Pixel to Cel: “Fatal Fury – Double Impact” (1999)
A previous article here on The Splintering covered the uninhibited method of 90s video game marketing ads, and it got me thinking not only about the games of that decade, but animated renditions of those games from the time period.
Unsurprisingly, fighting games and beat ’em up side-scrollers come readily to mind, as colorful characters performing ultra violent moves on an equally colorful opponent, or opponents, leave strong impressions, making exciting material for TV or film adaptations. While some violent franchises strangely found their way into children’s cartoon fare, such as Double Dragon (1993-1994), and Mortal Kombat (1997), be they toned down (naturally) content wise from their original source material, the Japanese anime medium tended to hold closer to the mark, a great illustration of this being Fatal Fury.
Fatal Fury was brought to life from its Neo Geo roots (1991) in the form of OVAs (Original Video Animations), two of which we got state side as Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle. Both were later packaged together by Viz Media as Double Impact in 1999. With Masami Obari (Gravion) on board for character designs and animation direction for both outings, the men are built like pro wrestlers on the juice, and the women are built like playboy centerfolds.
It’s wonderfully 90s, and I’d have it no other way!
The first OVA is an origin story, briefly recounting Terry and Andy Bogard’s childhood where they witness the death of their adoptive father (Jeff Bogard) at the hands of Geese Howard, an avaricious man trained in the same arts as Jeff. However, Geese is trying to consolidate and control the secret techniques solely for himself. Seeking revenge, the brothers are told by master Tung Fu Rue (who taught both Jeff and Geese) to train themselves for the task of taking down Geese, and that when they come back to him in ten years, he will instruct only one of them to use the secret Hakkyokuseiken technique, a ki-driven tornado attack of sorts.
Terry is the POV character (for obvious reasons), and we follow his path for revenge, which intersects with his love interest Lily, who works for Geese; a champion Muay Thai Kickboxer named Joe Higashi who befriends Terry, and eventually Terry’s brother, Andy Bogard.
Having only an hour-long run time, Legend of the Hungry Wolf doesn’t have much time to sit and brood over itself. Everything speeds along, introducing the cast quickly, packing in numerous fights at the King Of Fighters tournament which features many of the original game’s opponents, the romancing of Lily, Lily’s self-sacrifice, her subsequent death at the hands of Geese, and Terry being picked to learn the Hakkyokuseiken by Tung Fu Rue, who then dies shortly after due to a lethal wound sustained from Billy Kane, one of Geese’s tougher henchmen. Phew! It’s an action-packed hour, indeed.
Yet, for its rushed plot and charmingly cheesy jazz soundtrack (it really stands out), the fast pace keeps one’s attention glued to the end where Andy and Terry finally go toe-to-toe with Geese. Terry (spoilers) being the one to defeat Geese with the Hakkyokuseiken, ending the first OVA.
Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle picks up a short time after, with the new big bad being a German noble and assassin named Wolfgang Krauser, who visits the now reclusive Geese Howard to ascertain who defeated him. Terry Bogard’s name is dropped, and we’re off to the races. Krauser finds Terry, and swiftly demolishes him right after he had fought a pitched battle with Kim Kaphwan, and injured himself prior to that saving a dock worker. This ultimately prevents Krauser from killing Terry outright, as it was clear he wasn’t fighting at the top of his game.
Krauser leaves, inviting Terry to come face him later when he has recovered his full potential. Physically, and emotionally wrecked, Terry goes on an epic drinking binge, with his “disciple”, a young teen named Tony, shadowing him all the way, trying to drag him out of his funk. Meanwhile, word of Terry’s defeat reaches his brother, Andy Bogard, Joe Higashi, and the buxom kunoichi, Mai Shiranui, who has an outfit that looks like a slingshot bikini and a Tsumugi kimono had a slutty love child. Regardless, Mai Shiranui, and her attire, rock. Just saying!
Andy and Mai go to Germany on recon, hoping to confront Krauser, but end up encountering one of his underlings instead. Joe manages to track down a bedraggled Terry, showing him some tough love before seeking out Krauser himself, and finding him (Joe’s the only person who can find anyone in Fatal Fury 2, I swear). Joe too is mauled in short order, and left for dead.
The build towards the climax follows shortly after with Tony defending Terry from a challenger in a bar, inadvertently reminding Terry of his younger self struggling to be a fighter. Tony triumphs (sorta) over his opponent by simply weathering blows and standing back up, inspiring Terry’s fighting spirit, snapping him out of his spiral of self-doubt and self-pity.
They visit a hospital afterward, meeting up with Mai and Joe, who managed to cling to life after his battle with Krauser. Joe tells Terry to meet Andy at the grave of their father, where, the two brothers have an all-out fight to become stronger, Terry winning with a newly perfected ki energy technique. Terry then heads to Germany, arriving at Krauser’s castle for the final showdown of the OVA. Krauser is found playing a massive organ (cuz villainy) in the castle, having eagerly anticipated Terry’s arrival, the two face off.
Tony witnesses an unflinching, brutal fight to the death that Terry (again, spoilers) narrowly escapes victorious, smashing Krauser through the castle walls to a lethal plunge into the moat. Tony, who had wanted to become a fighter like Terry, decides that maybe there are better paths for him after seeing the gruesome reality of hand-to-hand combat. Terry returns Tony to his mother, and rides off into the sunset.
Roll the credits.
Quite a bit of twists and turns to fit into just one hour, no?
While neither Fatal Fury OVA follows the video games they are patterned after very closely, they capture the characters and spirit of those games and their litany of duels one after another. The two OVAs also getting a surprisingly sober message across:
Violence, circumstances not withstanding, leaves deep wounds on the body, as well as the mind. It can’t heal, it can only harm.
Defeating Geese didn’t bring back Jeff Bogard (or Lily), and while killing Krauser who was a ruthless butcher may have made the world a safer place, it left Terry feeling empty as the whole affair was nothing more than a cruel, senseless crusade of pride on Krauser’s part to begin with.
Terry won two crucial life or death fights, but gained nothing in return, save closure. That’s no shiny trophy to carry, or glorious title belt to hold high, but its precious enough, perhaps.
Next up on Pixel to Cel: Fatal Fury The Motion Picture (1994)
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