Sunday, December 02, 2007

Where: Street Fighter II #3 When: February 2006
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

Quick Fix...
Well, I, hmmm... It's funny how things can get away from you a bit, isn't it? I thought I had this week's SF entry all planned out, but things kinda went awry when I realised my memory of the Ryu/Akuma credits scene in Alpha was substantially more involving than the actual scene.

Y'know, I'd been thinking about stretching our Street Fighting out to accomodate more excitement in the lead up to the fourth core installment to the [game] series, but I think this delay has given me a good bit of perspective.

September marked the beginning of what will, come the end of the year, be a four month stint of Street Fighter indulgence. Regular War Mongers would be forgiven for forgetting that original mandate; the desire to see if regular weekend features could sponsor a Street Fighter into the top five rankings before the end of the year. As you'll already know from the Punch-Up, no one's reached that achievement, but I think if anyone is going to, we all know who it'll be.

With the "shock" announcement of Street Fighter IV's surprise release, came quick confirmation that iconic characters, Ken and Ryu, would be among those returning for this new beginning. This not only highlights the star duo's staying power, but also the liklihood of their rise to the top of our ranks.
I think we can all safely rest assured that if any Street Fighter can take it to the superheroes, it'll be Ryu.

When UDON relaunched the franchised series, they did more than change the title to the more familiar Street Fighter II. At the core of their creative decision making, the desire to brign the story back from the periphery, to refocus on the spine of Ryu's journey of discovery, and combat.

In combining elements from the various games, they dance around the learning curve for the young fighter. Layered beneath his quest to avenge his dead master is elements that invariably connect to his struggles with the killing urges of the Dark Hadou, and his desire to harness the greater philosophy of combat.

Question, if you will, the handling of the various secondary characters, but impossible is it to deny the success this arc has brought to the Dhalsim character. Despite essentially being characterized as a shamanic pacifist, Dhalsim has been one of the most enduring characters to be included in the games. As noted in a previous entry [Fantastic Four #361], he is among the relative few Street Fighters to have been included in the Marvel vs Capcom series of games.

While it may not necessarily led greater credence to his role as a regular battler, his prevelance in the series is at least complimented by the idea that Dhalsim's yoga teachings can help one master the darkness all of these characters risk facing. There may be a gaming reference for this, but as far as I'm aware Dhalsim's story usually revolved around fighting to raise money for his village; thus making this among the many vague references to other Street Fighter sources, perhaps inspired by a 1995 episode of the V animé, which also connected Sagat to Dhalsim before Ryu would seek training [noted; Street Fighter II V Ep. 9].

Having already trained Sagat in UDON-time [Street Fighter II #2]; the mysterious Yoga master helps Ryu come to terms with his inner darkness, and desire to seek revenge against the murderer of his master -- Akuma!

Dhalsim notes Ryu's impressive strength, speculating that he may even be more powerful than Sagat, when he first sought his training. Even so, Dhalsim floats and weaves around Ryu's attacks with a gawky grace, noting that Ryu's ingrained training may in fact be a greater obstacle on his path.

The master leaps over his student's sliding low kick, decrying rage in one's fist and victory as the ultimate goal, demonstrating it's weaknesses as he thunders down upon Ryu with a twisting yoga spear. Dhalsim keeps Ryu on the defensive, throwing two extended fists, before unleashing the legendary yoga flame!

Ryu blocks the flame attack, but finds his defenses penetrated as Dhalsim makes the claim that, as he is, he will never hope to defeat Akuma. A sensitive issue for Ryu, he explodes with rage, launching into a hurricane kick attack.

Yoga! Yoga! Yoga! Yoga!
Dhalsim ducks Ryu's furious attack, and snatches him up for a humiliating head-pound grapple. Relinquishing the hold, Dhalsim says with a smile, "Are you ready to begin unlearning?" Humbled, Ryu replies sheepishly, "Heh... I think I might be."

Thus, Ryu finds himself on the path to purity of spirit.
With his training just begun, we move onward, to the latter half of the issue.

The Fix: 4 The Issue: 4
Winner: Dhalsim

Despite a mandate to bring the story back to it's core, don't be fooled into thinking Street Fighter II is the Ryu show! Central characters from the games like Chun-Li and Cammy continue to feature, while the likes of Bison, T.Hawk and Gen factor in, also.

RYU versus AKUMA
Where: Street Fighter II #3 When: February 2006
Why: Ken Siu-Chong How: Alvin Lee

Quick Fix...
We've touched upon the Dark Hadou at length in previous entries [Ken v Ryu; Akuma v Gouken; Shun v Zangief], and by now you should be well familiar with it in a context not unlike 'the force' as described in Star Wars.

As a metatextual facet to the mastery of Hadou and the Ansatsuken style used by the "shotos", it represents the evils of hatred and revenge in combat. Ryu's training with Dhalsim reaffirms these values, and steers him toward a path devoid of emotion, but conscious of the life of those around him. Dhalsim specifically refers to fighting with the well-being of an opponent in mind, which can largely be boiled down to terms familiar to any sportsman who finds themselves striking the ball, or hitting the shots, frustratingly well in the relaxed condition of recreation.

Making yet another potential reference to Star Wars, Ryu finds himself mastering the powers of focused ki, when a dark voice questions him confrontingly about his deep-seeded loathing for the death of the master Gouken.

Seemingly confronted by the dark master; Ryu fulfills this grim prophecy, responding to the charging of ki energies with a furious cry, "Akuma!!!"

Ryu comes under the looming Akuma with an uppercut to the gut, before blocking an overhanded chop from his master's killer. Akuma provokes Ryu with taunts of his weakness and inability to avenge Gouken, prompting the young fighter to flow through the block into a devestating throw.

With Akuma on his back, Ryu unleashes a barrage of mounted punches that crush at his enemy's nose. Blood sprays as bones begin to crunch and crack beneath Ryu's gloved fist. His ki crackles around him, gathering into a storm of energies as the fighter is seduced by the prospect of vengeance.

The haze of anger clears as Dhalsim lifts the veil of illusion from the Japanese fighter's mind.

Squat in a crater of his own making, Ryu realises that he has failed Dhalsim's telling test. The master poses a question of Ryu's true motivations, asking him to find within himself the truth of whether he fights for justice, or i motivated by his own deep desire for revenge.

This illusion is reminiscent of the familiar Empire Strikes Back battle that seemingly sees Luke Skywalker come face-to-face with Darth Vader. When Luke succeeds in striking Vader down, he is faced with a dark vision of himself, very similar on a metaphorical note to this scene, where Ryu is turned inward by his master's deceit.

Though Dhalsim fears for Ryu's philosophical future, he reveals to him the identity of a fighter who long ago defeated Akuma - the only known fighter to have done so other than his brother, Gouken. Thus, Ryu's wandering travels begin anew, taking him to the Genhattan Restaurant in Hong Kong - home to the assassin -- Gen!

Ryu's adventures will no doubt feature again, but for now this overdue entry finally comes to a close. If you've noted the absence of the now regular Amazon purchasing links, be informed that Street Fighter II has not yet been collected.
You'll probably be able to retroactively find the appropriate links in the future.

The Fix: 4 The Issue: 4
Winner: Non Applicable

Though one might argue the illusion was cast by Dhalsim, we're going to call this one an internal struggle. No results will be derived from this battle, which leaves only four more entries for a Street Fighter to step up to the top five rankings! Will it happen? Stay tuned for more Sunday Street Fights in December!

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