Return of the Street Fighter 1974
The Street Fighter series continues with aplomb in this second installment. Sonny Chiba gets right back into the swing of things early on as he wildly gestures and sneers his way through a vastly outnumbered fight against the entire police department.
The ruggedly nomadic street fighter character meets new enemies and some old ones this time around. I like how the story handles the balance between tying into the first movie and being its own separate thing.
And what a story it is. Eye gouging, throat piercing, a Serpico lookalike, and this tragically underused muay thai fighter they’re always keeping in the background. The fight choreography has the same muddy execution as last time: mostly reckless brawling, with the characters sometimes taking awkwardly formal stances, for braggadocio’s sake more than any other reason. This ain’t Chinese kung fu–it’s Japanese karate!
When the movie ends and a tanker truck bursts into flames, a satisfied smile breaks out across Chiba’s face, the perfect capstone to a cinematic treatise reveling in corporeal violence.
Having seen Asura and last year’s Short Peace in recent weeks and relative proximity to one another, I’m becoming less hostile to the fact CG is a cost-cutting measure in the Japanese animator’s toolbelt. Don’t get me wrong, it most often is exactly that, but it need not always be a waxy, stiff-legged impediment to animators’ self-expression.
Asura is not a beautiful cartoon movie, either in subject matter or aesthetics. Based on a grizzly boundary-pushing manga from the seventies, it readily deals with cannibalism, infanticide, and murder. Neither the sort of crowd-pleaser that would appeal to general audiences or well-worn genre fodder for otaku, Asura unsurprisingly lacks the budgetary means to be beautiful.
But the look of the movie matches its character and underlines its themes. Asura, the titular feral child, tragically finds himself mimicking a kind of humanity he only observes but never truly participates it. The clunky, unsatisfying way in which he and every other character moves is reminiscent of puppeteering, and the 2D smudged, chalky character designs overlaid on top of their 3D models only serve to emphasize that effect, making the limitations of Asura’s shadowed perception of the human world manifest in our perception of it. It also lends a sort of fairytale aesthetic to its morbid and exaggerated melodrama.