For over a decade I have held the opinion that Battle Arena Toshinden and its first sequel are among the most underrated fighting games ever produced for the PlayStation 2. They aren’t the best by any stretch, but they are immensely enjoyable–especially Toshinden 2, which was a smoother, crisper improvement to the debut. Being the fanboy of those two games that I was (and still am), I readily and eagerly purchased the Battle Arena Toshinden anime OVA when it came out in 1997. Sadly, as is so often the case with movies based on video games, I was gravely disappointed. What I got for my loyalty to the series was a garbled disarray of horrible voice acting and dubbing, subpar / horrific animation, dull characters and a plot that can best be described as “unnoticeable.”
***FULL PLOT SUMMARY AND SPOILERS AHEAD***
What microscopic plot that crops up here and there between the ceaseless, awful dialogue and the random, vociferous, flamboyant fight scenes was this: a year ago a tournament to decide the greatest fighter(s) in the world was held–the Battle Arena Toshinden. The man behind the tournament was Gaia, one of the leaders of a mysterious organization called… the Organization. (Have to love all of the effort that went into that name, eh? What’s sad is that the organization does have a name in the games, but they never bother to mention it here because, well, I guess that would require effort.) Gaia held this tournament illegally to lead the world’s greatest fighters in a revolt against the Organization because he believed they secretly tried to kill him years earlier. When the other leaders of the Organization discovered this plot of his, they sent soldiers to assassinate him for treason. Gaia, in the meantime, was fighting the winner of the tournament, Eiji Shinjo, when the Organization’s top assassin, Chaos, interrupted the fight and began an impromptu duel with Gaia. Chaos was beaten easily and brutally killed by Gaia, who then disappeared. Eiji, who entered the tournament in the hopes of getting information as to the whereabouts of his older brother, Sho, left empty-handed, not knowing what happened to his brother and without a true victory over Gaia. One year later, it seems the Organization is on the move again, taking out the top Toshinden fighters with an android made to look exactly like Sho. Their ultimate plan is something called “The Man-Machine Project,” which will create powerful androids that will know what moves their opponents will use before they use them, and can copy and utilize them against the person.
The greatest thing about all of that? They pretty much spell all that out within the first 10 minutes of this thing. From then on, it’s about 50 minutes of random, embarrassing nonsense that makes me want to give my Toshinden video games a proper burial in my backyard.
The movie opens up on an aircraft carrier where two countries’ leaders, who, although they don’t explicitly say who they are, are obviously from Japan and the United States, are signing a peace treaty. I find it hilarious that they are signing a peace treaty to end a cold war, but I guess we can’t all be history majors–or D+ students, either. Frankly, I’m not sure what bad blood we had with the Japanese in 1997, but I digress. All of the sudden, a large explosion interrupts the signing and the military units stationed there are shocked to find out that a lone man with a nothing more than a sword caused it. (This is actually the android version of Sho Shinjo.) One of the leaders demands to know what’s going on, and I want to know who the hell wrote the English-dubbed script, because every other word seems to be uttered when his mouth is shut. The android Sho destroys countless ships, aircraft and soldiers on both sides, leaving a smoldering mess behind him. Ironically enough, “a smoldering mess” is pretty much what this movie disintegrates into once this opening scene ends.
In the next scene, we are shown a small Chinese marketplace where Fo Fai, a magician and the oldest Toshinden participant, is performing tricks for children at a tent. Fo, who utilizes Wolverine-like claws when he fights, notices the man from the peace treaty massacre standing across the street and he follows him into an alleyway where they begin fighting. Somehow he knows his name is Sho, even though not once is there any mention of them ever crossing paths. Fo thinks he’s gotten the upper hand on the mysterious assassin when Sho suddenly utilizes Fo’s own technique against him, apparently obliterating him.
