Friday, February 27, 2009

Battle 08: Warrior (Tokuma Comics)
Street Fighter II #6 When: September 1994
Why: Masaomi Kanzaki How: Masaomi Kanzaki

The Story So Far...
On the lawless urban island of Shad, fighters from around the globe are congregating to prove their mettle, and collide in a martial arts tournament held by criminal underworld figure and boss of Shadaloo -- M. Bison!

Joining the tournament, along with many others, is a timid Interpol agent from China named Chun-Li. Her motive for entry proves personal as she tracks the man responsible for murdering her father, a high ranking officer himself. Her journey proves to be one of self-discovery when she meets a Japanese fighter by the name of Ryu. Immediately struck by his power and confidence, Chun-Li finds a martial arts warrior to which she can aspire.

With a string of victories under her belt, Chun-Li quickly finds her wishes granted, as the tournament presents her with the challenge of entering the confines of an iron cage wherein waits the vainglorious Spanish assassin, Vega. Handed a list of data by the American soldier, Guile, Chun-Li learns a horrible truth about her clawed opponent. He is the man who killed her father, and if she cannot find maturity in the heat of battle, he will also be the man who kills her!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Vega 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Chun-Li 3 (Straight A)
Speed: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 4 (Athlete)
Agility: Draw 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Chun-Li 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Power: Chun-Li 3 (Explosive)

- A skilled student of the Tai Chi style, Chun-Li trained under the martial arts master, Gen, before becoming the Chinese fighting-dynamo of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).

After her father's death, Chun-Li is motivated to hunt and destroy the international crime syndicate, Shadaloo, when she learns it's leader, Bison, may have been responsible for the murder. Her pursuit for justice brings her into the company of US Air Force soldier, Guile, who is also seeking justice for Bison's murder of his best friend, and undercover agent, Charlie.

Chun-Li is an incredibly fast and agile fighter, whose greatest asset are her powerful legs. Trademark attacks in her offensive arsenal include the Kikouken chi fireball, spinning side kick aerial attack, and Hyakuretsu Kyaku; better known as the flurrying combo, lightning kicks!

- The street fighting arena provides convenient abandon for the blood lusting Spaniard called Vega. Harboring homicidal tendencies, the narcissistic psychopath in the protective mask made a name for himself as a matador.
Turning his natural swift and speed to the martial arts, Vega values nothing more than the source of his vanity - his beautiful features - and protects them as best he can, while exacting brutal violence with the aid of his clawed gauntlet.

Vega's speed and agility were particularly complimented by the underground practise of cage fighting. In this domain, few can challenge the matador, and many have tasted bitter defeat at the end of his blades. It was this killing instinct that made him the perfect assassin for M.Bison's Shadaloo operations.

Math: Chun-Li Ranking: Chun-Li (#249)

What Went Down...
Shaken by the confronting news that Vega was responsible for her father's assassination, the impetuous Chun-Li becomes blind with rage. The fire within her offers a strong start to the fight as she launches immediately into a charging fist that sends Vega sliding across the mat into the iron embrace of the cage!

Vega, a seasoned killer, fails to recognise the girl's claims of murder, but is more than happy to oblige her in an emotionally charged battle. The masked matador quickly turns the tables as the physical and mental struggle shifts. Springing with lightning speed off the cage wall, Vega slashes at Chun-Li's chest.

The blow strikes as mentally deep as it does physically, rattling Chun-Li enough to render her a sitting duck. Vega's next swipe is far less forgiving, plunging his claw deep into the young woman's vulnerable gut.

The experienced Spaniard takes time to enjoy his obvious psychological advantage. He mocks Chun-Li as she clutches her stomach, drawing aspersions about her suitability to the masculine art of fighting. Her claims of cheap cowardice do little to engender chivalry in the elegantly sadistic matador.

With Honda and Dhalsim watching helplessly from the crowd, Chun-Li is savaged by another wild attack from the claw of Vega! The yoga master recognises the moment as a crucial milestone in Chun-Li's journey from fighter, to warrior.
Desperate to succeed, Chun-Li pulls herself from the void of defeat, recalling the voice of the wandering warrior, Ryu. He compells her to focus on who it is she's fighting and it inspires her to resist.

Skidding to a halt, Chun-Li again pauses, face-to-face with the masked matador. The crowd takes no more seriously than he, offering only disrespect. Heckling and wolf whistles. As if feulled by the challenge of humilation, Chun-Li bursts with energy, and just as Vega flips to bounce off the cage for a finishing blow, the Interpol agent from China discovers a power within herself.

With her chi focused into a singular wave Chun-Li unleashes the kikoken!
The energy sends Vega hurtling back into the cage from which he'd sprung. The scarred warrior bleeds for all to see, unobscured by his mask. Though Chun-Li herself collapses from the effort, it is Vega who is unconscious. Defeated.

The Hammer...
The winner of this bout, Chun-Li!

In conjunction with the release of the already infamous Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, in cinemas, this was to be a comparison post against one of the most revered fight scenes in the Street Fighter canon. I am, of course, talking about the epic battle between Chun-Li and Vega, as depicted in the animated movie.

Unfortunately, after much delay, I was forced to admit defeat in the face of a DVD too stubborn to facilitate screen capture. Perhaps at a later date we will have an opportunity to "revisit" the milestone film, which is still regarded by many fans as the most triumphant adaptation of the Street Fighter II legacy.

