Crying Freeman (クライング フリーマン Kuraingu Furiiman?) is a manga by Kazuo Koike & Ryoichi Ikegami about an assassin who sheds tears after he kills his targets. Crying Freeman follows the titular assassin, a Japanese man hypnotized and trained by the Chinese mafia (called the "108 Dragons") to serve as its agent, and covered in a vast and complex dragon tattoo. A quiet but complicated killer, Freeman reflexively sheds tears after each and every killing.
The manga was first published in North America by Viz Media in comic book form. Viz later republished the series in graphic novel form in two versions: an initial set and longer volumes that combined the initial volumes together, dubbed "Perfect Collections." Both versions are now out of print. From 2006 to 2007, the manga was republished by Dark Horse Comics in five volumes.
In 1988, the story was adapted into an anime OVA by Toei Animation. Crying Freeman has also been adapted into three live action films: two in Hong Kong in Cantonese and an English-language adaptation in Canada.
Yō Hinomura, a Japanese potter, comes into the possession of some film showing an assassination by an agent of the 108 Dragons, a powerful Chinese mafia. When he refuses to turn the film over to them, they kidnap him. Hypnotized, he is trained as an assassin for them and his body is tattooed with dragons. He is given the codename "Crying Freeman," because he cries after a kill and longs to be free.
One of his killings is witnessed by Emu Hino, a lonely and beautiful Japanese artist. Knowing he must kill her, she paints his portrait and waits for him to come. When he does so, she tells him that she is tired of being alone and wishes to end her life. She asks for a favor before he kills her - to make love to her, so that she will not die as a virgin. He grants her wish, but finds he cannot kill her and they fall in love. The killing she witnessed was of a yakuza boss, however, so the yakuza want to find her so that they can find the killer. One of the yakuza attempts to enter Emu's home and force her to disclose the name of the killer, critically injuring her. Freeman takes her to the hospital and tells her to meet him at Hinomura Kiln, where he intends to part with her. Instead, she accompanies him back to the 108 Dragons, where he tattoos her with tigers and they marry.
The heads of the 108 Dragons decide to name Freeman as their heir. He is given the Chinese name Lóng Tài-Yáng, and Emu is renamed Hǔ Qīng-Lán, as both pass the tests given to them. It proves not as easy as that, however, as they must contend with challenges to the leadership from Bái-Yá Shàn, the granddaughter of the leaders of the 108 Dragons, and attempts to destroy the Dragons from other underground organizations.
A powerful Chinese organized crime syndicate with thousands of followers and vast resources. For example, they are shown to possess extensive land holdings as well the Dragon Submarine, a nuclear submarine used by Freeman as transport to and from his missions, and five surface warships. The Dragons at the beginning of the story are led by Father Dragon and Mother Tiger, and have a council of elders known as the Ten Planets. Freeman and Emu later ascend to the leadership as Dragon Sun and Tiger Orchid.
An African revolutionary organization which uses terrorism and assassination to further its objectives, sometimes called African Tusk. They are ostensibly led by Jigon and his chief lieutenant Shikebaro, but Bugnug is their true leader. Askari comes into conflict with the 108 Dragons after Freeman and Ivory Fan thwart one of their attempted hijacks, and later attempt to assassinate him. After Freeman kills Shikebaro and Jigon and wins Bugnug over, many of its members desert and some of the remaining ones attempt to overthrow Bugnug. The 108 Dragons however suppress the revolt, leaving Bugnug in firm command and the Askari their allies.
An Italian organization of assassins, who view the 108 Dragons as their greatest rival. They make two attempts to kill Freeman a year after he began his training to become an assassin, first sending an agent to kill him, then bribing Shi Enju, the artist who did his dragon tattoos. Both attempts fail, and Freeman subsequently wipes out Camorra’s Hong Kong branch. They later back Ivory Fan in her attempt to seize the leadership of the 108 Dragons, but their leader Don Lomazzi (Don Carleone in Anime Version) is killed by Freeman, who had planned to lure him to his death.
