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Western Animation / Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

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"In a land where only cats were living,
Where the heroes ran in short supply,
To a land so harsh and unforgiving,
Rode a hero, the blazing samurai!
When one town was found to be in danger,
From the evil-doers running by,
Who appeared, that brave and mighty stranger,
To save the day, the blazing samurai!"
Theme song, in what would have been a Title Theme Tune had they not changed the title.

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is a computer animated film directed by Rob Minkoff and Mark Koetsier with additional direction by Chris Bailey and released on July 15, 2022 by Paramount Pictures in conjunction with Nickelodeon Movies in the US and some regions. Theatrical screenings are accompanied by Bad Hamster, a short from Big Nate.

The film is intended to be an homage to Mel Brooks' 1974 Western comedy film Blazing Saddles (and was initially titled Blazing Samurai). Hank (Michael Cera), a beagle who wishes to become a samurai, stumbles upon a strange land known as Kakamucho, which is inhabited entirely by cats. He comes across Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais), an evil cat warlord who helps Hank become a samurai by placing him under the care of Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), who was once a great samurai himself. Jimbo reluctantly agrees to train him, and eventually, Hank must save Kakamucho from Ika Chu in order to discover what it means to become a true samurai.

The film also stars Mel Brooks as Shogun, George Takei as Ohga, Gabriel Iglesias as Chuck, Aasif Mandvi as Ichiro, Djimon Hounsou as Sumo, Michelle Yeoh as Yuki, and Kylie Kuioka as Emiko.

Originally set to be produced by Mass Animation, a company which started as a Facebook crowdsource initiative, the film, after years of Development Hell, switched hands to Aniventure.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Not to be confused with Brutal: Paws of Fury (that also features martial-arts-practicing anthropomorphic animals in a vintage East-Asian setting). Also has nothing to do with Jibanyan.

