This was a bit unplanned.

17Aug11

Thanks to a few comments on Twitter last night, I ended up having a nostalgia binge and rewatching an anime that I loved as a kid: Fatal Fury 2.

I’ll admit that this is a pretty odd choice for things to love as a kid, but we’re talking about a time when the anime import was either something undertaken by a very small group of fans, usually having to either piece together was was happening by context, or giving it subtitles themselves….or the odd thing that got licensed and released to a market that had no idea what to do with it, especially if it didn’t look like Sailor Moon. So when I somehow stumbled across this thing, it was so far outside of my experience that the sheer novelty of it gave it a cache few things could match. Even as I grew older, I remembered it fondly, and definitely bought the DVD when it finally came, because I remembered how good it was. Never mind that I never played the fighting game it was based off of that much, since I didn’t know anyone crazy enough to own a Neo Geo at the time.

Of course, when I rewatched it last night, a lot of that shiny nostalgia gloss came off. The animation is rougher than I remember, and everyone, especially the main character, has legs far, far too long to be human. That’s not even getting into the fact that he gains a plucky kid sidekick (who only exists for this one movie, thankfully) with improbably spikey hair and, no joke, a pair of pants with only one leg. As a fashion choice. I’m glad he doesn’t carry a skateboard everywhere to boot. The fights are also less impressive (and shorter) than I remembered.

Having said all that, it holds up a lot better than it sounds. I say that because when I look at how the protagonists behave, it’s clear that not only are they all fucked up as people, but the creators know it.

The bad guys are fucked up too, of course, but then you have to be fucked up to be a bad guy in a fighting game; you don’t get to have a middle ground of “doing the wrong thing for the right reason” or being coldly pragmatic. You have to be evil, and usually with a capital E. So when the main antagonist first appears by ambushing Terry Bogard and beating the hell out of him, this is not shocking behavior on his part.

What’s shocking is Terry’s response. He gets knocked out, wakes up later, has to heal…this all seems like the standard prelude to him getting up, training hard, and beating the bad guy. Instead, he tries to leave his new sidekick behind (having already tried to brush him off several times, albeit in a nice way), and basically starts to work hard on being a drunk, trying to put his fighting behind him, because he’s running from Krauser. He doesn’t want to face this guy again. It’s an understandable response, but also a very damaging one. You could argue it fits with the Hero’s Journey archetype of Refusing the Call to Adventure, but it’s more than that. Adventure came calling in the form of a murderous sociopath that left Terry for dead, and gives him a standing invitation to come back and risk being killed again. In the end, Terry does pick himself back up, train hard, and beat Krauser. But it’s a hell of a journey to get there. Also, he ends up speaking to not one, but two ghosts, so that can’t be a good sign for his mental health, especially when the ghost of his almost-girlfriend (there was a Fatal Fury OVA before this one) basically tells him she wished she’d lived long enough to give him a reason to live other than fighting people. So either she’s coming from beyond the grave to mourn that he has nothing else, or else a part of his own mind is screaming at Terry to get help.

Then there’s the ending. As I said, Terry beats Krauser and wins. There’s the simple version. But then there’s the actual fight and the aftermath. When Terry arrives, he flat out admits to Krauser that he wanted to run away and never face the man again, but he can’t let himself live in fear the rest of his life. And after all the big splashy moves and giant energy attacks, it all boils down to the two of them slugging the hell out of each other. Up until now, Tony (the sidekick) has been cheering Terry on, wanting to be just like him. But now he can’t watch. He has to turn away as these two men hurt each other to prove who’s stronger. After Terry wins (and Krauser kills himself out of shame), he can’t even think of what to say, prompting Terry to say this: “You see now? Fighting doesn’t fill the emptiness inside.”

Damn.

Those are not the most profound words in the English language, but for an anime that’s based on a fighting game, having such a bleak view on violence and its effects on a person is pretty striking. And Terry would know. When the anime opens, he’s actually doing something fairly grounded in reality, working on a construction site. But he was orphaned as a kid, has his adoptive father murdered, then spent the next decade of his life training just to avenge his adoptive father’s death.

I still like Terry Bogard as a character; don’t be surprised if I make a whole post about why I think Kyo Kusanagi is such a terrible protagonist compared to Terry. But he really is a messed up person, and the only reason he’s sympathetic is that he knows it and tries to be a decent man both in and out of the ring. If he didn’t have that self awareness, I don’t know how I’d see him.

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One Response to “This was a bit unplanned.”


  1. 1 I’m trying to be fair with this one. « Tales To Enrage

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