The King of Fighters: Destiny Review

AKA: Quánhuáng Mìngyùn
Genre: Action/Adventure/Martial Arts
Year Released: 2017-2018
Distributor: SNK Playmore
Origin: China/Japan/Malaysia
Running Time: ONA, 24 episodes, 10-20 minutes each
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture, The King of Fighters: Another Day, The King of Fighters (Live-Action Remake), Upcoming King of Fighters: Destiny Sequels, The King of Fighters: Awaken (In production)
For Fans Of: Street Fighter II V, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Virtua Fighter, Shadow Skill, Shura no Toki, Baki the Grappler, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Battle Arena Toshinden, Tokyo Underground
Notes:
-The Japanese dub was used for this review.

.-The whole series is streaming on SNK’s YouTube page.

-WARNING! Spoilers will be mentioned. Those unfamiliar with KOF lore be warned!
Fun Facts:
-This iteration of Mai Shiranui is played in the Japanese dub by Ami Koshimizu. She is also known for voicing Tenma from School Rumble, Ryuko from Kill la Kill, and is the current voice actress for Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter in the Sailor Moon Crystal remake.

-One of the animation studios who worked on KOF: Destiny is Animonsta based in Cyberjaya, Malaysia. They’re famous for animating the BoBoiBoy series and Papa & Pipi.

-Terry Bogard is the only SNK character to be featured in a Super Smash Brothers game with his appearance in Ultimate.

-Spot the Analogs: I haven’t used this feature since Kurogane Communication. SNK is clearly influenced by anime and Benimaru Nikaido is actually based on Polnareff from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Also, Choi Bounge was meant to be a vertically challenged half-parody of Freddy Kruger.

-The King of Fighters series was actually meant to be a crossover of different SNK games with new characters mixed in. The games in this particular universe involve Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Psycho Soliders, and Ikari Warriors to name a few.

-The martial art that Geese Howard uses is Aiki-jiujutsu which explains why a lot of his move set revolves around reversals when he’s not shooting fireballs. No, that’s not a dress with legs, that’s a hakama which is a traditional outfit in that martial art as well as Aikido. Another video game character who is a practitioner of that martial art is Aoi from the Virtua Fighter series. Also, Geese got to crossover as a character in Tekken 7.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: When King, Mai, and Yuri decide their name of the Queens Team, they proclaim that women run the world. Is anyone sure the name was an homage to Queen Bey and listened to “Girls (Run the World)” ? Hearing the city being called South Town does remind me of a certain P. O. D. song. One of the members of the American Sports Team is the boxer Heavy D! (Yes, there’s an exclamation point in his name). I’m surprised the rapper’s estate didn’t sue SNK, but okay…

Things can come full circle in Iridium Eye whether I have annual reviewing goals or not. I don’t know how many of my readers have been around since the inception of this blog, but the first anime review I ever wrote and posted on there was The King of Fighters: Another Day. Not many people checked it out because I didn’t have a readership then and I was just starting out. Compared to my more recent reviews, I didn’t think it was written as well, but I still have it up for posterity. Also, that was a negative review without getting into too much detail. It was a shame because I liked the King of Fighters games as a kid and owned two of the Dreamcast games (Dream Match ’99 and ’99 Evolution). Adapted works of video games can be hit or miss. Usually the best ones are serviceable while others can be quite horrible. It’s a shame because The King of Fighters can actually work as a series instead of just random shorts like in the Another Day ONA series.

Four years after posting that review, I found out that there was actually a series that came out months after giving my thoughts on Production I. G’s lazy attempt to adapt SNK’s premier fighting game series into an anime. I guess it’s as good a time as any to give another adaptation a shot.

Before I start this review, I know some anibloggers are going to make an obvious joke with the video game company and distributor of this anime. I’m going to stop that joke right there. The initialism means Shin Nihon Kikaku and not Shingeki no Kyojin (that’s Attack on Titan for those that only know the English title)! Got it?! Let’s not get into any fandom rivalries over a video game company and some super-popular, yet ultraviolent anime.

The King of Fighters: Destiny takes place in multiple places around the world. The tournament of the same name is calling fighters from various countries. It’s an annual martial arts tournament with a giant cash prize, but there’s a twist for this tourney…it’s now a trios exhibition instead of just singles competition. The fighting tournament is funded by hotel tycoon/martial artist Geese Howard while also getting donations from the mysterious “R”. Geese is looking for the top fighters on the planet for his own nefarious purposes especially with his connection to the spirit of Orochi which has been sealed away centuries ago. The descendant of one of those who sealed Orochi is Kyo Kusanagi. Kyo, the silent Judoka powerhouse Goro Daimon and the narcissistic electrokinetic Benimaru Nikaido fly from Japan to South Town in America to take part in this tournament. Other teams show up such as the Queens Team consisting of all female fighters, Psycho Soliders Team which consists of two young adult psychic fighters lead by an elderly martial artist, the Ikari Team which is a special ops military group, and notably the Fatal Fury Team consisting of brothers Terry and Andy Bogard as well as their Muay Thai practitioner friend Joe Higashi. The Bogards have a major bone to pick with Geese since he killed their father during their teenage years and they vow to avenge him. How will these teams fare in this giant tournament as they get caught up in a major criminal scandal behind the scenes.