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank contains examples of:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Midway through the film, Hank lets his victory against Sumo and the resulting praise get to his head despite the fact that Jimbo was the one who did most of the work.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Aerith and Bob: Played with, since all the names in the movie are mostly real-life ones. There are American sounding names like Hank, Jimbo and Chuck, alongside Japanese names like Ika Chu, Sumo, Shogun, Emiko, and Ohga. Jimbo's American-sounding name could actually be short for the Japanese Yojimbo (akin to a certain katana-toting rabbit), but it's unknown if that was intentional or not.
  • The Artifact: Hank was originally going to dance to "Gangnam Style" in the club scene (which is retained in multiple international prints). However, seemingly at the last minute, the song was replaced with "Delirious" by Boneless, yet Hank still whistles "Gangnam Style" in the scene after.
  • Ass Kicks You: During their fight in the tavern, Sumo attacks Hank by squashing him with his huge backside.
  • Badass Adorable: Emiko, an adorable kitten who actually manages to put up a decent fight against Sumo before Hank intervenes, and tricks some of Ika Chu's army into attacking each other during the climactic battle. This is why when Hank turns down the shogun's offer of a sword at the end of the film, Hank decides that Emiko should have the sword instead.
  • Be Yourself: Played with, as technically another character learns the lesson, but it's still to Hank's benefit: The first time Jimbo trains Hank, it doesn't work, and Hank doesn't improve. But Jimbo realizes this is because he was attempting to train Hank to be another cat samurai, when what he really needs to do is train Hank to improve his skills as a dog. This time, it works, as Hank is able to get past the wall by digging, use his nose to sense the environment around him, etc.
  • Big Bad: Ika Chu serves as the main villain of the film, trying to drive everyone out of Kakamucho so he can destroy the village, just because he thinks the village is blocking his view.
  • Big Fun: Sumo is a large, fat cat who is also a pretty fun guy, befriending Hank after his defeat.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Some cat bandits get crushed under the letters of the title, which one cat blames on "the title department". Later, Hank tells the citizens of Kakamucho they only have 85 minutes of film, not including credits, which the Shogun later reiterates. And when Ika Chu is fleeing the heroes at the climax, he actually pulls on the screen to create a scene change to aid himself, causing Jimbo and Sumo to fall into the movie theater watching the film.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: A heroic example. Getting saved from a gang of thugs by a samurai was a pivotal moment in Hank's life. For Jimbo, he was just being a good samurai performing his duty to protect the weak even while abroad. He was also a bit sauced at the time, so his memory of the event is hazy.
  • Butt Sticker:
    • After the aforementioned Ass Kicks You moment, Hank gets stuck in Sumo's butt before Sumo yanks him out.
    • Also the subject matter of some of the film's promotional material, such as a billboard where Hank once again finds himself smushed by Sumo's gigantic backside, and a TV advert that ends just like movie's Ass Kicks You gag (although Hank takes it more in stride than in the film proper).
  • Cats Are Mean: Played straight with Ika Chu, the Big Bad, but averted with the other cat characters. Most of the village initially reject Hank because he's a dog but come around after he beats Sumo, Jimbo is standoffish but becomes Hank's mentor, and Emiko is on Hank's side from their first meeting.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The "samurai cup" that Ika Chu gives Hank as a makeshift badge of honor. At the climax, Hank throws it at Ika Chu to knock him into the Super Bowl, defeating him.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Jimbo accurately describes Hank as a "selfish idiot" who only wants to be a samurai for the glory and martial prowess.
  • Covers Always Lie: A minor example, but the first promo poster for the film featured Sumo (from his backside, no less) and only Sumo, giving the impression that he's the main character. In actually, the protagonist is a dog named Hank.
  • Darkest Hour: Ika Chu invites Hank for a night out on the town to celebrate his victory over Sumo, but it's a trick; it's just to get Hank out of the way so Ika Chu's ninjas can destroy the town without Hank there to protect them. When Hank returns, everyone is mad at him—and notably, even Emiko (who supported Hank from the beginning) briefly loses faith in him. In order to make things right, Hank has to catch up to Jimbo and help him save Sumo, despite Jimbo's initial refusal.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After Hank's victory over Sumo, Hank is compassionate enough to get Sumo to a doctor afterwards. Touched by the gesture, Sumo becomes an ally for the rest of the film.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Hitpig, a character created by Berkley Breathed, appears alongside the hitmen cat henchmen Ika Chu recruits. Hitpig is set to be the next feature from Aniventure, the film's primary production company.
  • The Faceless: The up-and-coming master that Jimbo once served is shown in the flashback only as a silhouette, and their name is given as Toshiro Tyfune, which is to avoid recognition of him as the younger version of the Shogun you've already seen.
  • Fan of Underdog: Since Hank is a dog, most of the town hates him simply for not being a cat. The exception is Emiko, a kitten who has faith that Hank can become a samurai and protect the town. Thus, it hits even harder when even she briefly loses faith in Hank during the Darkest Hour after the town is attacked by ninjas because Hank accepted Ika Chu's offer of a night of fun. Fortunately, Hank starts living up to his title of samurai more seriously after that, and her faith in him is restored.
