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Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie – A thoroughly unpretentious lesson in arse-kicking

Sometimes it’s hard to look at movies objectionably; I grew up in the 90s and during this exciting decade, Street Fighter II was the ultimate beat ’em up arcade game. Not only was it fun to play, it was a great source of competition too; anyone who put their money into the arcade version was potentially subject to a random challenge from a fellow gamer – and if you lose, you can wave goodbye to that £2 worth of credit you just pumped into the machine too. Inevitably, you do lose, ’cause the other guy is an "older kid" and knows all of M.Bison’s special moves! It wasn’t fair then, and it sure as hell don’t feel fair now either!

I first sat through Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie around about ’97. I still remember seeing a trailer for it on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast. Suffice to say, it looked frickin’ cool, so my brothers and I clobbered together our meagre £5 pocket money (sometimes we join forces for the greater good) and bought the VHS tape that same day. I wasn’t an anime fan back then; but this movie was like a bolt of lightning for a trio of Street Fighter fans. Over the years since I must have sat through Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie 10 or even 20 times"¦ well, you get the picture; this one is tightly interwoven with my adolescence.

Coming from a video game like Street Fighter, this was never going to be Citizen Kane. The plot can be described in one sentence; M.Bison and his evil henchmen want to take over the world, standing in their way are martial arts masters (Japanese) Ryu and (American) Ken, along with a couple of other do-gooders (including Chun Li and Guile). That’s it, folks, not even James Bond is that simple. So, you must be wondering, what fills this 1hr and 35mins of running time? Isn’t it obvious – martial arts; a heck of a lot of martial arts, with all the fireballs, lightning kicks and pile-drivers you can wave your dusty SNES at.

Pick of the clashes (there are many) is surely Ryu vs. Fei Long and Chun Li vs. Vega.

Both are interesting due to their distinctive fighting styles – consider that Fei Long is Bruce Lee, basically, so his moves are fast, elegant and flashy technique driven martial arts topped off with high pitched battle cries. His one fight is a furious and clinical match-up that ends when he is knocked out cold by Ryu’s famous Hurricane Kick. You can feel the impact of each blow, this is one kinetic slugfest.

On the opposite end of the scale is Chun Li’s death match with the sadistic spaniard Vega. Doing away with the friendly vibe, this time the fight is a desperate and compelling spectacle that will end with death. What’s remarkable about this scene is that it all happens in a small apartment, so chairs and sofas are being thrown about in the chaos. Compared with the runaway train Vega, Chun Li is the petrified rabbit caught in the headlights – so in terms of brute strength, it’s a massive mismatch. I won’t spoil it for you, but what ensues is a creative and exciting action set piece that feels incredibly intense.

It’s worth noting that, for nostalgic reasons, I watched this dubbed into English. What is especially amusing is that Manga Ent. not only produced an English dub track, but also spliced in their own grunge and metal soundtrack too – so a lot of the action is set to head-banging anthems from the likes of Alice in Chains ("Them Bones"), Silverchair ("Israel’s Son") and Korn ("Blind"). It’s massively cheesy, but also quite fun. And that’s the point of this movie, really, we aren’t watching it for deep drama or poignant romance, it’s all about dragon punches, spinning bird kicks and sonic booms, and well"¦, it delivers some absolutely knock-out moments. Street Fighter fans – drop everything, this is a must see! After all, you get to see Chun Li naked in one of the most blatant fan-service scenes ever conceived!?

So, what if you’re not a Street Fighter fan? To be honest, this probably won’t win you over. If you love your martial arts, Dragonball Z or Naruto, you might want to give this a try, but at the same time, don’t expect much in terms of character introductions or plot exposition i.e. do yourself a favour and don’t try to work out why characters can use psychic powers or launch fireballs.

If you can accept Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie for what it is i.e. dumb guys constantly beating the crap out of each other in a number of creative ways, all set to classic 90s grunge tunes, you will enthusiastically mosh your way from start to finish. A masterpiece it might not be, but if you’re looking for a thoroughly unpretentious ass kicking, this is one movie worth picking a fight with.

Comments

Necromancer says:

I bought the special edition of this a few months ago so I could finally watch it in japanese. It was interesting to see but the original music makes some scenes with Ryu and Ken seem kinda homoerotic, lol. I also don’t like calling M.Bison, Vega (Vega is Balrog, Balrog is M.Bison due to the way the japanese switched the names for the US game’s release).

Watching the dub is still the best way to watch my fave fighting anime. HADOKEN!!!!

kauldron26 says:

o man, this was the shit when i saw it in 97. i remember the vandamme movie was such a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge let down for me as a kid. and when i saw the trailer for this on cartoon network, i was so psyched i could barely contain myself. imagine how my 12 yr old mind was blown seeing chun li in the shower naked…. aaaah fun times. i must have seen this like 20 times. and the chun li vs. vega fight i saw like 50 times. and the chun li shower scene… well… prolly like a 100. lol… i was 12, it was the first time i saw a naked woman on tv/video… dont judge me!!! lol…. such nostalgia… i remember me and my cousins would watch this over, and over, and over, and over…. good times….

Rift says:

If this is the same movie I’m thinking of…

…can you honestly praise it, given it’s ending?

…Bison suddenly appearing in a truck and trying to run over Ryu…?

I suppose if you ignore that…

…well, no, sadly, I really can’t get that one scene out of my mind, and it becomes the only thing I can judge this movie on.

clazy says:

wow. i remember renting this from blockbuster at least 10 times when i was growing up. I also remember that Street Fighter Alpha movie with Rose and the "Dark Hadou." I liked SF2 better. Ryu vs. Evil Ken fight scene!! awesome!! it spawned some crazy mugen stuff on youtube too.

bateszi says:

@Necromancer:
I had a quick listen to the Japanese music on YouTube today and it’s basically a polar opposite to Manga Ent’s metal offering. There is some bubblegum JPOP idol singing during the final fight with Bison. It was pretty random!

@kauldron26:
I’m proud to say I’ve never actually seen the Van Damme movie, but it looks terrible. He was playing Guile, right? I hate Guile :) Anyway, glad I’m not the only one to have been infatuated with this movie, by rights it should be complete garbage, yet somehow, it’s really quite fun and still holds up today.

@Rift:
All I can suggest is that you watch the movie again and try not to take it too seriously. Or rather, stop trying to apply logic to such a mad story! :) I quite like that ending twist, just because it confirms the absolute, never ending slugfest that is Street Fighter!

Hige says:

Yeah, this movie is also deeply intertwined with my childhood. Sorta similarly to you, I saw it as a result of my older brother scoring loads of Manga VHS, so it may well be one of my earliest anime experiences.

That and Overfiend, which happened to be in the selection as well. Although this obviously fucked me up as a twelve-year-old, it’s probably partly responsible for my warped tastes in anime today.

That and a twisted obsession with tentacle rape. Help me :(

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