A powerful yakuza gang, numbering 26,000. As the Hakushin Society did not participate in the drug trade and prohibited other yakuza gangs from doing so, their leader, Shudo Shimazaki, is assassinated by Freeman as part of the 108 Dragons’ bid to expand their drug smuggling operations into the Japanese market. They try to kidnap Emu Hino as she provides the only viable lead to both them and the police. Freeman later kills the second highest ranking member of the organization, Ryuji "The Blade" Hanada, as the latter had seen his face while attempting to kidnap Emu. This earned Freeman the enmity of Kimie Hanada, Ryuji's wife.
A cult led by the aged Naiji Kumaga numbering 100,000, which focuses on the worship of the bear and belief of oneself as a bear. They come across 1,000 Type 100 submachine guns in perfect condition, setting the stage for an attempt planned by Kumaga to stage a coup in Japan by using a clone of Freeman to manipulate the 108 Dragons.
Kidnappers Organization (K.O.)
A mercenary organization composed of former Green Berets and led by a woman named Nina Heaven. In their attempt to wipe out the 108 Dragons, K.O. kidnaps the family of the leader of Los Angeles' Chinatown to lure Freeman into their trap.
- Yō Hinomura (火野村 窯 Hinomura Yō?)/Crying Freeman/Lóng Tài-Yáng (龍太陽 "Dragon Sun")
- Voiced by: Toshio Furukawa (Japanese), Steve Bulen (English)
- Yo was the son of a famous potter and a rising pottery star himself. During a visit to America to showcase his works, a photographer hid secret pictures of the 108 Dragons in one of his pots. Yo found the photos and was asked by the Dragons to surrender them, but refused. As retribution, Father Dragon had him kidnapped and put under hypnosis to make him the perfect assassin, as he was considered the perfect candidate to lead the 108 Dragons.
- He was then trained by Mother Tiger in assassination techniques and martial arts. After his training was complete, he also received a giant dragon tattoo covering his body. Because he cries in remorse for his victims after he snaps out of his trance (it seems later to just become habit due to the fact that he willingly takes on missions), he earned the name Crying Freeman. Freeman possesses incredible agility and strength, and is considered the strongest man in the world. Each of his senses have been honed and sharpened and he is able to adapt to any situation. Initially shown to use guns, he comes to prefer daggers, which he can proficiently wield with both his hands and feet.
- In addition to being the strongest man in the world, Lóng Tài-Yáng is also one of the most handsome, and no woman has been able to resist his charms, which he takes full sexual advantage of after Emu Hino becomes his wife.
- Emu Hino (日野 絵霧 Hino Emu?)/Hǔ Qīng-Lán (虎清蘭 "Tiger Pure-Orchid")
- Voiced by: Chiharu Kataishi (Japanese), Edie Mirman (English)
- A young artist whose father had passed away, Emu Hino was once a rich girl whose wealth disappeared with his death. All that was left to her was the old family mansion. One day, she witnessed Freeman chasing and killing a Japanese crime boss in Hong Kong, after which she asked his name, to which he only replied "Yo". When she saw his tears after the murder, she was intrigued and immediately fell in love with him.
- Soon, she became witness to Freeman's murder of Shudo Shimazaki, the head of the Hakushin Society, which caused both the police and the yakuza to tail her. She returned home only to find that Freeman was waiting for her. Emu then requested that Yo take her virginity before killing her, to which he complied. Later, Yo could not bring himself to kill her as he had fallen in love with her, and the two eventually escaped to Hong Kong. At first, Mother Tiger disapproved of her, as she thought that Emu was weak, but Emu's strong will and resolve earned her the respect of the 108 Dragons. She was given the name Hǔ Qīng-Lán by Grandfather Dragon and married to Lóng Tài-Yáng. She had a giant tiger tattooed on her back and two cubs on her torso for the children that she and Yo could not have.
- In the middle of the series, Emu gained possession of the legendary cursed katana Muramasa from an assassin who targeted Freeman. She then went to Kowloon to master swordsmanship. During this period the Muramasa recognized her as its true owner. As one of the leaders of the 108 Dragons, Emu is more resourceful and clever than even her husband, and as fearless as he is in the face of opposition. The first true owner of the Muramasa, she is quite dangerous as a sword master.
