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City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read
Shinjuku Private Eyes is a wonderful return to form for the City Hunter series.

What They Say:
City Hunter Shinjuku Private Eyes is an anime film directed by Kenji Kodama.
Ryo Saeba is back, bringing the flavors of the 1980s to 2019! When gorgeous model Ai Shindo finds herself stalked by mysterious men, she comes to Ryo and his crew for protection. While he tries to hunt down the potential assassins (and maybe score a little nookie in the process), he ends up catching wind of a superweapon shipment landing in Shinjuku very soon. Could the two be connected? And with City Hunter on the case, will Tokyo survive the night?! City Hunter: Shinjuku Private Eyes brings the beloved franchise into a new era, offering a non-stop ride of stunning action animation, gut-busting comedy, and enough cameos to make any fan squeal!

The Review:
There are 4 audio tracks present: Japanese 5.0, Japanese stereo, English 5.0, and English stereo. All of these were mixed well and showed no signs of distortion during playback.

The film debuted in Japanese theaters late 2018, and the video quality is in line with most recent anime so it’s bright and nicely colored. Traditional and CG techniques mix well, especially in the later action scenes. I didn’t see any pixelations or distortions at all so the disc is nice on that score.

We get a slipcase here with the theatrical poster on the front showing all the main characters in action. The back of it has screenshots across the top and a pic of Ryo and Kaori taking up the right side. Text from the ‘what they say section takes up the left side’ and technical information takes up the bottom quarter. In the Blu-ray case itself, we get an insert with the same rear visuals, but the front has a red-filtered picture of City Hunter holding his smoking gun and the title masthead at the bottom. The reverse side has a wide overhead view of Shinjuku.

The picture is a combination of the red-filtered pic of Ryo on the left 1/3 while the right 2/3 shows Shinjuku with the masthead overlaying the space. Options for playback, chapters, setup, and extras are listed in large text horizontally across the bottom, while the film’s (and first season’s) closing theme ‘Get Wild’ plays in the background.

We get a solid slate of extras here, including the clean opening, clean ending, TV teasers, theatrical trailer, and American trailer. For those who would like more insights, there’s the panel with the vocal cast and production team from the theatrical premiere in japan. We also get a Mike Toole interview with producer Michiko Suwa, shot at Otakon 2019 where the English dub was premiered. Both of these last segments give a good bit of information on the movie’s production process.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Everything old is new again, and that’s a pretty good thing for the world of City Hunter. The franchise has had a long history of TV shows, OAVs, films, and TV specials, the last of which was one called “The Death of Ryo Saeba” in 1999. So it has been a good deal of time since we saw the adventures of Shinjuku’s crack shot perv and his friends in animated action. City Hunter focuses on Ryo Saeba, a private detective combining the martial arts of Spike Speigel, the gunslinger abilities of Vash The Stampede, and the libido of Master Roshi. That last aspect is something that could get him in trouble with his many female clients if it weren’t for his partner Kaori Makimura keeping him in check with her magical ‘mokkori’ hammers, that she whips out of nowhere for every lecherous occasion. This particular film starts with them taking down two rocket-toting terrorists who almost blow up the city’s famous Godzilla statue (complete with its trademarked Toho-approved roar) while the City Hunter 2 opening ‘Angel Night’ plays in the background.

The next day, we meet Ai Shindo, a young woman who insists someone is after her, but cannot convince the local police to help. She is noticed by officer Saeko Nogami, who apparently passes her the idea to head to the Shinjuku train station and leave the letters XYZ on the (now digital) message board there. Ai notices some guys who decide to attack her while there, but she’s saved by some goofy martial artist, who turns to her and says ‘You called for me? I’m City Hunter.’ She’s initially impressed but Saeba’s libido takes over and Kaori pops in with the mokkori mallet, letting him know he can’t harass women since it’s not the 80s anymore.

They head to a cafe’ run by their explosive-loving friends Miki and Umibozu The Falcon. While discussing the case, Mikki introduces their new helper robot, whom Saeba instantly names Minibozu, much to Umibozu’s chagrin. Saeba has Ai stay at his place (for her protection of course) which works perfectly with Kaori overseeing him. The next day, they head to Ai’s newest modeling shoot, where Kaori gets to know her a little better while keeping Saeba out of the dressing rooms. She gets distracted a bit though by the presence of Shinji Mikuni, an old friend who is now a millionaire businessman involved with Ai’s shoot.

