The Sleepless Movie Review
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(Japanese Version)
Written by Kenichi Imai & Gisaburo Sugii and directed by Gisaburo Sugii
101 Minutes

I'll preface this review by saying that I am a "Street Fighter II" fan, that I love fighting games, and that previously my only exposure to this film was to the heavily Americanized version that clocks a couple minutes shorter.

First and foremost, I recommend the film in either its American or Japanese versions. I mean, I'm not saying it's any damn good, but if you love "Street Fighter" games and for some odd reason have still never seen this movie, it's totally worth picking up, as games made after this film actually go back and use plot points from it.

Like I said before, I'd really only been exposed to the American version, so I was really keen to see the Japanese one. The dialogue in the American one is cornball as fuck, the voice acting ranging from competent to dreadful, the dubbing job atrocious, and the soundtrack comprised entirely of popular and popular-style music as opposed to the more traditional score used in the Japanese film. As a result, the American one is a stupid good time, and now, having seen the Japanese one I can say with certainty that honestly, Americans weren't missing out as much as they think they were.

First, if you picked up the unrated American version of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, you pretty much got the whole movie. A couple of gratuitous shots of Chun-Li in the shower are cut or trimmed, and I think a little bloodshed might be missing, but other than that it's really the same damn movie as the Japanese one. So if you're looking for new visual content, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Where the Japanese version murders the crap out of the American one, though, is the dialogue. Here, the characters all exhibit more careful, measured language than they did in the souped up American version. Lines don't seem silly anymore, conversations aren't awkward, and it actually composes a fairly well-written movie, at least where video game adaptations are concerned. It stays very true to the threadbare plotting of the video games, and its characters are developed logically. While the American version tells the same basic story, its tarted up dialogue and shoddy voice acting really don't do it justice.

The flipside is in the soundtrack. The Japanese film's soundtrack is really pedestrian and generic, and I hate to say it, but the pop influenced American track, engineered for teen males aged 12-29, really fits the film better in places and gives it the oomph it needs. The Japanese music is good for helping the plot, but it really guts the action sequences, which are actually some of the best I've seen in an anime. One, in particular, remains my favorite anime fight scene of all time.

That scene is the fight between Chun-Li and Balrog (Vega in the United States). I've only seen the movie itself a few times, but that scene has been watched hundreds of times, at least in the American release. The use of "Ultra" by KMFDM in the background helps elevate the scene from what it essentially is (Balrog attempting to rape and murder Chun-Li) to the grandiose, over-the-top bloodfest tour de force that I've come to know and love. It adds force and intensity to the fight, bringing Chun-Li from a hapless victim with only enough fighting skill to defend herself to someone who has merely been caught off guard but is nonetheless a legitimate threat. This is also one of the few scenes in the film where the English dub outshines the Japanese. When Chun-Li mangles Balrog's face, the Japanese dialogue is essentially "I'll kill you!" In, the American version, his lines are a lot better:

"My beautiful face is ruined! You bitch, I'll make you suffer!"

The whole thing just gels a lot better and it's almost exclusively this scene that makes me recommend the American version over the Japanese. It demonstrates just how crucial a good soundtrack can be to making a film work. If only so much attention had been paid to the rest of the English script, and better actors had been cast, the American version would completely dwarf the Japanese one.

All that said, any way you can get it, this is a cool movie. Not a good movie, just a cool one. But for those of us who'd been jonesing for the Japanese version, be it out of curiosity or a belief that it would be vastly improved,'s not the winner we hoped it would be. The fighting sequences are lower key (Fei-Long vs. Ryu is about the only one that feels better in the Japanese film) while the writing and dialogue is superior. In an action movie, though, the key ingredient is action, and that's why I'd suggest that if you want to see this movie, stick to the American one.

- Dustin Sklavos

All written content and colored rating system copyright Dustin Sklavos 2009. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.