Art of Fighting

Anime based on video games are notoriously awful. It's not a sin to say this before every single review of one because it's universally true. Video games just don't have the plot, character development, and stories necessary to make a good film. Actually, a few do, like PC titles "The Longest Journey" and "Anachronox"...but nobody's making anime of these. Anime are made from the best-selling games that have everything to do with non-stop action and nothing to do with storytelling.

Into this gripefest falls Art of Fighting, a 40-minute OVA based on a mediocre game I played way back in college when there were too many people in line for Street Fighter 2 (another game-to-anime, I might add). And it would be sheer garbage, too, if it weren't so cheerful about its utter ineptitude. You can't hate Art of Fighting, as much as you might try, because it stays constantly peppy and relatively inoffensive despite its absolutely mindless approach.

Ryo and Robert are good friends. Ryo runs a dojo, and Robert...well, Robert doesn't do much of anything except drive around in his Ferrari, as he's in line to inherit the Garcia family fortunes. Ryo needs money (funny enough with his rich friend), and he's trying to find a lost cat to gain the reward and supplement his income. When said cat jumps from a ledge into a nearby dwelling, the ensuing search winds the twosome up in an apartment where a gang of creeps offs a guy by mistake. The guy stole a diamond, see, and the mob can't have diamond thieves roaming around to steal their loot. But now Ryo and Robert are in trouble, having seen this hit in person.

Since the idiot hitmen can't find the stolen ice, they think that Ryo and Robert must have it. The mob, lead by the cleverly named Mr. Big, winds up grabbing Ryo's sister Yuri and using her as bait to get the two guys to return the diamond. Of course, they don't know where it is, but they have to figure out the mystery to save Yuri from certain doom. In the midst of all this is a slightly insane police chief who's told the press that he will have the case solved in three days. Will our heroes survive a maimed imported sports car, a few boss fights, and a cat with the wrong color tail? You better believe it.

Art of Fighting is stupid. It revels in its stupidity. This is not a show to patiently observe and analyze. It is a show that invites you to insult it, to throw popcorn at the screen in mock anger, to roll your eyes back in your head at its comic inanity. There are continuity and physics problems galore, from helicopters with magically halting rotor blades to supernatural leaps out of 3rd story windows into waiting cars. There are plot problems, such as the bad guys taking off with Yuri after they've retrieved the diamond just because "she's such a valuable asset!" Do the bad guys need Yuri? Of course not! They need a plot reason for Ryo and Robert to continue to battle these brainless idiots for at least another 10 minutes. And so it goes.

Art of Fighting deserves a grade lower than what I'm going to wind up giving it, I suppose, based on what I just said. But I can't bring myself to anything lower than a C+. Why? Because when trash is this fun, you just have to ride along. Despite the lame animation, despite the numbingly bad plot, despite everything wrong about it, I enjoyed this show. It's corny and it's cheesy and I liked it. It knows it's bad. It knows it's a dumb game adaptation. It isn't a wink-wink-in-on-the-joke kind of show, but it doesn't pretend to be good or serious or anything else than what it is. Despite some mild language and the obvious but pretty mild violence, it's not a particularly objectionable show, as some (like Tekken) have turned out to be. I'd never recommend it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that, deep down, I got a kick out of it anyway.

As far as game adaptations go, Art of Fighting could be much worse. It could be much better...far, far, far better, in fact. But I'd watch it again before venturing into many of the other game-to-video adaptations on the market, particularly with a bunch of friends late on a Friday night.

Art of Fighting -- violence, mild language -- C+