Golgo 13 Works, Kind Of
I’m still working on other, longer posts, but after watching another five episodes or so of Golgo 13– yes, that’s how I celebrated the Fourth of July- I had some quick thoughts on this show that seem worth writing down. It’s a thoroughly decent series, though I think too much of its appeal lies in simply being very different from other anime. Novelty counted for quite a lot of my entertainment, but once that wore off after a couple discs into the series, I still found myself enjoying it. It does some smart things consistently that solve a lot of the potential problems in its premise, because let’s face it, a “perfect sniper” easily makes for a story with zero tension. Snipers seem sexy in video games and power fantasies, but story-wise, they’re thin gruel. Wait for your target, shoot, and either you hit him or you don’t. It’s as almost as interactive as masturbation, with a similar level of potential for story and character development. There’s a good reason why all our action heroes get their hands dirty in face to face combat.
Ask someone what they liked so much about Golgo 13, and they’ll probably talk about how Duke Togo is a bad-ass among bad-asses and that he pulls off the craziest kills. But that crazy kill that Duke Togo will pull off at the end of each episode only last a few seconds, and frankly, most episodes have serious pacing issues, so it’s not like the build-up to it is anything great. The reason I think some of the stories work- and this is especially true in the series’ best episodes- is because the episodes are told from someone else’s point of view, and develops someone else’s character.Togo has been one of the only recurring characters in the series, so everyone else gets their story laid out, developed, and then wrapped up in quick succession. It has made for some tantalizing glimpses- I’d especially love to get more story about AX-3, the detective from episode 2, or the Polish sniper from episode 6. This also means that the stories are almost never told from Togo’s point of view, and that makes someone who should be boring a bit mysterious. The series has established that Golgo 13 has skills so godlike they defy the comprehension of lesser men- it’d be a shame to ruin a thing like that by letting us into his head.
Experts in this sort of thing tell me that Golgo is supposed to be a power fantasy- its appeal is that we get to pretend to be a bad-ass sniper who doesn’t even need to exert effort when getting laid. I don’t doubt that, but the fantasy doesn’t work for me. That’s a point in its favor, though. This is dark, dark stuff, since Togo is an equal-opportunity employee. He kills the good and the bad for the same price and with the same ruthlessness. Sometimes, he even kills people simply because they know too much about him. I get that this is part of being an anti-hero, so he’s not necessarily supposed to be aspirational. But he seems like more of a monster than any other anti-hero I’ve seen anywhere. And my squickiness over him makes the anime that much more absorbing. I suppose monsters are just more interesting than heroes.
Personally, I like pairing it with episodes of Pretty Cure, because whiplash tickles my brain. By the way, Pretty Cure is a much better sitcom than Golgo 13. That’s real talk.