Fatal Fury Review

AKA: Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf, Battle Fighters: Legend of the Hungry Wolf, Battle Fighters: Garou Densetsu
Genre: Action/Martial Arts
Year Released: 1992
Distributor: Discotek
Origin: Japan
Running Time: 45 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture, The King of Fighters: Another Day, The King of Fighters (Live-Action Remake), The King of Fighters: Destiny, Upcoming King of Fighters: Destiny Sequels, The King of Fighters: Awaken (In production)
For Fans Of: Street Fighter series, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Virtua Fighter, Shadow Skill, Shura no Toki, Baki the Grappler, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Battle Arena Toshinden, Tokyo Underground, Jujutsu Kaisen, Art of Fighting
Notes:
-The Japanese dub was used for this review.

-Fatal Fury is streaming on RetroCrush for free.

-This is the first of the Fatal Fury trilogy and there’s no need for prior knowledge of the games or other SNK anime to watch it.
Fun Facts:
-This is the debut anime adaptation of SNK’s Fatal Fury series. The first game was released on arcade in 1991 and was eventually ported onto Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and Super NES. Fatal Fury was created by Takashi Nishiyama who is also the creator of Street Fighter. Yes, someone made a major fighting series for both Capcom and SNK.

-The younger version of Terry Bogard was voiced by Tsutomu Kashiwakura in the Japanese version. Despite playing a heroic character, Kashiwakura has also voiced Blue Sapphire from Sailor Moon S, Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Harry MacDougall from Outlaw Star. Sweet dreams, Terry fans!

-The soundtrack was handled by Toshio Matsuda. He has worked on several series such as Ai Yori Aoshi, Mushi-Shi, but his most famous work by far is Naruto. Fatal Fury was actually his debut work as an anime composer.

-Studio Comet animated Fatal Fury. You might have seen some of their other works such as School Rumble, Initial D (the first season), and Kirby: Right Back At Ya just to name a few.

-Lily McGuire is an example of a fully original character ascending to the main canon. She appears in the background of the Mexico stage in The King of Fighters ’94. Okay, she’s not on the level of Harley Quinn or Ho-Oh in terms of a new character being “official”, but that was something definitely worth noting.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Geese Howard in the beginning part of the story looks like an unmasked version of Vega from Street Fighter with his long blond locks. Was that a potshot against Capcom since Nishiyama was an ex-employee there? Raiden (pronounced RYE-den) debuted here and the original game before some lightning-controlling character with the same name albeit pronounced differently existed a year after the first Fatal Fury game. Lily in both the Japanese and English dub is played by someone who voiced Kasumi from Ranma 1/2 (Kikuko Inoue and Willow Johnson respectively). After the backstory where the Bogard brothers witness their father murdered by him, Geese in the present-day has a vertical wound over his left eye! This is the 2nd anime I’ve seen where a villain with a scar over his left eye kills a main character’s parent after Ringing Bell and this iteration of Geese killed someone’s father two years before some feline made it cool. Come on, you honestly think I wouldn’t bring up that fact? You’re absolutely welcome, everyone!

I have been struggling to find the time to watch something whenever I have a review ready for each Saturday. My schedule has been very busy for months now and that’s not counting other things that have been going on with my life. I resorted to RetroCrush for some free legally streaming anime to check out and was trying to get through a quickie watch. For some familiarity, I went back to the works associated with SNK since many of their games and anime adaptations take place in the same universe. No, I wasn’t thinking of a potential full circle thing when you consider that the first anime I ever reviewed was The King of Fighters: Another Day or how Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews and I covered Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture. This might actually be going backward because The Motion Picture was the last part of this trilogy although one can watch it independently. I decided to take on the inaugural Fatal Fury movie to get something done.

Round 1, fight!

