The American produced Street Fighter: the Series tends to get quite a bit of flack from fans, some going so far as to call it â€œthe worst video game cartoon ever madeâ€. Hey, it wasnâ€™t perfect, but in no universe was it ever as bad as the mid-90â€™s Mega Man cartoon. But thatâ€™s another story.
Street Fighter: the Series was a loose continuation of the live action Street Fighter film starring Jean Claude Van Damme. That sentence alone is enough to frighten most people away from ever watching the show, but bear with me. When I say it is a â€œlooseâ€ continuation, I mean it. There are several differences between the film and the TV series, mostly due to the writers â€œfixingâ€ a lot of the damage done by the film and making the characters and storyline more closely resemble that of the video games. While by and large the Series took more cues from the video games, a few concepts from the film worked their way into the show. Of all the ones to make it in, easily the most interesting was Blankaâ€™s origin. In the movie, he was a character named Carlos â€œCharlieâ€ Blanka, who was mutated by the scientist Dhalsim (who was under M. Bisonâ€™s conrol). In the series, Blanka deals with his new freakish appearance and learns to cope with what he has become. Meanwhile, the experience of being forced to commit crimes against humanity by Bison drove Dhalsim to the mystic arts, turning him into the guru character from the games. A character exclusive to the movie (and the movie-based fighting game), Colonal Sawada, also appears in the series and is actually a pretty good new-comer with some sweet special moves (he channels his chi through his sword for projectile attacks).
The plot of the series is sort of a bizarre fusion of the live action movie and the video games. The Allied Nations (kinda like the United Nations but not, for some reason) have developed a top secret organization called â€œStreet Fighterâ€, comprised of the most skilled warriors from across the globe, to challenge the evil terrorist organization of Shadaloo, run by M. Bison.
I know what youâ€™re thinking, â€œa military organization called Street Fighter? Lame.â€ And yeah, it *does* sound pretty freakinâ€™ lame. However, the Street Fighter organization basically served the same purpose as Interpol from the various Street Fighter animes. In fact, in the second season, while the organization (run by a British guy named Escher) still functioned, it was down-played considerably.
Additionally, there were a lot of character-driven stories that had nothing to do with the plot of battling terrorism. Ken and Ryu still feature heavily in this series, getting quite a few episodes dedicated to them exclusively. However, since this show was produced in America, Ken tends to take the spotlight more often than the milquetoast Ryu. They adapt a number of Ken and Ryuâ€™s stories from the games, and considering they had to work around the overall plot of the television series, did a decent job working them in. Thereâ€™s the one about Akuma seeking vengeance on his brother and their master, Gouken. In the games, Akuma kills Gouken using the â€œRaging Demonâ€, while in the show he still attacks Gouken with the Raging Demon, but seriously injures him and steals his chi. Ken and Ryu have to defeat Akuma in order to reclaim their masterâ€™s lifeforce and save his life. Awkwardly, Ken is the one who defeats Akuma in the episode. They also cover Ryuâ€™s battle with Sagat from the end of the first Street Fighter game. They even show him scarring the bad guy (albeit, bloodlessly). It also sets up Sakuraâ€™s story, as she was in the audience, watching the fight, and Ryuâ€™s triumph over all odds drove her to study martial arts.
Guile, Blanka and Chun-Li are the headliners of the show, at least in regards to the good guys. Guileâ€™s story is that, in order to join the Street Fighter organization, he had to be dishonorably discharged from the military. In reality, it was all a ruse to protect the top secret nature of the program, but to the general public, Guile was scum. Guileâ€™s occupation also caused his wife, Cindy, to divorce him. This is another concept brought over from the games, though Guileâ€™s wife is named â€œJaneâ€ in that continuity. Over the course of the series, Guile eventually wins Cindy back as he reveals the truth about his job to her.
Chun-Li doesnâ€™t get a whole lot of deep characterization, honestly. Her day-time occupation as a television news reporter has been imported from the film, and honestly, I wish it hadnâ€™t. For some reason they always drew her with this ridiculously massive ponytail while in her civilian get-up. The video game origin, about Bison murdering her father, remains intact, though, and is mentioned quite frequently. A few other nods to her game characterization are also thrown in, such as her victory phrase â€œIâ€™m the strongest woman in the worldâ€ and â€œYatta!â€ However, Chun-Liâ€™s voice actress wasnâ€™t too good at pronouncing Japanese, so it came out more like â€œYudduh!â€
Blanka may have gotten the most attention. Blanka in the series is an interesting fusion of two game characters: Blanka (duh) and Charlie Nash. Though Blankaâ€™s real name in the games was â€œBillyâ€, they chose to import his real identity from the movies. Secondly, though his name was Carlos â€œCharlieâ€ Blanka instead of Charlie Nash, he was shown to actually be Charlie Nash in the episode â€œEye of the Beholderâ€. He was returned to his human form in that episode, and while he still retained a few Hispanic features, his clothing was identical to that of Charlieâ€™s from the video games. The combination of Charlie and Blanka was one of the few ideas from the movie I actually liked, and while the film didnâ€™t do a very good job of presenting it, it was done justice in the television series. Blankaâ€™s story was that he was an outcast from society and things always seemed to be getting worse for him. In the second season he gets doused in more mutagen and is turned even uglier (or, more like his game design) and life for him just sucks. He eventually comes to terms with himself at the end of the series, though.
