Reviewby Justin Freeman, Nov 20th 2004
GRRRRR! GWAAAHH! THWACK!
Shootfighter Tekken starts out with grunting and kicking. It moves towards grunting and punching, and eventually settles into a nice rhythm of grunting and skull crushing. This all adds up to about one hundred and eighty percent testosterone, twenty percent blood, and a whopping two hundred percent awesome. In other words, this show rocks. But maybe only if you're me and can find art in the idea of a screaming kidney punch.
We are introduced to Shootfighter Tekken via a bloody deathmatch between two incredibly large men that enjoy poking out eyeballs in the name of physical supremacy. We eventually learn that one of these men is named Iron Kiba, the famous and legendary champion of World Pro Wrestling whom we quickly learn is just as adept at crushing skulls as he is at pretending to crush skulls. The other, Mr. Miyazawa, has half a name, and a kid that calls him “Otan” (“daddy,” or something similar). The kid is named Kiichi, and he is very eager to punch things just as hard as his dad can, using the ominous Nanshin Shadow Style that must never, ever be “unleashed” on “the public.” The set-up is immediately familiar to anyone that has ever watched anything, in that we know about five minutes into this first volume that, at the end of the final episode of the third volume, Kiichi is going to fight Iron Kiba. The only problem is the show itself doesn't realize we know this for about another twenty minutes, and so we're left with some rather odd pacing.
It all starts slowly, delving into the history between Miyazawa and Iron Kiba, methodically establishing the shady underworld of professional wrestling. Yes, you read that correctly. The first half of this disc deals with the violence and insanity that, in effect, takes place behind the fake violence and fake insanity of a fake fighting style. You might think that it would not be the first choice for those looking to become the best fighters in the world. Then again, this is Japan we're talking about. The same Japan that elected a professional wrestler to the Diet. A wrestler that refuses to ever take his mask off while the body is in session, at that. Yeah. The idea here is to highlight the differences between followers of professional wrestling style, and the Miyazawa's own nanshin shadow style. Wrestlers are reckless thugs with a desire to smash and bash in the name of strength, while Kiichi's dad is more the thinking man's harbinger of pain, exploiting weak points and preferring to keep his strength a relative secret. None of this is particularly mind-blowing, but it serves its purpose well enough. There now exists a competently executed reason for all manner of people to body slam one another onto concrete. Neat.
Things only become hairy when the show shifts to Kiichi in an attempt to build some sort of rivalry between him and Iron Kiba. There is no practical reason for this at this juncture. Kiba, for all intents and purposes, should not much care what this little kid is doing. Given his personality, Kiichi's father shouldn't even be willing to allow his son to know about Kiba and his crew, yet he seems to encourage it for reasons that are never clarified. As an attempt to build something here, Shootfighter Tekken abruptly switches gears about halfway through the disc's forty-five minutes, introducing a new uber-wrestler named Samon whose intentions and affiliations are never really clear. Kiichi decides to fight him for reasons that end up not being reasons at all, and the whole production warps to light speed. Kiichi learns and trains under both his father and Samon's old trainer, learning the kinds of techniques and lessons we wouldn't expect him to learn for a long, long time. The fight itself is packed with the kind of emotion and resolution that suggests a long setup and relationship that simply is not present. It's a little awkward. It is as if the director and his staff realized they weren't going to deal with Kiba until the end, but decided they had to do something in the interim.
They're right, of course. Something really did have to happen in the interim. This is because Shootfighter Tekken understands what it is, and what it is... is a show about punching people really, really hard. There exists here an admirable desire to distill the entire experience into this single idea with a steadfast focus any movie director, music producer or Sega-employed video game designer could appreciate. When the central focus of a show is the struggle between a coalition of professional wrestlers and the master of a shadowy death karate, there can be little questioning of the motives behind its creation. Every single character in the entire show is crafted with this idea in mind, each looking for all the world as if he is simply awaiting the opportunity to physically demolish whomever he happens to be talking to at the time, which is nice, because the odds are very good that what they are actually talking about is, well, just that. With the proper mindset, it is near impossible to not fall in love with something this honest.
Instead, I'll be honest right back: anyone that watches Shooterfighter Tekken is doing so for the fights, and it is here that the show delivers. Moves are imaginative and brutal, almost entirely eschewing the fanciful descriptions and momentum destroying set ups that plague so many similar shows. Rather than tricking the viewer into appreciating the skill of the fighters through outside commentary or overdone displays of strength, we are instead treated to relatively simple bouts buoyed by plain old ferocity. For example, one of the “special techniques” really amounts to little more than a kidney punch. That's it. And yet it certainly seems more painful and practical than any crazy lightning punch or super beam could ever be. Slams, holds, punches and kicks in general are all animated with a satisfying weight and an appropriate reaction on the part of those being hit. It's a simple example of the old “show, don't tell” mantra that works to great effect, proving once again that it isn't what you do so much as how you do it.
Then again, that's Shootfighter Tekken in a nutshell. If you don't agree, I'll gladly introduce my fist to your trachea.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B
+ Focused and honest; fluid, visceral fights; revolves around professional wrestling
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