Fatal Fury is a story involving the Bogard brothers Terry and Andy who are martial artists in the city of South Town. Ten years ago when they were children, they were with their master Tung Fu Rue in the park and their father Jeff. Their dad was busy interacting with homeless children who were begging him for money and one of them was a flower girl. Meanwhile, a bunch of hitmen get out of the car to assassinate Jeff and one of them succeeds in stabbing him. The children were actually part of a ruse to distract and partially restrain him before the lead mobster Geese Howard comes in to make the final blow right as Terry and Andy watch. This enrages the Bogart brothers and they vow to avenge their father’s death. Master Tung forbids them from being too hasty and tells them to come back on the tenth anniversary of Jeff’s murder after doing intensive training. Fast forward a decade later, Terry returns to his hometown to enact this vengeful plan while also getting into fights along the way. He meets up with a woman by the name of Lily McGuire who tosses a rose to a man to get a free night out with her which he catches. Terry then meets up with Muay Thai former bantamweight champion Joe Higashi who came all the way from Japan to take part in the King of Fighters tournament and is actually friends with Andy who actually defeated him in only three seconds. The King of Fighters Tournament is bankrolled by Geese who uses this as a ploy to get the Bogart brothers together and kill them while his team is getting information from all the martial artists in the world including Master Tung since he was a witness to Jeff’s murder and has the secret technique called the Senpu Ken (hurricane punch). Tung is willing to teach that devastating move to only one person which is a given will be one of the Bogarts. Will this quest to avenge their father’s death be fruitful or will this be in vain?

SNK has a plethora of characters and games that are interconnected thanks to The King of Fighters, but this was an accessible entry for anyone who doesn’t know anything about Fatal Fury much less the KOF franchise at large. I’m not asking for anything avant-garde or complex, but the situation will be easy for anyone to get into whether they know about the games or not which is something I applaud. It doesn’t have a large cast and it’s easy to know who is who with the pre-established characters. Brushing aside how Terry Bogard is clearly part of the SNK Breakfast Club (how many other SNK characters are in a Smash Bros. game? I rest my case) it’s good to know why they are fighting and what their goals are. Even though I’ve covered the same storyline of the Bogards avenging their father’s murder with The King of Fighters: Destiny, this was a different take despite the same culprit (Geese Howard) and more or less the same endgame involved. The pacing worked very well with a clear beginning, middle, and end without feeling like it was dragging. 45 minutes felt like a decent time and it worked within that particular timeframe, so it was decently spent. Fatal Fury does work as a short film, but I can see how it could work as a short TV series or an OVA with only minor changes. Masami Obari is certainly a divisive figure with his other works, but I can say it’s nowhere near as sexual or fanservice-y compared to the rest of his portfolio and it’s not just because SNK Jessica Rabbit…I mean, Mai Shiranui isn’t in this movie. That negative aspect of Obari’s work isn’t that big of a deal here. I will also say that it was a sigh of relief, especially for a 90s animated action work where the heroes don’t look like steroid freaks. They look decently muscular and athletic instead of looking like anime versions of G. I. Joe Extreme characters. Something I noticed in passing with the characters was how they aren’t that big with the exception of Geese being taller or Raiden’s physique (dang, he lost a good amount of body fat compared to the video games even though he’s still burly). Joe Higashi mentions that he was a former bantamweight Muay Thai champion which is really jarring both in and out of the context of these types of works. According to the World Boxing Council’s Muay Thai weight classes, a bantamweight is a fighter between 115-118 pounds. Shoot, I weigh more than that and I’m a skinny guy myself! Keep in mind, that the lighter bantamweights in UFC are 126 pounds and Muay Thai fighters in the heavyweight division weigh 175 pounds in that sport instead of MMA. That was something that caught my eye since Joe is able to beat up larger opponents in a believable way. If you want your action movies and shows to be consisting of what Big E would describe as big meaty men slapping—YOU GET THE POINT! Then, you need to slap yourself and stop getting aroused by bodybuilder magazines in your alone time. Those were some things I liked about Fatal Fury.

