Street Fighter II The Movie (Cert 15)
1 Disc Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 101 minutes approx.
A genuine blast from the past if there ever was one, we finally have an anime adaptation of a video game that I’ve not only heard of but have actually played! Some people may be wondering if we really need a re-issue of this 1994 spin-off/cash in of the famous Capcom game that single-handedly launched the fighting game genre for home video game players but this is the completely uncut and uncensored version with the original Japanese soundtrack and now has been given a brand spanking new HD transfer – so for many old school fans the answer will likely to be a resounding “Yes”!
For those of you to young to remember the first Street Fighter game appeared in the arcades in 1987 and was such a hit a sequel was commissioned which arrived four years later and became THE game to play. When the home gaming system boom of the early 90’s hit, Street Fighter II became THE game to own across all of the major platforms (I actually had the Turbo Edition from 1994 for the SNES).
Its tournament concept with a range of colourful and multi-skilled, super powered characters gave birth to many a clone, some successful some less so – arguably the most notable of these being Mortal Kombat. To this day people still cosplay as some of the heroes from SFII, usually Chinese heroine Chun-Li.
Inevitably an animated film spin-off would arrive which brings us to this first time ever Blu-ray re-release. The plot is achingly simple and thus almost non-existent. A political leader is killed in broad daylight by Cammy, a skilled martial artist and MI6 agent who has been brainwashed by M.Bison (aka Vega in the original Japanese version) the leader of the worlds largest criminal syndicate known as Shadowlaw.
Bison has plans for world domination and intends on recruiting the best fighters in the world to join his cause – be it voluntarily or otherwise – to form an unstoppable army of killing machines. Unfortunately there are four particular thorns in his side – Interpol agent Chun-Li, US Army Major Guile, Japanese martial artist Ryu and his American partner/rival Ken Masters.
Along the way we have appearances from many of the other characters from the game, in a fighting situation of course. E.Honda, the Sumo champ, is squaring off against the spiritual Hindi fighter Dahlsim in an outback locale, while giant Russian wrestler Zangief faces the wild Brazilian beast Blanka in an organised clash held by the rich elite. Sagat and Balrog show up as disciples of M. Bison. Few of these faces are seen again while E.Honda returns to train Ryu in Thailand.
If like yours truly you haven’t played the game for a long time then some fond (or possibly not so fond) memories will be reawakened here. I personally used to play E. Honda a lot because of his Hundred Hand Slap (sadly not used in this film) earned me some easy victories!
With such a paper thin story it should come as no surprise that action is the key to this film and action you get with fights aplenty, pretty much from the onset. Be it flashback training sessions or genuine scraps the bulk of the cast get to show their stuff, complete with their deadly finishing move to boot. With more room for manoeuvre than the one dimensional profile view of the video games these scenes are exhilarating and fluidly animated while carefully including signature moves to not cost the fights any credibility.
The only time this happens is during the Zangief vs Blanka bout with the Russians super-duper flying Piledriver and the Brazilian’s bursts of electricity otherwise this is mostly hard hitting martial arts excitement on a par with the live action heroes (and I mean Bruce, Jackie, Jet, Sammo etc not the US live action version of SF II which has been and will be derided until the end of time).
It is a testament to the work from Group TAC that the animation has held up exceptionally well over the past twenty years and still looks fresh and vital with the HD upgrade. Some of the character designs and the muzak-esque Japanese soundtrack date it a little (the English version verison has a soundtrack made of Grunge rock track from the likes of Alice In Chains, Korn and Silverchair) but not enough to feel antiquated.
The other aspect which might raise an eyebrow or two is the costume designs. Naturally bespoke, they are as much of the character’s identity as their name and fighting style but in some cases to see the likes of Chun-Li, Cammy, Ryu and others all walking about town in their fighting gear is just a tad ridiculous. Save it for the tournaments not the day job.
As mentioned before this release is fully uncut which means all the gore and violence is now on display in its unfettered glory, and all you pervs who have been patiently waiting to see Chun-Li’s infamous shower scene can rejoice as it is here, in full and in sparkling HD.
For a piece of zeitgeist nostalgia of the legendary video game franchise Street Fighter II is a beautifully animated and well produced trip down memory lane for some of us. For that reason alone it will be an essential purchase for older fans even though it is admittedly an enjoyable slice of hokum. Younger anime fans may be wondering what the fuss is about but hopefully they have studied their video game history and thus realise that their fighting games of today – as well as many battle based anime – owe a huge debt to this title.
Not much else to say except: 3…2…1 – FIGHT!
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Ratings – ***
Man In Black