's episodic, it breaks from a rigid structure. Storylines begin at varying points and often contain a twist that skews the perspective of the series. For instance, even though the show follows the exploits of Golgo 13, there's an episode that almost entirely focuses on a police officer investigating a homicide as he attempts to pin it on Duke. There are several examples of this, including another brilliant episode that involves the assassination of a politician and sees Duke taken into custody. The show continuously ups the ante for the next episode and it keeps you guessing.
Whether or not you have seen the original OVA from the 90's or not, Golgo 13 is the definition of guilty pleasure anime. It has a classic design and a dark motif that come together in a way that few shows have. You'll find yourself rooting for Duke even though he's just setting out to make his millions by putting a bullet in someone's head. I wish we got to see more about what makes Duke tick, but I suppose that's part of the show's mystique. Highly recommended!
Golgo 13 is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks very good, though its recent production is masked by elements of its design. The character models, animation, and colors all resemble the OVA (with some throwbacks to the manga that dates back to the 70s). This is a great thing really, though it does leave the show looking a tad aged. Grain and softness are rather abundant here, but they don't really take away from the experience of watching the show. Things still look good here, but with a little more polish it could have been better. Perhaps that was the intended design?
As is the case with all other Sentai Filmworks Golgo 13 comes with Japanese 2.0 for its main audio trac...wait a second! There's an English dub here? Seriously?! Indeed an English 2.0 track is included here as well. This is a rarity to say the least, though it's one that's much appreciated and hopefully it's a trend we'll see more often. Sure I preferred the Japanese cast over the English, but both do an admirable job just the same. A 5.1 track would have gone a long way to improving the experience, however what's here is just fine enough.
Clean animations and trailers.
Golgo 13 is an awesome show with several badass moments. The adventures of assassin Duke Togo are utterly fascinating and the show really plays upon the character's strengths. If you are looking for a guilty pleasure, you simply can't go wrong here. This is an adult-oriented series that is essentially a remade classic. Highly Recommended!