- Hǔ Fēng-Líng (虎風鈴 "Tiger Wind Chime")
- Voiced by: Nobuyo Tsuda (Japanese), Catherine Battistone (English)
- Also known as Mother Tiger, she is the former female head of the 108 Dragons. She took on the task of training Freeman, honing him into the best assassin in the world and the strongest man alive. Like Emu Hino, she has a Tiger tattooed on her body, which signifies her position in the 108 Dragons. She has adopted Freeman as a son and Emu as a daughter-in-law. While skeptical of Emu at first, she came to recognize her strength. Grandmother Tiger had a son in violation of the 108 Dragons' rule that the leaders are sterilized to prevent them from having children, as the organization survives on individual talent and not on heritage or legacies. Mother Tiger came to regret her decision as her son became a cold-blooded killer even in his early youth and was exiled to a remote island.
- Bái Yá Shàn (白牙扇 "White Ivory Fan")
- Voiced by: Dump Matsumoto (Japanese), Barbara Goodson (English)
- The granddaughter of Father Dragon and Mother Tiger who challenges Freeman for the leadership of the Dragons shortly after his succession. She attempts a coup d'état immediately after Lóng Tài-Yáng's and Hǔ Qīng-Lán's wedding, kidnapping the latter as well as Father Dragon and Mother Tiger with the aid of Camora and Elder Mercury, one of the Ten Planets who was loyal to her father. She was defeated by Freeman and subsequently forgiven and accepted back into the Dragons, from then on becoming his faithful and devoted "little sister", acting as a personal maid and bodyguard for her older brother and his wife. A giant woman in both aspects of height and weight, Bái-Yá Shàn is practically invulnerable to most attacks, as she has survived multiple gunshot wounds. She often goes into missions naked, which is quite nauseating for her opponents. Her weapons of choice are two giant daggers, but she also likes to keep an automatic rifle handy.
- Bái-Yá Shàn is very emotional, openly crying in moments of fear, doubt, and sorrow; at times, she still seems rather like a little girl despite her age.
- Huáng Dé-Yuán (黄徳源) or Ko (Koh Tokugen (Streamline Dub))
- Voiced by: Ryusei Nakao (Japanese), Jeff Winkless (English)
- A member of 108 Dragons and assistant to Freeman on his missions, who first worked with him after his kidnapping and hypnosis. After Freeman forced him to assist in helping save a critically wounded Emu Hino, he realized that the two were meant for each other and defended Freeman's actions to Mother Tiger. After Freeman took over leadership of the 108 Dragons, Huáng Dé-Yuán became his right-hand man. He died from his wounds in fighting a Camora assassin who targeted Freeman out of revenge for his killing of Camora's leader.
- Bugnug (Anteater)/Dark Eyes
- Voiced by: Yoshiko Sakakibara (Japanese), Melanie MacQueen (English)
- The secret leader of the Askari, Bugnug is an exotic and muscular African beauty specializing in African throwing blades. She controls the organization through her lieutenants Jigon and Shikebaro, who are the ostensible leaders. After Freeman killed Jigon and Shikebaro, Bugnug launched a surprise attack on him. However, Freeman won her over in the middle of the fight, resulting in a truce and halt to the fighting between the 108 Dragons and Askari. Bugnug shares the same blood type as Freeman, and was his blood donor, helping save him from the wounds he had sustained in their fight. Freeman later helped her defeat a coup d'état in her organization against her, as well as avenging her rape at the hands of Oshu. Bugnug fell in love with him and Freeman gave her the name "Dark Eyes", although she knew that he was already married. Since then, the Askari have been a valuable ally to the 108 Dragons, and Bugnug occasionally assists Freeman on assassination missions.
- Ryuji "The Blade" Hanada
- Voiced by: Takaya Hashi (Japanese), Kerrigan Mahan (English)
- The second most powerful member of the Hakushin Society, after the Society's leader was assassinated by Freeman, Ryuji attempted to kidnap Emu with the tacit support of the police. He was wounded in the attempt by Freeman, but survived and managed to see his face. Freeman later returned to assassinate him.
