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Anime's answer to James Bond

Wednesday 17th October 2012

Helen McCarthy is holding out for a hero

James Bond - Skyfall

I 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

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One Piece (uncut) Collection 1 (episodes 1-26)

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Set Sail for One Piece!
Monkey D. Luffy is a boy with big dreams. This daring rubber-man refuses to let anyone or anything stand in the way of his quest to become king of all pirates. With a course charted for the treacherous waters of the Grand Line, Luffy strikes out in search of a crew – and a boat. Along the way he’ll do battle with scallywag clowns, fishy foes, and an entire fleet of marines eager to see him walk the plank. The stakes are high, but with each adventure, Luffy adds a new friend to his gang of Straw Hat Pirates! Like his hero Gold Roger, this is one captain who’ll never drop anchor until he’s claimed the greatest treasure on Earth – the Legendary One Piece!

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