In 200 volumes, anime/manga sniper extraordinaire Duke Togo doesn’t laugh much, and when he does, he has some weird reasons.

Usually when we refer to a manga or anime as a “classic,” the connotation is that it’s over and done with. Golgo 13, though, is a major exception. Debuting all the way back in 1968, creator Takao Saito’s story about the world’s greatest assassin is still ongoing, and recently hit a major milestone with the release of its 200th collected volume, tying the Guinness World Record for most volumes in a single manga series.

▼ And since the series it’s tied with, Kochi Kame, only hit volume 200 as it concluded, the record will be Golgo’s alone before long.

Over the years, protagonist Golgo 13, a.k.a. Duke Togo, has but countless bullets into his targets, but today we’re counting up the instances of something that happens much less frequently than him carrying out a murder-for-hire contract by asking the question “How many times has Golgo 13 ever laughed?”

As you might expect, it’s a rare occurrence. Golgo 13 is, after all, so stoic that the closest thing he has to a catchphrase is dialogue boxes that read “…” to express his palpable silence (and sometimes even his though bubbles are just ellipses). So imagine our shock to discover that the first time Golgo laughs is in the very first chapter of the manga, titled “Operation Big Safe.”

▼ The first Golgo 13 collected volume (as per the SP Comics imprint numbering)

In his debut mission, Golgo has been hired by a British intelligence organization to assassinate a former Nazi guard captain. As he takes aim at the target’s fortified mansion, he spots an artillery cannon camouflaged with shrubbery, and chuckles at the attempted trickery, saying “A two-inch cannon decorated with flowers…hahaha…it’s like the war is still going on in his mind…

▼ Yes, Golgo 13 is laughing at the cautiousness of a man he’s actively trying to kill.

Golgo’s eyes don’t look particularly mirthful in the scene, since he’s far too manly for completely unbridled silliness. Even his specific laughing sound effect, fufufu (フフフ) carries a reticent, ruthful tone. But nonetheless, the cold-as-ice hitman is indeed laughing.

Then, in another unexpected development, Golgo laughs again in this chapter! He’s completed the hit, but before he can leave the hotel the same people that hired him sends an assassin of their own to kill him in order to tie up loose ends and prevent the organization’s involvement from ever being revealed (it seems like they could have simplified things by just having their assassin kill the Nazi in the first place, but perhaps that was a shot only a marksman like Golgo could make, and the woman sent to kill the protagonist does carry a much closer-range weapon).

But even with a pistol pointed at him, Golgo can see the fufufu-worthy humor of the situation.

Golgo: “But…if you shoot me here, it’ll cause a ruckus throughout the whole hotel…”
Assassin: “No need for concern. This room is perfectly soundproofed.”
Golgo: “Fufufu…is that so. Well, hearing that puts my mind at ease…”

The Nazi-connected laughs keep coming in Chapter 2, “The Howls of Delos.” This time, a French defense minister is looking forward to a long-awaited reunion with his wife and son, who were kidnapped by the SS and have been missing for more than 20 years. However, the French government believes that the woman and man claiming to be the minster’s family members are actually Soviet spy imposters, and hires Golgo to break up the would-be family by pumping lead into the would-be wife and son before the minister can be corrupted.

It turns out, though, that the Soviets’ real target was Golgo all along. Predicting that the French would hire Golgo, they set a trap and captured him, and once they have the hitman in their clutches, the mastermind of the plot, a man named Bonnet, taunts Golgo by saying “You killed an innocent woman and her son who just wanted to see their husband and father again. Is that what you call your sense of humanity, you imperialist?”

Golgo’s response:

“Fufufu…sending imposters to a reunion doesn’t seem like it’s showing much of a sense of humanity…”

▼ He even smiles (and yes, Golgo eventual escape naturally involves him being drugged with poisned chmpagene and getting into a fistfight with Bonnet).

Volume 2 is where we find Golgo’s next laugh, in Chapter 5, “Sleepers in the Cage,” where Golgo has been sentenced to death in a remote Alaskan prison.

While on death row, he meets another inmate awaiting execution, named Zaras, who’s impressed with how calmly the hitman is remaining in their dire circumstances, especially since all 12 people who’ve tried to escape from the island the prison is on have died trying. “So what, you think you’re going to be able to just walk right out of here with no problems?” Zaras asks, prompting Golgo to respond:

“Fufufu…Zaras!! Are you insane? Do you remember what this place is?”

Continuing with Golgo’s case of the early-installment giggles, laugh #5 comes in Chapter 8, “The Black Simoon” (also found in Volume 2). Golgo’s target here is a general with political clout in the African republic of Gabon, whom the Soviets want killed because of his pro-U.S. leanings (apparently Golgo is willing to overlook that time they held him prisoner just six chapters ago). But another assassin gets to the general first, leaving the technically innocent Golgo at the crime scene where he’s arrested by police on suspicion of carrying out the killing. However, when Golgo is put on trial, he reveals that the general’s death was the work of a rival faction within the Gabon military, citing information passed on to him by one of their female operatives after he applied “certain techniques” to get her to spill the beans.

Man: “Ridiculous! What sort of nonsense allegations are you making?”
Golgo: “Fufufu…you can’t trust women…”

▼ Golgo’s logic sort of seems like it would hurt his case, but the plan somehow still works.

After this, the hitman went into pure straight man mode for decades. We honestly thought he might never laugh again, but he finally does a whopping 105 volumes and 325 chapters later, in Volume 107’s Chapter 333, “Power to the People.”

Golgo arrives in South Africa via Johannesburg Airport as apartheid is being dismantled and racial tensions are high. Airport security finds Golgo’s disassembled gun in his security and turns him over to the National Defense Ministry, and a pair of Caucasian guards whip and interrogate him, thinking he must be up to no good (which, to be fair, isn’t an entirely unreasonable assumption when someone travels around with a custom-made M16 in their suitcase).

No matter how much they beat him, though, Golgo sticks to his story that he’s only in Johannesburg as a businessman looking fr suppliers for his machine parts exporting venture. The integrators don’t believe him though, and one of them says they should ask their boss, General Cabec, what to do with their prisoner, which elicits laugh number six from Golgo.

However, the hitman hero’s customary fufufu is truncated to just fufu, which should tip readers off to it being a trick. Taking advantage of his captors’ racial prejudices, he reminds that that their real boss is the country’s newly elected black president, and taunts them with “Don’t you feel embarrassed to be white men who’re outranked by a black man?” Though Golgo (whose own race is repeatedly described as “indeterminate, possibly Japanese”) doesn’t personally feel that way, this is a calculated jab to enrage the guards and keep them off balance, and their predictably enraged response ends up giving him the opportunity he needs to escape.

And that, so far, is the last time anyone has seen Golgo 13 laugh, putting his current total at six laughs followed by a stony streak at 93 volumes and counting. There are people alive today who were born, grew up, and started families of their own in the time since Golgo’s last laugh, but who knows, maybe Saito will shock everyone by making the series’ eventual finale a scene of Golgo giving a big old belly laugh where there’s no one to hear him, since he’s assassinated everyone else in the world.

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