SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom vol. 2

SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom vol. 2
 Chad Clayton  rates it:    

Author/Artist: Chi Wan Shum
Format: Paperback
Price: $13.95

Though they’ve always seemed to be commercially successful compared to other anime titles, anime and manga based on fighting games have traditionally done poorly in the ratings here at Anime Jump. All things considered, it’s not hard to see why. Fighting games generally only require an extremely broad plot and superficial character development. In an adaptation, these things must be improvised by production staffs who apparently have no desire or reason to spend much creative effort on them (case in point: Battle Arena Toshinden and Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie had the exact same premise). Fighting games also tend to encompass huge casts of characters, which guarantees that a bunch of them will get lost in the shuffle. And finally, it’s generally assumed that the audience only wants to see fighters talk trash, beat the crap out of each other, and show T&A where appropriate. This appears to be the exact mindset that went into the creation of the SVC Chaos comic, which rivals the average Internet Tough-Guy in terms of maturity level, eloquence, and raging, unchecked testosterone.

As the second volume (the first volume was unavailable to me at review time) of SVC Chaos begins, there’s some big fighting tournament being held in a parallel world/the afterlife/Somewhere That Is Not Our World by the goddess Athena, with the granting of one wish as the prize. And the only way to attend this tournament is to be a powerful fighter and, well, die. But don’t be alarmed: all your favorite fighters from the SNK Vs. Capcom Chaos game are attending, because M.Bison somehow managed to destroy the entire world just before the tournament got started.

Did I just write that? What we have here is a bunch of cast members from various games acting out the plot of a Mortal Kombat game, with shades of Dragon Ball Z thrown in for good measure. The premise is dumb and the execution is laughable by any standard, except, perhaps, for those of other fighting-game comics. But I assume it’s understood that the story is just an excuse for character interactions and fight scenes, so let’s move on to those.

To give credit where it’s due, the art of SVC Chaos is pleasing to look at. It alternates between full-color comic work and highly detailed paintings. Chi Wan Shum clearly put a ton of effort into the character renderings, even if he does move between paintings to comic-book art frequently and jarringly. If you’re going to buy this series at all, you’ll probably want to buy it for the character art. Even though it’s liberally covered with speech balloons, narration boxes, and other obnoxious, unnecessary text, the artwork stands out as the key selling point of this comic.

In fact, it’s the only selling point of this comic, because everything else about the comic is pretty dire.

Short Program!
The dialogue is absolutely horrendous, and most of it comes from the school of crazy tough-guy dialogue that seems germane to sophomoric fighting-game fanfiction. It’s amusing, if pointless, to compare it to the pre-fight dialogue in the actual SVC Chaos game. The game dialogue was corny and didn’t take itself seriously, but it was at least moderately amusing if only for its zaniness. The comic’s dialogue appears to have been ripped out of some teenagers’ DIY martial-arts home movie. It’s stiff, lifeless, unimaginative dialogue that sounds less like people speaking to each other than automatons conveying ideas for the sake of the plot. I don’t know if this is the fault of the original writing or if something was lost in adaptation, but there was a weak link somewhere.

That’s not to say the dialogue is the primary device for conveying the story to the audience. The lion’s share of the narrative comes from the narrator, who acts as an expositor and play-by-play man to all the fights. Trouble is, the narrator has the annoying compulsion to overexplain everything, including reminding us of things that happened only pages ago. During the fight scenes, we’re treated to such mastery of the glaringly obvious as, “Geese used this move to kill Choi. Will it happen again? No! Because Ken can already see its weakness!” The effect is similar to watching a slideshow of your uncle’s trip to the Grand Canyon, while he provides a corny running commentary while clicking through the slides. And it’s about as much fun to sit through. But I suppose the narrator is somewhat necessary, given that he’s the only method by which almost everything in this story is explained. The primary action almost exclusively focuses on characters banging their special movies against each other.

Short Program!
Unfortunately, that’s all the “fights” in this comic are – display forums for the characters’ trademark moves. The characters seldom throw a single punch or kick that isn’t one of their signature attacks. No suspense, mechanics, or psychology are involved – the fights consist entirely of having the characters throw their special moves at each other simultaneously, and the stronger technique wins out. It’s not much more exciting than watching someone play Paper-Rock-Scissors. Even the artwork occasionally works against the excitement level in the fights. The character movements are rendered in a stiff, overly literal, “freeze-frame” manner that doesn’t always convey motion or physical impact very well, and the comic makes grotesque overuse of the motion-shadow effect – drawing a character doing every motion of a move within a single panel – which sometimes confuses what the character is actually doing. The result is inconsistent – for every really good-looking fight scene, there’s several that look weak or otherwise off.

There are other annoyances in this volume, like the compulsion to label every single move with gigantic white text every time one is done, but there’s little point in dwelling on them. To put a point on all this, the only reason to give SVC Chaos a sideways glance is for the excellent character artwork, if you can look past the fact that quote bubbles, narration boxes, and excessive, ugly, effects-laden text are slathered all over the art. I can’t help but find myself wishing that the artist would get into doing artbooks, or team up with a skilled writer and get cracking on something more fitting. The thought that art of this caliber is being used on this kind of story is more than a little depressing.

Added:  Monday, March 13, 2006

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