  • Fantastic Racism: Dogs are banned from the nameless country that the film takes place in, and Hank specifically is persecuted and ostracized just for being one.
  • Fat Cat: Sumo is a cat and is huge. Justified in that he's a sumo wrestler.
  • Finger-Snapping Street Gang: The dogs who bully Hank in his flashback approach and snap their fingers like the Jets in West Side Story.
  • Gentle Giant: Again, Sumo. Although he is a wrestler, he also describes himself as being a "prawn in the sea of life", and in one scene is seen playing peacefully with a butterfly.
  • Gossip Evolution: Played for Laughs in the gigantic line of cats passing the messages between the Shogun and Ika Chu, the audible changes to the first message as it is repeated, and that it reaches the other end exactly as it started. After the opening phrase, it's omitted so the two ends are visibly on the same screen with no transmission delay.
  • Hero Protagonist: Hank is the main character, and the whole movie is about him becoming a heroic samurai.
  • Homage:
    • As stated in the summary, the film was inspired by the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles, with various parallels: a dog samurai in a cat village instead of a black sheriff in a white town, Sumo the "prawn in the sea of life" instead of Mongo the "pawn in the game of life", and so on. Brooks himself even voices the Shogun.
    • There are also various allusions to the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. The town of Kakamucho is a pun on Kagemusha, and Jimbo's name is a reference to Yojimbo.
  • Keep the Reward: At the end of the film, the Shogun offers Hank the reward of a brand-new samurai sword. But Hank refuses, since his training with Jimbo isn't finished. Hank decides instead to give the sword to Emiko.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Ika Chu tries to pull this off with Hank during their showdown. Given the obvious differences between the two, it doesn't work - with both of them immediately acknowledging this.
  • Meaningful Name: Some more obvious than the last.
    • Sumo is a sumo wrestler.
    • Shogun is the leader of the land that the move takes place in. Shoguns were military dictators who once served as the de facto leaders of Japan until 1867, when feudalism was abolished.
  • Mentor in Sour Armor: At the first glance, Jimbo can be quite standoffish and cynical, pulling no punches when it comes to training Hank, a nervous beagle. Likewise, he accurately describes Hank as a "selfish idiot" who only wants to be a samurai for the glory and martial prowess. However, Jimbo slowly warms up to Hank when the latter shows determination and kindness towards the sumo-wrestling cat named Sumo. He sticks to his ideals that being a good samurai is all about performing his duty to protect the weak even while abroad.
  • My Greatest Failure: When we finally learn why Jimbo is a "once-great" samurai, it's because he and his former lord were summoned to a secret meeting, and Jimbo thought it was a trap, attacking everyone there. But it turns out the lord's in-laws were planning a surprise birthday party for the lord, and Jimbo ended up ruining the party. However, this plot thread is revisited later in the film, when it turns out the shogun used to be Jimbo's former lord before rising through the ranks, and it turns out the shogun actually approved of what Jimbo did, because the shogun normally finds surprise parties boring, so Jimbo really livened things up.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: After Hank defends the town from Sumo (with assistance from Jimbo, though Hank is unaware of this), his newfound celebrity goes to his head, and he accepts an offer from Ika Chu to have some "fun" instead of honoring his commitment to his teacher. But Ika Chu only invites him for a night on the town so Hank is absent while Ika Chu's ninjas destroy the town. When Hank returns, he finds the town in ruins, with Jimbo and the other townspeople mad at him for not being there to protect them.
  • Recycled In Space: As stated, the film is Blazing Saddles IN JAPAN!, right down to scenes and dialogue being lifted almost verbatim from that movie.
  • Shout-Out: A lot.
    • Ika Chu's name sounds suspiciously like Pikachu. In fact, it's one of the first accidental misnamings in the call chain.
    • In one of the film's early posters, Sumo's loincloth has a picture of Hello Kitty on it.
    • The dogs who bully Hank in his flashback approach and snap their fingers in a very West Side Story manner.
    • One of the members of Ika Chiu's army looks similar to Jason Voorhees from FridayThe13th.
    • Jimbo's former master/the Shogun Toshiro Tifune is named for actor Toshiro Mifune.
  • The Stinger: Two cat guards look at Ika Chu, having survived the Super Bowl's explosion and now locked up behind bars, who says that he won't return in the sequel.
  • Training Montage: When Jimbo finally agrees to train Hank, we see one of these, with Hank even asking if they could "skip to the part where I'm good". This training montage doesn't work, as Hank doesn't improve. But then Jimbo realizes that it's because he was trying to train Hank to be another cat samurai, when he really should be training Hank to improve as a dog. The second training montage is much more effective, as Hank is able to use his wits to improve in training.
  • Uriah Gambit: Ika Chu's appointment of Hank as Kakamucho's samurai is a two-layer one. He hopes that either the racist townsfolk will lynch him on the spot, giving him a pretext to raze the town to the ground for murdering a royal official, or failing that the bandits will straight-up kill him thanks to his inexperience.
  • Visual Pun: Early promotional material featured its tagline "Prepare to Crack Up", accompanied by an image of Sumo's butt.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Blazing Samurai


Sumo's butt slam

During their fight, Hank gets crushed by Sumo's giant butt and subsequently wedged in between his butt cheeks.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ButtSticker

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