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Toon Zone Throwdown Round 2: Top 5 Duels

by on June 10, 2008

Here at Toon Zone News, we firmly believe that non-violent solutions to Real World problems are the ones that should be actively sought out and implemented. These solutions are harder to do, but if done correctly, they will tend to be more permanent, resulting in less ancillary suffering of innocent bystanders and more long-term happiness for all parties involved.

That’s why we want our cartoon characters to solve their problems with as much violence as possible.

So, to commemorate the opening of Kung Fu Panda last week and The Incredible Hulk movie this week, and with tongues placed firmly in cheek, the staff at Toon Zone News has pumped up the adrenaline and the testosterone to put together the Hulk-sized Toon Zone Throwdown: our completely subjective picks for the best slugfests in animation, divided into five categories of five fights each. There will be one new Top 5 list per day, starting Monday and running to the opening of The Incredible Hulk on Friday.

In addition to the screenshots for these fights, any title that’s a link will take you to a legal video of the TV show or movie in question, either streaming or downloadable for a fee. Nothing brings across a fight like seeing it in motion.

When it comes to killing someone, you can’t get fairer than a duel. With a weapon of choice in one hand, and the opponent’s heart in the other, duels have been the ultimate way to correct a matter of honor, finish an argument, or simply woo the tender heart of a charming lady. Yes, duels have a simple social legacy that rips through the quagmire of complications – no need for politicians, social workers, or Montel Williams. You just need two weapons, two people and preferably a change of underwear.

So while the art of stabbing/slicing/shooting your rival honorably through the heart is considered a faux pas in these enlightened days, we can at least enjoy the thrill of a good duel on our television sets. After all, it is the simplest resolution to any dramatic struggle – it is the culmination of a storyline streamlined into absolutes: hero vs villain; good vs evil. It is personal drama at it’s most intimate bringing the most final of solutions. Deep down, we all love a good duel.

Unfortunately, given the duels aggressive nature, its logistical headache for animators and the sheer lack of scale, duels have never had quite had the presence in animation as gunfights, star-fights and large lumbering robot-fights. Nevertheless, with an eagle eye it’s not too difficult to find some diverse examples of how animation has used duels to great affect.

So what quantifies a good duel? The answer is as simple as when the blades and pistols met for real – it has to be longer than we immediately expect, and more entertaining that we previously hoped.

So here’s a rundown of five excellent examples of animated duels, each using a slightly different mixture of elements to create the entertainment we crave.

All these writeups may contain spoilers. Ready? Then let’s FIGHT!

Samurai Jack Vs Shinobi
Samurai Jack: “Episode XL” (2003)
Directed by Robert Alvarez, Randy Myers, and Genndy Tartakovsky

Why: When it comes to duels, you can’t beat Samurai Jack for a spectacle of smart direction and stylish animation. And this season four episode heralds an example of dueling in its most innovative form. Staged in a tower as the sun sets, creating powerfully contrasting shadows, Jack faces off against a deadly robotic ninja assasin. With the white samurai against the black ninja, this becomes the ultimate duel of contrasts: white vs black.

This one's for the Invincible Super Blog!

Quite frankly, I’ve never seen such an impressive fusion of thematic narrative with visual action. The duel between the black ninja and the white samurai literally creates a stark battleground of black and white. With no shades to the animation, it’s a battle that crosses two stark tones. Such an abstract conception must have taken some planning, but it paid off for the final cut. This is a duel with artistic flair that challenges the very expectations of animated fights and has to be there as one of the top five. A memorable moment for Samurai Jack, and a truly monumental moment for animated duels across the board.

Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless
The New Adventures of Flash Gordon: “Chapter 16: Ming’s Last Battle”
(Director unknown)

Why: Back in time we go, near thirty odd years. Proof that break-neck animation is not essential to a darn fine duel. In this Filmation classic, we have the first season finale culminating in a showdown between the dashing Flash Gordon and Mongo’s mighty tyrant – and uncanny Skeletor impersonator – Ming the Merciless.