- Kimie Hanada
- Voiced by: Masako Katsuki (Japanese), Catherine Battistone (English)
- The wife of Ryuji Hanada and the most powerful woman in the Hakushin Society hierarchy. Following Ryuji's death, she ensnares Detective Nitta by managing to get compromising photos of them together taken, securing his cooperation in her scheme to locate Emu and get revenge for Ryuji, although she and Nitta quickly become lovers. Kimie is usually dressed in a kimono and has a large tattoo of a Buddha that covers her back. She was nearly killed by Freeman, but he spared her when he forced her to promise that she would help erase his past as Yo Hinomura. Later on, she became a follower of Kumagaism and assisted its leader Naiji Kumaga in his plot to seize control of the 108 Dragons by creating a clone of Freeman. Tasked by Kumaga to sleep with Freeman in order to learn his sexual habits and patterns to then pass them on to the clone, she subsequently fell in love with him and betrayed Kumaga.
- Oshu Tohgoku
- Voiced by: Ryūzaburō Ōtomo (Japanese), Dean Wein (English)
- A championship pro wrestler, Oshu is a massive, powerful man, over two meters tall and strong enough to twist I-beams out of shape with his bare hands. He is not a formal yakuza member, but has very close ties to the Hakushin Society, as Ryuji Hanada and Shudo Shimazaki looked after him and supported his wrestling career, respectively. He thus bears a grudge against Freeman for their assassinations.
- It is implied that Oshu secretly assists the Hakushin Society with its killings, and fights with a large dagger designed in the sword breaker style, where one side of the weapon is inset with special serrated teeth that Oshu uses to entrap and break an opponent's blade. Oshu is also a member of Kumagaism, and was instrumental in Kumaga's plot to kidnap Freeman to clone him, nearly killing Bugnug after capturing and raping her. During Freeman's captivity, he came to develop respect for him, and did not reveal that Freeman had successfully converted Kimie to his side and was posing as the freeman clone. In a death match with Freeman, his superior size and strength were defeated by Freeman's agility. After Bugnug hit him with a thrown knife as the coup de grâce, Oshu asked that the 108 Dragons adopt his family before committing suicide.
Kidnappers Organization (K.O.)
- Nina Heaven
- Voiced by: Gara Takashima (Japanese), Wendee Lee (English)
- A blond-haired woman who leads the Kidnappers Organization. She first learned about Freeman a few years ago during one of his earlier assassinations at a hotel, where she worked as a receptionist and took photos of him during the hit. Ever since that day, she has been obsessed with Freeman and she uses K.O. to lure him in by kidnapping a prominent family in Los Angeles' Chinatown.
- 1. Portrait of a Killer
- 2. Shades of Death
- 3. The Killing Ring (Shades of Death Part II)
- 4. A Taste of Revenge
- 5. Abduction in Chinatown
- 6. Journey to Freedom
- In 1988, the manga was adapted into a six-part anime OVA series by Toei Animation. While the character designs are heavily based on Ikegami's artwork, the anime series uses abridged versions of the manga's storylines. Many of the more violent and graphic scenes of the manga, such as Bugnug's rape by Oshu, are severely truncated and censored in the anime. The Crying Freeman anime was first licensed in the U.S. by Streamline Pictures in 1994 in English-dubbed form, then on Region 1 DVD in 2002 by ADV Films with both English and Japanese dialogues with English subtitles. The series was also licensed in Europe by Manga Entertainment.
- There are two 1990 live-action films Hong Kong that were loosely based on Crying Freeman. The two movies were Dragon from Russia (紅場飛龍) directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung and Killer's Romance (浪漫殺手自由人) directed by Phillip Ko.
- In 1995, French director Christophe Gans directed a French and Canadian-produced film adaptation of Crying Freeman starring Mark Dacascos. It had a wide release in Canada, Europe and Asia, but was never shown in the United States.
- AnimeOnDVD.com - Graphic Novel Comparison Charts
- Portrait of a Killer at the Internet Movie Database
Shades of Death, Part 1 at the Internet Movie Database
Shades of Death, Part 2 at the Internet Movie Database
A Taste of Revenge at the Internet Movie Database
Abduction in Chinatown at the Internet Movie Database
The Guiding Light of Memory at the Internet Movie Database
- IMDb - Crying Freeman (1995)