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Fatal Fists of Tekken's High Kick
By Chris Beveridge
September 01, 1999
I swear, that title struck me as immensely funny as I was driving around today on errands. But, it definitely does mean something. Digital anime fans are having bunches and bunches of YAFA's thrown onto DVD. Yet Another Fighting Anime. You've seen them bemoaned in the forum. You've seen various mediocre reviews. You probably even have a few in your library.
Even the first domestic anime DVD was a fighting one. Central Park Media released Battle Arena Toshinden in June of 1997, though not to much acclaim. A mediocre story and somewhat below average animation didn't really help to bring anime to the forefront of the mainstream DVD crowd. In fact, it took two very distinct releases to bring anime to peoples attention. Tenchi Muyo In Love garnered much response for a near reference 5.1 soundtrack and killer animation as well as a 16:9 transfer, and Ghost in the Shell did the same several months later on all the same counts. Yet, anime has all but fallen off the radar of many mainstream places, except for the occasional mention and the huge success of Bubblegum Crisis recently.
Domestic anime history has been littered with almost useless fighting shows. I'm sure there are fans of them, and I certainly don't aim to insult. From my early, and less picky, collection I have such titles as Wannabe's and Dog Soldier. Oh, the shame. Yet, the titles sell. Fatal Fury could be a good sized boost, as well as Tekken. Tekken actually has a good chance as not only does it contain the uncut version, but the DVD is the only way to get the subtitled version. But, it's a subbed fighting show.
That doesn't mean that there aren't some good ones out there however. I still think Viz & Pioneers recent release of Darkstalkers was immensely fun, especially with a kicking 5.1 soundtrack and very fluid animation. It more than made up for the lack of plot. Even Ayane had some merit to it, though I received enough grief about my review of it. Fighting games are a solid part of the backbone of domestic anime releases, yet we all complain about them. But many are sold! Such things just never seem to make sense.
But, is there light at the end of the tunnel for the more discerning fan, the one who doesn't want 30-60 minutes of mindless fighting and bulging muscles? We've seen the release of what I consider the 2nd most important anime film, Grave of the Fireflies. We'll also see the Wings of Honeamise sometime in 1999, along with Perfect Blue. The romantic comedy fans will be more than pleased with Tenchi in Tokyo, while fantasy buffs are probably already drooling over Lodoss and Arslan. And what the heck, lets put some hentai in there for those who aren't afraid to admit they enjoy it.
Does this mean that the fighting shows will start to thin out as we move beyond them? I doubt it, as they'll continue to have a place in the field. But with the variety of shows coming out, there's an excellent chance of getting non-anime people into shows now. I've rallied many people to pick up Grave of the Fireflies. When Wings is announced, my campaign of "If you bought From the Earth to the Moon, you must complete your collection with this title". The Digital Age Anime Fan has the opportunity to spread the faith and word to those outside of the sometimes inbred community and bring new blood in.
This site was placed in the "Weekly Picks" over at the excellent Anime Web Turnpike recently, and I was asked to contribute some of my favorite anime sites that I visit. I had to decline what I felt was a great privilege simply because I don't visit hardly any anime sites beyond quick research on upcoming announced titles. And I'm definitely a strong anime fan, but I just don't visit around much. It's time to take advantage of the huge sweep of DVD and move outside of where we are, and make our mark heard. Bubblegum Crisis did fantastic business and opened up the eyes of several anime companies. They see money to be made now. The great motivator is in place. I think it's up to us to make sure we don't get stuck in a swamp of 'proven genres' that have mired some in the past.
But, that's just my opinion.