Hit anime/manga is being adapted into live-action in Japan for the first time.

Netflix has shown an impressive amount of confidence in concept of adapting anime to live-action. Even after its take on Cowboy Bebop fizzled out, the streaming giant is still working on adaptations of One Piece, Gundam, and Yu Yu Hakusho, and it’s even making room on its plate for one more live-action version of a hit anime series from yesteryear: City Hunter.

Originating as a manga by creator Tsukasa Hojo that ran in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1985 to 1991, City Hunter is the story of Ryo Saeba, a Tokyo based “sweeper,” a sort of combination bodyguard/private investigator. In 1987 City Hunter was adapted into an anime TV series that ran for over 100 episodes, and the animated franchise went on to multiple OVA and movie installments, with the most recent coming in 2019 and another greenlit earlier this year.

In other words, Ryo is one of the most prodigious anime characters of all time, especially since he’s been portrayed by the same voice actor, Akira Kamiya, in all of his anime appearances. It’s an almost impossibly big role to fill, but Netflix believes it’s found the man for the job with Ryohei Suzuki.

▼ Ryohei Suzuki, in costume as Ryo Saeba

The 39-year-old Suzuki has several anime-to-live-action films on his acting resume, having played the male lead in the Hentai Kamen series, My Love Story, and Tokyo Tribe, as well as appearances in Higanjima and Gatchaman. Suzuki called taking on the role of Ryo “a great responsibility” and pledged to give his all in bringing the character’s “cool, romantic, idiotic, and mokkori” aspects to the screen (“mokkori” being the sound of the surge of energy Ryo gets at the feeling of sexual arousal, and a key component of his status as one of anime’s most unabashed horndogs).

Long-time fans of the City Hunter anime might notice that Suzuki isn’t wearing Ryo’s customary pale blue sport coat, but even longer-time fans of the franchise will note, as Netflix itself does, that he’s dressed in the long coat that Ryo wore often in the manga, though only sparingly in the anime.

While Netflix sometimes shifts the setting and production of its anime-to-live-action adaptations outside of their original country of origin, City Hunter is going to be made in Japan, with the company promising on-site filming in Shinjuku, the part of Tokyo where Ryo plies his trade (though events often take him outside the city by the time his adventures are done). The time period, though, is being moved up to the modern day, and “in keeping with that, there will be slight updates to the characters,” Netflix says.

Suzuki is actually the third, fourth, or fifth actor to portray Ryo in live-action, depending on exactly how you’re counting. Jackie Chan starred in a 1993 Hong Kong-produced City Hunter movie, a very loose adaptation of the source material. In 2011 came a Korean City Hunter TV drama, sometimes called City Hunter in Seoul, an even looser adaptation with the lead character changed from Ryo Saeba to Lee Yoon-sung. Next came the Angel Heart Japanese TV drama in 2015, based on Hojo’s City Hunter spinoff with Ryo living in a parallel continuity from the original series. Finally, in 2019 Nicky Larson et le parfum de Cupidon was released in France, a live-action adaptation of the country’s heavily localized version of the City Hunter anime.

▼ Ryo was played by Takaya Kamikawa in the Angel Heart TV series.

Still, Netflix’s version will be the first-ever made-in-Japan live-action City Hunter. “Our goal is to utilize the actual Shinjuku location and unique nuances of the Japanese language present in the original work to adapt it to live-action in a manner that can only be done in Japan,” the company says, and reactions from Japanese users to the announceent tweet have been decidedly positive regarding its choice of leading man.

“Nice casting!”
“Yep. He looks totally natural as Ryo.”
“Yeah, I think he can pull it off.”
“Ryohei Suzuki is almost too perfect as Ryo Saeba! Expecting good picks for the rest of the cast too.”
“I’ve been thinking about who could play a live-action Ryo since I was in elementary school, and I didn’t think anyone could make it work…but I think Suzuki can.”

Netflix’s live-action City Hunter is slated for worldwide release in 2024.

Sources: Netflix, Twitter/@NetflixJP
Top image: Netflix
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