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Toon Zone Throwdown Round 3: Top 5 Power Fights

by on June 11, 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.

A power fight is something many of the readers of Toon Zone News know ever so well. These fights focus on the use of powers — super-, magical, or otherwise — that involve more destruction than can be generated by mere grunting or physical exertion. In addition to the usual superhero world-saving of American comics turned cartoon, power fights additionally lend themselves to Japanese shônen stories like Dragon Ball, or even /em>Pokémon with its ‘General ordering Foot Soldier’ style of combat. With the ease that the medium has in defying the laws of physics and nature, power fights have been a staple of animation for years.

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

Son Gokû vs. Vegeta
Dragon Ball Z: Episodes 30 – 35: “A Hot, Unbounded Battle! Goku vs. Vegeta,” “Now, Goku! A Final Technique with Everything on the Line,” “Battle Power Times Ten! Vegeta’s Great Metamorphosis,” “Don’t Die, Father! This is the Depth of Gohan’s Power,” “Shoot, Kuririn! The Genki Dama, Packed with Hope,” and “Cause a Miracle! Son Gohan, the Super Saiyan” (1989-1990)
Directed by Daisuke Nishio (Series), Takao Koyama (Series), Katsumi Aoshima (30), Tomekichi Takeuchi (31), Masayuki Uchiyama (32, 35), Yukio Ebinuma (33), and Minoru Maeda (34)

Why: Probably one of shônen’s most compelling of rivalries; this battle during the Saiyan story arc was one most Western fandom may not have felt the true emotional impact of. One must remember that after a brief thirteen episode stint, the original Dragon Ball never really caught on when it premiered in syndication in the mid-nineties. Thus, American fans came into the Saiyan arc not knowing just why the deaths of Yamcha, Tenshinhan, and Chaozu were so important to series lead Son Gokû. In fact, Son’s bitter battles with Demon King Piccolo — at one point a renowned demon who attempted to conquer the Earth — were never seen, robbing the former villain’s sacrifice (leaping in the way of a blast launched by Nappa to kill Son Gohan, son of Gokû) of its impact. Sporting both giant blasts of energy and fast, high power gut busters, this fight is also notoriously lengthy — just when you think it’s over, Vegeta gets back on his feet, refusing to die.

Son Gokû ends up losing this fight if you want to get technical, and his son and best friend Kuririn and ol’ Yajirobe take over, each contributing their share to cutting the prideful prince down to size. Even though Kuririn has the chance to kill Vegeta, Gokû asks for his life to be spared so that they might have a rematch which Son can win. This rematch, while just as awesome, cannot be afforded a spot in the top five for sportsmanship but we recommend it just as much as we do this fight. This battle wins out, if solely because it was the first.

Naruto, Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Shizune vs. Orochimaru and Kabuto
Naruto: “A Dubious Offer! Tsunade’s Choice!”, “Breakdown! The Deal is Off!”, “Attack! Fury of the Rasengan!”, “The Fifth Hokage! A Life on the Line!”, “Deadlock! Sannin Showdown!” (2004)
Directed by Hayato Date

Why: As this episode begins, the Third Hokage and the leader of the Village Hidden in the Leaves is dead, and a new Fifth Hokage must be selected (the Fourth having died before the series beginning). Jiraiya takes it upon himself to track down his fifty year old former teammate Tsunade — a medical ninja genius who has a bit of a vanity problem and uses ninjutsu to remain young looking. When Tsunade mocks the idea of becoming the Fifth Hokage, Naruto becomes infuriated and a bet is drawn: if Naruto masters the Rasengan in a week he gets her necklace, once a possession of her grandfathers, the First Hokage. However, prior to this meeting, Tsunade had been contacted by Orochimaru to heal his arms and she was given a week to think it over. Realizing Orochimaru would just destroy the village, and because Naruto reminded her so much of her dead little brother, Tsunade attempts to kill Orochimaru, but Kabuto arrives just in time to reveal that what seems to be a healing jutsu is really ridden with killing intent!

From there a huge battle royal is set off in which Naruto masters the Rasengan, Tsunade overcomes her hemophobia, and giant snakes, toads, and slugs duke it out so wildly you’d think it was some Samuel L. Jackson flick. Despite the villains escaping the day is won, in a sense: Tsunade agrees to be the Fifth Hokage and learns to believe again while Naruto gets that well deserved necklace, a sign that he was right and that even a ungifted kid like he can accomplish what he wishes if he puts his mind to it.

Aang and Katara vs. Zuko and Azula
Avatar the Last Airbender: “The Crossroads of Destiny” (2006)
Directed by Michael Dante DiMartino

Why: The elemental bending of Avatar the Last Airbender is a perfect way for the show to run wild with martial-arts action while dodging the usual prohibitions that keep fights in kids’ cartoons from being too intense. There have been many awesome bending battles on the show, but we’ve picked the climactic fight at the end of the second season of the show for a few reasons. The two-on-two duel between the heroes Aang and Katara against the villains Zuko and Azula is the first one that really showcases all four bending arts — Air, Earth, Fire, and Water — at the same time in a serious fight. The two-on-two setup also creates all kinds of interesting fight dynamics, including multiple double-teams and a mid-fight opponent trade.

Finally, it’s also a spectacular fight, with the magic kung-fu happening against a striking crystal cave setting that provides plenty of raw material for Water and Earth bending. It also includes lots of little moments that illustrate how the characters have grown over the two seasons of the show. Aang attempts Earthbending on a larger scale than he ever has before, and his inexperience often does as much damage to himself as to his opponents. Katara began the show as a hesitant self-taught Waterbender, but by now her skill has grown to the point where she nearly bests Azula in a straight-up, one-on-one bending battle — a feat nobody else on the show has managed yet. Meanwhile, Prince Zuko shows that he was, in fact, listening to his Uncle Iroh earlier, adapting Katara’s water whip move to create lashes of flame. This is also the first time we see Princess Azula use her Firebending to propel herself like a rocket — a move she repeats even more spectacularly later in book 3. Finally, the electrifying ending of the fight is a picture-perfect demonstration in using shock tactics to utterly defy viewer expectations. Simply marvelous, from start to finish.