If there’s one thing that KOF succeeds at is that the fighting game franchise actually has a story and not all of it involves a big fighting tournament. The King of Fighters: Destiny does get this right although in some ways I didn’t expect. The storyline is actually easy to follow and there’s time to spotlight so many of the different characters in this series. If this is one’s first experience with anything from KOF, then Destiny would be a decent short watch. There was a good explanation with the characters and they actually show the different dynamics with the teams as well as there being actual personality shown. The fight scenes themselves were quite engaging. Yes, I won’t deny the overt wuxia influence with the camera angles, slow-mo moments, and high-flying action going on with all the curly mustache aerial fighting (Oops! I should be talking about KOF, not Marvel Vs. Capcom!), but they certainly weren’t boring. The CGI quality certainly improves during those moments. It would be too easy to have just Kyo and Terry to get all the glory, but the other characters get their own time to shine in different fights in and outside the tournament which is good. At the same time, no one is invincible which is a huge plus because they could’ve easily given made Kyo and Terry into the SNK versions of Goku and Vegeta in terms of exposure as well as God Mode Stu status, if that makes sense. There was also a healthy balance between SNK in-jokes as well as original material. For example, Billy Kane’s jacket says “Real Bout: The Future Is Now” which is a dual reference to one of the Fatal Fury sequels as well as SNK’s slogan. They don’t overdo them and new fans could easily figure them out. Unlike Another Day where it was just random stories thrown together, this does have a clear beginning, middle, and end (?), so one has to watch it from the first to last episode.

The King of Fighters: Destiny loses a few rounds. The CGI is hit or miss. The fight scenes look great with this animation style, but the normal talking scenes just feel stiff and the hair textures can get janky. The designs range from okay to just weird. I mean, why does Lucky Glauber look like a CGI cartoon version of Tyler the Creator? The animation in the side story episodes is lackluster. While the backstories themselves added a lot to the story, they were lazily animated with a painting type texture. Basically, they looked like motion comics at best or like those old VHS “animated” (I use that term loosely) of children stories at worst. The short episode length makes the pacing rushed and it ended up being a giant arc to a longer story that has yet to be animated. As far as the presentation of the characters are concerned, I surmised that this was an updated take on The King of Fighters ’94, but some things didn’t make sense. Why is it just Mature by herself while Vice is nowhere to be seen? They were always together as they were henchwomen in the games. Anyone who has played a KOF game should know that “R” is Rugal Bernstein. Also, what was up with that blonde kid in one episode who pretends that Terry is his father? Am I the only person who thinks that was a younger version of Rock Howard of Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves fame as well as the later KOF installments? He has the blonde hair, red eyes, and that star on his shirt looks like the one on his signature jacket. After some research, it actually was him. Called it! Why did they drop that storyline when he is literally Geese’s son and would be mentored by Terry as he got older. Let’s go back to Geese Howard. I don’t care that he is one of the top SNK baddies in the games and the different anime he’s been in, he has the stupidest names ever. Who thought it was a good idea to give this fearsome character the name of a honking bird? Thank you, Fiddletwix for noticing that, too! I also have to ask this question even though this involves a major spoiler for Destiny: WHY IS IORI YAGAMI ONLY LIMITED TO JUST A CAMEO IN THE LAST EPISODE?!? I’m sorry, but Iori is such a major rival character to Kyo and the relegation to him to being shown for a few seconds is mind-numbing. Shoot, even Another Day with all it’s severe flaws at least gave him a decent amount of time as well as fighting against Kyo. His omission really wasted potential in the storytelling (Orochi Arc or not). Iori not being in a KOF series is like a Thor movie without Loki or Hikaru no Go without Akira Toya playing a part of the plot. Do you see where I’m getting at? Those are rivalries that play a major part of the story and characters even if they don’t interact all the time.

Destiny is better than Another Day, but I wouldn’t call this an excellent series. The CGI production had me feeling ambivalent with the various ups and downs in production. It is accessible to new fans and could appeal to older fans, but the latter will poke holes in some of the storylines or missing characters. Parts of it felt generic with the music and storytelling going on. The fact that it ends with a major cliffhanger with the rest of the series yet to be animated can be a dealbreaker. The King of Fighters: Destiny isn’t bad by any means, but there was a good amount of wasted potential. However, I can see fans of shonen fighting anime to get a kick out of this (no pun intended).

Adjustable Point Scores:
-Add 1-2 points if you’re a die-hard SNK or KOF fan.
-Add 1 point if you love fighting and martial arts anime.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want perfect CGI animation.
-Subtract 1-3 points if you want a complete story presented.

Pros:
-Fun fight scenes
-Gives multiple characters the spotlight
-Accessible to new and old fans alike to watch

Cons:
-CGI inconsistencies and lazy 2D “animation” during side story episodes
-Missing story and characterization opportunities (The Iori issue is a HUGE one)
-Generic soundtrack

Final Score: 6/10 points

Content Advisory: The King of Fighters: Destiny should be okay for teens, but the content is more intense than the video games at times. The fights can get bloody and some characters die onscreen. There’s sexual innuendo which gets very sketchy like some jokes about Yuri Sakazaki being called a “Lolita”. Thank God, she beats up those who call her that to her face (Side Note: Yuri is confirmed to be in her early 20s in the KOF series). It gets intense with an attempted rape scene with one of Geese’s goons trying to take advantage of Angelina before Terry barges in to beat him up. There’s fanservice with most of it being provided by Mai Shiranui (Duh!) who might as well be the Jessica Rabbit of SNK, if you really think about it. The language is stronger in this anime compared to the video games which did surprise me.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The King of Fighters: Destiny is property of SNK Playmore. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of SNK Playmore.

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