Next, we get our introduction to the main character in all things Toshinden, Eiji Shinjo–an adventurer in the mold of Ryu from Street Fighter. Eiji arrives at a grassy, mountainous field where he recounts the events of exactly a year ago–the end of the Toshinden tournament. For some reason, he narrates this story out loud, even though no one is around. So, to the captive audience of grass and rocks lying around, he describes his epic battle with Gaia. It is here that this movie becomes a never-ending sequence of one anime cliche after another. The first thing we see in the flashback is Eiji screaming out the name of one of his attacks–in Japanese, no less. Now, why in the bluest of blue hells would a guy speaking English blurt out something in Japanese? Before I get a bunch of anime purists pissy at me, I am well aware that this is an English dub, but that still makes no sense. Hell, just make something up for an attack name. Personally, I would have preferred it if Eiji had blurted out “FLAMING BAGEL!!!” than “SHOZAN!!!” because at least it’s the same language. (Trust me, the lip-synching is terrible the entire movie anyway, so one more blatant error wouldn’t be any worse.) Eiji then slices one of the appendages of Gaia’s slightly demonic armor off, prompting Gaia to propose an alliance. Eiji refuses and shrieks out another attack in Japanese: a blue fireball that somehow flies out of his sword and blasts part of Gaia’s mask off. Gaia plays the emotion card, scoffing that that was the same technique Eiji’s brother used. Eiji, of course, demands information, which he doesn’t get because the aforementioned scythe-wielder, Chaos, enters the fray. I already told you what happens next, so let’s jump to the present where Eiji continues to talk to no one in particular. Suddenly, Eiji’s friend and rival, Ken Masters… excuse me, Kayin Amoh, appears, ready to have a friendly swordfight. Back and forth, they exchange sword slashes and maneuver names–all as I bury my head in my hands and cry. They fight for what seems like hours until finally, they shake hands and call it a day.
Next, we see a Japanese pagoda where Mondo, another Toshinden fighter, is forced into a battle with the android Sho. (This thing sure does get around quickly, doesn’t he?) Mondo psyches himself up and decides what goofy, ostentatious attack he’s going to utilize against Sho. He and Sho leap into the air at the same time and Mondo begins to spit out the name of his attack when Sho uses it before he can even finish saying it. See, folks? You don’t have to say the name of the attack for it to work! Mondo flies several dozen yards away, crash landing in a heap in the sand. He wonders how Sho could have pulled that off, when suddenly Sho and his glowing, red eye of doom appear in front of him ready to finish him off. The prototypical scary lightning bolt flashes in the background as Sho and his evil red eye fade to black.
The next day, Eiji and Kayin are standing on a cliff where a memorial to Kayin’s slain father is located. They each leave a bouquet of flowers on top of the grave as Kayin thanks Eiji for the thought. Kayin discusses the recent attacks against the Toshinden fighters, and states the rumor of it being Sho. What follows is a 60-second emo-fest of a magnitude that would put a white flag in My Chemical Romance’s hands. Eiji tenses up and begins to walk away when Kayin angrily grabs his shirt and demands to let him help. Seems Sho is the one who killed Kayin’s father years ago, but it was in honorable combat…so that somehow makes it okay. Kayin reaffirms that they are still friends regardless of what Sho did. Eiji feels bad (but not nearly as bad as me for purchasing this movie), however, Kayin smiles at him in a way that isn’t completely homoerotic as this embarrassingly corny scene mercifully ends.
As the coming-out party ends, the next scene opens up in a testing facility for the Organization. Another Toshinden fighter, the beefy Rungo, who wields a humongous stone club, awakens inside a room wondering where he is and what they have done with his wife and son. Suddenly, a huge, metal door opens, complete with the hackneyed fog / smoke billowing in for no reason whatsoever, and in steps Chaos. (It…is…alive!) Chaos, who wasn’t all there to begin with, attacks Rungo while blurting out a bunch of indiscriminate crazy noises. In the viewing room, the new leader of the seemingly nameless Organization, Uranus, asks how the “test subject” is doing. The scientists show that Chaos has been reconstructed to a ridiculous level even after being viciously impaled by Gaia. Uranus says that if they improve him even more, they will become her worthy servants. Apparently, becoming a slave to a French woman dressed up in an angel outfit is just one of the many perks of working for the creativity dearth known only as the Organization. Meanwhile, Rungo realizes the guy is insane (who knew?) and kicks him in the stomach in order to unleash his unnecessarily loud, flashy attack. Unfortunately for him, it’s turned right back on him by Chaos and his smarmy grin. Rungo flies back and collapses on the ground in a heap trying to figure out what happened as his own blood chokes him. Chaos temporarily remembers how to speak coherent words and yells that he’ll never forgive Gaia. I’m sure he’s just crying himself to sleep knowing that, Chaos.
