Ever since the Clannad side stories, there has been a small trend in dating sim and visual novel anime where, rather than trying to incorporate all of the vital elements from all of the characters into a single on-going story, adaptations would instead create smaller, alternate-path arcs. In this new model, as shown by last season’s Amagami SS and Yosuga no Sora, every few episodes would be devoted to one girl, and once her story was over, the next episode would act as if that story never existed, instead focusing on the idea of “what if the hero ended up with this girl instead?”
I’m not entirely supportive of this style of storytelling and I worry about its misuse to some extent and the way it can potentially trivialize not just the girls but the male protagonist himself, but the format has merit. In fact, I think it could be of great benefit to a genre of anime that had its heyday in the 90s but is almost non-existent today. I speak of the fighting game adaptation.
Now if you haven’t much experience with fighting game anime, it’s safe to summarize the genre by saying that most of it is very bad, to be somewhat kind. As to why the general quality of fighting game anime is so poor, the reasons are many, including budget, but much of it stems from the sheer numbers of characters that populated the source video games even as far back as Street Fighter II and its 12 warriors. Consider that fighting games have a large number of selectable characters, and that the player picks one and plays through the entire game with them. In time, every character gets their own fanbase. So if you’re making a fighting game anime you most likely want to appeal to the fans, and thus your adaptation has to include all of the characters. 12 is a lot, let alone the 16 when the actual Street Fighter II animated movie came out or the 30+ of the newest games, and inevitably what happens is that the characters don’t all get the same amount of love. Zangief fights Blanka in a ring just because. Lawrence Blood is made into a servant of Wolfgang Krauser just to fit him in.
Generally speaking, that’s fine. Characters should have different levels of focus in a story, that’s the difference between a main character and a side character after all. But while fighting games have official protagonists, your Ryus and Akira Yukis and Terry Bogards, in the context of being a video game the “main character” is whoever the player chose. So with fighting game anime having trouble with allotting enough time and attention to all of the characters, characters who are each important to someone out there, it begins to resemble the dilemma that dating sims, which are themselves video games where a variety of characters are “absolutely important” in their own paths.
That brings me to the big question. What if fighting games took a note from Amagami? What if, instead of trying to cram every character into one story, each episode or OVA was just, “what if this character won the tournament?” Each individual fighter can get their moment in the spotlight that they so rightfully deserve? Most likely this wouldn’t solve the budget issue, but it would showcase the characters in their proper glory.
Once an anime is made this way, call me. I have some very good ideas for the English voice cast.