Golgo 13: Supergun

Created by Takao Saito
English version published by Viz Media 2006

I am hardly an expert on Manga films. In total, the animé feature films I have watched could be counted on one hand. And I hate to admit, my ignorance of Manga comics is even greater. But Golgo 13 is a character whose adventures I have enjoyed, and when I saw a copy of one of the Manga comics I had to pick it up. Now Golgo 13 has been carrying out ‘hits’ for over four decades, and as the cover of this book states that it was ‘created’ by Takao Saito, rather than ‘written’ by, I’d guess these adventures were put together by some new kids on the block. I say ‘these’ because there are two stories in the book, the first major story is The Gun At Am Shara and the second lesser one is called Hit And Run.

What surprised me about the book is that it doesn’t take place in a fictional universe, it happens in our world and uses real events as a backdrop. The major story, The Gun At Am Shara uses the aftermath of the Gulf War as it’s setting and Saddam Hussein as a villain. The President of the United States, although never named, looks a lot like Bill Clinton.

The Supergun is not a reference to Golgo 13’s marksmanship, or even the weapon he is carrying on the front cover. It refers to a gigantic cannon built by Saddam Hussein and hidden at a secret dam facility in Iraq.

The story starts in 1991, and a UN Inspection Team in Iraq intercepts a truck carrying a large section of pipe. The Iraqi officer insists that the pipe is for the construction of a dam, and the Inspection Team are obligated to let the truck continue its journey.

Six years later a spy satellite catches a glimpse of the pipe reflected in the lake at Am Shara, but the pipe hasn’t been used as a part of the super-structure. It appears to be a barrel of a Supergun. Saddam has ambitious plans for the gun. He is planning to fire a huge rocket at the United States – his target: The White House.

America’s dilemma is that they cannot destroy the gun with an air-strike as that would destroy the dam itself, which would not only decimate the water supply for that area, but also kill thousands of innocent civilians in the pursuant flood.

Instead they chose to send in a specialist to sabotage the gun. That specialist is Duke Togo – better known as the legendary assassin, Golgo 13. It’s a bit of a character turn-around, and I don’t know if this is ‘updating’ the character for a modern audience – as we a living in a time of ‘terror’, or simply the ‘new kids’ who have written this tale, have not been particularly faithful to Saito’s original character. Anyway, Golgo crosses into Iraq, over the Jordanian border; posing as Mr. Kobayashi, a reporter from the Japanese News Agency.

Once again I was very surprised by the story. From the films, I had an impression of the type of story I would get, but this is just a bloody good espionage story. The beginning could come from a movie like The Peacemaker or Patriot Games with high tech satellite imaging, and boffins interpreting the intel. In fact the first 50 pages of the book are filled with this – and while it is fascinating and laying down a nice platform for the story, it also means that we are 50 pages into the story before Golgo 13 makes an appearance.

Those of you, who care of about such things, may have noted that Golgo 13: Supergun bears more than a passing resemblance to Frederick Forsyth’s The Fist of God which was published in 1994. Although this American edition of Supergun was published in 2006, I cannot establish when it was originally released in Japan.

The second story, Hit and Run is only slight, but it is tougher and punchier than Supergun. It starts in San Francisco in 1979, with a mob boss behind the wheel of his flash, fuel-guzzling car. Unfortunately his mind isn’t on the road, but on the gorgeous babe who is sitting beside him. As he drives, he hits a pedestrian and leaves the woman for dead. The victim’s fiancée is an ex-cop – a very bitter and angry ex cop. Why is he an ex-cop? He left the force after he failed to protect a man from Golgo 13’s sniper’s rifle.

The story may be short, but it’s filled with gratuitous illustrated violence, sex and swearing – all good things!

This graphic novel is very enjoyable, but not as a Golgo 13 adventure. As you’d be aware by now, that I love my spy films and books, and on that level, this book really satisfies, but as a Golgo 13 story (from my limited experience) this appears to be very different to what I am used to. Turning Golgo 13 into a good guy, just seems wrong!

If you are interested in the intrigue behind the real ‘Supergun’, then head over to Jeremy Duns’ new blog The Debrief where he has posted an article about the mysterious death of Saddam’s scientist Gerald Bull.

Golgo 13: Supergun

Golgo 13: Queen Bee (1998)

Director by Osamu Deszaki
Music by Fujimaru Yoshino

Golgo 13: Queen Bee is a belated sequel to the very popular animé feature The Profssional: Golgo 13. But time hasn’t seemed to dim Duke Togo’s appeal. In fact, I was happy to welcome back an old friend. And all the elements that made the first film so popular, the sex, and violence are all back too, only amplified even further. For those offended by extreme violence and sex, stop reading now. Although this is an animated feature, it certainly isn’t a film for the kids or the squeamish. The violence is high impact and in your face!

The film concerns the skeletons in the closet of an American Presidential candidate, Robert Hardy. Hardy is leading all the polls and looks set to become the next President. His popularity is built on an anti-drug platform. But every week on the campaign trail, Hardy receives a letter in the mail. It says:
“I vote for the death of the Presidential candidate, … Queen Bee”.

