With the dismal performance of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, I’m betting there are those of you out there who ran straight to the local rental shop or Netflix and demanded a copy of the 1994 animated Street Fighter film as if your life depended on it. Now, while I wouldn’t blame you for doing that, there are a few other anime action movies that’ll wash out the Andrzej Bartkowiak aftertaste all the same. Here for you now are some of my own personal recommendations.
5.) Dragon Ball Z – Movie 9: The Galaxy at the Brink!! The Super Incredible Guy (AKA Bojack Unbound)
Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from FUNimation
Now I know you’re already questioning my credibility by putting this one on the list but it’s definitely up there. Set after the Cell Games, a millionaire reorganizes the Tenkai Budoichi tournament into an extravagant competiton, complete with Battle Zones and Token Rock Quarries. The winner goes up against four Galactic Warriors (who are anything but) and the fraudulent winner of the Cell Games, Mr. Satan/Hercule! As expected, Gohan and the rest of the gang enter with hopes of winning the cash prize, along with a “World Hot Springs Tour.” However, before Mr. Satan can stage an escape attempt to protect his reputation, the four Galactic Warriors turn out to be REAL Galactic Warriors with their eyes set on world domination! With Goku helpless in the afterlife, it’s up to Gohan to save the Earth!
It’s pretty standard fare here with a Dragon Ball movie, everybody gets fair screen time….along with the snot kicked out of them. What makes this stand out in my eyes is how this is the closest thing to a tournament movie for the Dragon Ball saga. Some great fights, coupled with another great score by the legendary Shunsuke Kikuchi and Gohan’s first outing in the lead turns a film that might otherwise be forgettable Anime Fair entry into a heck of a ride.
4.) Fist of the North Star
Coming soon to DVD from Discotek
Hot Blooded Logic (along with a good portion of the OUSA staff) dictates that this needs to be on the list as well. Based on the hit “Shounen Action Epic,” this movie serves as a re-telling of the first major story arc. Kenshiro, the sole successor of Hokuto Shinken (aka the titular martial art of the series) is wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of his lost lover. Along the way, he doesn’t hesitate to beat down the Mad Max reject baddies along the way, using his special techniques that literally cause the opponent’s body to explode! I’d go so far to say that this is a very impatient retelling of the story as some fan-favorite moments are rushed in favor of skipping right to Kenshiro’s final showdown with Raoh. Either way, if you’re a fan, you’ll get into it no problem. If you’re just coming into it however, remember to leave logic at the door and prepare for everything to be RIDICULOUSLY over the top.
3.) Project A-Ko
Available on DVD from US Manga Corps
It surprises me how a majority of fans these days haven’t had the chance to see this one! In this 1986 film, the spoiled daughter of a millionaire, B-ko, has her eyes set on new transfer student, C-ko. Though she may seem loud and annoying, B-ko is determined to make C-ko her new “friend”. (Emphasis on the quotes there, remember that this WAS originally a Cream Lemon episode.) The only thing standing in her way? C-ko’s best friend, A-ko, whose strength seems to know no limits. Using any means necessary, including staging fights and even constructing giant robots (!!!), B-ko is dead set on getting C-ko no matter what….even if it means badly timing her final showdown with A-ko in the midst of an alien invasion!
Right away, any guy reading this should be drawn to Project A-ko with the promise of Girls Fighting and Giant Robots. While fanservice isn’t the key word here surprisingly enough, the action is off the wall here with robots, tanks, Spider-Tanks, and even some good old-fashioned sword fighting. Meanwhile, the ladies out there might be drawn in on the prospect of a nostalgia overload. Why? Because Samantha Newark, AKA the singing voice of Jem (The Truly Outrageous one, not to be confused with the Freezepop band), sings most of the insert themes on the soundtrack! What could top that? This film boasts vocal talent by not only Violence Jack himself, Tessho Genda, but also the one and only Shuichi Ikeda, best known as the voice of the Red Comet, Char Aznable in Mobile Suit Gundam! How can you pass up such awesomeness?!
2.) Super Street Fighter II: THE MOVIE
Available on DVD from Manga Entertainment
I’m surprised this ranks in the Top 3 too but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Consider this the Batman Begins of Street Fighter II; We get to see the backstory of Ryu and Ken as M. Bison makes his move to take over the world. Now while we got to see every character’s trademark moves here, the fights also come off as being some of the most realistic looking bouts ever animated. You can thank Kazuyoshi Ishii, best known as the founder of K-1, for that one as he was a consultant to the film! The movie proved to be so popular, in fact, that it prompted Capcom to start the Street Fighter Alpha series to flesh out character backstories. There are even entire stages in the Alpha series that re-enact moments from the film. For me though, what really makes Super Street Fighter II stand out is the final confrontation with Bison, Ryu, and Ken. Maybe it’s the film’s main theme playing in the background that does it, but it definitely goes down as one of my favorite showdowns.
And that brings us to…
1.) Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture
(WAS) Available on DVD from Viz
For whatever reason, as much as I loved Super Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury tends to place higher in my book. What makes it even stranger is that I never touched Fatal Fury and/or King of Fighters up until a few years ago! This follow-up to the hit TV specials depicts front man Terry Bogard and Friends trying to stop Laocorn from assembling the Armor of Mars. As you can guess. the Armor of Mars gives its wearer god-like powers that could possibly-Dare I say-RULE THE WORLD! Directed by Masami Obari-Yes, THAT Masami Obari. The guy responsible for the likes of Gravion and Virus Buster Surge (and no, this wasn’t catapulted to the Number One spot because of his depiction of Mai Shiranui). Anyway, whatever qualms you have with the guy, you’ve got to hand it to him here. He’s always been a great animation director and it shows with every fight scene. Also, like Super Street Fighter II, this comes PACKED with references to the games, including a cross-cameo of Reiko Chiba, voice actress for Samurai Showdown. I’s truly a movie that should be on every anime essentials list. Now tracking down a copy, THAT’S another story….
HONORABLE MENTION: Ashita no Joe (AKA Champion Joe)
Available on DVD from Tai Seng
Even though it’s a compilation movie, what Fighting Anime Movie list would be complete without it? Meant to be a lead-in to the second series of the anime, this is a rehash of the first series in which young boxer Joe fights his way to a rematch against his rival, Rikishi. With some of the fiercest fights in anime history, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for every blow and uppercut. Also, don’t let the older animation deter you from viewing it! You’d only be cheating yourself out of seeing a classic.
Whether you get one or all of these cinematic gems, I can safely guarantee a hell of a time no matter what. However, you might want to spread these out over the next few months; Dragonball: Evolution just came out, remember?