On the bad guy side you had M. Bison. His organization, Shadaloo, is returned to a terrorist syndicate like in the games, as opposed to the warring nation seen in the movie. The first season of the series is the weaker half, far more cut and dry with less continuity between episodes. Bison was treated more like Cobra Commander in those episodes, than anything. With the second season, Bison had an over-arcing goal and a few devious plots that spanned the entire season. In the beginning of season 2, Bison is injured in battle. He seeks out the the mystical statue of Kali, which replenishes his psycho-power, but also pollutes his mind (more polluted than it already is, anyhow). Bison goes nuts and decides he wants to destroy the planet instead of conquering it, and steals nuclear warhead launch codes from MI5 (Englandâ€™s top secret government agency).
Season 2 also contains a story arc involving Cammyâ€™s betrayal of the Street Fighter organization. Bison had killed her family when she was a child and brainwashed her into servitude of Shadaloo using his psycho-power. He then brainwashed her again into forgetting all that and sent her to go join MI5â€™s Delta Red and the Street Fighter organization. He then uses her to get info on all his enemies and at the beginning of season 2 uses a code word to make her remember her Shadaloo loyalty (man, thatâ€™s complicated). Season 2 deals mostly with the Street Fighter organization trying to deal with Cammyâ€™s defection, including ordering Delta Red to assassinate her before she can divulge too many military secrets.
Just about every character from Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha are in this series, either as main characters or via cameo appearances. Dee Jay is now a good guy (though he was evil in the movie), E. Honda is there (as the groupâ€™s tech guy for some reason), T. Hawk gets a number of appearances, Fei Long stars in a few episodes with his movie star origin intact, Zangief is still a bad guy (though he was shown turning good at the end of the movie), Vega is shown a few times, usually as a nemesis of Blanka and Balrog is now evil (he was a good guy in the movie). Rose gets a spotlight episode, while Dan and a bunch of other Alpha guys get brief cameos (no speaking roles, just shown fighting in a tournament). Delta Red, Cammyâ€™s MI5 crew from the games, feature in quite a few episodes, particularly in the second season. However, for some odd reason, they undergo name changes and slight redesigns. Colonal Wolfman becomes Burke, McCoy becomes Rory and Lita becomes Celia. I have no clue what that was all about.
One advantage Street Fighter the Series had over the Japanese shows is that it made use of Street Fighterâ€™s vast cast of characters much better. Everyone gets in an appearance or two.
Another respectable thing about the series was that it managed a few crossovers or adaptations of other Capcom games. In the aptly named episode â€œFinal Fightâ€, the story of the first Final Fight video game is told rather well. They have to shoe-horn in Ken and Ryu into the plot and water it down for 30 minutes, but they do an admirable job. Guy and Cody are still there and follow Ken and Ryu as they infiltrate the Mad Gears to rescue Mayor Haggarâ€™s daughter, Jessica. The episode actually progresses in a manner similar to the different levels in the games, from the streets to the subway all the way to the final showdown at the top of the Mad Gearsâ€™ office building. Rolento and Sodom show up as â€œbossesâ€, nicely, and get a few good fights in (Rolentoâ€™s moves are particularly cool). Other Mad Gear thugs from the games show up, including Andore, Edi E., Damnd and Belger. Haggar is ufortunately underused due to the time constraints and doesnâ€™t get to do any fighting (they he does throw furniture and break down doors). One of my favorite episodes.
Then thereâ€™s one major oddity, â€œthe Warrior Kingâ€, which is a crossover with the game Magic Sword. Seriously. You can tell that the writers for this show played the games, as there are so many details and obscure references to the Street Fighter franchise and other games throughout the course of the series. A shame they never got around to a Ghosts nâ€™ Goblins crossover.
The show is quite odd, but entertaining never-the-less. I donâ€™t think it gets enough credit, mostly because of its ties to the Street Fighter movie. The animation fluctuated wildly in the series. Some episodes were animated by an awful Korean studio, while the best ones were handled by Sunrise studios in Japan, the same people who brought us Cowboy Bebop and a lot of the Gundam shows. When the show wanted to look good, it looked *really* good. I also liked how they handled the characters and their special moves. In the Japanese cartoons, hadoukens and sonic booms are treated like â€œOMG!â€ special moments, where-as in the games, you can use them whenever you want. The characters in this series use them frequently, just like in the games, and donâ€™t treat them like glorious kamehamehas.
Street Fighte: the Series is basically the end result of the Street Fighter games having a baby with G.I. Joe (and no, Iâ€™m not referring to those G.I. Joe/Street Fighter toys made by Hasbro in the 90â€™s). Several plots as well as characterizations from the games remain intact, but theyâ€™re fused with anti-terrorist Joe vs. Cobra/Street Fighter vs. Shadaloo action, which turns many Street Fighter purists off. Honestly, if it came down to a choice between Street Fighter: the Series and Street Fighter II V, Iâ€™d go with the Series. It had even less episodes than II V but managed to fit in three times as many characters and adapt even more plots from the games. If anything, storywise, the Series got more right than II V did. Not that I hate II V, or anything.
You can get the series on DVD in region 1. The first season of 13 episodes is available in a box set titled â€œCode of Honorâ€, while season 2 is available in a set called â€œSoul Powerâ€. These season sets are incredibly cheap; I doubt youâ€™ll have to pay more than $40 for both of them. So, if youâ€™re a Street Fighter fan who has only watched the Japanese cartoons and you are SICK TO DEATH of nothing but Ken and Ryu, then pick these sets up. You get a wide array of characters, some decent stories and animation as well as plenty of Capcom Easter Eggs thrown in by the writers and animators.