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12 Days of Anime X-Mas Shit – Day 8 – #1

December 18, 2010

I’m gonna cheat here. That’s what I like to do: cheat. This pick isn’t an anime, but it is Japanese in origin. I finally got around to watching the classic yakuza assassin flick Branded to Kill, and it was fucking awesome. But what pushed it over the edge from “pretty damn good” to “fucking brilliant” was the number one assassin.

I’m pretty sure Branded to Kill is the origin of the whole “ranked assassin” trope that we’ve seen in shit like No More Heroes. In this movie, assassins are ranked according to their skill and whatnot and there seems to be some degree of competition and animosity between them. This mainly comes about because warrior criminal factions hire from this pool of ranked assassins and they have to face one another out in the field. The movie’s plot deals with the #3 killer and how a botched assassination attempt leads to him becoming a wanted man. Inevitably this leads to the #1 killer being sent out to do him in, and that’s when things get really crazy.

As expected, the #1 killer is a special dude. You gotta have some quirk to you that makes you the best at what you do. You don’t get by with just good ganking skills. Nope. This dude is flat-out bonkers, and that madness manifests itself in a sort of cocky, arrogant, playful manner. He likes to toy with his victims, but he does it in a very up front and casual manner. He talks with #3 over the phone as if they’re friends. He allows #3 to come out of cover to get something to eat from the refrigerator or to go to the restroom despite this giving him the perfect shot to snipe his target.  He’s in complete control of the situation, and he lets #3 know this. Repeatedly.

It comes to a head when he invites himself to literally live with #3. He comes into #3’s apartment, introduces himself, and goes about living with him as if they were roommates or husband and wife. When they go out to eat one day, #1 insists that they walk arm in arm. It’s all his way of humiliating #3 and making his life a living hell, all through polite conversation and gentlemanly courtesy. He wants to wear down #3’s will to the point where killing him will break every facet of his being. It’s not unlike the sort of interplay you see between Light and L in Death Note, except all of the humor is decidedly intended. It’s all deliberately surreal and ridiculous, and it’s a thing of beauty to watch.

The rest of the movie’s pretty great as well, but #1 makes the movie.


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