This SNK movie does hold on to multiple KOs against it. For starters, the animation was mediocre and dated. I can instantly tell this was made in the early 90s with the aesthetics. Not only that but there was too much color aliasing that could’ve been fixed assuming the masters weren’t damaged and it was a low-budget work. There’s an unwritten rule in action anime that even if most scenes look crappy, at least have the decency to make your fight scenes look good at a minimum. The fight scenes were over-reliant on speed lines, the triplet repeat still shot effect that was super common in lots of 90s fight scenes with shonen and even shojo works (Sailor Moon was guilty of this, too), and photomontages during the tournament storyline which was super lazy. Dragon Ball Z took a lot of shortcuts with their animation, but even they had better and more memorable fight scenes than this! The animation gets off-model and derpy. Why does Andy have bluish-gray hair when he’s a blonde everywhere else? Why the heck is Billy Kane not wearing his Union Jack bandana and sporting overalls with no shirt? The music sounded dated and relied on stereotypical martial arts musical tropes. The ending theme was an adult contemporary ballad so cheesy that even Celine Dion would laugh at it. Also, to all you sub purists out there, just because you’re watching it in the original language doesn’t mean the voice acting and dialogue are going to be good. Joe Higashi sounded off, saying nothing about how his voice was an octave or two lower than in the video games and other adaptations. He was voiced by a non-actor with K-1 heavyweight martial artist Masaaki Satake who was just phoning it in. The dialogue was so corny and there is someone insulting another person by saying “You slime!”. Dude, try harder! I don’t need to be reminded of something the Green Goblin said in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, people. While it was a simplistic story, the plot twists were so predictable. It’s obvious Lily was the flower girl in the backstory (HOW SUBTLE!), we know Terry was going to inherit the Senpu Ken technique because #SNKBreakfastClubStatus, and the heroes were going to save the day. While there doesn’t need to be subtlety, things were too on the nose even for a movie like this. The themes of avenging are too direct and consequence-free like an American action flick, Lily was damsel in distress fodder, and Geese laughed evilly so much that even Disney villains would have to tell him to stop. Yes, I know the obvious irony talking about this version of Geese given one of my fun facts above, but my point stands. I’m not a fan of a lot of obviously evil villains. Don’t try to insult my intelligence even if you’re making something I can turn my brain off to.

The first Fatal Fury movie is subpar even if it was thankfully short. While it was easily accessible with knowing the characters and part of the KOF universe (despite KOF not existing until a couple of years later), this was still a shallow video game adaptation. The animation was a joke and cliched with the fight scenes which is just sad. The music was near insta-dated and the plot twists are things that children could calculate if they were allowed to watch this. If you want to know more about Fatal Fury, then play the games or some of the KOF stuff. The King of Fighters: Destiny wasn’t perfect, but it handled the Bogards’ storyline much better than this. I’d say pass on this one. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as the Street Fighter Alpha movies, but it’s still corny and unintentionally funny in ways.

I really need to stop watching anime involving villains with scarred left eyes (especially those that kill a main character’s parent) for a while even if this example was something I noticed during my viewing experience. Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go to a local arcade that has a Fatal Fury cabinet to make sure I’m not rusty with my fighting game skills.

Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-3 points if you’re an SNK fan.
-Add 1-2 points if you like martial arts anime.
-Subtract 1 point if you prefer higher-budget action anime.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you need more effort in storytelling.

Pros:
-Accessible entry in finding out about the Fatal Fury characters as well as some SNK works
-Great pacing despite the short time
-Normal body types and avoiding people looking like they aren’t gassed on HGH or PEDs

Cons:
-Lackluster animation and disappointing fight scenes
-Lame soundtrack
-The storytelling is by-the-numbers shonen fighting fare without the flavor or any charm

Final Score: 3/10 points

Content Advisory: Fatal Fury got a 13+ rating which makes sense. The violence gets intense, but nothing gets all that gory. However, there are a few deaths besides that of Jeff Bogard. Lily shows up in a revealing outfit when she’s first seen as an adult, but she still has more clothes on than Mai, that’s for sure. The language isn’t that bad and there’s minimal drinking going on. Some topics covered include homelessness and Lily might possibly have prostituted herself with Geese’s men offscreen.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Fatal Fury is the property of Discotek. The VHS cover is from Film Affinity and is the property of Viz.

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