Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Bloodthirsty Prince: A Lust for Beauty and a Love Potion for Chun-Li (Group TAC/Capcom/Manga)
Where: Street Fighter II V Ep. 14 When: July 1995
Why: Gisaburō Sugii How: Kōji Tsujitani/Skip Stellrecht & Banjō Ginga/Peter Spellos

Quick Fix...
Ah, running behind schedule. It's like coming home.

As you would've gathered by now, I'm quite a fan of Street Fighter II V. Not only has it been a vital component in our weekend thematic look at the series which has now announced a brand new instalment in Street Fighter IV, but it's also just a TV show I look back on with a lot of fond memories. It's almost with a heavy heart that I recall absorbing it all on VHS ten years ago. Time seems to have gone by too fast.

Because of gaps in the comic series and so on, I wanted to maintain a sequential throughline for SFIIV. Being a convenient complete DVD set, we have been able to leapfrog effortlessly from episode to episode, taking a moment to pause on the battles between starring characters.

This marks our first departure from that formula, and I offer up good motivation. I mean, sure, part of my reasoning is the fact that finding two clean caps for a quick fix is a lot easier than rushing out a full entry. This also gives us an opportunity to take a bit of a breather as the series crosses the halfway mark, and begins to become more steeped in events surrounding Bison and his operations with Shadaloo.

GUILE makes his move on RYU in episode 2!I take the opportunity to remind the uninformed that SFIIV is surprisingly wile in it's story telling. The casual observer would be forgiven for assuming this was just thirty episodes of kicking and screaming, but the series manages to make subtle turns that lend an underlying sense of reality to the world faring antics of our teen protagonists; Ken and Ryu.

Episode two is the lynchpin on which the series is built. There's a faint sense of coming full circle come the finale, with the barroom brawl between Guile and Ryu giving the pair of fighters a measure for the fighting prowess they hope to attain. It not only prompts the travelling aspect of the series, but as inferred, provides an overall arc to the series which is revisited during the Dhalsim episodes.

Perhaps my favourite moments of the series are the adventure and escape from Kowloon Palace. These episodes [2 & 3] represent underground fighting in a way often ironically overlooked in Street Fighter, and marries it to shades of the Escape movies as Ken, Ryu and Chun-Li run from various themed gangs while they attempt to reach the perimeter fence of this decrepid portion of China.

Their association with Chun-Li; whose father plays the role of big game cop, instead of her; leads them to Fei Long, and further opportunities to touch upon facets of the film culture in martial arts, while also testing their skills against another keyframe opponent.
Episode five marks the first, but not the last appearance of Fei Long in combat with another Street Fighter.

SAGAT and RYU in a prison face-off in episode 9!It's after foiling the revenge schemes of the drug running criminal organization called Ashura, that the story really begins to undergo a sense of perpetual motion. The Muay Thai technique used by the Ashura leads Ken and Ryu to Thailand, where Ryu is imprisoned after having drugs planted in his luggage by the group.
While Ken tracks down the names and faces responsible, Ryu has an encounter with the fallen emperor of Muay Thai -- Sagat.

Episode nine marks SFIIV's representation of one of the most famous battles in Street Fighter canon. Of course, with Sagat recast as a much more sympathetic victim of the Ashura, it culminates in a friendship between the two characters, rather than the rivalry that persists after their famous Street Fighter conclusion.

When Ryu is exonerated and freed from prison, Sagat is not far behind, and as a token of his appreciation he reveals the name of a secretive monk who can help Ryu foster his training in the hadou arts. We very recently featured the outcome of the pair's training with Dhalsim, which saw them unwittingly battling each other in
episode twelve.

I'd love to elaborate more on all of the story that fills the gaps between the touchstones of character appearances we've looked at, but time is of the essence, so if you find yourself even remotely curious, you know there'll be an Amazon link a few lines down to steer you toward a convenient purchase.

Moving forward, our heroes leave behind their enlightening experiences in India to travel to lighter times in Spain. Interpol is giving out an award for the Ashura bust in which Ken and Ryu were vital, and they've been asked to receive the award along with Chun-Li's father, Chief-Inspector Dorai.

Any Street Fighter fan worth his salt knows exactly what Spain means: which brings us to this first battle for your pleasure. Actually, the circumstances of our fix share a vague parallel with the pageantry under which regular readers observe the Infinite Wars fights.

Episode fourteen opens with images vague and mysterious, as an unnamed fighter finds himself at the mercy of a blurring figure that makes speedy attacks. Suffering kicks, elbows and claw slashes, the fighter is soon on his backside.

The dull rumble of laughter begins to spill from the masked uppercrust that watch on from a balcony surrounding the cage. The besieged fighter finds himself now seemingly alone in the cage, but soon learns the contrary.

Dangling upside down from an elaborate chandelier, his eyes glaring from beneath the white mask that protects his face. The matador launches into a flipping tumble, coming down to strike his opponent with a claw slash that puts an end to him.

Vega represents a comparable foil for Ken, and signifies the turning point in the series as it begins to delve into the operations of Shadaloo and it's mysterious and powerful leader, Bison. The presence of Shadaloo is felt by the extension of Ashura, which serves as a small time tool of the International syndicate.