The President’s right hand man, Thomas Morecombe, hires Golgo 13 to kill Queen Bee. When Golgo 13 accepts a mission, he always sees it through to the end, no matter where the trail may lead.

Who is Queen Bee? She is a voluptuous red headed guerrilla radical who fights for the Comanero Liberation Army (Comanero – being a fictitious South American country). As well as being a radical, she is also the number two player in a drug cartel. And if that isn’t enough, she also displays a sexual prowess that leaves most men wanting more, and subsequentially they become putty in her hands.

When we first meet Queen Bee in Miami, she is travelling in a van packed with a shipment of cocaine. A roadblock of twenty armed law-enforcement officers attempt to stop the van. Rather than surrender, Queen Bee mans a large calibre machine gun and mows down every living creature in the vicinity.

Most animé features do have a tendency to push boundaries in their depiction of sex and violence. And as I have already mentioned, Queen Bee is quite violent. She spends most of the time naked and making love. After all it is her sexual prowess that gives her power, and this film delights in showing her gaining power (or taking power!). As an example, after the shoot out with the Miami police, Queen Bee is sharing some recreation time, with the local Mafia Don. As they are making love, there is a knock on the door. A man is dragged into the room. He is the stool pigeon, who reported Queen Bee’s drug trafficking to the police. In response, she gets out of the bed and picks up a pistol. Naked, she walks over to the stooly and blows him away. The shot sends a spray of blood all over her breasts. Does she clean it off? No. Instead, she resumes her love making session. Enough said!

That brings us to the anti hero, Golgo 13. In this adventure, he has to share quite a bit of screen time, with Queen Bee’s backstory, but that does not diminish his impact. When a team of mercenaries storm Queen Bee’s Comanero base, Golgo 13 isn’t far form the action, receiving a nice knife wound for his trouble. But this movie shows a different side to Golgo 13. He has a dilemma. Every mission he takes on he must complete. During this story, the more he learns about his target, the more he questions his mission. And equally, the more he learns about his employers…well, you get the idea. At least the film resolves it satisfactorily, if in a somewhat downbeat fashion.

The one aspect that ruins Golgo 13: Queen Bee is the music. It isn’t funky or trippy…and only compliments the film during the sex scenes. That is to say, that the soundtrack sounds like it belongs in a bad seventies porn flick.

As I said at the outset, I really enjoyed the return of Golgo 13, but for the uninitiated, a film like this can take a little getting used to. But like it’s predecessor, if you are jaded by all the Bond clones out there, this may be just the tonic you need.

This review is based on the Madman Entertainment Australia DVD.

Golgo 13: Queen Bee (1998)

The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)

Country: Japan
Chief Director: Osamu Deszaki
Animation Director: Akio Sugino
Music: Toshiyuki Omori
Based on characters created by Takao Saito

Gogol 13, and his alter ego Duke Togo are popular characters in Japan. He began his life as a comic strip written and illustrated by Takao Saito. But the pages of a comic were not big enough to contain Golgo 13 and soon he had made it to the big screen. The first attempt was a live action movie, simply titled Golgo 13 (1973) starring Ken Takakura. This was followed up with Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (1977) with Sonny Chiba in the starring role. But as Golgo 13’s origins were illustrated it is appropriate that he should be given the animé treatment.

The Professional: Golgo 13 is a slick Manga production. The movie has the works, from swirling flame and blood soaked backgrounds, to neon flashing lights, multiple splits screens, and frozen snap shots of colourful graphic art. From go to whoa, this movie is one funky visual trip.

For Golgo 13, the movie is essentially a string of encounters with a host of villains. Each villain is more lethal and perverted than the last. Some of the villains that Golgo 13 has to contend with are: Leonard Dawson, Snake, and the twins Silver and Gold. Dawson is a billionaire whose son was killed by Golgo 13. The death of his son has left him in a crazed state where he utilises all the power and resources that money can buy to track down and destroy Golgo 13. This includes using the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the local police. But his real trump cards are a trio of psychopaths. The first, Snake is a truly repugnant, violent piece of work. On a physical level he is the only serious threat to Golgo 13. The other two psycho’s, Silver and Gold are introduced late into the story, and as such their impact is rather limited.

The sexual politics of this movie is very confused. Actually ‘confused’ may not be the right word. ‘Disturbing’ may be more accurate. During the story, Golgo 13 is sent to assassinate a mysterious underworld figure, known as Doctor Z. To get to the Doctor, Golgo 13 is perfectly willing to sleep with his target’s daughter. The twist comes when it is revealed that Doctor Z is in fact a woman – the same woman that he has been sleeping with. And she is well aware that he has been sent to eliminate her, but has still enjoyed the sexual conquest. She has used him for her pleasure as much as Golgo 13 has used her to get to her father (or so he thought!)

