Bloody 1980s Spy Action Anime Made Cinema History, Stream Right Now

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

When you think of animation in the 80s, you probably think of Transformers, Thundercats, or maybe one of the imported anime series, like Voltron. What you don’t think of is the adult-oriented bloody thriller Golgo 13: The Professional, a 1983 Japanese anime film that took 10 years to come to the West because of its graphic content. Cartoons in the West, after all, were for kids, not for adults, but this film was one of the first to shatter that outdated mode of thought.

A Different Type Of Anime

Within the first minute, you know it’s a different type of animated feature, from the cool, methodical assembly of a sniper rifle to the bloody bullet hole that’s soon left in the head of Duke Togo’s latest victim. Operating under the codename Golgo 13, Togo is an emotionless killer who moves slowly and smoothly until it’s time for a fight, never changing his facial expression. Watching the film today, I thought this was what the Timothy Olyphant Hitman movie was going for.

A Routine Mission Gone Horribly Wrong

In Golgo 13, after Duke Togo’s opening scene airport assassination, he goes to take out a Sicilian crime boss, Dr. Z, who isn’t who he seems to be. During the escape, Togo is ambushed by heavily armed CIA officers sent to avenge the death of an oil tycoon’s son, who, it turns out, was the man from the opening. This sends the ruthless killer on a quest to take out the tycoon, Dawson, before the endless parade of hired guns makes good on the bounty.

A Unique Style That Photos Can’t Do Justice

This is standard action movie fare, but what makes Golgo 13 stand out even today is the unique style of the anime. A simple shot of Dawson talking on a phone is layered on top of itself multiple times in a kaleidoscope effect, while other scenes will use rapid-fire shots of the scene with different colored tints to each small part. And then there are others that have a haze over them as if we’re watching a dream sequence.

History-Making Opening Credits

Not only did Golgo 13 make history by bringing adult animation to American theaters, and yes, this is for adults only, with both Duke Togo and various women showing skin, along with one controversial scene of assault, but pay attention to the opening credits. This film was the first animated feature to use CGI in any capacity, from guns to robotic skeletons, all playing out behind “Pray for You,” a delightfully 80s-sounding song.

Adult Anime Franchise Had Multiple NES Games

Watching the movie today, I was struck by how it embraced an anime style that’s more in line with the graphic novel 100 Bullets than, say, Macross, one of its contemporaries. Anime isn’t all bright colors and big eyes; it’s also blood and guts, which Golgo 13 has in spades. It’s odd, then, that I was introduced to the world of Duke Togo through an NES video game, but the 80s were a very different time.

A Part Of History Not For Everyone


Golgo 13 isn’t for everyone, with the stylistic choices making it a strange viewing experience, but one that’s perfect for someone interested in anime history or wants something a little darker and a little different. While I thought it was an interesting film, it’s also not one I’ll be going back to again, but I’m glad I experienced part of history.

If you want to check it out, you’re in luck, as Golgo 13: The Professional is streaming for free on Tubi and Pluto TV.