While there can certainly be arcs recognised in the early episodes, it's here that the story progresses in smaller increments, and is more densly preoccupied with events developing in sequence.

Both military and Shadaloo agents converge on the series protagonists, and this allows more of SFIIV's deviation in character, recasting the roles of a character like Zangief, to be more along the lines of his American feature role.

That said, Vega fullfils much the same role as his depiction in the games, with the opportunity to flesh out the sadistic qualities of his fighting technique.

No doubt we'll feature more Street Fighter II V in the new year, but in the mean time, I've got a whole other section to phone-in. C'mon, it's the holidays, people! Give me a break!

The Fix: 4 The Episode: 6
Winner: Vega

You'll have to stay tuned if you want to see Vega in caged action as he goes up against his rival, Ken Masters, for the affections of an enchanted Chun-Li. It's a truly brutal battle, and hey, if you act now, there might be just enough time to make it yours for X-Mas!

VEGA versus RYU
Staff Meeting (Universal/Capcom)
Where: Street Fighter When: December 1994
Why: Steven E. deSouza How: Byron Mann, & Jay Tavare

Quick Fix...
It must've been around 2000 that I was on a big Street Fighter kick. The animated movie and SFIIV series were getting regular viewings, along with a wide array of Van Damme films, so when a triple threat of Van Damme films culminating in Street Fighter was on TV one summer's night, it was a good thing!

Sure, Street Fighter is one of the most maligned video game adaptations, deriving it's material from one of the most exciting and successful properties of the time. I'm not denying that. But in that evening seven years ago, it was a joy to spend the night out with friends, only to get home in time to catch the bulk of Street Fighter.

Okay, that thrilling trip down memory lane has killed a few paragraphs, so I suppose we should get to the "real" stuff.

Not so long ago we teased the possibility of coming back to the Street Fighter movie, but these probably weren't the circumstances I had in mind. A symptom of running behind, I'm afraid, but hey, it's all education!

During our last visit to the feature [Sagat/Vega vs Ken/Ryu] you probably won't have been able to appreciate the arc to the relationship of the four characters concerned. Of course, if you've seen the movie, that probably doesn't help you appreciate it any better, but I digress...

Early in the film we're introduced to Ken and Ryu as supporting characters that deviate dramatically from their established depiction in other media. In fact, while their hearts of gold are alluded to, the pair are actually little more than small time hoods trying to swindle gun smuggler, Victor Sagat, out of a few dimes in the renegade state of Shadaloo.

When the weapons Ken and Ryu are providing turn out to be toys, Sagat decides to throw them in the cage with his champion lapdog, Vega. Though it's never elaborated upon on screen, one might assume the money earned from the fight would make this an economical decision, but then again, you could just as easily assume Sagat is a total moron, because nothing onscreen contradicts that either.

Guile and his UN chronies burst in to arrest everyone before the cage fight between Ryu and Vega is able to kick-off. In it's own peculiar way, this manages to set up the basis for a feud between the two characters that not only lasts the duration of the ninety-seven minute running time -- but even makes sense in it's own context!

Vega gets his first opportunity at a second bite when a prison riot breaks out, as Sagat and his many goons attempt to intimidate and generally rough up Ken and Ryu.

Brandishing a makeshift replacement for his wrist mounted claw; Vega makes like a matador, entering the arena of combat atop fanciful feet.
Despite the apparent elegance of his character, Vega lunges at Ryu with his claw, setting the tone for what will be typical of their battle(s).

While chaos ensues around them (and the Damian Chapa's uninspiring Ken disarms a few faceless goons), Ryu and Vega exchange blows in punches and elaborate kicks. Their battle comes to a quick conclusion when Vega makes another sloppy lunge with his claw, getting it stuck in a wooden structure support.

Byron Mann attacks the claw with gusto, exploding it with a powerful jumping kick. Now, removing the claw from the fight is probably a fair choice, but it's hard not to note the elaborate stupidity of the move, given how average his battle with an animate entity has gone.

The fight is halted as UN troops again swarm in to spoil the fun, and ensure that none of the hodge-podge ensemble cast of the misplaced and unknown upstage Herr Van Damme, who will do his fighting at a more important junction.

It's at this point that one can't help but glance at the back of the DVD and read the promise of "... furious energy, awesome action and breathtaking stunts", and look forward to the alleged new feature that's in production for 2008.

Sure, there's a kitsch value to a movie like this, and when you haven't seen it for a while, I actually think just about anyone can get something out of the misplaced political commentaries, neon colour palettes, and surprise appearance by Simon Callow.

The Fix: 2 The Movie: 4.5
Winner: Inconclusive

If you feel the need to absorb this major motion picture rivalry in a more vivid context, you can find the DVD, like most other reviewed subjects, on sale on Amazon! Give the gift that keeps on giving! Street Fighter: "Ultimate Battle" starring Jean Claude Van Damme, and Kylie Minogue in a decidedly less sexed-up role than you'd expect!

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