After this, Eiji is seen on his motorcycle again racing towards Rungo’s house. What’s funniest about this is that Rungo is American, and yet he has a log cabin out in the Japanese countryside for some reason. Eiji flings the door open and sees that Rungo is unconscious in his bed sporting more bandages than Mum-Ra as his wife and son look on distraught. (How did Rungo escape the Organization’s hideout?) Outside again, Eiji punches a tree and angrily asks Kayin how they could have kicked Rungo’s ass so badly. Kayin then has an epiphany and realizes another Toshinden fighter that will be on their list is Sofia–a buxom Russian woman who uses a whip in the games. Eiji’s eyes flash open in horror, but Kayin tells him to look after Sofia. He, in the meantime, will “use a few methods of [his] own to keep track of the Organization.” Translation: he’s going to meander around aimlessly and flirt with a 16-year-old trying to find the Organization. Rungo’s young son, Chris, who has a strangely effeminate voice, begs for them to take him along because he wants to get the Organization back. Eiji assures Chris that they will make the Organization pay dearly and tells him to stay put to protect his mom. They make a pinkie salute, and I subsequently roll my eyes so far back into my head that I can see the back of my skull.
So, Eiji rides off on his motorcycle to meet up with Sofia. Even though Sofia is supposed to be Russian, she, too, has a house in the countryside of Japan. (Remember: everything that is worth your attention in anime takes place in Japan.) Sofia, who looks like a dominatrix in the video games, is the caretaker of children at an orphanage / school in the OVA, and wears a much more conservative pink sweater and bicycle shorts. Still, one would have to think that a leather-bikini-wearing, whip-wielding woman taking care of a bunch of young boys probably wouldn’t seem like a good idea… but maybe I’m just being overly logical. Eiji torments the kids by running away with their soccer ball as Sofia makes her way outside. She sees Eiji and seems happily surprised, but suspicious as to why he is there. Inside her house, Eiji admits that he is only there because the Organization is on the move again. I find this funny for one reason, and of course, it has to do with the characters persistently calling the Himitsu Keesha (the real name of this clandestine group) merely “the Organization.” How the hell does Sofia automatically know what the Organization means? For all she knows, Eiji could be warning her that Krispy Kreme is unleashing an unholy army of mutant doughnut warriors on the world. Sofia gets a horrified look on her face and I assume it’s because she was once brainwashed by the Himitsu Keesha… er, excuse me, the Organization, and never wanted to relive that mess over again. I guess I just answered my own question, but I still stand by the fact that it is the height of stupidity to call a massive terrorist empire with a very distinct name… “the Organization.”
Meanwhile, at a giant gold building in the middle of some unnamed gray Japanese city, Uranus discusses her Man-Machine Project with some group of sycophantic men. She seems to be selling them on how absurdly powerful the production models of this project will be. I have to wonder who these guys are, because, again, there is no semblance of character development to found anywhere. One of these unnamed schmucks brown-noses Uranus (oh, how I love saying that) calling her powers “remarkable.” I fail to see how mass-producing a bunch of robots is a “power.” I mean, when Bolivar Trask created the Sentinels, did anyone claim he had powers? I didn’t think so. Anyway, these guys look forward to seeing the production models and disappear somehow. Uranus receives a message that Eiji has contacted Sofia and she smiles. How they know that he contacted her is never explained, but I have already entered “apathy mode” and don’t care, so let’s just move on. Using my awesome precognitive powers, I predict melodrama, yet more needlessly loud fight scenes, and a dash of random, pointless nudity within the next five minutes. Let’s see if I’m right!
That night, Eiji dreams about crossing swords with his brother; in his dream, he is violently murdered by a silent Sho. As would be expected, many gallons of blood spray everywhere and Eiji wakes up in a cold sweat. He decides to go outside and practice when Sofia joins him in the yard and sparks a conversation with him. At the gold building, Uranus sits down inside a huge contraption that will help her retake control of Sofia’s mind. Eiji and Sofia discuss their pasts and how painful they are, when suddenly Sofia starts acting strange and goes inside. Time for that pointless nakedness–she takes a shower with the bathroom door wide open and strikes a pose. Next, she goes to Eiji’s room dressed in her birthday suit and crawls on top of him. Eiji, shirtless and awestruck, is confused as hell as Sofia goes to kiss him, but she pulls out a dagger from somewhere (don’t ask me where) and attempts to give him one less eyeball. Eiji leaps out of bed, breaks out the window in his room and lands outside in the yard fully dressed and with his sword somehow. Sofia, also fully dressed in her dominatrix battle gear now, leaps out of the window with her whip in hand. I love this. In the span of less than five seconds, two people got fully dressed and armed, broke a window, and landed outside ready to duke it out. Sofia busts out some of the silliest “martial arts” maneuvers I have ever seen, complete with the obligatory screaming of their names. She yells out, “AURORA REVOLUTION,” and twirls around so fast that she apparently becomes the Tasmanian Devil. Somehow, her twisting around into Eiji causes a big explosion (another thing to remember about anime: everything explodes) and Eiji goes flying into the air. After he lands, Sofia stands over him, ready to finish him off. A tear falls down her face, prompting Eiji to wonder who is controlling her. Sofia yells, “Die…Eiji!” and she lashes him with the whip as hard as she can. One speck of blood hits her in the face (from Eiji’s lip), Eiji hugs her and she regains her mind. I guess all anyone really needs is a hug. I love how she thrashed him as hard as she possibly could, yet all she could do was give him a fat lip.
