Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture Anime Review
THE MOTION PICTURE 餓狼伝説
The Motion Picture Garou Densetsu
The Motion Picture Legend of the Hungry Wolf
US Release By
Supernatural Action Adventure
An ancient legend tells of a suit of armor that gave the wearer the power of Mars, the god of War himself. The previous wearer was defeated and pieces of the armor scattered to the ends of the earth, but it seems that now someone is gathering those pieces with the intent of conquering the world. Terry, Andy, and Joe all get sucked into this plot when a beautiful girl named Sulia comes to them for help in stopping this menace to humanity. But their opponent already has several pieces of the armor, and if he completes the suit before they can stop him, what can even the best street fighters in the world do to stop a god?
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Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is a fundamentally well made and thoroughly entertaining movie. Although it's based on a game and the story follows two OAVs, don't let that turn you off--you don't need any backstory to enjoy the movie, and it's far more of a grand-scale adventure story than a street-fighting action movie. The story is solid, the characters more than your standard musclehead stereotypes, and it's an all-around attractive movie. The only real down side is the very end, which is something of a cop-out and far too traditional for a movie that stretches the boundaries of its genre in so many ways.
Still, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is a fine adventure movie with a little bit of everything--interesting, fun, and surprisingly realistic characters, good art, enough fighting to go around, and a solid, interesting story Not just for fans of fighting games, this is one comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good adventurous yarn.
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Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is a good movie. Not great, or a wildly creative, or an artistic achievement of any sort, but fundamentally well made and thoroughly entertaining.
I was wary about a movie that's both based on a fighting game and continues the plot of two OAVs. Fear not; Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture neatly completes this sort-of-trilogy, but knowledge of the OAVs or games is not a prerequisite to enjoying the movie. As with most fighting-game-based anime a few characters come and go rather abruptly, but it's otherwise quite a bit different from its game-derived kin, and makes a perfectly good stand-alone movie.
The story is remarkably well constructed--it flows coherently from one scene (and location--they sure get around) to the next. As long as you're willing to overlook a few thin spots in the plot and watch with a healthy suspension of disbelief, it's got a little of everything: A sweet romance, a bit of humor, exciting action, a general sense of tension, and lots of Indiana Jones-esque travel and adventure. Actually, Indy may not have had magical powers, but the legendary tie-ins certainly brought a certain archeologist to mind, as did the more-than-just-archeology (or streetfighting, in this case) climax.
As that implies, the story in this movie is well beyond the scope of the street fights of its predecessors--we're dealing with gods, not brawlers. If you're willing to accept that, it pulls off the scale quite well. The supernatural scale of the story also indirectly addresses the fact that every fighting game seems to have lots of folks who can shoot fireballs from their hands or whirlwinds from their feet. For once they have a chance to use those skills for something other than a brawl in a warehouse.
Impressively, and in keeping with the down-to-earth theme of the OAVs, although the quest is full of mystic arts and the stuff of legends, the earthy personalities keep everything well out of the realm of mystic babble or over-serious martial-arts mumbo-jumbo. The only time I thought the mix of supernatural powers and regular-folk personalities didn't work was at the end, and I would have liked a little more explanation of the good guys' mystic abilities (the bad guy certainly gets enough backstory).
The down-to-earth characters are more than just an anchor for the plot. Particularly in the case of Terry and his inner turmoil, they feel surprisingly real given the genre. There are still several more-or-less caricatures, but on average they go a step beyond simple streetfighting stereotypes ("The bad man killed my father, girlfriend, etc."), and flirt with actual depth. I particularly liked the fun, realistic feel of the camaraderie between some of the guys.
There's remarkably little to complain about in this movie, so long as you're willing to accept the premise. The emphasis on exploration and character development will probably put off some fighting game fans, but it makes the movie much fuller than it would have been as a straight action flick. What action there is is quite good.
I do have a few comments that will only make sense if you've seen the movie (and may spoil it), so skip this paragraph and the next one if you haven't. First of all, I was a little put off by the huge showdown at the end. A big heroic showdown is inevitable, but why exactly this street brawler (supernaturally trained and supported by Sulia though he may have been) could go toe to toe with a god eluded me. There's also one of those annoying "all-or-nothing punch" finales. In another spoiler, it's interesting that in the Japanese version there are no direct hints about Sulia's fate, where in the dub Julia has a line ("...even if you get hurt again") that directly foreshadows it. That minor adjustment changes the mood of the plot quite a bit...
