Sep 26, 2007 - 03:59 PM
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Goldenboy vols. 1-2
 Mike Toole  rates it:    

When I think of a common working guy in Japan, I conjure up a mental image of a blankly smiling, well-groomed man in an impeccable dark suit who refers to himself as a "salaryman" whether he sorts the mail or does financial analysis. This is a stereotype, but it's grounded in truth-- when I visited Tokyo, the streets were literally swarming with these types, especially after business hours when they all went out drinking.

Kintaro Oe does not fit this mold. Despite the fact that he's in the prime of his life, and despite the fact that he's completed his law degree at Tokyo University and needs only to show up and collect it, he prefers to wander Japan on his mountain bike, picking up jobs as he travels from town to town. If he was American, I'd probably just call him a temp, because that's what he is. Kintaro is an exceptionally versatile temp-- through his travels on these tapes, he takes work as a trainee computer programmer, a political shill, a noodle cook, a swimming instructor, a servant at a traditional Japanese estate, and, finally, an animation production assistant. With the mantra of "Study, study, study!" he seems to pick up complex skills quickly, and is a remarkably talented guy.

This seems irrelevant at first, though, because what Kintaro really enjoys doing is slacking off and fantasizing about the drop-dead gorgeous women he inevitably ends up interacting with. He always manages to launch into Homer Simpson-esque dream sequences that inevitably end up with the object of his affections in bondage gear-- until he snaps out of it and realizes that he's licking a toilet seat, and she saw the whole thing. Understandably, nobody takes him seriously-- he's shunned by his bosses, beaten by gangsters, and ignored or manipulated by the women he pursues. Thing is, with that big brain of his, Kintaro just has to have some sort of grand master plan that will work out in his favor. Right? Right?!

Goldenboy has long been a favorite in American fandom, and it's easy to see why-- Kintaro has a simple everyman appeal, and his lechery is mostly harmless. The visual comedy is delivered frequently (and often with hilariously weird facial expressions on the part of Kintaro) by director Hiroyuki Kitakubo, and character designer Toshihiro Kawamoto (Cowboy Bebop) is a real master-- in my opinion, he draws perhaps the most beautiful (while keeping basic human antomy in mind) women in anime. (If you've ever wondered what Faye Valentine would look like topless, check out episode 5.) Interestingly, while there is quite a bit of nudity and sexual innuendo in Goldenboy, it's toned way down from Tatsuya Egawa's manga, which started off innocently enough but quickly became adults-only material.

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The sum total of Goldenboy-- Tatsuya Egawa's characters, Hiroyuki Kitabuko's direction, Toshihiro Kawamoto's chara designs-- would have been middling at best if it wasn't for one thing: Doug Smith. His performance as Kintaro in the English version is blazingly forceful-- he has no training as a voice actor (he frequently slurs words and his diction is spotty), but the sheer amount of energy he puts into the character makes up for it in spades. Kintaro is fraught with emotional highs and lows that come rapid-fire, and Smith rises to the occasionl, peppering his lines with mumbled in-jokes and crazed yelps. His portrayal is nothing short of hilarious. To be fair, Mitsuo Iwata is quite good as the same character in the Japanese version, but his performance is shriller and somewhat less manic.

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I think it's safe to say that Goldenboy is bound for DVD-- but if you just can't wait, these reasonably-priced rereleases are a pretty good bet. In any case, the mixture of realistic storytelling with Kintaro's deranged personality is always a hoot to watch. If nothing else, this series is worthwhile for the final episode alone, where Kintaro takes work at a struggling animation studio and everything just turns into one gigantic in-joke. Toilet humor (literal or otherwise) doesn't always make for a funny show, but it's skillfully employed here-- Goldenboy is golden.

Added:  Sunday, October 12, 2003

Related Link:  ADV Films
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