At the building, Uranus is seen sitting in the device naked for no apparent reason, and she summons the Sho android to finish the job. As Sofia cries and cries and cries, the robot appears at the orphanage and Eiji believes it’s really his brother. The dialog in this entire scene is among the worst in the entire OVA, and that’s saying something. Eiji hyperventilates through the entire thing, Sofia cries and screams, the Sho android’s voice never changes pitch even though it can… and yes, there is more screeching of attack names at every turn. The screaming nonsense is so prevalent (and incoherent) that I think at the beginning of the fight Eiji yells out, “A JEW!” Sho-bot basically kicks Eiji’s backside all over the yard and prepares to finish him off when Sofia interferes. Sho utilizes his Super Red Strobe Light attack and Sofia flies about 15 yards away–crashing to the ground, crying. Eiji has had enough of this and tells Sho he’s going down. Sho scoffs at him and uses the big red Lite-Brite attack again, except this time, Eiji summons his magical blue rage aura armor (another anime clich©) and flies into Sho, slicing him up about a dozen times. Sho is aghast wondering how he could have lost to a “simple human” and he yells for Uranus. Eiji wonders who that might be, but then an arrow flies from out of the sky piercing Sho and causing him to explode. What’s funny here is that after he explodes you can clearly hear Sho-bot groan–even though he’s disintegrated. Uranus appears in the sky with her wings spread, flaunting her bow. Eiji furiously asks who she is, to which Uranus responds that she has gathered excellent fighting data for her Man-Machine Project. She introduces herself and mocks Eiji and Sofia for being so easy to manipulate. Eiji wants to know what the hell is going on and what she wants with him, but she laughs and disappears into the moonlight. Time for more melodrama! Eiji goes over to Sofia (mandatory gratuitous ass shot and all) and makes sure she’s alive. Sofia weakly says Eiji’s name twice and Eiji tells her not to talk as my auditory nerves commit suicide from the never-ending emoness. Once again, Eiji wonders aloud what’s going on as we shift back to the Organization’s headquarters. Chaos is in a containment tube (naked I might add), with a bunch of wires sticking out of everywhere as Uranus reiterates the goal–kill Gaia. Quite the one-track mind she has, eh?
The next day, Kayin arrives at a circus where Ellis, the youngest Toshinden fighter, is practicing her knife-throwing skills in a tent. She successfully hits her target with four knives and claims she’s ready to try it with eight. Somehow, she says the word “knives” with her mouth wide open. (At this point, I’m ready to just assume that the people who made this dub didn’t even know what lip-synching is.) Her trainer jumps onto the board saying that it’s time for her to try it with a live target. Ellis is quite fearful at this proposition and asks him what will happen if she messes up. (He’ll die, Ellis.) But he reassures her that she has real talent and she should believe in herself. This entire sequence is just begging to be ended with one of those “The More You Know” images from NBC. Ellis prepares to throw the knives, when Kayin appears at the tent, distracting Ellis, who mindlessly flings the daggers at the board. Kayin smiles and Ellis gleefully bows in respect to Kayin… while Ellis’ trainer screams in pain. Ellis looks back at her trainer who may or may not have a knife piercing his throat and she gets an “oopsie” look on her face. The animation here is so dreadful, I can’t tell if the guy is dying or merely looks constipated. Ellis grins (even though she may have just thrown one or more daggers into her trainer’s torso) and does her victory pose and catchphrase from the video game: “I’ll never give up!” Well, Ellis, if at first you don’t succeed in committing manslaughter, try, try again, I always say. In the last scene before part one ends, we see Eiji on a mountaintop cliff for no reason–just looking out into the distance. He unsheathes his sword and jumps about 30 feet into the air yelling the whole time as the Battle Arena Toshinden logo flashes. If I had a hundred years, I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting way to end this utterly senseless mess of a half hour than that.
Okay, now that you’ve trudged through all of that, it’s time for part two!
