Naika Reviews “CITY HUNTER: Million Dollar Conspiracy”

Emily O'Hara stirs her pot of stew to Ryo Saeba's "smoking" personals ad long before the advent of Craigslist. Image courtesy of blog.naver.com

For those of you who have watched my material from the YouTube channel, it is no surprise that I am a huge fan of “City Hunter.”  With its heart set firmly in the 80s and early 90s, CH is that seminal show that offers little in the realm of thought, but makes up for that through slick character designs, awesome animation, a sex-crazed sharpshooter as the protagonist and an overall atmosphere that continues to revel in the urban glory of pre-bubble-burst Japan.  In this day and age however, it’s harder than your ex-girlfriend’s nipples in a midwestern winter for the majority of young anime fans to take a man in a sports jacket seriously, but once the magnum is whipped out and the bullets are flying, even the haters will learn that the last thing you’d want to be is a corpse under the gun of the City Hunter.

In City Hunter, Tokyo is Japan’s thriving epicenter, filled with neon lights, busy streets, towering skyscrapers and beautiful people.  However, beneath all of this is a seedy underworld where anything is up for grabs.  Our hero Ryo Saeba is a man who makes it his living to aid ANY female hottie who gets herself caught up between these two worlds, mainly because he’s a sweeper that operates amidst the fringes of both crime and the law.  When Ryo’s not chasing tail or going to titty bars, he runs the Saeba Firm, where those who are seeking a bodyguard or gumshoe need only to write the letters “XYZ” on the blackboard of Shinjuku station to summon him.  That was always the usual beat to which City Hunter stroked its proverbial guitar to, but for this OVA, we’re introduced to a bonerriffic blonde by the name of Emily O’Hara.

Emily O'Hara is just begging for some Butter on Cream action in "City Hunter: Million Dollar Conspiracy" (1990)

Released in the summer of 1990 after City Hunter 3, Million Dollar Conspiracy (let’s abbreviate to CH:MDC shall we?) starts off when Emily O’Hara leaves the confines of Los Angeles to find Mr. Saeba in Japan.  With the unusual story of her needing a bodyguard to defend her from the mafia, Emily tempts both Kaori (Ryo’s business partner / tormentor) and Ryo to the job with the offer of a million bucks.  Although Kaori’s mind is solely interested in the moolah, Ryo is obviously interested in something else (i.e. pumping Emily’s american oil fields with a good dose of Japanese steel).  Kaori is obviously incensed, but the thought of a million dollars is too good to pass up, and thus the team compromises and decides to get to work.  Although the gist of the job seems simple, things get a tad bit complicated when we find out that someone came to Japan from L.A. to snuff out Ryo.  Kaori has some suspicions that it could be Emily, but when a steady stream of remote controlled cars and tanks armed with explosives tries to rattle Saeba’s chains (yeah, I know it sounds hokey, but don’t be such an uppity anime fan, please?), the stage soon becomes set for an explosive showdown with booby traps and gunsmoke galore.

By many accounts, CH:MDC seems to fit all the categories for standard OVA fare, but what really sets the bar for this one is the animation.  Once again, Sunrise overachieves with this one, where the colors, movement and art direction shine throughout the entire 45 minutes.  With smooth, classy character designs, great direction from Kenji Kodama and a slew of detailed backgrounds, it’s really hard to top the looks here unless somebody slipped a mickey in my Kool-Aid.  All in all, CH:MDC is one gorgeous piece of work.

If there’s anything to trip this beauty up, then its got to be the obvious: story and plot.  Like many other OVA offshoots that appear after the end of a season, CH:MDC is kinda like a big big episode that’s meant to garner interest in the series after a small absence on the tube, which usually means that the story isn’t exactly written to win a fucking Pulitzer (although I am told by most otaku that Evangelion has won 900 and counting).  The story is standard stuff, including some of the plot twists that you’ll find later in your viewing, but what annoys me about CH:MDC are the usual things that annoy me when I’m watching an episode of CH, and that’s the melodrama.  Emily’s motivations throughout the OVA are rooted in exacting revenge on the would-be killer of her brother Daniel, a former CIA operative who apparently found out a dangerous secret about his superior.  She gets angry, throws fits of despair, and has some melodramatic flashbacks of her bro that is somehow coupled with her not being able to fire a fucking gun properly.  At least Ryo sets her ass straight and teaches her a thing or two when it comes time for her to step up to the plate (cue melodramatic piano solo).  It’s not earth-shatteringly bad, but is in fact common in CH’s animated universe.  You would think that given the fact that it was an OVA, there might be more room for freedom away from the show’s prior conventions, but then again, if you didn’t have the average melodrama, it wouldn’t be CH either.

The first time I watched CH:MDC was between 2000 and 2001 while I was hanging out in GrumpyGrad’s place during high school.  He started getting into anime and was soon interested in the coolness that was CH.  I knew about CH during my ventures into Thailand with my folks in the late 80s and early 90s, but sitting down to see this OVA with him more or less made me into a fan again.  After finally getting my grubby hands on this DVD after a decade or so later, I can truly say that watching it now is just as good as watching it then with GrumpyGrad.  CH:MDC isn’t gonna win any awards or get any fist bumps from the Anime News Network, but it doesn’t need to.  With outstanding animation, slick direction and an eye for everything cool, CH:MDC is another loving look back at a bygone era of animation when Japan was king of the world, sports jackets were hip and our mongoloid protagonist was more than willing to risk his hide to bury his dong knee deep in some good ol’ American vag.  Cheers otakus!

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2 thoughts on “Naika Reviews “CITY HUNTER: Million Dollar Conspiracy”

  1. Great post. I didn’t realize the point of OVAs was tide over fans during the summer holiday while potentially bringing in new fans. As for Million Dollar Conspiracy, the lesson is that a woman bent on revenge is not to messed with especially when she can’t shoot straight. Have you watched the Korean live action drama of City Hunter? I would love to know how it compares with the show.

    • Well, that’s my assumption on it for this particular situation because CH3 ended in January of 1990 and both MDC and Bay City Wars were released on August of 1990, and then CH ’91 followed. I almost feel like that they’re specials for the fans who still want their Mokkori fix every now and then. I remember watching this with you way back when, so I’m hoping I got my years right. Was it between 2000 and 2001? I certainly think so. As for the Korean TV show, I haven’t seen it yet, but when I do, I’ll definitely have something to say about it here.

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