There is one scene that does let the film down slightly. It is an early exercise in computer animation, during a helicopter gunship battle. It may have been cutting edge when this film was released in 1983, but today with the giant strides in computer animation it simply looks clumsy and unimaginative.

As you can imagine, a film about an assassin can be quite violent, and Golgo 13 despite being an animated feature is equally violent. People who are more in tune with the cutesy American style of animation may find this film abhorrent in the extreme. But that would be a shame, because Golgo 13 has a lot to offer the genre. If you don’t mind the odd bit of violence and you are a bit jaded by the run-of-the-mill espionage thriller, I recommend that you give The Professional: Golgo 13
a try.

This review is based on the Madman Australia DVD

The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (1977)

Original title: Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi
Country: Japan
Director: by Yukio Noda
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Callan Leung, Etsuko Shihomi, Chi-Chung Lee
Music: Harumi Ibe

Gogol 13: Kowloon Assignment stars 1970’s martial arts superstar Sonny Chiba as Duke Togo; codename Golgo 13. The name is derived from the 13th man who gave the crown of thorns to Jesus Christ, and drove him to his death on Golgotha Hill. Not a cheery moniker. Golgo 13 first appeared in a popular Manga comic written by Takao Saito.

Golgo 13 first appears in this film on a boat off the coast of Miami. A mobster, Rocky Brown is waiting for him as Golgo scuba dives up to the boat and unobtrusively slips on board. Brown employs Golgo 13 to go to Hong Kong and kill the syndicate’s top man, Chou Lei Feng (Nick Lam Wai Kei). (As an adjunct, I have seen trailers for this film that refer to Chou as ‘Raiho Shu’, which leads me to believe that there may be multiple versions of this film released with different character names…for the purposes of this review, I will refer to him as Chou.) It appears that Chou has been going out on his own, and the syndicate are not happy about it. And they haven’t been for some time. It transpires that Golgo is the fourth assassin they have sent to eliminate Chou. All of the others have been found dead, floating in Hong Kong Harbour.

Back in Hong Kong, Captain Sminny (Callan Leung) is clamping down on illegal drugs, and he too is after Chou. But Chou poses as a successful Hong Kong businessman and generous philanthropist to boot. Sminny’s relentless attempts to arrest Chou are thwarted by his seniors who do not want to stir the pot. But Sminny puts in place a female agent, Lin-Li to watch Chou. Lin-Li does her job well and follows Chou to his secret drug laboratory, and for her trouble she is shot in the shoulder and captured.

Golgo 13 arrives in Hong Kong and quickly tracks down Chou. One evening outside one of Chou’s nightclubs, Golgo witnesses a young girl, pulling a pistol and shooting her pimp. Golgo tries to remain on the periphery but the pimp, belonged to of Chou’s crew, and a gang of hoodlums come after the girl. Golgo is reticent to help, but in the end, he comes to the aid of the girl and despatches the gang in quite physical and violent ways. Unfortunately for Golgo, this alerts Chou to the fact that another assassin in town.

Captain Sminny tracks down Lin-Li to Chou’s laboratory and an armed fight breaks out between Chou’s men and the police. Lin-Li is killed and a seld destruct switch is activated at the laboratory. The building explodes, and all of Sminny’s evidence goes up in flames.

As mentioned earlier, Chou is a great benefactor to the city of Hong Kong, and he has just donated a public pool. During the elaborate opening ceremony, Golgo 13 takes a rooftop position on a highrise overlooking the new pool. As he takes aim with his sniper’s rifle a shot rings out, and Chou falls into the pool, dead. Golgo quickly looks around with his scope, and sees a blonde woman running from the scene with a pistol. She has beaten Golgo 13 to the kill. But now, the police and the underworld are all after Golgo 13.

Naturally enough, Chou wasn’t the true head of the crime syndicate. He was just a high powered underling, and Golgo 13 has to race against Captain Sminny to find out the truth, complete his mission – remove the head of the Hong Kong syndicate – and most of all stay alive. The film is fast paced and moves from Miami to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Kyoto and Macao, without raising a sweat.

As with all of the Golgo 13 films, this is quite violent, but compared to the animated features that were to follow, this film is relatively tame. …And notice how Golgo 13 recovers from a bullet wound the size of a golfball in his thigh. In the next scene we see him in some swimming gear and their isn’t even a scar. This guy is tough, and this film is a great slice of funky seventies action. The music is great; funky jazz, featuring bongos and flute. And the clothes are unbelievable. Some of the striped suits that Golgo 13 wears have got to be seen to be believed. My favourite is the white Safari suit that he wears during a chase through the streets of Hong Kong.

It could be argued the Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment isn’t a spy film, and I would have to agree with you. It’s probably more of a mafia crime film. It is the nature of the person who employs Golgo 13, and his intended target, that denotes whether it falls into the espionage or crime category. I have included it here as a companion piece to the two other Golgo 13 films I have reviewed, which I believe fall into the espionage genre.

This review is based on the Madman Entertainment / Eastern Eye Australia DVD.

Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment (1977)