The second half of Mindless Fight Scene Toshinden commences with a bunch of Organization soldiers running through a forest on the branches of trees chasing after Gaia. Gaia slaughters them, and Chaos, watching it from somewhere, loses a few more brain cells and screams Gaia’s name again. Eiji, meanwhile, arrives at the circus. Ellis completes her knife-throwing routine for a large audience, eliciting cheers. It’s at this point where anyone this side of Mr. Magoo could notice the difference in quality between the first half’s animation and the second half’s. The animation throughout the second half of this movie is just atrocious. It makes the first half look like an animated van Gogh masterpiece. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Ellis’ animation. Ellis has sharp, defining lines in the first half of this OVA; her facial features are very well defined. In the second half, her nose is round, her head and neck have shrunk inward for some reason, her eyes bug out more than Tori Spelling’s, her bangs disappear in one camera angle and reappear in the next (on at least three separate occasions) and so on. Backstage, Eiji throws a towel at her head and she gets annoyed, only to see who it is and brightens up. (She has a huge crush on Eiji in the video games. Problem is, Eiji is about 10 years older than her…chronologically. Behaviorally, it’s probably closer to 20.)
Eiji and Kayin explain to her what’s going on and she gets annoyed that the Organization didn’t come after her to gather her fighting data. They make fun of her, saying her data probably isn’t worth too much (and they’re right), so Ellis draws a couple of her daggers out (again, I don’t know where in the blue blazes these women are hiding these daggers) and holds them at each of their throats. “Now what was that?” Eiji and Kayin make up some of the lamest excuses I’ve ever heard to appease her, but she accepts their “apology.” Eiji goes on to explain how the android really wasn’t that hard to defeat. (Really? Could have fooled me. Sofia is the only reason your sorry ass is still alive.) Ellis innocently asks what the android looked like, and Eiji goes into instant emo mode–saying it was made to look like his brother. She then sheepishly asks them what they plan to do next, and Eiji explains that they’re going to find their hideout and obliterate them. (Because they’ve had so much success on this front so far.) Kayin teases her as the two swordsmen exit the tent, to which Ellis’ animation, which was already bombing to begin with, becomes even worse with a bunch of random flailing around while saying she wants to fight.
Later that night, Ellis is practicing when one of her gypsy clown friends falls down in the background. She laughs at him and his fellow clown friend as they skulk away. Ellis’ smile turns to horror as Chaos appears, scythe in hand ready to fight her. Ellis backflips away and grabs two of her daggers telling Chaos he’ll be sorry if he persists in this manner (and no, she didn’t quite say it so gracefully). Chaos licks his scythe for some reason and explains to Ellis that she is the bait to lure Gaia into his trap. Uh-oh! It seems that Gaia is Ellis’ father! Ellis leaps at Chaos trying to stab him repeatedly, but misses pitifully every time. She does a spinny, twirly move exactly like Sofia’s attack earlier, except that Chaos just stands there and takes it because it is completely ineffectual. Of course, it still makes (cliche alert!) a big flashy light effect somehow. Chaos asks if that was supposed to be some kind of joke, which is pretty much what I have asked at the conclusion of every scene so far in this movie, and Ellis gets pissy. She jumps the customary 30 feet into the air and prepares a suicide dive-like attack that Chaos easily counters, knocking her across the floor. He prepares to knock her out cold in order to more easily kidnap her when Eiji and Kayin jump into the fray, dressed as clowns. Eiji kicks Chaos right in the jaw and they take off their outfits, revealing their identities. Chaos figures out who they are and baits them into fighting him. Kayin is the first to lunge at him, but Chaos easily knocks him away. Eiji follows, but the same result happens. They wonder how he could have pulled off an impossible move like that, to which Chaos explains that the copy of Sho was merely a prototype that only operated at 30% of capacity. Eiji is horrified at this news, seeing as how until he unleashed his magic blue deus ex machina energy, he was being beaten left and right by the Sho-bot. Chaos somehow makes the entire floor explode with the butt of his scythe, which flings Eiji and Kayin away, bruised and bloodied.
Chaos resumes his task of trying to capture Ellis, when a huge sword flies down between them. Gaia pulls a “Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnny!” moment without the flair or effort and enters the tent. I love how he threw his gigantic sword between Ellis and Chaos, because it’s so incredibly stupid any way you look at it. First off, he missed slicing his daughter in half by about a foot. Second, he threw his weapon away, leaving himself open for any attack, and it was only a diversionary tactic. However, Chaos, being the dullard that he is, takes one half-assed swipe at Gaia, missing him by about three feet. Gaia picks his sword up and begins to fight, overpowering Chaos again. Apparently, Chaos has no fighting data on Gaia, which I find hilarious considering that Gaia was the leader of the entire organization just a year ago. Chaos spits some dust into Gaia’s face and prepares to kill him when Ellis jumps in the way and gets hit with a slew of daggers. She falls lifelessly into her father’s arms as Chaos explains the situation–the blades are poison and if Gaia wants the antidote (of course known only by the Organization), he’ll have to return to their headquarters. Gaia chastises Chaos, to which Chaos replies that soon he will have the honor of slaying Gaia in the name of Lady Uranus. He then says, “I’ll be waiting for you in Hell,” and disappears. Apparently, every villain in this movie can teleport. I can’t imagine Gaia will have very far to travel if he has to meet Chaos in Hell, because, as far as I’m concerned, Hell can’t be too different from watching this movie.
