Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture Anime Review
Ahh... Garou Densetsu! Definitely my favourite video-game based anime. Although the first part of the OAV was pretty mediocre, the second part was excellent, but it's this movie that really drives home the superiority of Fatal Fury.
Why do I like Fatal Fury? Is it because I'm a fan of SNK games, especially the Fatal Fury series? Not at all--I became a fan of their games because of this anime! So what is so appealing? Simple--character. The heroes of Fatal Fury have an immense amount of depth, personality and appeal, from hard-as-nails goofball Joe to the solemn Andy and the "bouncy" Mai. But nothing compares to the main character--Terry Bogard has to be one of my favourite anime and video game characters ever. From his excellent character design, to his simultaneously laid-back, competitive, and tender personality, to his stunning fighting abilities, Terry is a hero you can really love. He leaves "brick-in-a-headband" Ryu and other wannabe heroes for dead.
Of course, without a decent story, great characters have nothing much to do except beat people up. Fortunately, Fatal Fury: the Motion Picture really gives Terry and his friends an adventure worthy of them. An out-of-control demigod, a world-spanning race for a lost relic with the power to rule the world, love and loss and the god of war--this is a story with the kind of scope other martial arts anime can only dream about. Okay, there may be a few holes in it (why does Sulia react so strongly to Jamin?) and it may be touched by the curse of the cameo character which proliferates video game based anime (get out of there Geese--this isn't your movie!) but these are mere annoyances at worst.
The support cast is pretty good. Sulia is an excellent character--delicately vulnerable but not totally helpless, balancing love and duty, with a beautiful character design. As a villain, Laocorn doesn't hold a candle to Wolfgang Krauser, but he is still perfectly adequate, especially at the end when he goes into overdrive. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth to his character, though. Finally, his three henchmen have great designs, but lack a little in character. Jamin is the best of them, but has all the personality of a seam of coal--fortunately he at least has a fighter's code which substitutes to a small extent. Hauer certainly looks cool, but is too prone to making pompous speeches and, although he shows more character than Jamin, it's a very one-dimensional character. Finally, Panni appears to have more to her character than the other two (I suspect she was in love with Laocorn) but nothing much is done with this, and she gets less time in the front line than the other two. But they certainly make more than acceptable villains--this film doesn't really need every bad guy to be able to write an essay on why they do what they're doing.
I'm very happy with the romance between Terry and Sulia--it's much better paced, much more plausible and comes to a much better conclusion than his romance with Lilly in part 1--which, come to think of it, isn't saying much when you consider how poorly structured that was. When Terry claimed that his life lost all meaning the day Lilly died, I couldn't help but snort a little, considering that he only knew her for at most three days. But Terry's relationship with Sulia is a genuinely sweet and touching one, made more so by the fact that Sulia is helping heal Terry from the wound left in him when he lost Lilly (even if it was bad, it still happened). Also, I have to disagree with Makosuke-sama about the conclusion of this--anything else would have meant irreparably dislodging Terry's character, cop-out though it may have appeared.
As far as the other went they all got their go, although Joe remained largely a support character. I was glad that, unlike in Fatal Fury 2, Andy and Mai got in on the main plot rather than having their own little side story which was only remotely connected to the main story. This gives us our heroic team rather than a couple of bunches of good guys wandering around, making the story tighter than before.
Technically, Fatal Fury is solid but not stunning. Compared with Street Fighter 2, the detail of the animation just doesn't compare--this was a considerably lower budget film. Still, where the detail doesn't match up, the subject matter more than makes up for it, especially with the characters. Masami Obari's designs are extremely cool, especially the more extravagant ones such as Laocorn's three henchmen. Laocorn himself looked a little too young for a villain of his power, but his eyes gave him considerable presence--for one thing, one was silver, the other was gold. Sulia was just as beautiful and delicate as her role called for her to be. Among the heroes, Andy looked to have buffed up even more, while Joe hadn't changed a bit. Mai had grown a bit--outwards. If you thought she was foxy before, you haven't seen anything yet! Finally, there's Terry. I'm actually not sure about Terry--he seems to have almost thinned out a bit since The New Battle and almost appears to be turning into a bit of a bishounen like his brother. Fortunately, this seems to wear off as the film proceeds, leaving him as tough as ever while still retaining his good looks and charm.
The action scenes in Fatal Fury don't get off to a great start. Although the opening is impressive and Joe's fight is brief but cool, the standard of the animation seems to drop by half during Terry's battle with the masked men in Neo Geo Land. Kim's fight doesn't start too great either, but picks up for his finisher--fans of Kim in Fatal Fury or King of Fighters should be able to recognize his signature Desperation Move. As the film proceeds, the standard of the action improves until you get the the climax, which is frankly awesome. The last few battles are some of my favourites and well worth the trouble. Admittedly the emphasis seems to be on moves rather than skill, but the moves are very impressive and Terry uses quite a few more than he did before, including his Crack Shot and (briefly) his Rising Tackle. Andy can also really fight, and Mai and Joe aren't bad either. However, although Jamin, Hauer and Panni are impressive characters with impressive skills, they all seem to come to rather wimpy ends, which makes them something of a disappointment overall. But the ending really is worth hanging out for, for a taste of real superpowered fighting to rival Dragonball Z (well... not quite, but with considerably more style).
The soundtrack of Fatal Fury is pretty good, especially during the climax. However there are a few inappropriate tracks that show up during scenes which don't really suit them. Strangely, all these tracks actually appear to be tracks from Fatal Fury 2 which are being reused--the Terry/Kim fight music from that OAV is reused in Kim's battle in this film, which is far more serious and the music now doesn't fit any more. Even worse is when they reuse Mai's theme in the climatic battle with Panni and Hauer--the brass here is terrible. But the music in and around the climax creates a wonderful mood to frame the scene and punctuate the action. Best of all is the ending theme--"Hoake no Legend" (Japanese)/"Oh Angel!" (English). This is a great song in both languages--a personal favourite--and the lyrics are even good in English. Unfortunately, the English voices have lost ground following the rather impressive performances in Fatal Fury 2--Sulia is voiced by the same actress who did Akane in Ranma 1/2 and, as Makosuke said, she gives a good performance but just doesn't suit the role. Laocorn's actor gives an okay performance, but some lines just don't sound natural and he sometimes puts a beachbum twist on the ends of his sentences (especially when he says "Terry Beugeard," which I just couldn't stand). Worst of all, I think Mai has a new actress but whether she does or not her performance doesn't hold a candle to Fatal Fury 2. Fortunately Andy and Joe give better performances than ever before, especially Joe, but once again Terry is the real highlight--strong, laid back, a sense of humour, gentle when he needs to be, and fierce inn battle.
I really love this film. Although flawed in places it's brilliant as what it is--a strong, martial arts romance adventure. Essential for fans of the games or genre, this is a great film for ANY action fan and I highly recommend it. POWER GEYSER!