Back to the Beginning
"HADOUKEN!" The game that set the standard for 16-bit fighting reembodied, courtesy of Udon Entertainment
Street Fighter II was an amazing game. Its appeal was not merely limited to the unique and addictive gameplay the title offered. The game was equally notable for its interesting characters - each with a relatively complex background story. After a couple of anime series and a movie later, it's no surprise that we have a new retelling of the tale in comic book form.
First, a historical aside. It's possible that Street Fighter helped me get into anime. I loved the game and proudly owned just about every incarnation that CAPCOM had to offer - which even then was a hefty pile of games. They graced just about every video game system out there, including the SNES, Genesis, Saturn, and the Playstation. When I found Manga's dubbed edition of the animated film sitting on a store shelf many years ago, it was a surprisingly easy buy. Surprising, because at the time I did not regularly purchase much anime. The magic of DVD hadn't quite hit yet, and I was loath to pay $30 for a dubbed VHS cassette. As a mainstream release, however, Street Fighter only set me back about $20, and it was very much worth it.
There was a lot of plot to squeeze into a 90-minute film, as the film attempted to show each of the 12 or so major characters for a few minutes, along with some small element of story. Attempting to weave a coherent tale while showing off interesting fight scenes and giving piles of characters their own screen time is no easy task. Viewers who didn't know much about the Street Fighter mythos were most likely lost (or bored) after the first ten minutes, but I loved every minute of it.
The animation (at the time) was astounding, the fight scenes better than any film I had ever seen (in English, at least), and even if I only saw them for three minutes, I got to see and hear my favorite fighters from the game in action. The character designs were spot-on versions of the originals, as well.
Thus imagine my excitement when I spy a new comic book series that visually surpasses the movie. That's exactly what we have here, now available from Udon Entertainment.
Udon is a relative newcomer to the North American comic book industry, but their impressive staff certainly don't lack experience in the field. Formed of a group of writers and artists banding together with the intention of producing quality comics, they seem rather taken with the Japanese style of illustration. Thus while this Street Fighter comic series isn't really manga, it loudly proclaims its Japanese heritage.
After reading the first installment of this series, I'm honestly not sure if any manga production house in Japan could top it, and I'm certainly biased towards Japanese media.
Of course, besides looking better than any incarnation that I've ever seen before, it includes characters from the Street Fighter Alpha series. Those particular games were so perfectly crafted that they're worth tracking down a Sega Saturn just so you can play them in all in their arcade-perfect glory. And that's not all - you can also find characters from pretty much every other Street Fighter game as well, producing a cast large enough to put any Rumiko Takahashi series to shame.
As children, the two main characters of this long and involved story, Ken and Ryu, both trained in Japan under Master Gouken together. They both eventually participated in various street fighting tournaments, and Ryu is actually a world-champion of this brutal unofficial sport.
Tragically, the event that puts this story into motion is the murder of the kindhearted Gouken. Immediately after finding his body, Ryu leaves Japan to contact Ken, who currently resides in America with his fiancée, Eliza.
Events progress quickly with new characters introduced every few pages, but as this is a comic book series, there's far more time to develop the plot and players than a movie would allow.
We're introduced to Guile and Chun-Li early in the book, as well as investigators working together to track down M. Bison, the infamous leader of a global criminal organization calling themselves the Shadaloo.
Each character has a detailed history, and this series promises to explore every one of them in more depth than has ever been seen before, domestically. I can say this confidently even if you've watched the various anime series that have made their way here over the years.
So far, despite its North American origins, this incarnation of Street Fighter appears to be the most authentic edition of the story yet. If Udon's impressive work on the Marvel Mangaverse series and the very entertaining Sentinal comics weren't enough to prove to manga fans that they're worth reading, then Street Fighter will squash any qualms you had about their ability to masterfully present a visual narrative.
It's not often that I can rave about a series that isn't from Japan or China here at Animefringe, and so when I do, you know it's something special. I look forward to seeing more from Udon in the future, and I'm thrilled to think that they can only get better at this. Check out this series, and then send them some emails so they update their website with some Street Fighter artwork!