Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 19th, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
Directors: Daisuke Nishio, Nobutaka Nishizawa, Johei Matsuura, Shigemori Yamauchi, Harunisa Okamoto
Writers: Ryoichi Ikegami, Kazuo Koike
Cast: Toshio Furukawa, Chiharu Kataishi, Ryûsei Nakao, Yûsaku Yara, Takaya Hashi, Masako Katsuki, Kôhei Miyauchi, Nobuyo Tsuda, Yumi Tôma, Yasurô Tanaka, Masaharu Satô, Ken Yamaguchi, Masato Hirano, Kôji Totani, Yukitoshi Hori, Daisuke Gôri, Kazumi Tanaka, Nobuo Yana
DVD released: February 22nd, 2011
Approximate Running Time: 300 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Eastern Star / Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: A reluctant hit man becomes the leader of the one of the most feared crime organizations.
Crying Freeman was adapted from a Manga that was created by Ryoichi Ikegami (Mai, the Psychic Girl) and Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood). To date other Crying Freeman adaptations include three live action films. Two Hong Kong produced Dragon from Russia directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung and Killer’s Romance directed by Phillip Ko. And the 1995 French / Canadian production titled Crying Freeman. Which was directed by Christophe Gans and starred Mark Dacascos in the title role.
The six episodes which make up this collection were directed by five different filmmakers over a six year span. Here is a rundown of each installment.
Crying Freeman 1 – Portrait of a Killer: This is essentially the origins story. With Yô Hinomura (Crying Freeman’s) back-story being laid out. Yô Hinomura was a gifted potter, who witnesses something he is not supposed to see. Instead of killing him. A crime syndicate called the 108 dragons force him to become a hit man. This also episode introduces Yô Hinomura’s love interest Emu Hino, a twenty nine year virgin. That he has been contracted to kill. With this new found love affair comes more danger. Not only is there a local crime syndicate trying to kill Emu Hino. There are also corrupt police men to contend with.
Crying Freeman 2 – Shades of Death, Part 1: The action picks up right where the previous story left off. The 108 Dragon’s give their blessing. Thus allowing Yô Hinomura and Emu Hino to get married. And they both receive new names, Ron Tayan and Fu Ching Ran. This story also introduces a new character Baya San the enormous sized granddaughter of 108 Dragons leaders. Once again Fu Ching Ran finds herself in danger. When she is kidnapped. And to complicate matters further. There is a traitor amongst the 108 Dragons.
Crying Freeman 3 – Shades of Death, Part 2: With Fu Ching Ran safely returned home. Ron Tayan is face with yet more nemesis, who want to usurp him from his new potion of power. As the leader of the 108 Dragons. Also Fu Ching Ran gets a body tattoo just like her husband Ron Tayan. He has a dragon and she’s has a tiger. This installment introduces a new character named Bugnug a muscular and athletic negro that Ron Tayan renames Dark Eyes.
Crying Freeman 4 – A Taste of Revenge: Yet more nemesis, who want to assume control of the 108 Dragons. This time around Ron Tayan allows himself to be knocked unconscious by one of his enemies. So that he can get closer to them and expose their plan to take over the 108 Dragons.
Crying Freeman 5 – Abduction in Chinatown: When a crime syndicate that kidnaps young children. Abducts the daughter of a boss of a rival crime syndicate. Ron Tayan decides to lend a hand in rescuing the young girl. When it is discovered that this crime syndicate is also trying to take over the 108 Dragons.
Crying Freeman 6 – The Guiding Light of Memory. A woman from Ron Tayan’s past resurfaces. Also this one features a bloody turf war between Japanese and Russians gangs.
This series is anchored by a well rounded protagonist Ron Tayan, who is equally sympathetic and ferociously deadly. Not to be overlooked are the supporting cast of characters which populate this series. Also there is an abundance of clichéd villains, who all want to be one that kills Crying Freeman.
Sure some of the more character driven moments leave a lot to be desired. And if this was a more straight forward story. This might have been more a problem. Fortunately everything is rooted in fantasy. With the carnage filled action set pieces being this series most durable asset. Another area in which this series stands out are its more erotic based moments. Many of which a lot more than your a typical sex scenes. Let’s just say that with the majority of the fight scenes. Clothing is optional.
Content wise this series is inconsistent. With the first and last installments being the strongest of the lot. And while the other four episodes have their moments. They ultimately lack the urgency that is present in the first and last installments. And yet despite these aforementioned shortcomings. The pluses more than outweigh the minuses.
All six episode include with this collection are presented in their original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate. Details generally look crisp and black levels range from average to good. There are no problems with compression and edge enhancement is minimal.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. Range wise both audio mixes are rather limited. With the majority of these mixes focusing through the center channel. Also there are several instances where the audio sounds muffled. The biggest difference between these two audio mix in that the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are better represented on the English audio mix.This release comes with no extra content. The six episode which make up this collection are spread over two discs. Three episodes on each disc. Overall Eastern Star gives Crying Freeman a audio / video presentation that is on par with their Fist of the North Star releases.