I’m trying to be fair with this one.

07Jul12

Something else has occurred to me about why I prefer Terry Bogard to Kyo Kusanagi as a character. Fortunately, this one doesn’t involve putting Kyo down. Well, not explicitly, anyway.

I’ve talked before about how Terry is kind of messed up as a person. Really, you’d have to be if you explicitly made going around and fighting highly trained martial artists-usually in unofficial, unsupervised venues against people perfectly willing to kill you-your only lasting profession. At the same time, Terry is probably the nicest person you could find who does this. He’s kind and polite to everyone, and he will ask to fight rather than just going “You are strong so we must fight now!” He also is fine if you say no, so he understands that not everyone wants to risk being severely injured at the drop of a hat.

What makes that stand out more is his background, because this is not a man who got raised in a stable environment at any time. He and his brother were originally orphans who got adopted…and then watched their father get killed in front of him, at which point the two separated. Andy got to train in one dojo for the next decade, while Terry literally wandered the city and got the shit beat out of him as training. Seriously. There’s even a flashback in the Fatal Fury 2 anime (even if it’s a dubious source of ‘canon’ information) where as a 10 year old, he’s getting destroyed by various martial artists to improve. He’s able to get revenge on the guy who originally beat the stuffing out of him, but even that starts with Terry taking a full punch to the face. He’s just happy that this time, it doesn’t knock him off his feet in one hit.

And yet, this is the character who finally confronts the man that murdered his adoptive father….who runs a criminal empire that has corrupted the entire city where Terry was born and raised…and though Terry has defeated him in single combat, he doesn’t kill him, or let him die. He reaches out to save Geese Howard from falling to his death. What leads to that kind of decision? Pacifism and forgiveness seem out of the question, since this is after the two of them have just punched the hell out of each other. And surely it would have been perfectly in line with the flexible morality of a fighting game story for Geese to fall to his death, the kind of “clean” killing that has been featured in many a cartoon Disney film. But it makes Terry more than just a generic “good guy” protagonist. He’s someone who has seen some of the worst a kid could, and somehow came out the other side a decent man, for all of his skill in fighting and hurting others. He’s not perfect-he wants revenge-but in the end, it’s incompatible with his basic personality. He has the chance to kill Geese Howard, and he willingly lets it go, because it’s just not worth the price. It’s almost the definition of overcoming adversity on a personal level.

The flip side of that is Kyo. Now, let’s leave out Kyo’s personality here, because the issue isn’t his behavior, but his background. He has special magic fire due to his family bloodline granting it…which isn’t something he earned, but it’s also not something to be faulted for in and of itself. It just is what it is. He also came from a stable family for most of his life. Sure, it’s destabilized due to people desiring his magic powers, but he still grew up in one place, learning how to use it, and being trained in the family business, so to speak. There’s very little adversity for Kyo in his background, and he gets to be the main character that saves the day for most of the King of Fighter games. Does this make him a bad person? Not inherently, no. But it means that there’s not a lot of depth to him, either. He’s the successful guy that had a bunch of advantages, compared to Terry having multiple opportunities to be a terrible person and deliberately choosing not to be.

I’ve stated before that I have issues with Kyo and his behavior, and those still stand. But what I’m talking about today is why even when stacked against someone who does not rub me the wrong way as much as Kyo does-for example, Ryu from Street Fighter-Terry is the character I like better. I have nothing against Ryu, but he comes out of nowhere and gets to be the hero by punching the right people. Terry isn’t the hero just because he’s facing an evil man, but by being good when it was truly hard to be.

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