The Street Fighter II Movie Is Why I Love Cars and Driving Stick

Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie has some of the best driving scenes in an anime film.

byJosé Rodríguez Jr|
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Many of us can trace a beloved memory to a make or model that turned us into car enthusiasts. Maybe one of your folks owned a car that you came to love over time, or maybe you had a poster hanging on your bedroom wall of a supercar or a Formula 1 machine when you were a kid. I can point to the exact moment I became a car lover, and funnily enough, it was thanks to the game Street Fighter rather than a specific car or motorsport. 

Back in the mid-‘90s, a feature-length anime adaptation of the fighting game franchise came out in the U.S. as Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie. It was based on the 1991 sequel to the original arcade game, instead of being a follow-up to the live-action Street Fighter movie. I’ll let you decide whether the latter attempt at making a Street Fighter film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme And Raul Julia is awful or awfully great, but the animated movie is undeniably good.

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Not only does it feature some of the best fight scenes of anime as a medium, full stop—a solemn Ryu awash in lightning as he readies a Hadouken for a towering Sagat comes to mind—but it also features an excellent car cast, which includes vehicles from Acura, BMW, Ford, and Porsche. It was this commitment to kick-ass cars, along with the memorable characters who drove them, that captured my attention. 

There are two scenes in particular that I recall to this day, both of which I credit as the source of my love of cars. One shows Captain Guile speeding through traffic to come to the aid of Chun-Li, who was ambushed by Vega in her apartment. The masked killer had been creeping on Chun-Li in the shower, waiting for the right moment to strike. Guile tries to call Chun-Li to warn her of the impending danger, as the fight begins.

But lo and behold, Guile was behind the wheel of his 1965 Ford Mustang GT350, and when he overhears the battle at the end of the other line, he shifts the Mustang into high gear and cuts through dense traffic to reach her. The Mustang part lasts only a few moments, but shows Guile expertly disengage the clutch and shift, weaving through cars in his glorious blue pony car with white racing stripes. As a kid, the scene left me wide-eyed and speechless. What driving precision was this? What expert operation of an outstanding machine—and from America’s preeminent warrior, no less?

The other moment in the film is less dramatic, but no less impactful to me: while Ryu is off in the Himalayas training, his brash American counterpart Ken Masters is bombing around the Pacific Northwest in a red Porsche 911 Turbo. He proposes to his girlfriend as he drives the "Widowmaker" full-tilt down the highway.

All the while, Alice in Chains blasts on the radio, which is a testament to just how well this movie captures the spirit of the ‘90s. When Ken’s girlfriend Eliza turns down his unexpected proposal, she says, “Hey, don’t be angry.” To which Ken replies “I’m not” as dryly as possible, and punctuates whatever emotion he’s feeling at the time with an emphatic gear shift and a dangerous maneuver on the road.

Those two scenes clinched it. I would go on to love cars for the rest of my life, spurred on by the effortless cool of rowing your own gears, which gives any given drive a sense of drama—or, at least, a sense of purpose that is as cinematic as it is cathartic. The attention to detail animators paid to those sequences with Ken and Guile made me love cars and their operation in equal measure. Because what kid doesn’t want to be as cool as Ken or Guile? I knew I could never harness the power of a Hadouken blast like my childhood hero, Ryu. But I could certainly learn to master shifting gears behind the wheel of a bad-ass car, like the legends of Street Fighter

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