Which brings me to my second major-spoiler complaint: That adjustment was a good idea. The fact that Sulia's death was never directly foreshadowed (in the sub) but seemed sort of preordained from the beginning really annoyed me. You could argue that the lack of set-up gave her death more impact, but I call it weak storytelling. After killing Terry's love in the first OAV (which was fine), and spending the second OAV in mourning, this movie is a tale of redemption, given even more impact by being the conclusion of an ongoing story. Yet, after taking the whole movie to develop Terry's character into something more than the classic "lone wolf" and dig him out of his hole, he gets tossed back in. This reeks of copout. In an ongoing series, it's a given that the romantic interest either dies or leaves at the end. But this is a movie, not to mention the final animated Fatal Fury incarnation, so there was an opportunity to do something brave and break the cliche. Instead, it's a classic adventure story with an end better suited for an episode of a TV series. On a side note, it's also annoying that after all Sulia's work to save her brother, and making the ultimate sacrifice for him, he promptly gets fried--because of course the audience needs to see the bad guy get punished, even if it wasn't really his fault.
Back to the general comments. Visually, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is just as solid as the rest of the production. The animation is uniformly good--the character animation is nice, and the rarified fight sequences are good stuff. The art is nice and the character designs are attractive and relatively original, although it's a bit hard for the uninitiated to distinguish between the main guys when they aren't dressed up. My only complaint is how... "perky," shall we say, a couple of the female characters are. The gratuitous cleavage seemed unnecessarily low-brow in contrast to the restraint elsewhere.
The acting is quite good in both languages. The Japanese cast does a very good job throughout, with Sulia being of particular note--gentle, sweet, and believable. About the only one who isn't exceptional is Laocorn; he's not bad, just stereotypical as the skinny megalomaniac. In English, the acting is uniformly good, and most of the casting is great--some of the accents on the minor characters add variety and enhance the international flavor. Unfortunately, Laocorn again is a problem--he sounds too young and prim. Sulia is the exact opposite; she sounds a little too old, and her voice is just too strong and confident-sounding to fit the rather fragile character. It's really a pity, too, because she was acted extremely well. Even the scriptwriting is good, in both the spoken English (which includes a few minor plot changes) and the subtitles.
The background score is classic adventure movie stuff, and not particularly notable. The use of sound, on the other hand, makes up for it--effective use of moments of silence, heartbeats, and other sound effects to enhance the mood.
Summing up, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is a fine adventure movie with a little bit of everything. Although it concludes the trilogy started in the previous two OAVs, seeing them isn't a prerequisite, nor is familiarity with the games. With interesting, fun, and surprisingly realistic characters, good art, enough action to go around, and a solid, interesting story, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture is well-constructed and just plain entertaining. Not just for fans of fighting games, this is one comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoys a good adventurous yarn.
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Obviously, it has lots in common with the two other Fatal Fury OAVs, and it also has a plenty in common with Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie and even more with Street Fighter Alpha.
Notes and Trivia
The story follows the plot of the previous two OAVs, completing the trilogy.
Although The Motion Picture is based on SNK's series of fighting games for the Neo Geo, the plot deviates considerably from those games, unlike the OAVs.
US DVD Review
The joint VIZ-Pioneer DVD is a quality disc. It features a nice video transfer (though sadly letterboxed instead of anamorphic), and above-average audio--four channels in Japanese, two in English. Extra features include a brief introduction to each of the characters, a selection of character sketches, and a short synopsis of the two OAVs. The menus also provide the casts (of both languages) and crew of the production.
Not for kids on account of some scattered nudity and general violence, but not usually gratuitous. VIZ calls it 13-up, but I'd say 16-up is more appropriate.
Violence: 3 - Lots of fighting, some of it bloody.
Nudity: 2 - A shower scene, skimpy costumes, a flash here and there, and... Mai.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Never anything graphic, but generally mature themes.
Language: 2 - Not particularly strong.