Monday, June 17, 2024

Street Fighter’s Greatest Tale: Ken and Ryu.

( One of my favorite storylines in all of anime is the story of Ken and Ryu from the Street Fighter II and Street Fighter Alpha series. This friendship/rivalry was best told in the anime than the video games.

The Core of Ken and Ryu

Canonically, Ken always felt that Ryu viewed him as a bit of a nuisance since Ryu dedicates himself to training and fighting—and has since a young orphan who was taken in by Gouken—while he was raised around wealth and can do whatever he wishes.

In reality, Ryu views Ken as a brother and is more annoyed that everyone thinks he is a poor vagabond despite having money to travel around the world and fight in different countries. Ken does get annoyed when people ask him about Ryu ask if they’re joined at the hip.

Regardless of how they’re doing in life or where they are in the world, if either of them needs anything or are invited to something, the other will show up without effort or fuss. Their relationship is that of brothers in the purest sense.

Let’s look different media and check out the five well-known versions of these two iconic characters’ background in the franchise.


Street Fighter Video Game Series Version

This is the canonical telling of Ken Masters and Ryu’s rivalry. That’s the main focus of their relationship: the rivalry. It’s understandable since most of the video games in the franchise only had the size to tell their rivalry in short cut scenes or animations.

Later games in the PS3/Xbox 360 generation and beyond would have more than enough space to tell the story of these two but let’s be honest: the games had been out over a decade by that time and you should know that Ken and Ryu are best friends and Ryu and Sagat have beef.

Actually, their backstories are better told in the games’ instruction manuals than the games themselves!

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie

One of my favorite anime films of all time; SF II: The Animated Movie was released in the U.S back in 1995. We won’t be a whole review of the film here but I felt it told their backstory very well.

Ryu is obviously the hero of the film. There are other heroes such as Guile, Chun Li, and E. Honda but Ryu’s the man here. Ken becomes a pawn of M. Bison and they have a brief but good fight towards the end of the film.

It’s not even the best fight in the movie—it’s like a distant third, however it’s a great cap to their story as Ryu isn’t just challenging his lifelong friend but also trying to free him from M. Bison’s grasp.

The flashbacks of their childhood and teen years training under Gouken in the Ansatsuken martial art with Gouken being hidden. These scenes are meant to tug on the viewers’ deep friendship even though you really don’t see them interact much throughout the film.

Again, it makes sense as Ryu is a true World Warrior. He travels around, traveling and taking on street fights and participating in tournaments while Ken trains in his free time, participates in professional tournaments, has a fiancée—now wife—and stars in movies.

As a result, Ryu is often show as being more powerful and seasoned than Ken who is still very powerful. I do like this version of how Ryu gets his iconic red bandana from Ken.

The USA Network Cartoon

Along with Street Fighter: The Movie—yes, the one starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and the late, great Raul Julia—this was the worst adaption of the franchise. In this series, Ryu and Ken are members of an organized taskforce led by Guile and featuring Chun Li, E. Honda, and other lawful-aligned world warriors.

Basically, everyone who isn’t a member of Shadaloo is a member of this group. It’s weird since Ryu is meant to travel around and not be based anywhere. I mean, everyone does do their own thing but they also all meet up to deal with M. Bison and his group’s nonsense and shenanigans.

As for Ken and Ryu, they’re the main members who often answered Guile’s call for the team. This isn’t the Justice League of Capcom or something. As a matter of fact, this series went against the core of Street Fighter where fighters just met up and fought each other in duels—or impromptu fights if you played the O.G games in the arcade or on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.

Unsurprisingly, USA Network did the same thing with Mortal Kombat by having Lu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax, Stryker, Nightwolf, and so on as a member of Earth’s Defenses lead by Raiden. Never mind the tournament!

The Comics and Manga

Actually, Ken and Ryu’s friendship/rivalry was featured pretty well in print. Ryu traveled around and did his thing, Ken lived life, we had some flashbacks to their training in both Malibu Comics and the Udon series, and they met up to chop it up and spar as adults.

Print does a great job with their relationship as it has more room to groove for canon as well as taking liberties in other areas such as Malibu Comics having Ryu and Chun Li in a relationship.

Street Fighter II V and Alpha Series

The best version of their relationship is shown in Street Fighter II V. An animated series from Manga Entertainment, SFIIV dives into their teen years and the last year before they go their separate ways in the world.

A lot of stuff happens in their adventures with tour guide Chun Li. We see how Sagat gets the scar across his chest during a fight with Ryu in prison and how Dhalsim helps them unlock their power.

It’s a dive into these two that we don’t really get throughout the franchise. With the Alpha games and films, Ryu has his white bandana but his training threatens to drag him to the dark side of hadou. It is during the Alpha following an encounter with Akuma that Ryu starts to have concerns about his path and growth.

Ken gives him the bandana that he ties his hair with to reassure Ryu that he’ll always be on the right path and that he’ll be there to make sure of that. Ryu goes on to wear it as his bandana.

Also interesting is how different the fight between Ryu and Sagat is from the video games.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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