Sunday, May 25, 2014

Street Fighter Saturday: Animated Goods

After whetting my Street Fighter appetite with comics, it was time to revisit some of the animated efforts.  Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is one of the only Anime's I ever got into because it's just so fucking badass.  From the opening credits that take place during a dark and stormy night where Ryu and Sagat face off in a fantastic and fierce battle in the middle of a field, you know you're in for a treat.  Riding high on the success of the billion dollar video game franchise, Street Fighter was ready to take on all aspects of the pre-transmedia world.  The Jean-Claude Van Damme starring movie adaptation was expected to be his latest break through role (it wasn't) and all things Street Fighter were hitting the market.  I distinctly recall going to my local pharmacy/video store, Phar-Mor (Where you got Phar more but paid Phar less, get it?!) to pick up a copy of SF on VHS.  I have no idea how I would know it's release date back then as the internet was barely in it's infancy and not quite into it's heyday of AOL CD's in the mail and Instant Messenger.

SFII is the story of Ryu, a vagabond martial artist searching for his next great fight.  As a teen he trained and became friends with the blonde haired American Ken who would go on to become a world champion.  Meanwhile, M. Bison and his Shadowlaw organization are traversing the world, searching for the world's best fighters in order to turn them into terrorists.  For example, New Challenger Cammy is brainwashed and sent to kill a prominent government official.  Bison employs monitor cyborgs (!) to study fighters and send their stats back to home base.  Hot on Bison's trail is Captain Guile from the Air Force, a super buff and gruff tough guy who sports a giant, gravity defying blonde brush cut and no eyebrows.  Interpol's sexy Chun-Li is sent to team up with the American to find Bison but has her own agenda as she's on the hunt for revenge as Bison threw her dad down an elevator shaft.  In this iteration we get to see a little more of Ken and Ryu's past through quick flashbacks of their training as youths in Japan.  Years later, Ryu is still the only person to be able to defeat Ken in a fight.  Ryu walks the Earth and encounters familiar faces like movie star Fei Long, E. Honda and Dhalsim in street bouts while Ken runs into T. Hawk randomly one night and has to put the big guy down.  Bison's bosses Sagat and Vega are nearby to handle the dirty work while Balrog is used as an enforcer in Vegas where a freak, underground match pits Russian wrestler Zangief versus the mysterious man-beast from Brazil, Blanka.

All paths intersect in a violent showdown as Bison has brainwashed Ken and sics him against his former best friend.  It's fights galore as Ryu mixes it up with Fei-Long, random jerks, an unforgiving striking post and finally his confused friend Ken and then M. Bison.  Chun-Li gets a nice fight post animated shower scene (complete with nudity in some countries) with assassin Vega where she kicks him through a wall and he plunges to his death.  The fights in Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie are some of the greatest I've ever seen, animated or not.  They're fast, brutal and fucking magnificent with back and forth hand to hand combat animated so fluidly that real life almost can't compare to the impact felt here.  The dubbed English version has some hilarious line readings while like the comics, E. Honda provides some yuks as just being a big, loud, happy guy.  Directed by Gisaburo Sugii, the pace is brisk and we get a sense of each of the main characters. Recognizable faces pop up for scenes but are sent on their way to avoid overcrowding and serve some story purpose versus a simple cameo to remind you you're watching Street Fighter.  For the American version, a great, hard rock score is employed to give the fights and scenes punch.  Silverchair, Alice In Chains, KMFDM and Korn are all used to spectacular effect and get you amped.

Sugii would soon return to the Street Fighter franchise with an animated series, Victory, which ran in Japan in 1995 before being brought to America during the Manga/Anime boom of the late 90's and early 2000's.  Serving as a sort of prequel to the Animated Movie, Victory catches Ken and Ryu at 17, 2 years since they finished their training together.  Ryu is working as a lumberjack while Ken is a playboy in America thanks to his dad's riches.  Ken invites Ryu to America so he leaves his job and the bosses daughter who is lusting after him.  Upon arrival, the duo get into trouble as they wade into an Air Force bar and beat up some locals.  Guile arrives and puts the hurting on Ryu.  Ken steps up to avenge his friend but just earns some lumps.  This inspires the two to hit the road, finding more fighters to challenge their skill set so they can become the greatest in the world.  It's a fun show with great macho and homoerotic goings on.  Ken's always macking on chicks but the first thing he and Ryu do upon checking into a $20,000.00 a night hotel in Hong Kong is strip naked and go swimming together.  Stuff like that.  Again, the action here is fast, fluid and furiously violent.  Being a cartoon, every man is jacked to the max while the females are bombshells.

With Ken and Ryu being younger, other characters are altered to match.  Chun-Li is 15 and a tour guide while Fei-Long is a young Hong Kong movie star in the making.  The duo run into other characters from the video game mythology as friends, foes and mentors.  While we get random Akuma cameos in the background, the makers of Victory don't force EVERY Street Fighter character down our throats which is a surprise considering it ran for 26 episodes.  But mainstays like E. Honda, Blanka and Dee Jay are nowhere to be found.  The show employs a great theme song but with credits, recap and end credits, each episode only contains about 18 minutes of content.  Being translated from Japanese gives the show a funny bent as you get show titles like "Trap Prison and the Scream of Truth" and the awesome tagline, "Gonna burn some muscle!".

Following the release of the live action film, a Street Fighter Animated Series debuted on USA in 1995.  Like the movie, Guile is the lead character with Blanka and Chun-Li at his side while video game stars Ken and Ryu play supporting characters.  Playing like a bad version of G.I. Joe, SFAS follows Guile and his team of street fighters as they fight M. Bison around the world and basically suck ass.  Seriously, I tried watching a couple episodes of this and had no clue what was going on.  It was just cheesy which means a lot coming from me because I'm into some cheesy shit... and who the crap thought Blanka was a good choice for a sidekick?

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