Golgo 13 is an ongoing manga written by Saito Takao. A really long running manga at that. It started in 1968. It wasn’t until 2008-2009 that it finally got a proper anime adaptation, although it got an OVA in 1998 and an anime film in 1983. The fifty episode series was handled by The Answer Studio, which I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything else by them. So, after a forty year wait is this anime any good?
Golgo 13 is one of those series without a major narrative. It’s episodic with none of the episodes really affecting what comes after. You could actually watch them in a completely random order and it wouldn’t matter in the slightest. The basic set-up is that Duke Togo, the titular Golgo 13, is a professional assassin, quite possibly the best there is, who charges three million per hit. Each episode shows a different mission
That leads me to the biggest issue with the series. Mainly, it’s very formulaic. You can start an episode and know that Golgo is going to face some kind of challenge and kill his target. It’s the type of thing you encounter with “monster of the week” series, except with a lot more machismo and a lot of those series are for younger audiences which makes the formula more acceptable. We also get quite a few sex scenes that exist solely for the sake of showing how manly and amazing Golgo is. He can just lie back and think of England, completely stone-faced, while she writhes on top of him, feeling great pleasure. From a meta standpoint, it makes sense. This series is pretty blatantly intended to be a power fantasy for us men, after all. However, the scenes largely don’t actually do anything. They’re mostly just an excuse to have bare breasts.
That being said, I will praise the series for actually having a lot of episode variety. It is quite good at devising creative scenarios for Golgo’s missions. You know he’s going to win in the end, but there are times that you’re really curious about how he’s going to do it. The episodes also take varied approaches. Some focus on the people around Golgo, including his intended victim for the episode. Some focus on his preparations or on building up the difficulty of the scenario. Some put the focus on building up an antagonist for Golgo. And, to the series credit, a lot of the scenarios are really intense and compelling, in spite of you knowing what the end result is going to be. I’ll give the series full credit for that. I will also say that the whole aesthetic of exaggerated machismo can be pretty entertaining.
Golgo, as a character, isn’t particularly compelling. He’s the epitome of machismo but there’s really not much to his character aside from that. Which is clearly what the series is going for. The series also strives to develop some of the one shot characters in order to make you hate his targets or feel for them, depending on the episode. Or in order to try and make the world around our macho protagonist fleshed out and lend it credence. The success of those efforts varies quite a bit. In some episodes, it really works. In others it comes across as forced and falls flat. To the series’ credit I will say that they succeed more often than they fail.
The art is mostly really nice with detailed background, strong character designs, and visually interesting action sequences. That being said, there are some weaknesses to it. There are points where they get lazy with the characters and the people Golgo kills frequently have unintentionally silly expressions on their faces when they get shot. It’s like the folks at Answer were under the impression that people spontaneously decide to enter a silly face contest right before bullets hit them and their faces just instantly undergo rigor mortis.
The actors in this do fine. Tachi Hiroshi pulls off the very stoic attitude of Golgo well. Although one could make the point that it’s not difficult since he just has to refrain from emoting. When it comes to all of the characters who show up for an episode, which is most of them, the performances range from decent to really good. The music is nicely done and really complements the whole aesthetic nicely. I especially like the little victory composition.
There isn’t any in this series.
So, that’s Golgo 13. What did I think of it a a whole? Well, it certainly has its problems but it also provides some interesting scenarios that make you wonder how Golgo is going to manage and its overly macho execution can be entertaining. My advice is, if the concept sounds like it could be entertaining viewing to you, give it a go but don’t try to watch a lot of episodes in one sitting. For myself, I actually did mostly enjoy it and my final rating is going to be a solid 7/10. Next week, Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl.