Monday, December 10, 2007

List o' the Weak: Top Five Hardboiled Heroes

So I've been writing a bunch of heavy stuff, which has kind of left my brain soggy. So I thought I'd lighten it up a bit and write something a little more fun. As always any comments, ideas or questions, you can e-mail or leave a comment. So on with the fun.

I have to say I've always liked noir. I like film noir, I like hardboiled detective novels, I like anything that's dirty and gritty where the hookers are angels and the angels are hookers. And anime has its share of tough guys who walk the mean streets. So lets all tip our fedoras in that dark and stormy night to these hardboiled heroes.

Number five: Roy Revant, Solty Rei

So there's something about a ex-cop that I always enjoy, especially when you add loose cannon into that mix. Roy isn't the best out there, but he's one of the few that walks the fine line between avenger and criminal. In some ways, he's one of the closest heroes to really being a bad guy at the beginning of the series. In particular, I really like the crusty exterior he has for the first part of the series. I do think he gets a bit sappy about halfway through, but outside of that he definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Oh yeah, and he has a really awesome gun. And a really neat narration at the beginning of the series. I'm totally up for the effective voice-overs.

Number four: Mirielle Bouquet, Noir

I'll admit it, I'm a big fan of this series and Mirielle is the reason. Mostly I find Kirika to be a bit dull and distant. And while some people might say that's her role in the series, I still find Mirielle to be the more interesting character. Both because she has a past and because she exudes a sense of cool that would rival the Fonz. I could just imagine her walking down the streets of Paris in the middle of summer and the entire street stopping to let her pass. Seriously, she's so cool that ice cream is jealous.

Plus her past gives the series a lot of strength that it would have lacked. And unlike the more contrived Madlax, it's actually somewhat plausible.

Number three: Saiga, Speed Grapher

Okay, so I just need to write this line to explain why Saiga is on this list, "It’s been over a decade since the Bubble war, when the global economy burst. The rich got richer and the poor were out of luck. Welcome to Tokyo, the city where all the winners came to jerk each other off." That's the first thing we hear when we see Saiga. Unlike Revant, he's not on a revenge kick. No he's just embittered, angry and cynical. Basically, the perfect noir hero.

I mention Revant because like him Saiga goes soft about halfway through the story. He doesn't quite lose the edge he had at the beginning of the series though, which is why he places higher in my list.

Number two: Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop

And what list would be complete without a note from the grandaddy of a anime noir series. I know a lot of people would have picked Spike or Faye, but I like Jet more. First because he's actually closer to my age. And I've always liked the disillusioned cop archetype more than the reformed criminal or the femme fatale. Seriously, Black Dog Serenade is one of my favorite episodes.

My only complaint is that he doesn't get enough sceen time. Generally, he's pushed aside by the more sexy characters and regulated to either moments of comic relief or doing research.

And my Number One favorite Hardboiled Hero is:

George Kodama, Kaze no Yojimbo

If Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler had a love child who happened to be Japanese it'd be George Kodama. This guy is a tough guy through and through, from taking on the powers that be to the local Yakuza, he plays them all. And still comes out on top. Or at least somewhere near the top.

After rewatching this series, I'm impressed that the guy never really softens. He's harsh with the people who deserve it, kind to the people who deserve that. And in general ends up being the very pinnacle of hardboiled heroness without any catchy one-liners or voice overs.
Agree or disagree? Post a comment below or email


Sophist said...

Good list, I especially like Jet's selection. A lot of people automatically go with Spike when they consider Bebop's tough guys but I always felt Jet was a notch above.

Spike had a certain amount of hope for awhile, when that was taken from him he basically threw his life away for revenge. Jet had his idealistic notions of justice shattered but he carried on anyway, and it appears he's still soldiering on at the end of Bebop even as half the crew leaves him. It takes a real man to keep on going when all is lost, I admire Jet's character because of that.

IKnight said...

'Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid . . . a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man,' eh?

Taking the 'hardboiled' concept and searching for it in anime is certainly an interesting exercise in your hands.

~ thinking on Sophist's comment, I suppose I consider Spike to be the epitome of insouciant masculinity rather than of hardboiled-ness. Insouciance is good in its own way, but yes, Jet is the more hardboiled one.