This adaptation has forgettable characters, a bad story and all the qualities usually associated with a Saturday morning cartoon from decades ago.
There must be something about fighting games that encourages directors, producers and actors to keep making movies based on them. Is it the relatable characters? Is it the fact that fighting games have always been popular? Or is it that they are easy to translate to the big screen? Regardless of the answer, the Art of Fighting has its own anime special that came out in the early 90s. Unfortunately, this adaptation has forgettable characters, a bad story and all the qualities usually associated with a Saturday morning cartoon from decades ago.
The movie starts as the two protagonists try to catch a cat so that they can claim the reward money, but they end up in someone else’s apartment and witness a murder. Apparently, the thugs who commit the crime are after an expensive gem and they think Robert Garcia and Ryo Kazahaki stole the precious stone from them and they intend to do everything they can to get back the treasure, including kidnapping Ryo’s sister. What these criminals don’t know is that Ryo owns a karate dojo, so he’ll be using martial arts to bring down the criminal organization and save his sister.
As you’d expect, the story’s a lazy excuse so that the main characters can fight again and again, The only thing in this movie’s favor is that there isn’t a competition (such as a martial arts tournament) which is what most movies based on fighting games end up using. But apart from the fact that they enjoy fighting, we don’t know anything about the characters which is a problem. Underdeveloped characters isn’t a new problem for these type of movies, but there’s nothing original or inventive about the story either. This is reflected by the myriad clichés: the helpless woman who’s kidnapped, the careless and charming protagonists who go and save her, the angry detective, the gorgeous blond whose only purpose is to seduce one of the protagonists, the greedy crime lord who’s only interested in precious stones and the list goes on and on.
To a certain extent, it’s unfair to criticize a movie like the Art of Fighting for its clichés and unoriginal plot. After all, this animated movie came out in the early 90’s and was aimed at a younger audience, so naturally, watching it decades later you’ll notice problems. But this animated episode is so poorly made that it’s hard to ignore the choppy animation, poorly choreographed fighting scenes, horrendous voice acting and uninspired art. The only things I can say in its favor is that this movie isn’t a big time commitment (it’s just 45 minutes long), the plot doesn’t introduce dozens of characters and there aren’t obscure references to the games.
As it’s usually the case with video games movies, recommending it comes down to your familiarity with the source material. But in this case, make sure you keep your expectations in check if you decide to watch it. Only people with a soft spot for 90s anime and Saturday morning cartoons can enjoy this Art of Fighting special.