It may lack the sparkle of contemporary animation, but as duels go, you can’t beat the sheer iconic nature of Earth Champion Flash Gordon taking on ruler of the universe, Ming the Merciless in a fight involving swords, guns and the occasionally hurled piece of rubble.

The rest of the cast can only watch on in awe as the duel has Flash and Ming scaling walls, swashbuckling across balconies, and parrying atop dizzying towers — enemies and friends united in the sheer sweepstakes potential of the moment. With a solid storyboard, effective pacing and a trumpeting score, the mood is captured succinctly and a fight for the universe makes this a duel a must. It may lack the slick edge of some of the other entries, but it makes up for animated shortcomings in classic dignity.

Anakin Skywalker vs. Asajj Ventress
Star Wars: Clone Wars: “Chapters 17-19” (2003)
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky

Why: Well, I can’t honestly say it’s the lightsabers. After six films of the blighters they seem as common as dish mops.

= https://www.toonzone.net/news/images/2008-06/TZThrowdown/Duels/CloneWars02.jpg

On his hunt for the Asajj Ventress, Anakin Skywalker tracks the Sith warrior to Yavin IV where they commence an extended lightsaber duel across the forest moon that takes up two entire “micro-episodes” of the first season of this show. What makes this duel special how it invokes diversity in pace and direction to sustain its long duration. The duel plays out across a wide variety of grounds and circumstance, starting on a battle on the forest floor that ends up in the trees, before a stand-off by the rain soaked temple, sabers hissing and crackling under the thundering precipitation.

Directorial touches slow the duel down and then crank it up when necessary. There is room for pregnant pauses and even some visual humour. Certainly, this is a duel worthy of the big screen – and who can be surprised coming from the series of films that still owns cinema when it comes to the ultimate dueling weapons: the dish mop…sorry, lightsaber.

Tom vs. Jerry
“Duel Personality” MGM (1965)
Directed by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble

Why: Proof that a good duel doesn’t have to be a serious one. You know the score. Jerry hits Tom, Tom attacks Jerry, and on they fight, ad infinitum. Under the talented direction of the mighty Chuck Jones, there came an episode where the ultimate comic foes played out the ultimate comedy duel. Here, Tom and Jerry pull out every dueling arsenal in the book. Pistols? Yep. Fencing? Definitely. Bow and Arrow? Gotcha. Cannons? That too. Even slingshots get a look in. On an unusually even battleground, Tom and Jerry duke it out, and even the irritating mouse isn’t immune from a few blows this time. It’s a lot of fun and has to be the ultimate animated comedy duel!

Cloud vs. Sephiroth
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
Directed by Tetsuya Nomura and Takeshi Nozue

It was a film that didn’t exactly have Final Fantasy fans series in united applause. But whether you loved it or loathed it, the final battle between confuzzled hero Cloud Strife and resurrected sly dog Sephiroth has to be one of the biggest epic duels in animated history. Setting aside any fan squees for the much anticipated return of video games’ biggest icons, this swordfight truly is as epic as it comes.

The 3D animation is incredible, and the battle is waged over a gigantic playing field. Midair flights slam through office floors and even have them carving up buildings as the clash in freefall. The bombastic accompanying soundtrack is full of orchestral wonder, chanting choirs and electric guitars, an aural crescendo to this battle beyond battles. If that wasn’t enough, heck Cloud’s sword itself is actually six different swords combined, as Sephiroth soon discovers in Cloud’s final devasting move.

Yes, on all counts, it is an epic duel pushing animation and fight direction to the limits. A duel between two mighty icons of contemporary entertainment pitched in a world with few physical constraints. The truly epic duel.

So there we go, five diverse duels spanning over forty years of animation. Proof that even something so simple as a fight between two people carries such potential when put in the hands of great creative minds.

Replay Past Toon Zone Throwdown Rounds:

Concept for Toon Zone Throwdown by Jacob T. Paschal. Toon Zone News Staffer Ed Liu contributed to this article.

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