Top 20 World Warriors
#1 Ryu (Japan)
#2 Dhalsim (India)
#3 Ken (USA)
#4 Guile (USA)
#5 R. Mika (Japan)
#6 Sagat (Thailand)
#7 Fei Long (Hong Kong)
#8 Akuma (Japan)
#9 Sakura (Japan)
#10 T. Hawk (USA)
#11 Rose (Italy)
#12 Abel (France)
#13 Chun-Li (China)
#14 Vega (Spain)
#15 Birdie (England)
#16 Balrog (USA)
#17 Gouken (Japan)
#18 Sodom (USA)
#19 Zangief (Russia)
#20 Dan (Japan)
Adaptaing the tradition of one-on-one martial arts video games has proven a difficult one for many within the Hollywood fraternity. The trend hasn't restricted itself to the fighting genre, however. The Legend of Chun-Li joins a string of live-action feature releases that have garnered less than admiral review from mainstream outlets.

Mortal Kombat was the first video game franchise to really find success in cinemas with it's 1995 film directed by Paul Anderson. It followed the financial and critical failures of big screen versions of Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter, all of which strayed considerably from the canon of their source material. MK was far from invincible, however, as was proven by the rushed 1997 sequel, Annihilation, which boasted considerably cheaper production values, a bloated cast, and key roles that did not feature reprisal from their earlier actors.

Like many of the superheroes that have found success in recent years; video game franchises house time tested plot and characters, sharing much with their four-colour counterparts.
Fighting games in particular have traditionally reached deep to quickly establish casts built of vivid characters. Often derived from a particular theme or concept, these characters are as colourful and bold as any Batman or Iron Man, sharing historic events in their story that build a larger universe around them.

The inherent situation of one-on-one fighting typically leaves little room for exposition. Street Fighter has particularly struggled to take ownership of it's canon, relying moreso on the imagination of gamers, and the complicated incorporation of interpretive storylines spun by the likes of Gisaburo Sugii, Masahiko Nakahira, and Masaomi Kanzaki.

Kanzaki's plot in the Street Fighter II serialized manga created a base for the canon that deviated wildly from what little was established in the franchise, whilst exploring basic elements of character and plot. The writer-artist introduced prevelant plot elements that included the brainwashing activities of Shadaloo, the introduction of Ken and Ryu's martial arts master (the now playable, Gouken), and also his subsequent murder (albeit, at the hands of Bison).

It seems reasonable to assume some level of cross-inspiration might have occurred during the development of the Street Fighter II animé, which was originally to have been featured today. Both feature prominent battles between Chun-Li and Vega, who, otherwise, possess little in common. No doubt this subsequently featured a similar battle in the feature film, where Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas takes on the role of the otherwise beauteous Spaniard.

Unfortunately, the purveying influence of these many different sources failed to galvanize a single canon within the Street Fighter source material. In the lead-up to the release of Street Fighter IV, Capcom faced heavy scrutiny for their decision to include certain characters and designs, seemingly positioning the fourth numerical instalment somewhere between SFII and the much maligned, SFIII.

Despite early announcements of fully animated sequences in the game itself, it was left to cross promotional animé and comic releases to further flesh out the plot surrounding SFIV. Thankfully, The Ties That Bind, the animated release included with Collector's Editions of the game, does quite a lot with it's meagre sixty-five minutes to flesh out the SFIV story. Set, it seems, prior to the events of Street Fighter IV, it introduces brand new antagonists, Crimson Viper and Seth, while also bringing back classic heroes like Chun-Li, Cammy, Sakura, Guile, Ken, and of course, Ryu. As with the SFII and Alpha animé features, one could arguably call this a better version of a Chun-Li film than Legend.

Though disappointing that more could not be included in the games to establish the narrative of the franchise as specifically as Mortal Kombat, it is still with confidence that these alternate products paint a universe of strong characters and key events. It takes very little imagination to spin an exciting tale out of these established sources, which could only be supported by a confident visual design akin to the manga reviewed today, or any other of the number of sources previously reviewed in the Infinite Wars.

The fact that Legend of Chun-Li, which was released the same day as the date of this post, completely strips the characters of their iconic visuals and distinct character, is a travesty. I constantly find myself returning to Iron Man, which, although somewhat unadventurous with it's narrative structure, makes a confident leap forward for the incorporation of comic book visuals in cinema.

Having spent such a long time in the dark, it now feels as though this post-9/11 world of film is begging for bursts of colour. Speed Racer might not have set critics aflame with passion for it's CG-heavy stylized visuals, but it makes a similarly stunning argument for the adaptation of bold colour and concept, just like the financially better, Iron Man. Street Fighter, actually arguably more understated than either of those examples, really deserved that grade of treatment and confidence in it's brand.

Springing from a relatively obscure 1987 arcade game, the adventures of Ryu and all who occupy this world of martial arts adventure, have become video game legend. In the canon of the industry, it is one of the most significant series to ever be released, defining a genre through production that has rarely been matched. Why it has thus far been so difficult to realise in live-action, I do not know. Let us hope, however, that if anyone should get a chance to revisit the brand on the silver screen, they show more bravery when they do so.

Tekken will be the next franchise to face the perilous journey to the big screen, mimicking Street Fighter with a double-whammy accompanying the August film release with Tekken 6 on home consoles. Alas, all early indications suggest yet another souless escapade into the world of martial arts, displayed by a less than significant cast who will fill out a variety of roles plucked from the games.

Let us hope, if nothing else, the gears of promotion give opportunity to a Tekken manga, comic, or animé. Something to rival the quality of the fine products we have referred to today.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4

Street Fighter II was originally presented as a black and white manga serialized in the Japanese magazine, Family Computer Magazine, in 1993. Tokuma Shoten later collected the series, and translated it for US audiences with colour and rearranged panels under their Tokuma Comics branch. The US printing has since become defunct, but UDON have snapped up the rights, translating uncensored and unedited art for English-reading audiences. Keep this in mind as you follow purchase links to Amazon, each of which helps sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! You'll find plenty more Street Fighter, and other books on sale, by exploring the depths of the Secret Archives!

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