Ellis is rushed to a hospital and we are introduced to yet another character with no background: Tracy. (But at least I can describe what she looks like!) Tracy is a policewoman who wears booty shorts that are unzipped and a low-rise tank top with a gigantic gold badge that looks like it was purchased at a bowling alley arcade with Skee-Ball tickets. Clearly, she’s very professional-looking. Now, she is none too pleased at any of the transpiring events and wants answers, so she yells at Kayin, who is still bruised and scraped up from his beatdown at the hands of Chaos. Way to keep your voice down in an intensive care unit, you bimbo. Across the street on a rooftop, the brooding Gaia flashes back to…the very last scene where Ellis sacrificed herself, only this time there’s an orange filter over the scene. (I think I saw that cheap effect in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.) He walks off to exact his revenge on Uranus and Chaos despite the fact that his relationship to Ellis was only brought up five minutes ago. This is why no one who watches this movie (all six of us) should care about any of the characters: these events occur randomly without any kind of buildup. After yet another pointless scene shift to the Organization’s headquarters, we see Eiji, Kayin and Tracy watching a news report of more terrorist activities occurring across the world. Tracy suggests that they go crash their hideout, to which Eiji punches a wall in frustration, explaining that they can’t find it. (Why are these halfwits making so much noise in a hospital?) Sofia oh-so-conveniently enters the room saying that she knows where their hideout is because of her previous psychic connection to Uranus’ mind. Well, well, well, for the first time, something actually makes sense here…in a semi-incongruous kind of way.
Next, we see the four fighters driving up a mountain to where the Organization’s headquarters is situated. (Wait, I thought it was that big gold building in the middle of that city? How many hideouts does this woman have?) Eiji and Kayin blast through the front gates with those fireballs that somehow fly out of their swords and it’s on. Inside one of the towers, Uranus wonders why Gaia would launch a preliminary attack and she commands Chaos to “take care of them.” Sofia and Tracy stay behind at the front gates to fight the pawns as Eiji and Kayin make their way to the twin buildings. They encounter a bunch of machine gun fire when suddenly Mondo flies in out of nowhere and blasts the line of gunners. My question: how? We were led to believe that Mondo was killed way back at the beginning of this pitiful excuse for an anime. How did he survive? Rungo enters the fray next, completely healed without so much as a scratch on him, followed by Duke Rambert (a heretofore unmentioned Toshinden fighter) and Fo (who was clearly vaporized, but is somehow alive). I guess he has more in common with Wolverine than I originally thought. So, the huge, ludicrous battle commences with every Toshinden fighter duking it out with a bunch of Organization soldiers.
Eiji and Kayin drive forward to the towers as the rather arrogant Frenchman, Duke, says that if anyone will beat Eiji, it’s him. It should be noted that Duke’s voice actor is the worst in the entire OVA and it isn’t even close. (Considering how bad almost everyone else is, that says quite a lot.) Inside, Uranus gloats about gathering all of the Toshinden fighters’ fighting data. Then Gaia enters the room, looking about as stable as a barfly in Atlantic City. Uranus orders Chaos to kill Gaia (wait, wasn’t Chaos supposed to be “taking care” of the Toshinden fighters out on the tarmac?) and Gaia solemnly says that the least he can do to Chaos is put him to sleep. Old Yeller Chaos is not. Eiji and Kayin decide that they should each take a tower and explore since Uranus and the key to the Man-Machine Project could each be in different buildings. They have yet another ambiguously gay moment and ride off their separate ways.