Straw Hat Luffy vs. Mr. 0
One Piece The Movie: Episode of Alabasta: The Desert Princess and the Pirates (2007)
Directed by Takahiro Imamura

Why: In the Kingdom of Alabasta, civil war brews. One Piece‘s Straw Hats had met Princess Nefertari Vivi of Alabasta shortly after the pirates entered the Grand Line, when we learned that Mr. 0, leader of the Baroque Works clandestine organization, is in reality Sir Crocodile, one of the World Government’s Seven Warlords of the Sea. Sir Crocodile is dead-set on creating a civil war in Vivi’s desert kingdom by spreading rumors and lies about her father, so that he may uncover the whereabouts of the Ancient Weapon known as Pluton and rule the sand kingdom for the three year drought. Vivi is left crying as rebels aiming to overthrow the king do battle with the royal armies. Angered by his friend’s personal pain at seeing her country senselessly destroy itself, Luffy promises to “send Crocodile flying.”

Luffy tries twice to defeat Crocodile’s body of sand, at first on his own and then coating his body in water, for it is the only way to cause damage to the sand Warlord. He fails both times, and is poisoned by Crocodile’s hidden hook. Out of desperation, Luffy covers himself in his own blood for a third attack. In what is regarded as one of the greatest of One Piece moments, Luffy unleashes his Gum-Gum Storm to fulfill his promise, sending Crocodile flying right through solid bedrock out of the Grave of the Kings and knocking over several buildings in the process. At last, with Crocodile out, Alabasta enjoys her first rainfall in three years as Navy Captain Smoker bags and tags Crocodile, stripped of his Warlord status. Luffy is “rewarded” with a bounty of one hundred million berries.

With great emotional drama and some pretty inventive battle styles — not to mention a near-suicidal style of fighting — this fight is relentless despite being sandwiched between a war and a political coup d’état. This fight requires a bit of background knowledge for the full emotional impact, but it is still clear as day that watching the greedy and shameless villain Crocodile getting thrashed by the passionate and almost fatherly hero Luffy is complete and unadulterated fun.

Team Urameshi vs. Team Masho
Yu Yu Hakusho: “Master of Disguise,” “Kurama’s Stand,” “Crushing Revenge,” “Jin, the Wind Master,” “Reverse Decision,” “A Matter of Life and Death” (1993)
Directed by Abe Noriyuki

Why: Mere minutes after their fight against Team Ichigaki in the Dark Tournament, which left Kuwabara too injured to even stand, Team Urameshi is forced to fight against Team Masho, a team of shinobi seeking to own Hanging Neck Island, the site of the Dark Tournament. To make matters worse, Hiei and the Masked Fighter end up trapped in a medical tent thanks to a ruse from the tournament committee. Thus, it is left to Kurama and Yusuke to fight all five members of Team Masho, or die as losers.

Out of all the fights in the Dark Tournament saga, this is the only one in which every single fight is just cool, if only for the freak factor. Kurama’s fights are a bit more interesting than his previous fights since he must find a creative new way to use his plants other than his Rose Whip, since Gama, his first opponent, is able to form magical hexes using, of all things, make-up. But this isn’t your normal, everyday eye-shadow, as this makeup is created from Gama’s blood, which leaves Kurama in a precarious position when he faces the Ice Master Toya. The way Kurama manages to beat these two enemies (by using his hair to summon the Rose Whip and by planting a fatal Death Plant inside his body and using his blood as water/fertilizer) is extremely creative and fit right in with characters who use makeup and ice cubes. But the real fun begins when Bakken of Team Masho beats up an unconscious Kurama, obviously pissing off Yusuke. When the Spirit Detective’s turn is up, Bakken shows off his only power: the mighty Mist of Sweat. You can probably guess how this fight ends.

Then it gets even more fun when Jin, the Wind Master, joins the fight. The easygoing friendship Jin and Yusuke create here makes the fight much more fun than the usual “I’m gonna kick your ass!” brawl shônen heroes fight in. Jin’s wind tricks are a delight to watch, especially his Tornado Fist, which is exemplified with some of Studio Pierrot’s best animation and a touch of fight humor. It all culminates in Yusuke’s first ever Spirit Wave, a powerful punch that looks like it really hurts — considering the brutal fights in this series, that’s saying something. Adding to the fun is the FUNimation dub, with Justin Cook’s usual smartass Yusuke being aided by the hilarious, nigh-unintelligible Irish accent that Jerry Jewell gives Jin.

As if things couldn’t get more awesome, Kuwabara, the best character in the show, steps up to the plate when Yusuke is disqualified on a technicality. With every bone broken in his body, Kuwabara must defeat Risho, the leader of Team Masho, or his team’s out. At first, Kuwabara is a mere punching bag, but eventually decides to use his Life Energy for one last hurrah. Kuwabara gives a rousing and emotional speech, saying good-bye to all his allies, and is ready to bite the big one for the greater cause…and then he sees his love, Yukina. Merely by looking at the ice apparition, Kuwabara instantly gets his Spirit Energy back and whacks Risho away in a glorious revenge scene. And how was Kuwabara able to gain his energy back despite being so injured? Well, that’s the power of love, baby.

Replay Past Toon Zone Throwdown Rounds:

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