Tony Blackmore, aka T. Pickles, journalism certificate recipient, English literature degree holder, and keeper of the blog tpicklesexpat.blogspot.jp is unique among my friends. We started as coworkers for the same English teaching company in Japan and became good friends. I have always been a fan of both Tony’s wisdom and his sense of humour. But while I stayed in Japan, Tony eventually made his way to China where he teaches the EAP Program at the Sino-Canada HIgh School at Soochow University High School, Suzhou, From there, Tony keeps me informed on the truth about China and its people. They are people much like us with hopes and dreams, people you would love to get to know. They’re just stuck with a crappy communist government that keeps them from living life to the fullest and standing happily with the rest of the world the way they should.
Who better than someone living in China, Chun-Li’s homeland, to do our non-fan review? Tony, the blog is yours.
“Street Fighter: The Heart of the Battle” gives every fan the ending that they yearn for:
As the pace of technological change accelerates, generations become shorter.
I was born too early for Street Fighter. I remember when a game of Asteroids at the arcade was considered a good night out.
Yet, we did have fan fiction back in the day—mostly of the Star Trek variety. It was smazidat in those pre-internet days, low-quality and stained photocopies being passed hand to hand. Also, it was a more innocent time as no one, at least in my immediate circle, had thought of Pac Man “slash” Donkey Kong fanfic.
So, most of my own experience with the characters of Ryu and Chun-Li consisted of me ignoring Sean while he blabbed on about them. It sounded like cabalistic crazy talk to me. Yet, I was not completely unsympathetic as I too had experienced the obsession that can come with fandom when I was at a younger age. That allowed me to parse some of Sean’s crazy talk.
In all genres of fandom, there is a constant tension between desires of the fans and the interests of the producers. The fans yearn for what they see as the natural ending of the story. The producers, on the other hand, never want it to end as that would kill off the goose that lays the golden egg. The tension must always be maintained—and when you run out of stream, just reboot, but never complete.
So, the fans have stepped into the gap and produced the ending to the tale that they lust to overcome their own frustrations as they know it’ll never be forthcoming from the powers that be.
The tale begins with Ryu showing up at the door. He’s barefoot, dirty with the dust of the road, with a bag slung over his shoulder. Despite his claim of inadvertence, he’s obviously the traveler who has returned home after a long and arduous journey like Odysseus returning to Penelope.
The image harks back to original Street Fighter—Bruce Lee! This is how all his movies begin. We know who he is, the familiar archetype of the street fighter, the working-class everyman hero.
On the other side, we meet Chun Li as (for a panel or two) the harried waitress-like character, another familiar archetype. They have a mysterious past together—that’s clear—but they’re both struggling to get beyond it. She seems to be further along that path—maybe because girls mature faster than boys—but Ryu is not resisting the path as shown by the fact that he may have, on a level unbeknownst to himself, sought the path out in the first place.
So the archetype is set out in broad strokes in familiar colors from the first pages. This is a tale of maturity; it represents the last struggle of late adolescence, one last battle before settling down into an adult role as the nurturer and teacher for the next generation.
It is the natural ending for a story of this type overarching narrative; it’s what everyone instinctively knows is the final chapter for the scenario that the original producers created—even though they themselves are too timid to go there.
On the downside, there are short-comings that distract from the story itself. For example, there is a confusing backstory that I as a nonfan can’t wrap my head around. Second, characters pop in and out without being adequately introduced. Finally, there are phrases, actions and stances which might thrill the fan but are again jarring and odd to the non-fan The consequence of this story taking place after something called “Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike”, I imagine. Sean tells me this game has a huge narrative history, one he has very likely taken into account, and one I will unlikely read up on. Non-fan, remember?
Yet, the overall benefit for the non-fan is that “Street Fighter: The Heart of the Battle” presents an archetypical story that delivers what any fan of any genre instinctively knows in their heart of hearts to be the natural ending of all and every narrative of this type: Evil is conquered once more. Boy gets girl. Girl gets boy. And all is well with the world.
And if by chance fans dare… If they just dare…to demand and support a sequel from what should be a natural ending? The two titular heroes will be ready to face that sequel in the way fans of this couple have always hoped: together.
T. Pickles (Tony Blackmore)