Anime Meta-Review


Art of Fighting, The


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Title Info

  • seen: 1 of 1
  • type: OAV
  • grade: flawed
  • form: sub
  • source: commercial
  • dur: 40
  • made: 1995
  • Review created: Wed Nov 14 10:56:27 EST 2001
  • mod: none

Another day, another anime conversion of an arcade fighting game. Although this one has two qualities that will stand out quite clearly. The first is that they wanted to something with all the punch, and saleability, of a Hollywood block-buster. The second is that the product they actually produced serves as a definition of the term `average'.


The story begins innocently enough. Two friends, both expert martial artists, are chatting about things while one tries to earn some money. In the best tradition of things one is a suave playboy type while the other is the model of an earnest martial artist. And the job being done is nothing more complex than taking care of a cute little cat. Of course it is well known that martial artists can't perform even the most menial of tasks without stumbling into something that will force them to "fight for their very lives". And this anime has no desire to mess with tradition.

In a very short space of time they are witnesses to a murder. The murder has to do with a robbery. The robber is a ruthless crime lord with a handy collection of thugs and martial artists. When he learns that the earnest martial artist has an innocent young sister, who the suave martial artist enjoys flirting with, he feels virtually obligated to kidnap her and use her as a hostage to get the lost prize back. However our martial artists know their role as well and without fear (or logic) they'll stop at nothing to free her from the diabolical clutches of Mr. Big. And yes, he's actually called Mr. Big, novel eh?


Okay, there are lots of spoilers in that synopsis. Heck, I virtually outlined the entire plot structure. This is because there's little point in trying to protect a plot that is about the most obvious, traditional and tired collection of cliche's I've ever seen. Within 5 minutes you know exactly how this is going to play out, and each step along the path seems to have a strange sense of inevitability. It's actually a really strange feeling though, because it really feels like they `believe' in what they're doing. Almost as if they don't truly realise just how formulaic the plot is. Including the tedious extender of having to rescue the girl at least 3-4 times.

The characters have exactly the same contradiction about them. They're absolutely the most traditional movie archetypes you've ever seen. Every single character reminds you of a hundred similar types and, once again, you know the role they will play almost as soon as you see them. Their dialogue affirms this and makes the whole experience maddeningly familiar. What might come as a surprise is that it sort of works. The characters do have presence and some of the dialog really does express a sense of personality. The best way to express it might be that it's a very skilled formula piece.

And then we come to the fighting, an important part of such a show. And, sadly, it could be better. While martial arts anime fans might not demand originality and depth from the story they want adrenaline and action in the fights. And it is here that the show's rigid adherence to formula does not hold up. The fights are well set up, and there are some nice moves, but they aren't terribly exciting. Lots of the sequences are quite tedious and the sense of speed and acrobatic complexity that can make martial arts fun to watch just isn't there. They're decent, I've certainly seen worse, but they're a touch lifeless and unimaginative. It might not help that the heros aren't at the `superpower' level and are restricted to some level of realism. Either way, it's not enough to make the show special.

This is partly due to the animation though which is on the low end of average. Which, for an OAV, is pretty bad. The main characters are quite well depicted but motion and environment are quite limited. There's enough flaws and limitations in the motion that you do notice them, which is a shame. The color and linework also tends to be quite simple and a touch lifeless. The dodgy sense of physics also shows up where vehicles, including the inevitable car crash sequence, are depicted. The voices are quite decent and the music is jazzy instrumental stuff which makes it sound even more like an anime version of a Hollywood action film.

One extra cute feature for the obsessive. In one shot Mr. Big's henchmen uses a computer to identify the leads. Thus conveniently allowing them to move straight onto the next confrontation. If you look closely at the text on the computer you'll notice that the producers have simply copied whatever English text was lying around. In this case the documentation for some office software.

Oh yeah, I should also mention that the links to the original video game are tenuous indeed. If it were not for the fact that the box said "Based on the hit video game" I think I would have begun to doubt my memory. In any case, from my scattered memories of the game I remember it being decent (team based?) and having a large range of warriors. Looks like the only game element that made it here is a tiny number of character designs. As such liking the game is extremely unlikely to help you enjoy this anime.

Other Reviews

  • Akemi's AnimeWorld review I find myself in almost complete agreement with this review. A tired plot, light action and strangely likeable characters. But at the end of the day the feeling is one of sameness and average production (2/5).
  • THEM review Um, wow...THEM liked it a lot less. Worth noting that they saw the dub, and apparently that doesn't improve things. And sadly almost all their slams are largely deserved, although they don't find anything positive to balance out the many weaknesses (1/5).


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:15 WST 2009