The rest of the Toshinden fighters (i.e. the one- and two-line plot devices) continue to fight the pawns (with animation that gets progressively worse as the seconds go by) when the first wave of the new Man Machines march out to take them on. The terrible voice acting once again takes center stage as Sofia and Duke decide to open their mouths and speak again. Eiji makes his way up the first tower despite the fact that he, Kayin and pretty much everyone else here can just arbitrarily leap dozens of feet into the air on a whim. I mean, why not have them just leap all the way up the sides of the huge towers? Anyway, Eiji drives up the side of the building and into a laboratory where it looks as if they are making Soylent Green. Eiji decides to just destroy the entire room with a fireball and ends up blowing a huge hole out the other side of the building. Kayin, meanwhile, is driving up the other tower and is impressed at the aforementioned explosion, even though for all he knows, Eiji could have just been vaporized. On the roof of his tower, Kayin hears blades clashing and happens upon Gaia and Chaos at each other’s throats. Chaos takes a swipe and slashes Gaia across the chest with blood spraying everywhere. In the next camera pan, however, there is nothing but a really long scratch on his torso. Gaia is apparently Deadpool, just without the charisma and wit, among other things. Kayin floors it and somehow goes flying through the air on his motorcycle after which Chaos slices the bike in half. Kayin lands on his feet ready to take on the now completely insane Chaos, but Gaia begs him to reconsider, saying that Kayin came all this way only to die. It appears that in the last two minutes, Gaia has become a full-blown helpless emo kid. Down on the tarmac, the unimportant characters take the yelling of attack names into overdrive. Now, if you were watching a fight (of any kind) and one of the combatants yelled out the word “honeymoon,” I think you would be inclined to rupture your spleen laughing. I also find it funny that she has names for attacks when she isn’t even one of the Toshinden fighters.
As they all slowly overcome the Man Machines, Kayin and Gaia both run towards Chaos to attack him, but Chaos once again makes the ground explode somehow and easily repels them. Eiji, meanwhile, has made his way to the roof of the other tower and is pissed that he chose the “wrong one.” He then decides to jump to the other tower on his motorcycle. For the next several minutes, so many incredibly idiotic events occur that I am afraid that I may forget to mention one of them. First, from every perspective, those two towers are several hundred yards apart from one another. Yet, somehow Eiji jumps it and makes it…easily. Second, the way the towers’ roofs were designed, there was no ramp for him to jump in order to get any upward arc; in fact, quite the contrary, the edges of the towers slope downward! And he was on the opposite side of the tower, too! If anything, he should have been speeding to his grisly death into the water below. Then (oh, yes, it gets better), as he somersaults onto the roof of the second tower, the bike is shown falling into the tower. So, let me see if I have this straight: he jumped off the bike and barely made it onto the tower, yet the bike is hundreds of feet away from the building? Even applying the laws of anime physics, that is beyond stupid. It’s one plot hole after another. (By the way, it gets even crazier.)
Eiji, with a new arrogant attitude, draws his sword and prepares to fight Chaos as Gaia warns Eiji about him knowing their attacks before they make them. Eiji randomly jumps 20 feet into the air and says he’ll give him something he’d never expect. Chaos prepares to counter Eiji’s attack, but Eiji uses Kayin’s “Shoga Crush” attack and kicks Chaos right across the face. Kayin sees this and tells Gaia to use someone else’s technique to hurt Chaos. This is great. Who needs years of intense training? If you know how to fight at all, with any weapon, you can use anyone’s martial arts technique! I can kind of justify it with an android, because androids have the built-in excuse of, “Oh, it’s a robot, so who knows what it can do?” But a normal human being? Um, no. You cannot just suddenly know how to execute a completely different person’s fighting style. That would be like a wrestler magically knowing how to do Muay Thai. Rant aside, Gaia goes into feeble emo mode again, saying that it will only work temporarily because he’ll just absorb the data and they’ll be doomed again. What in the blue hell happened to this guy? He once headed a massive criminal organization, he wields a sword that looks bigger than Cloud Strife’s and he has killed countless people over his many decades. But he can’t muster the spirit to beat a mindless automaton? Eiji then adds more layers to the cake of nonsensicality by yelling, “SHOZAN PLUS!” Apparently, tacking on an addition symbol to the end of the name of your attack makes it more powerful. Kayin and Eiji pull off a dual-goofy-flying-kick-thing and further weaken Chaos. Eiji then gathers all of the blue energy he can muster into the tip of his sword and charges at Chaos, unleashing a ridiculously loud and flashy series of sword slashes upon him about 100 feet in the air. Chaos gurgles out a pained scream as he plummets back down to the tower roof, sparks flying out of him the whole way down. My question: wasn’t he an organic being? Does brainwashing entail literally becoming a robot? And if he was indeed a machine, then how was he feeling the pain of those sword swipes? Down below, Sofia screams, “Call me ‘Queeeeeeeeeeeeen,'” and her whip magically gains the power to turn everyone within 10 feet of her into dust. The rest of the Man Machines run away frightened. Okay, so these Man Machines can feel pain and sense fear. Maybe Ms. Uranus should have thought this project out a little further.
