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Crying Freeman Vol. 1

Writer: Kazuo Koike
Artist: Ryoichi Ikegami
Ain't It Cool News, March 2006
The idea of freedom is a basic one to most of us, taken for granted by many. Even at its worst, though, the law doesn't really take away your freedom to do something - it imposes consequences for doing it, and some of those consequences may take away freedoms, like prison or death. So, if you really want to do something restricted, you can - you may just have to face the consequences. Not so Yo Himemura, protagonist of CRYING FREEMAN.

Himemura was once an up-and-coming artist, working with pottery, until he got hold of some negatives that the Chinese mafia known as the 108 Dragons wanted back. Instead, he sent them to the police. In retaliation, they kidnapped him, used acupuncture to place post-hypnotic suggestions to turn him into an assassin and trained him, then set him loose under their control, after convincing him that his life was theirs now. In the early stages, he had no choice - when they activated the hypnotic suggestion, he lost all free will, and so they gave him the ironic codename Freeman - because that's what he wanted to be. But after each murder, he would always cry a stream of tears for his lost innocence and foul deeds, so he became the Crying Freeman instead.

Eventually, Himemura became inured to the idea of an assassin's life, and now does it willingly, though he does not seem to enjoy it. He was seen, however, killing one of his most recent targets by the lovely and lonely Emu Hino, and she has decided that though he will most certainly kill her, he must make a woman of her first. After killing a powerful yakuza boss, Himemura sets his sights on Hino, and their meeting sets off a chain of events that complicates both of their lives as they try to find love while the yakuza and police hunt them both and the 108 Dragons take a dim view of their relationship...

This is a manga I'm glad to see being reprinted, as I missed it the first time around. I've heard a number of good things about it over the years, so I'm glad it's back in circulation. The idea of a brainwashed killer isn't a new one, but it's done so well here that it doesn't feel at all retread. The artwork certainly compliments the feel of the story well - Ikegami does great greasy mobster and wire-style kung-fu action - and the emptiness inside both Himemura and Hino comes through palpably in their eyes and faces. There is a nice blend of action, intrigue, and romance here, and though it comes across as fantastic, it never seems really unbelievable. There is also some explicit sex, so if you don't want to read that or are thinking about giving this to a child (what the hell are you thinking?) be aware of that. It features my favorite manga device, the inviso-dick, where censors made the penis invisible but by god she's sucking on something.

The latest in a line of Kazuo Koike-penned manga to be reprinted by Dark Horse, this is another winner, and Ryoichi Ikegami lives up to his reputation as a manga artist supreme. If you have an interest in crime or just like a good action story, CRYING FREEMAN is for you. - Dan Grendell

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