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Anime's answer to James Bond

Tuesday 30th June 2015

Helen McCarthy is holding out for a hero

James Bond - SkyfallI got quite excited when I found the clip online. "James Bond, aka Bondo (agent 007), the suave superspy who…" Alas, my delight was premature. It was a fan animation starring a green-eyed, spiky-haired pretty boy who looked as likely to bed the villain as shoot him - a quantum of solace, undoubtedly, but no help on my mission: find anime's answer to Bond.

To get the right answer, ask the right question: what is the essence of Bond? Ian Fleming's novels and the movie mega-franchise have a common core. Style and elegance are important, but can be updated. More important even than the traditionalist take on class, intellect and sexuality is ruthlessness, the sheer brutal focus of Bond. Scruples are for priests and schoolgirls. Whatever happens, however hurt he may be inside or out, Bond gets the job done. He's the ultimate survivor. You can always die another day.

Lupin IIIThe most overtly Bond-inspired anime, Lupin III, inverts the Bond tropes, yet stays true to their essence. Monkey Punch's gentleman-thief, silly and soft-hearted, hides razor-sharp intelligence, focus and determination under that goofy grin and loud jacket. He looks like a spiv not a gentleman, he charms girls with humour not overt masculinity, he may hand back the loot or let the target go, but the villains won't outwit him. He gets the job done. And he's a survivor: witness, among many, the fabulous mummy sequence in Castle of Cagliostro, proof you don't only live twice.

Thanks to voluptuous bad-girl Fujiko Mine, Lupin III keeps one of Bond's unbreakable rules: a grown-up hero isn't interested in little girls. Forget Gunslinger Girls, Noir and Madlax. Bond, or Lupin, would beat the living Golgodaylights out of the villains and pack the child victims off to a proper girls' school for rehabilitation through midnight feasts and hockey.

Golgo 13 may seem to share many Bond characteristics, including the protagonist's rigidly macho personal code, but he misses one key characteristic. Bond isn't working for his bank account or personal survival. His licence to kill is given for a higher purpose. On Her Majesty's secret service, he's more than just a hired thug with superior firearms skills.

But good intentions alone don't earn a double-0 prefix. Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop, sometimes touted as a postmodern Bond, falls short. His live-and-let-live attitude contrasts too strongly with Bond's live-and-let-die views. His tailoring and haircut would never get past the doorman at Casino Royale, even with Bond girl manqué Faye Valentine on his arm.

James BondIf Queen and country are Bond's driving force, are Jack and Rowe of L/R: Licensed by Royalty his anime avatars? They have many of the required qualifications: charm, daring, insouciant wit, stylish clothes, fighting skills. What's missing? Decent opposition. Bond takes down evil masterminds in impossible circumstances. Without a Dr. No, even a Man with the Golden Gun, Hofner and Rickenbacker can't claim 00 status.

Let's admit it: no leading man in the world of anime can out-Bond Bond. They're good, but nobody does it better.

Anime's answer to James Bond


Mardock Scramble - The Trilogy Collection

was £29.99
In a futuristic society, a 15-year-old prostitute named Rune Balot is rescued after being nearly killed. She is subconsciously given the choice to continue living due to an emergency ordinance to preserve life called Mardock Scramble 09. Turned into a cyborg, Balot is then given the choice of assisting the investigations against the man who tried to terminate her. He is part of the powerful October corporation that is stealthily conducting illegal activities.



Rebuilding the Mardock Scramble heroine

Andrew Osmond has the technology… to watch Mardock Scramble
In Mardock Scramble: The First Compression, the young heroine is burned to a crisp, then remade Frankenstein-style. Fifteen year-old Balot is blown up in a car by her sugar-daddy Shell, a serial-killer. Then a seedy scientist rescues Balot’s charred body, plops it into an underground vat and refashions her as a super-avenger.

