© 1999 CAPCOM / Polydor K.K. / Manga Entertainment
Street Fighter Alpha
From Fatal Fury to Tekken to Battle Arena Toshinden, I have never had much success with anime based on fighting games. Even the original Street Fighter II anime, while featuring some pretty good martial arts in spots, was severely hampered by a terrible dub and inane story. So, it was with great reservation that I viewed Street Fighter Alpha.
When Gouken, Ken and Ryu's master, mysteriously passes away, Ken returns to Japan and reunites with Ryu. Ken and Ryu don't have much time to dwell on their master's passing, though, for a boy named Shun shows up claiming to be Ryu's long-lost kid brother. Ryu is skeptical, but befriends the boy nonetheless, and soon the two are happily sparring together (Shun is also a talented martial artist). Ryu, however, has been engaged with a private struggle: a force within him called the Dark Hadou. This powerful force once consumed Akuma, one of Gouken's greatest disciples, and now threatens to consume Ryu.
It seems like the plot in Street Fighter Alpha tries to be its greatest strength, yet ends up being its greatest weakness. All in all, the plot is pretty inconsequential. But unlike the completely vapid story of Street Fighter II, this movie's narrative seems to be striving for some sort of deeper philosophical meaning. Unfortunately, in doing so, it becomes a confusing mess of melodramatic posturing and stoical scenes of characters contemplating, "Why do we fight?". Even the main antagonist comes across as an afterthought, in light of the time spent on Ryu's inner struggle with the "Dark Hadou".
But like any martial arts movie, the real reason for watching is the martial arts. The fight scenes are well animated and choreographed, despite an abundance of close-ups. Unfortunately, the best fights are the earlier, inconsequential battles, when characters stick to using their hands and feet. Later in the movie, the 'epic' battle scenes rely on Dragonball Z style energy blasts to settle things. What should be tense, heart-stopping conflicts are reduced to characters powering themselves up so they can huck giant balls of energy back and forth. Not what I look for in a "martial arts" movie.
On a positive note, Street Fighter Alpha didn't bother trying to cram in every character from the game into the story. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of cameo appearances. I was able to spot Dan Hibiki, Zangief, Vega, Dhalsim, Birdy, Adon, Rolento, and Sodom, but most of them didn't even have speaking roles. Much of the story is spent on Ryu, Ken, and Shun, with Chun-Li, Sakura, and Rose as supporting players. I have to admit, it was nice not needing a score card to keep track of all the characters.
Production values for Street Fighter Alpha are good. As mentioned, the animation is fluid, especially during the battle scenes. The character artwork is a bit more stylized than I expected, especially with regard to the size of Ken and Ryu's feet (they're huge). Characters are still recognizable, though. Music generally consists of instrumental pieces that play nicely in the background without becoming a distraction.
I enjoyed Street Fighter Alpha marginally more than Street Fighter II, but probably because I had the option of going with the original Japanese audio, unlike the English-only SFII. But being neither a big fan of the Street Fighter series, nor a fan of martial arts anime in general, this movie didn't entertain me much. To anyone outside either of those camps, I wouldn't recommend Street Fighter Alpha.
The Verdict: * * 1/2 (below average)
|last modified: 05-26-03||The Anime Critic and associated content © 1999-2003 Pete Harcoff. All rights reserved.|