Inside the tower, Eiji, Kayin and Gaia burst into Uranus’ computer room demanding her to show herself. She sarcastically scoffs that she didn’t think they could defeat Chaos. Eiji declares her project to be finished because he blew up the production plant, and she laughs, saying that all he did was destroy a testing lab. (Well, duh.) Eiji is distraught at this news, and Uranus pulls out a disc with all of the fighting data on it, saying that she’ll incorporate all of the new data from the Chaos fight into her next Man Machine Project. Suddenly, a dagger flies in from nowhere and destroys the disc, and Uranus looks back aghast to see the real Sho Shinjo standing in the doorway. All four recognize him and Sho states that he can’t allow Uranus to make any more pathetic robot clones of him. (Well, despite the sad voice acting, at least someone is going to put an end to this drivel.) Uranus ekes out, “You’ll pay,” before a gargantuan tremor occurs. Sho says that he just blew up the production plant and that the buildings will collapse momentarily. Uranus flies away as she and Gaia yell at each other, but she assures him they’ll meet at the next Toshinden tournament. The building is crumbling around them at this point and Eiji looks back to see that Sho has disappeared again. He calls out for him, and moments later the buildings explode and collapse. Sofia and the rest of the plot devices look worried (why, I’m not sure; most of these people are mortal enemies of Eiji and each other), but fear not, Kayin and Eiji emerge from the flames (how ironic) and Eiji gives the mandatory corny thumbs up.
Music that sounds like a rip-off of the Olympic Games theme starts to play as the scene changes to a mountainous area near the site of the destroyed headquarters. All of the Toshinden warriors (minus Ellis) are there discussing what just transpired and what the future holds. Tracy is confused because she thinks they were all friends, but Eiji and Duke assure her that most of them are enemies and will try to kill each other once the next Toshinden tournament comes around. Days later, back at the hospital, Ellis wakes up, cured of her poisoning. Eiji and Kayin greet her and assure her that she’ll meet her father again one day soon. Ellis’ animation at this point looks like it was drawn by a giraffe with a serious mental condition, and she lets loose another annoyingly shrill exclamation and victory pose. While I’m on the subject, can someone explain to me how Gaia found the antidote to this poison? Didn’t the building crumble to the ground before he got it? He would have had to traverse two gargantuan buildings in a matter of seconds because there is no way he knew where it was. But somehow he found it, by golly. Eiji and Kayin exit the hospital, say farewell to each other and promise to meet again at the next tournament. Gaia stands on the same rooftop from earlier and keeps a silent vigil over the hospital as the scene shifts to a mountain cliff where Sho stands. He promises his brother (in his head) that they will face each other at the next tournament. Finally, we see Eiji one more time wandering off down a dirt trail when a scraggly guy in a tattered trenchcoat confronts him, saying nothing and pulling a shotgun out. (This is Vermilion, a ruthless secret boss from the second Toshinden game and the person who eventually became leader of the Himitsu Keesha in the fourth Toshinden game.) He cocks his gun, and Eiji, standing about 20 feet away, pulls out his sword and slices the screen as the OVA ends. O… kay… I guess they just had to cram yet one more character into this thing with no explanation as to why he was there. It fits the theme, I suppose.
What can I say? This was just another sad excuse for a video game adaptation, which is all too common, I’m sorry to say. And it contained the single most common problem found in such movies: the writers tried to cram too many characters into the story, and they (unsurprisingly) became nothing but plot devices at best. Subsequently, there was little to no plot to be seen because of this. It seemed like this was supposed to be a bridge between the first two video games, but there were so many things they ignored and rewrote, that even fans of the games would become confused watching it. (The real leader of the Organization wasn’t even mentioned or shown.) There were a few decent acting performances here and there (Uranus was pretty good, all things considered) and the animation in the first part had its instances of beauty, but they far overshadowed by the vast majority of it being almost impossible to look at and listen to. Don’t watch this garbage unless you can get it for free… and feel like shutting you brain off for an hour. In fact, seek out the first two video games if you can find them. They are very solid for early 3D console fighters, and I highly recommend them for nostalgic purposes.
Score: 20 / 100 — This OVA is the poster child for so many goofy anime cliches, it’s mind-boggling. If you aren’t a fan of the games, then maybe you can enjoy the random nonsensical fight scenes. But fan or not, no one can ignore the terrible animation, the pedestrian script, the inexcusably poor attempts at lip-synching and the mostly dreadful voice acting.