Crying Freeman
A melodramatic tale of sex and violence
Crying Freeman, vol. 1
Orion Home Video
Directed by Daisuke Nishio
Japan, 1988
A three-word review of Crying Freeman? No problem. "Sex and violence." Or, in order of priority, violence and sex.

The plot? Okay--the beautiful Emu Hino witnesses not one but two murders by a charismatic assassin. Strangely enough, the assassin sheds tears after dispatching his targets. Emu realizes that the killer is going to come after her next, as she is the only witness who could positively identify him.

So there's the first dose of violence. Now comes the first dose of sex. Rather than do the reasonable thing and fret, Emu resigns herself to her fate and returns home to paint pictures of the handsome killer. In her late twenties and still a virgin, she hopes that he will at least make love to her before he kills her. To make a long story short, he does and they fall in love. He can't bring himself to kill her. It turns out that the killer is acclaimed ceramic artist Yo Hinomura, who unwittingly found himself tangled up in underworld dealings. Kidnapped and hypnotized to become the best assassin of the 108 Dragons--a Chinese criminal organization--he cries after every killing, his only release from the hypnotic control. He was codenamed Freeman, since criminal Chinese martial artists seem to thrive on irony.

Of course, it can only get more complicated after this. The second assassination Emu witnessed was of a major yakuza boss. Now members from that organization are after Freeman, as well as the policeman in charge of protecting the deceased yakuza boss. Thanks to a police tactic which would bring on serious litigation in the real world, the yakuza know exactly who Emu is, and that she's a witness. So now everyone is after the two of them. More sex and violence ensue. Whee!

Crying Freeman was originally born as a manga by Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub) and Ryoichi Ikegami (Sanctuary), and this video is an interesting lesson in how to adapt a story from comics to animation. Director Daisuke Nishio did an admirable job of compressing a few hundred pages of the first manga into 50 minutes of screen time, although some things aren't adequately explained; Crying Freeman neophytes might find themselves scratching their heads a few times.

What's particularly remarkable is how the video seems as if it were storyboarded directly from the comic. Manga is often described as a medium that is very cinematic in style, and Ryoichi Ikegami's work is no exception. As such, it translates well to animation. In particular, it translates well to lower-budget animation: Ikegami's line work is incredibly detailed, but is characterized by many still images--panoramas and close-ups, mostly--punctuated by brief but intensely dynamic action. Nishio seems to have picked up on this, recreating the manga's look and feel fairly well.

Interestingly enough, there is less sex in this video than in the equivalent manga. We'll see if this trend continues in the rest of the series.

There are but two nits to pick: Freeman is supposed to be inhumanly fast, and yet there are times when the animation just doesn't convey speed. On the technical end of things, there are times when the image is out of focus. Otherwise, this production is fairly competent from both the Japanese end (the animation and visual production) and the American end (Streamline Pictures' dubbing). Watch for this one.

Originally printed in fps #6 (Summer 1995)
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