Goku: Midnight Eye Review: Another Kawajiri Classic

Goku: Midnight Eye



2 episode OVA

Directed By: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Original Manga By: Buichi Terasawa

Script By: Buichi Terasawa & Ryûzô Nakanishi

Character Designs By: Hiroshi Hamasaki

Music By: Kazz Toyama & Yukihide Takekawa

Runtime: 1 hour 42 minutes (combined)

My Rating: ★★★½☆☆

Discotek Media recently announced they’ve acquired the licenses of several anime classics for North American distribution under their label Eastern Star Inc., such as Babel II: The Complete 1992 OVA Series, Crusher Joe: The Movie, Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth, Captain Harlock Endless Orbit SSX, GoShogun the TV Series, GoShogun: The Time Étranger, and…Goku: Midnight Eye. I saw Goku: Midnight Eye‘s trailer years ago. It was vague, giving away very little of the anime’s plot, which intrigued me all the more. I liked the character designs, cyberpunk theme, and the fact that it was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri was a bonus. I’m a fan of Kawajiri’s work, and as such my anime collection includes a number of his works: X, BioHunter, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, Cyber City Oedo (Cyber City 808), Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, Demon City Shinjuku, Birdy the Mighty, and Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. Even so, I haven’t been pleased with all of Kawajiri’s works, such as The Cockpit, Ninja Scroll: The TV Series and X (yeah, I said it). Goku: Midnight Eye, however, is classic Kawajiri. Based on Buichi Terasawa’s short manga series, and directed by one the masters of animation, this throwback from 1989 may not be perfect, but it still deserves a spot in your anime collection.

The Plot

Space Pirate Cobra
Space Pirate, Cobra, of Buichi Terasawa’s Space Adventure Cobra

Goku: Midnight Eye was written by Buichi Terasawa, creator of Takeru, and the popular manga, Cobra (Space Adventure Cobra), a manga that spawned two anime TV series, a movie, an OVA, and a soon-to-come live-action film adaptation. If you’re familiar with Terasawa’s work you know that he’s a fantastic artist and storyteller. His work is typically a mix of action, comedy, and romance. His lead characters are just…cool; resilient and independent male and female characters. While all of those aspects are present in Goku: Midnight Eye, the story unfortunately fails to deliver on character development and an in-depth storyline. Goku: Midnight Eye is an anime adaptation of the 3 volume manga series (4 volume North American release) of the same name. The gist of its plot is that Goku, a tough but cocky private investigator who wields a power pole (à la every character who carries the Monkey God’s name), loses his left eye while investigating the suspicious suicides of his former colleagues, and is given a cybernetic eye which has pretty much no limitations. Goku can use this eye to access any information on earth, and control any computer system on earth or in space. This cybernetic eye enables Goku to control any device, from vehicles to weapons, and even grants him access to “the launch codes of every nuclear power on earth“, which would allow him to destroy earth should he choose to. Why was Goku given this much power? Because he was a decent guy…I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The reason for Goku being given an invincible eyeball is never explained, and that bothered me. I also took issue with the OVA not being a complete adaptation of the manga series, because given that the manga series consists of a mere 3 volumes, it should’ve been.

What to Expect

Believe or not, the images above are of two different characters. On the left is Yôko, from episode one of Goku: Midnight Eye, and on the right is Ryōko, from episode two. They look so similar my mother and I briefly thought it was the same character being portrayed by a different voice actress. Through the years Kawajiri has worked with the same animators and character designers, such as Hisashi Abe and Yutaka Minowa, which I believe has contributed to consistently high-quality animation and a more standardized character appearance.

From left to right: Cis, from the Animatrix segment, The Program; Benton, from Cyber City Oedo 808; and Meier Link, from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Goku was voiced by Juuji Matsuda (Taio Matsuo, Sakigake!! Otoko Juku) in Japanese, and Steve Blum (Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop; Makoto Shishio, Rurouni Kenshin; Roger Smith; Big O; Mugen, Samurai Champloo; Kyohei Kadota, Durarara!!/Durarara!!x2) in English. In the English dub, other lead characters are voiced by veteran voice actors, Kirk Thornton (Hotohori, Fushigi Yugi; Shiro Fujimoto, Blue Exorcist; Kaname Ohgi, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion; Ramba Ral, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin) and Wendee Lee (Yui, Fushigi Yugi; Faye Valentine, Cowboy Bebop; Yoruichi, Bleach; Captain Kobayashi, Knights of Sidonia; Amida Arca, Mobile Suit Gundam: IronBlooded Orphans). Despite the fact that the English dub is relatively old, it’s still quite good. In fact, the only complaint I have is that Clara York (voice of Yôko Yazaki) often sounded like she was yelling at times when yelling was unnecessary.

The animation is on par with that of Demon City Shinjuku (released a year prior to Goku: Midnight Eye), 1987’s Wicked City, and 1990’s Cyber City Oedo 808. The animation is good, given the era of production and budget, but I do wish the fight sequences were more detailed. My hope is that Discotek’s digital transfer will be high-quality, as was the case with Venus Wars, instead of a huge disappointment in the way that Discotek’s Blu-ray release of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is.

Ahh…the Sweet Sound of the ’80s

Goku: Midnight Eye‘s music is very…’80s, which is understandable as it was originally released in 1989. However, if I didn’t know otherwise I would think the theme song, Fighting in the Danger performed by Yuki Katsuragi, was from the early ’80s or even the late ’70s. Even so, it’s not a bad song, and Katsuragi’s voice is similar to Mai Yamane’s (The Real Folk Blues, Cowboy Bebop Ending Theme; After, in the Dark, Macross Plus Insert Song), and Hidemi Miura’s (Aishiteiru Kamoshirenai, Cyber City Oedo 808 Ending Theme) voice.

You’re Cool with Me, Discotek

The two negatives of Discotek’s releases are: they didn’t bother to have some of their releases dubbed in English prior to DVD release, and not all of their licensed titles will be released in Blu-ray format. On the plus side, in addition to releasing older titles, such as Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie, Devilman: The TV SeriesVenus Wars, Key: The Metal IdolIria Zeiram: The AnimationBlue Submarine No. 6, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, and Library War, they’ve also released more recent titles, including Galilei DonnaKyousougiga, Actually I Am…, and Lupin the 3rd: Jigens Gravestone. However, the best thing about anime titles licensed by Discotek under Eastern Star is that unlike anime released by Aniplex America, NIS America, Sentai Filmworks, and Viz Media, Discotek’s DVDs and Blu-rays aren’t overpriced, but affordable. Discotek’s catalogue includes a number of anime gems, so I encourage you to check them out. Goku: Midnight Eye has a tentative DVD release date of May-June 2017.

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