First off, I'll admit I'm not the biggest anime fan. I would say I'm a casual anime fan, but even then, I'm so far out of the loop when it comes to titles and franchises that I usually don't bother with them unless one is highly recommended to me. And that's exactly what happened here. Someone had posted about this on Instagram, so I took the advice and added it to my watchlist. It took me a few weeks to finally get around to it, but holy fuck I'm so glad I finally did.
Golgo 13: The Professional is an absolute kickass and killer film, animated or not. It's as if John Woo (The Killer) and Luc Besson, (The Professional), in the height of their career's, collaborated on a film about a hitman and cast Ken Takakura (Black Rain, The Yakuza) or Sonny Chiba (The Street Fighter). It's hyper-violent, hip, slick, sexy and cool as all hell. Though released in 1983, it oozes late 70's aesthetics out of every pore; from the score, costume and art design, sound design and tone. So imagine my surprise to discover that both Takakura and Chiba both starred in live action adaptations in the 70's prior to this animated film's release. I had no idea, but holy shit it makes sense. Now to track those suckers down.
As a film, it's just so fucking cool. The cinematography alone is damn impressive. Each single frame is a work of art, and it blows my mind how it was basically shot and structured like a live action film and not an anime, where they could just go nuts with everything. And I think that's what I love most about it, which is why I kept thinking this could easily be a film by Woo or Besson starring Chiba or Takakura. It's essentially like watching a film with all that talent combined and it's blissfully insane.
You don't have to be a fan of anime, or even have to know anything about this franchise going in. It's an incredible standalone feature that blows nearly every other anime or animated film out of the water, both current and classic. This, without a doubt, is going into my Top 5 Animated Films of All Time list.
My research afterwards provided a lot of insight. First, it's considered one of the longest running manga's ever since it's initial launch in 1968, and still running today. 2 live action films were made in the 70's, each starring Chiba and Takakura in the lead respectively, and produced an animated series (50 episodes) in 2008, along with another animated film in 1998 titled Queen Bee. Oh, and I hear it was a badass NES game as well here in the states. Definitely going to look for that soon for my collection.
How To Watch It:
Streaming: It's currently streaming for free on Amazon (with commercials), so you don't need a Prime account, and it's also streaming for free in HD on the always reliable TubiTV.
Physical Media: It has gotten a Blu-Ray release via Discotek Media, which you can pick up for generally around $30 on the seconhand market, and the old DVD for under $20, but I can't find any information that says if the DVD is in widescreen or not. You can find the full frame VHS for fairly cheap these days too. You can also find its incredibly funky score on vinyl for a pretty penny.