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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


Samurai Jam: Bakumatsu Rock - Complete Season Collection

was £29.99
Marvelous’ Studios “Samurai Jam -Bakumatsu Rock” game gets an anime adaptation!
Right around the middle of the 19th century, the dark overlords of the Late Tokugawa Shogunate ruled Japan with an iron fist. Because of this, the top idols in Shinsengumi are ordered to sing only Heaven's Songs to brainwash and subjugate the masses, making writing or singing any songs besides Heaven's Songs a capital offense. Enter: Sakamoto Ryouma and his Masters of the martial art OF ROCK! They must take charge as they change the old ways of a grumpy old guard while singing for what is just!

Language: Japanese
Subtitle: English



Jordan and Fraser pick their favourite new shows from the summer anime season, what are yours?

Short Peace

Jasper Sharp on the anthology movie currently touring the UK
There have been three Japanese works nominated in the Academy Awards category for Best Animated Short Film over the past ten years or so: Koji Yamamura’s Mt. Head (2002), Kunio Kato’s The House of Small Cubes (2008) – so far the country’s only winner – and most recently Shuhei Morita’s Possessions (2013). For all that, it remains pretty difficult for most viewers who aren’t regulars on the specialised festival circuit to catch such examples of cutting-edge animation.

Gekiga at the Cartoon Museum

Jonathan Clements visits an exhibition of manga’s pioneers
Running upstairs at London’s Cartoon Museum until 29th November, Gekiga: Alternative Manga From Japan charts the evolution of truly adult comics, both in terms of content and style, in the post-war period.

The Yellow Peril

Jonathan Clements reviews a new account of Fu Manchu
The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu & The Rise of Chinaphobia (sic) is an enjoyably traditional work of gentlemanly erudition, with research in dusty archives accompanied by a slew of lunches with bigwigs and interviews with associates, as our polymath hero Sir Christopher Frayling examines the origins of the infamous mastermind from Sax Rohmer’s once-popular novels.

Big Hero 6

Andrew Osmond leaves his heart in San Fransokyo
You know Tokyo; you know Neo-Tokyo. Now welcome to San Fransokyo, the mashup metropolis imagined by Disney’s CG cartoon Big Hero 6, released in British cinemas today. It’s a city where the Golden Gate Bridge sports Shinto gates, where ramen bars and lucky cats are as common as Victorian residences and hill-climbing trams. All this is the stage for a team-superhero adventure, which is itself window-dressing for the tale of a grieving boy and a gentle, huggable, cushion-soft robot.
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