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Anime on VHS: "Fatal Fury the Motion Picture" Review

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Fatal Fury the Motion Picture VHS tape with Neo-Geo MVS  cartridges

Fatal Fury the Motion Picture is a 1994 anime featuring beloved video game characters embroiled in martial arts, international intrigue and awkward sexual tension. Based on one of the greatest 2D fighting game franchises ever to grace a CRT monitor, Fatal Fury the Motion Picture is no Akira, but it's a fun popcorn flick on a dateless night. Ask me how I know! Fatal Fury the Motion Picture was directed by Masami Obari, known for his work on Bubblegum Crisis and anime adaptations of the video games Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer and Battle Arena Toshinden. A great original score complements Fatal Fury the Motion Picture, highlighted by the main theme, "Oh Angel."

The English version sounds like an '80s power ballad, and that's not a bad thing.

Fatal Fury the Motion Picture follows the exploits of brothers Terry and Andy Bogard, their kickboxing friend Joe Higashi, and Andy's wannabe girlfriend Mai Shiranui. They're attempting to prevent a power-hungry young entrepreneur named Laocorn Gaudeamus from further collecting the ancient Armor of Mars, each piece of which permits the wearer to transcend human boundaries of strength and endurance. Terry and Laocorn's sister Sulia fall hard for each other. Can their love survive the trials that await? When Fatal Fury the Motion Picture isn't psyching you up with fighting, it's pulling your heartstrings with pathos.

Gaudeamus becomes more unstable with each new section of armor. If he acquires all six pieces, he'll be unstoppable in carrying out his darkest ambitions. Things don't look good for the home team, but Sulia holds out hope that she can reason her brother back to sanity.

Fatal Fury the Motion Picture is the third entry in the Fatal Fury anime series, a theatrical release serving as a direct sequel to the Japanese TV specials Fatal Fury: Legend of the Hungry Wolf and Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle. I just so happen to have those on VHS, with Legend of the Hungry Wolf coming from the Hollywood Video featured in my tribute to defunct video stores.

Fatal Fury The Motion Picture, The New Battle and Legend of the Hungry Wolf VHS tapes on a Neo-Geo MVS arcade cabinet.

One of the most popular fighting game franchises of all time, the Fatal Fury series has been released on a slew of consoles over the years. It plays in its full glory on SNK's legendary Neo-Geo arcade hardware, the same system that spawned The King of Fighters, Samurai Shodown, and Metal Slug series.

Officially supported for a whopping fourteen years (1990-2004), the Neo-Geo lives on, thanks to a continuing crop of quality homebrew titles. The Neo-Geo MVS cabinets get a ton of play in Ghosts of the '80s, my home arcade. And while the Fatal Fury hat pictured below was a mass-produced promo item, it was given to me by former SNK president Ben Herman when I toured the company's New Jersey headquarters in 2008!

Terry Bogard cosplay and a Neo-Geo MVS Fatal Fury arcade cabinet.

Fatal Fury the Motion Picture is a top-notch example of what a video game anime adaption should be. With fluid animation, well-choreographed fight sequences, and edgy '90s character design, fans of anime and/or marital arts won't leave hungry.

A box office success in Japan, Fatal Fury the Motion Picture received its VHS pressing in 1995 by Viz Video (now Viz Media). In 2022, after decades on DVD, the cult hit got some love with a Blue-ray SteelBook. I've never watched this film on anything but VHS, having purchased the pictured tape at Sam Goody in 1998. My tastes have long since shifted to subtitled anime, but I'll always cherish this dub. When I was in college, I met a girl who also owned this tape, and I thought we were going to be soulmates based on that alone! We never ended up dating.

My main gripe with the movie is that it crams in every Fatal Fury character it can, and some of the cameos don't add much. (Archvillain Geese Howard's screen time is particularly disappointing.) Toss in the anime-specific cast, and there's a lot going on.

Still, I'm recommending Fatal Fury the Motion Picture to anyone looking for a fast-paced, fun anime. Parents should be advised of animated female nudity, courtesy of the almost-mandatory shower scene and some convenient mid-battle wardrobe damage.

While experience with the Fatal Fury video games will heighten your appreciation of this anime, it isn't a must; Fatal Fury the Motion Picture is of stand-alone quality. And to prove it, here I am standing alone! These are the jokes, folks.

Terry Bogard hat and jacket cosplay in a home arcade with a Neo-Geo Big Red MVS and Neo-Geo Goldie MVS.

If you like your anime on VHS, check out our review of 1985's Area 88, a three-tape tale of aerial combat, betrayal and bloodshed in the desert heat. It's not a widely-known series, and Retro Injection is doing its best to fix that. Also, VHS is the bomb, and the wonders of magnetic tape unspool for miles! Read up about the joys of physical media.

Neo-Geo bonus: Here's a review of Data East's Windjammers, one of the system's most addictive games. You'll never toss a Frisbee the same way again!


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