Creators Joey Ansah and Christian Howard (who play Akuma and Ken respectively) have managed to bring audiences the best live action Street Fighter adaptation by far. Though that isn’t saying much when compared to past attempts, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is enjoyable from beginning to end and offers a reverent interpretation of SF lore. Instead of shoehorning in the entire cast from the games like the other 2 live action films, Assassin’s Fist opts for a much more intimate ensemble. Choosing to focus on the origins of Ken & Ryu (brought to life by Mike Moh) with flashbacks of their master Goken and his brother Goki (played by Gaku Space), who later becomes Akuma, was a wise decision. It allows for more detailed and narrow storytelling, making for a clear story that isn’t bogged down by unnecessary fan service.
That being said, it would have been nice to see a cameo from at least one or two other SF characters. Episode 4 was a perfect opportunity to introduce Guile and the passing mention of Dan would have been even better had he actually shown up in some capacity. However, we did get mention of Gen as a teacher to a young Goken and a hilarious extended cameo by the father of Street Fighter himself, Yoshinori Ono-San!
Ken, Ryu, Goken and Akuma are very well realized. Their pasts are fully explored and make for an interesting interpretation of the iconic video game lore fans know and love. They never deviate too far from the source material, which will undoubtedly please fans of the franchise. My only gripe is with Goken, Akira Koieyama does a fantastic job bringing the character to life but he looks nothing like the massive master from the games. It’s a tiny nitpick but as a fan of the series it would have been nice to see a bigger guy in the gi.
Mike Moh as Ryu and Christian Howard as Ken do a serviceable job playing these iconic game characters but it is clear they are not actors by trade. Some of the dialogue comes off pretty flat where emotions are meant to be conveyed, but all is forgiven considering this was never meant to be taken as network TV. Where Howard and Moh truly shine is in the fight choreography. The action is brutal and incorporates a number of the moves straight out of the Street Fighter games. Hadouken’s explode, Shoryukens crunch and Tatsumakis fly. All of the moves you expect are here and done incredibly well. While the visual effects could obviously use some work, kudos must be handed out for doing so much with a tiny web series budget.
Joey Ansah’s Akuma doesn’t appear until past the halfway point but when he finally does his presence is felt. Akuma is one of the more cartoony elements of the web series but he brings the menace and is featured in one of the best fights Assassin’s Fist has to offer. Plus he looks perfect in the role, the skin tone, the tied up red hair and the torn gi are all present and make for one of the coolest interpretations on the show. It is cool to watch Goki evolve (or devolve) into Akuma, getting absorbed by the Satsui no Hado and his quest to become an Ansetsuken master. This thread is the crux of the series and is definitely worth paying attention to. Not only does is make for good tv but it also adds a layer of depth to any casual players of the game. Knowing the background of these characters brings complexity and more familiarity, creating a bit more interest in the actual game world where some of these details may be over looked or missed.
The acting quality sees a notable uptick when in the flashback sequences. Gaku Space, Shogen and Togo Igawa are exceptional in their original Japanese. They bring a level of authenticity to the show that is missing from the present day sequences. All of their dialogue lands beautifully and nothing is over exaggerated. The relationships between the brothers and their master are all believable and you really feel for the characters as they progress from hardship to hardship.
The ending of the series leaves plenty of room for a second season and with any luck we will be getting one soon. To finally witness the epic Goken/Akuma battle in live action should be a real treat. With the dedication and care Ansah and Howard showed with this inaugural season I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next venture even further into SF lore and introduce a few more key players from the franchise (if they can pull of a believable Blanka I will give them a 10). Though I hope they don’t over do it like Mortal Kombat Legacy did in their second season.
Nothing about Assassin’s Fist will blow you away but if you are a fan of martial arts or of the Street Fighter franchise this is definitely worth a look. The story is compelling, the characters are fully fleshed out and the environments are beautiful (if a little repetitive) resulting in a more than respectable live action adaptation of this beloved video game series.
Overall I give this series a 7.5/10