Shootfighter Tekken: Round 1

Fighting anime have never been a great love of mine. Pitting two people in battle against each other was fun back when I was playing Mortal Kombat in the student union, but mindless battles typically make for dull films. However, I've learned that not all of them are terrible; the film of Street Fighter 2 was pretty good, for instance.

Central Park Media has given a new name to a show called Tough in Japan; it's now called Shootfighter Tekken. The name Tekken conjures up thoughts of the movie of the same name, which was a stinker. Thankfully, Shootfighter Tekken is a better show, at least in its first OVA. Though too expensively priced in the US and lacking much in the way of character development, for the short and simple entertainment it is, Shootfighter Tekken: Round 1 is alright.

Shootfighter Tekken introduces us to a young, arrogantly self-confident fighter named Kiichi. He's learned much of the art of Nanshin Shadow Style from his father, who still bests him on a regular basis. But the secret to Nanshin lies in its power: it is an utterly deadly form of martial art, one that can kill in its simplest moves. Otan, Kiichi's dad, has kept a short leash on Kiichi to keep him in line and to restrict how much he can actually use his skills. But then trouble comes when Otan's old wrestling rival Kiba appears on the scene and sets his goons against the pair. Kiichi's itching to get in the ring to see real action, but his cockiness could lead to a bloody downfall.

Shootfighter Tekken: Round 1 is a fighting anime, no more and no less. It's a strongly animated one that will please fans of the genre. Though the character designs really aren't that pleasing, the show looks great, and the battle sequences are impressive. I didn't notice the soundtrack much, which to its credit means it wasn't out of place.

What Round 1 does have in abundance is blood...lots of blood. This is a messy show that may offend the squeamish, and though the intense brawls will likely appeal to youngsters, it is a bit too violent for them in my opinion. Older fans may relish it, however.

Round 1 unfortunately has no particularly likable characters. Kiichi is, frankly, an awful protagonist. If one of the wrestlers had ripped Kiichi's heart right out of his rib cage with his bare hands and then thrown it on the ground and stomped on it until he died (with all due regards to Weird Al Yankovic), I would have been glad. He's such a...well, let's just say that my own editing of crudity doesn't allow me to state in the terms that first come to mind how big a jerk Kiichi is. As such, the saving grace of the show is Otan, who though gruff and less than endearing himself still centers the program and takes the edge off of Kiichi's personality.

So how can I justify a B rating for a show whose lead character is a lunkhead? Simply, it's because it's an otherwise solid example of a fighting genre show. The pacing is quite good, and the very fact that I stayed interested throughout the show's 45 minute running time is excellent. (In fact, it went so quickly that until I checked, I thought that Central Park Media was lying about the show's running time!) With strong action sequences and a slick look, it's not a bad watch. Though it's not my favorite genre, I could appreciate what the creators were attempting to do.

My only caution about the show is that it just doesn't feel like a show I could justify spending $20 on. Central Park Media is already advertising a box set collection to be released when the final DVD comes out for $50 -- not a lot less per episode, frankly, and still very expensive for what amounts to the running time of a long movie, but cheaper than the $60 it would cost for the whole series as it comes out. I can only imagine that Central Park Media had to pay more for a license of a relatively new release in Japan, and the customer is footing the bill. As such, I'd strongly recommend a rental before purchasing. If you can't rent it first, consider my grade more along the lines of a C.

All that said, if you're a fighting genre fan, you will probably eat Shootfighter Tekken: Round 1 right up. Though the quality of the show could go either way from here, it's a good (if not great) start.

Shootfighter Tekken: Round 1 -- graphic violence, mild profanity -- B