Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf
By Evan O.
With The King of Fighters XIV coming out on August 23rd, I have decided to look at some of the anime adaptations of King of Fighters and its related games.
Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf was released in 1992, marking the first anime based on one of SNK’s video games, and like most freshman efforts, it’s pretty underwhelming. It’s not exactly bad, as its strong points are pretty strong, but its weak points are very weak. It looks and sounds about as good as I expect an early 90s OVA to, but the short runtime severely kneecaps the plot.
The plot is a mostly faithful retelling of the original game’s story: Terry and Andy Bogard, two brothers from the slums of Southtown, watch their adoptive father Jeff get killed by his rival, crime lord Geese Howard, who wants their master, Tung Fu Rue to teach him all of his secret techniques. Instead, Tung sends Terry and Andy to train for 10 years in order to get revenge. After 10 years of off-screen training, the brothers reunite, where they learn Tung will only teach his most secret technique to one of them, determined by which one wins against the other at the King of Fighters tournament held by Geese. Their fight, however, is interrupted by a hired assassin, leading to a chase scene where Tung is mortally wounded. With his last breath, he teaches Terry his final technique, who must then use it to defeat Geese at his manor. Oh, and there’s also a Japanese kickboxing champion named Joe Higashi, but while he’s technically one of the three main characters, he doesn’t actually do a lot.
Studio NAS’s animation work features the animation shortcuts one would expect from an early 90s OVA (i.e. repeating certain “impactful” shots, holding on certain shots,) but when it isn’t using these shortcuts, the animation is fluid. The character designs (by Masami Obari, who also did the art design for Battle Arena Toshinden’s anime) are mostly accurate to the games as well, with the only glaring exception being Andy’s blue hair, which was originally blond. The background music is fantastic; most of the songs either come from the game or fit the style of the game. Even the dub, produced by VIZ in 1994, is surprisingly good, although Joe’s VA sometimes sounds like he just read the script for the first time, and it’s cringey when the voice actors try to pronounce Japanese words.
What truly prevents Legend of the Hungry Wolf from being more than just average is the runtime. Clocking in at about 45 minutes, the aforementioned story, plus a subplot I’ll get to in a minute, has to be compressed in order to fit. The biggest casualty in this fighting game adaptation, if you can believe it, is the fighting. There’s only two fight scenes that last over half a minute and both are at the end. Some of the fights last seconds. The worst offender is the penultimate “fight” where Geese faces Joe and Andy: he takes them out with one energy blast and no resistance whatsoever. This actually serves as a useful metaphor for their roles in the anime. Joe mostly provides exposition near the beginning, gets shot by Geese’s sniper, and his biggest fight scene consists of him getting the shit beat out of him until he pulls a Cena-esque victory out of nowhere, which then leads immediately into them getting one-shotted by Geese and Terry saving the day. Andy gets even less: twice, we are led to believe a battle between him and Terry will happen, but both times its interrupted, and Andy’s biggest fight scene? The same one as Joe’s, complete with him pulling a victory from his ass.
Meanwhile, Terry is the main focus of the anime, is the main focus of the subplot, and gets more (and longer) fight scenes. Terry is my favorite Fatal Fury protagonist, but they could have at least thrown the other two a bone.
Speaking of the subplot, let’s talk about it: under Geese’s control is Lilly, the “Queen of Southtown.” Terry recognizes her from 10 years ago, as she distracted his father while Geese’s henchmen went for the kill. She was created specifically for the anime, (I can only assume she was included because Fatal Fury didn’t have female characters until the second game) and I hate her. The second you see Lilly after the 10-year timeskip, you know exactly what’s going to happen: she’s going to hate working for Geese, she’ll fall in love with Terry, save his life at some point, probably going to die due to Geese, and her death will cause Terry to get the strength to use Tung Fu Rue’s secret technique on Geese, because apparently Geese killing his father in front of him and causing his master to be mortally wounded was not enough reason for Terry to be mad at him.
Fatal Fury fans may get some enjoyment out of Legend of the Hungry Wolf despite its glaring plot problems due to its relative faithfulness to the games, but people unfamiliar to the series will see little value in this OVA. I watched it once, but I’m probably not going to watch it again.
- Great soundtrack
- Surprisingly good dubbing
- The final battle between Geese and Terry is cool
- Faithful to the games
- The rest of the fights are either too short, incredibly one-sided or both.
- Joe and Andy’s main contributions to the OVA are getting their asses kicked
- The plot has to be compressed to fit a 45 minute
- The Lilly subplot is predictable, anti-climactic, and seems to only exist so that the anime has a significant female character.