17 August 2002 | BrianDanaCamp
4th CRYING FREEMAN a victim of static animation and simplified story
CRYING FREEMAN 4: A TASTE OF REVENGE (1991) was the fourth installment in the OAV (Original Animation Video) series based on the popular manga (graphic novel) about a Japanese hitman who works for a Chinese assassination syndicate, the 108 Dragons. The series was distinguished by the painstaking attention to the artwork to make it look as close to the original manga (story by Kazuo Koike and art by Ryoichi Ikegami) as possible. The very first volume, PORTRAIT OF A KILLER, came closest to a perfect match of manga and anime as it captured the stark beauty of the black-&-white comic, but added a spectacular use of light, color and cinematic editing to heighten certain details.
This edition suffers from a more static approach as the faithfulness to the manga practically stifles the animation and keeps any real movement limited to a couple of key action scenes. The characters are rendered with too much cross-shading, an archaic comic book illustration convention that is completely out-of-place here and makes a couple of normally attractive characters far less so. The animation, as a result, is much more static than it is in the other volumes and seriously depletes the vigor of both the action and sex scenes. The sexual gymnastics between Freeman and Yakuza moll Kimie, so sensually detailed in the manga, are rendered far less erotic here.
The story has to do with an aging religious cult leader who tries to take over the 108 Dragons by capturing Freeman and replacing him with a specially trained double. The cult leader is assisted by a giant wrestler named Oshu Togoku and the aforementioned female Yakuza, Kimie, who was introduced in CRYING FREEMAN 1: PORTRAIT OF A KILLER. Part of the training of Freeman's double is the observation of Freeman's sexual prowess as he enjoys an extended liaison, under the influence of powerful drugs, with Kimie.
The graphic novel that formed the basis for this anime, "A Taste of Revenge," actually offered the most interesting story in the manga series outside of the first volume. However, the plot is extremely oversimplified in the anime, with key elements that gave the drama some urgency omitted in the interest of saving time. One important missing subplot involved a cache of a thousand submachine guns which the cult leader was going to use to arm his followers in a coup attempt on the Japanese government. There is plenty of sex and violence on display, as expected with this series, but it's all undercut by the limited animation and comic-book-style character design. Perhaps the animators were trying for a new style or working under new budget limitations. As a result, Volume 4 is not one of the best in the series. The first volume is still the most highly recommended for its well-appointed presentation of a solid hardcore crime drama and its near-perfect cinematic adaptation of the manga look.