Shootfighter Tekken: Round 3

When I first started watching Shootfighter Tekken a couple of months ago, I really didn't expect much at all. It appeared to be a genre-bound show, destined to be just one more entry in the "brutal fighter" column alongside Samurai Shodown or Street Fighter 2. What I didn't expect was how much I would come to like this show. Yes, it has a brat for its lead hero. Yes, it is all about fighting, not character development or psychological drama or teenage angst or any of a million other anime subjects. But with great animation, exciting battle sequences, and literal bone-crunching action, this is a dream for the martial artist or wrestling fan. It's not perhaps what I look for in my entertainment, but I think this may just be the best entry in the genre.

Kiichi is put into serious training by Oton, who straps him into a massive contraption that pulls at his every muscle. Kiichi thinks it's a waste of time to be getting this kind of power training, but Oton is convinced he needs it if he is to become the best fighter he can be. And as a tragic accident strikes, Oton finds he will need every ounce of strength he can muster...because he will be fighting Iron Kiba in his father's place! Although Kiichi isn't even close to Kiba in terms of size or weight, he makes a desperate attempt to save his family's honor.

I am still surprised at just how good Shootfighter Tekken: Round 3 looks. Presented in widescreen format, this show is the best looking I've seen in its genre and is just a tiny step down from some theatrical anime. What impresses me is that most fighting shows are animated haphazardly, perhaps with the exception of their combat sequences. Shootfighter Tekken is made by a crew that clearly has been given the budget and the time to create something in the category a bit more substantial.

If you haven't watched the first two rounds of the show, I'd advise you do so, because everything in the previous discs leads up to this point. Our characters haven't really changed, and Kiichi is still cocky, but he's humbled enough times that he's no longer the jerk that I almost couldn't handle in the first episode. If you didn't like him before, you won't like him now. Although the concluding section has the most actual drama of any of the three, you're not going to suddenly find yourself watching a very special episode of Dawson's Creek.

But the drama's not the real reason anybody's watching this show: it's the fights. Lovingly choreographed and executed, they are a fine piece of work. In the centerpiece of this episode, parts are just tough to watch. When bones break, they do so with aural certainty; we can hear every muscle tear and cracked rib. This visceral attitude does work, though. Is it exploitative? Not really. Though the fight itself may not be realistic, it is handled in a way you almost might believe it was. Is it violent and gory? Yes. But it's certainly believable, more like watching Rocky get the snot beat out of him than a glorified killing spree like the recently reviewed Gantz.

I'm going to give Shootfighter Tekken: Round 3 an A-, and this is a real stretch for me. The subject matter in Shootfighter Tekken doesn't really interest me all that much. I still think that there could be a fighting genre show with significant character development and interaction that would still have brilliant battles. I'd rather watch other shows that have earned an A-. But I have to give it that grade simply because this is the best fighting anime I've seen. Yes, it's too expensive a series right now to buy; I'd wait for the inevitable decrease in price (and perhaps re-release on a single DVD). But I was excited to watch this disc after seeing the first two, and I was not disappointed. If you like your anime with fast-fisted martial arts action, this is the one to watch.

Shootfighter Tekken: Round 3 -- graphic violence, profanity -- A-