Mardock Scramble Manga

Andrew Osmond shells out for the Mardock comic
In the West, we’re still inclined to think of anime as coming out of manga, as naturally as eggs from chickens – one line into a Mardock Scramble piece and we’re already talking about eggs again). In Mardock’s case, both the manga and anime are alternative versions of a novel by Tow Ubukata, published as a trilogy in Japan and collected into one volume by the publisher Haikasoru. It’s comparable to what happened with Battle Royale, a novel which spawned a live-action film and an even more lurid manga.

Mardock Scramble: The Third Exhaust

The grand finale of the SF eggstravaganza
It is a real testament to how far things have progressed in the U.K. that this trilogy has been released uncut; in the 1990s the BBFC would never have allowed it. In that sense, the ten years it has taken Ubukata to get his books on-screen may, despite the frustrations caused him personally, have ended up benefiting U.K. audiences.



Andrew Osmond on the real “adult” manga
Eric Khoo's film focuses on one of the founders of gekiga, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who died on 7th March. The framing story is Tatsumi’s account of his life and development, growing up with a difficult family. He had none of the technology and luxuries that we take for granted, no reason to think he could ever make a living from the fledgling manga industry. And yet he was utterly driven to draw comics, like his hero Osamu Tezuka.

2013 at the Japanese Box Office

We take today's statistics to predict tomorrow in Japanese cinemas
Which film beat Mission Impossible in Japanese cinemas? Which Ghibli film failed to make the Top 30? Which acclaimed anime was voted the worst of the year? And what the hell is ODS...?

By the Will of Genghis Khan

“Not long ago, Genghis Khan evoked only unpleasant memories..." Er...
Andrei Borisov’s epic film By the Will of Genghis Khan presents the historical figure Temujin not as the terrifying bogeyman of European lore, but as he is remembered across much of the East, as a just ruler, a lawgiver, and a man of honour.

Halo: Nightfall

Hugh David locks and loads for Locke
Jameson Locke is a legendary manhunter and agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Earth’s most powerful and secretive military branch. When he and his team are caught in a horrific biological attack, they unravel a plot that draws them to an ancient, hellish artifact, where they will be forced to fight for their survival, question everything, and ultimately choose between their loyalties and their lives…

Blood C: The Last Dark

Director Naoyoshi Shiotani on getting the darkness right
“In every theatre you have different light, so you can never be sure what it’s going to look like. So you have to think; will this be okay, will you lose details in that kind of darkness? It was hard to calculate all that.”


Jasper Sharp on how wonders will never cease
The tradition of the solitary animator continued past the establishment of an anime industry, with notable luminaries such as Yoji Kuri, Kihachiro Kawamoto and Tadanari Okamoto positioning themselves outside it and creating works that challenged what could be done with the medium, often using other media such as stop-motion and silhouette.

Schoolgirls, Money and Rebellion in Japan

Sharon Kinsella's new book reviewed
It’s a truism widely acknowledged in the anime world that so many Japanese cartoons are obsessed with fantasy figures of 15-year-old schoolgirls because they are aimed at audience of desperate teenage boys. But Sharon Kinsella’s latest book, Schoolgirls, Money and Rebellion in Japan, points to a wider media malaise...

Cosplay: Pokemon

Paul Jacques has gotta catch'em all at the London Super Comic Con
Lisa Moffatt and Natasha Fountain spread their wings as Moltres and Articuno from the unstoppable Pokemon franchise, snapped by our roving photographer Paul Jacques at the London Super Comic Con back in the spring.

Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist

Akira Koieyama (Goken) on the latest entry in the franchise

Podcast: The Evangelion Two-Step

Box sets and brutal violence, in our 23rd podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani and Andrew Hewson for our 23rd podcast., featuring cover woes, delayed shows, and several uses of the word Slash. Your questions answered, dodged or otherwise belittled, while Jerome confesses to his Facebook addiction, and Jeremy is reprimanded for flagging his own segues.
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