Strange as all this sounds, everything comes together during the film pretty well as Saeko brings Saeba info on an upcoming munitions meeting headed by weapons maker Vince Ingrado, regarding a powerful new weapons system. A lot of the typical action ensures with drama, romance, and perviness City Hunter is known for. Director Kenji Kodama hasn’t lost his touch balancing all these elements of the franchise since the 80s, having adapted this series for Sunrise based on Tsukasa Hojo’s manga. He also adapted Hojo’s other signature title Cat’s Eye for TMS Entertainment and brings those characters in at the suggestion of Aniplex Producer Goh Wakabayashi for a fun crossover.

It was Kodama’s decision to have the characters in a modern setting as though nothing has changed for them just to see how they might adapt to the world around them. So yes, in a world filled with glocks and machine guns, Saeba still retains his trusty .357 Magnum Colt Python and remains the proverbial bad-ass sweeper of Shinjuku. It’s fun to see how the mainstays interact with newer technologies though, from Umibozu’s helper to Kaori’s mokkori traps. The city itself is beautifully rendered, especially in the nighttime scenes full of contrasting black & blue cityscapes. The characters could use a bit more shading for definition but otherwise are pretty much in line with how they’ve always looked. Director Kodama discussed this new world and many other changes at the film’s U.S. premiere at Anime Boston, which I covered here:

It’s nice to see the characters remain themselves through all this, as well as the Japanese vocal staff. Veteran actor Akira Kamiya reprises his iconic role of Ryo and wonderfully switches from dashing hero to total lecher effortlessly. Seiyuus Kazue Ikura (Kaori), Harumi Ichiryusai (Saeko), Tesshō Genda (Umibozu), and Mami Koyama (Miki) also return and are fun to hear again. As to the American staff, there have been changes. The City Hunter franchise was licensed in the 90s and 2000s by ADV films and several dubs were produced. However, those actors were largely unavailable when Discotek Media announced acquiring the City Hunter license last year, so a new team is dubbing the series. A couple of them, Marissa Lenti (Saeko) and Amber Lee Connors (Shinji) were introduced during the film’s dub premiere at Otakon 2019 alongside producer Michihiko Suwa, as well as blu ray creator Justin Sevakis, script supervisor Howard Wang, and translator Toshifumi Yoshida. For the most part, the American cast does a really good job bringing these characters to life for English speakers. Stephen Fu actually captures Saeba’s divergent tendencies admirably while playing off Morgan Lauré’s capable, authoritative and vulnerable nuances as Kaori.

They did have an insane screenplay to follow as scriptwriter Yoichi Kato came up with a doozy of a challenge here. The characters definitely have their hands full while Ryo and Kaori continue to occasionally tease a romance that likely will never be. It definitely feels like an extension of the original series. The character designs of Kumiko Takahashi and Yoshihito Hishinuma add to this as they emulate Hojo’s original creations pretty well. There’s a lot of history to this series, which also gets highlighted in the film’s opening and closing sequences, adding to the nostalgic atmosphere of the many prior TV themes from previous shows popping up throughout.

In Summary:
Shinjuku Private Eyes is a wonderful return to form for the City Hunter series. Strangely, there hadn’t been a theatrical film since Magnum of Love and Destiny dropped in ‘89. Director Kodama still knows exactly how to give veteran fans what they would want, while incorporating newer elements to entertain modern viewers. It’s nice to have something different but familiar and fun to enjoy. Recommended.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade:  A
Video Grade:  A
Packaging Grade:  A
Menu Grade:  A-
Extras Grade:  A+

Released By: . Eastern Star / Discotek Media
Release Date:  May 26, 2020
MSRP:  $24.95
Running Time:  95 minutes
Video Encoding:1080p
Aspect Ratio:  1.77:1, 16:9

Review Equipment: Samsung 4K UHD TV, Sony PlayStation 3