Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SF20: The Art of Street Fighter.

Having learned to appreciate art at a very young age thanks to animated television programs and comic books, things like this are a dream come true. SF20: The Art of Street Fighter covers the twenty-year life span of Capcom's Street Fighter video game series up to the date of publication, three years ago in Japan, last year in the United States through UDON, the publishers behind the Street Fighter comic.

SF20 is a massive tome of about three-hundred-twenty pages, all filled to the brim of all sorts of artistic goodies from the main guys responsible for the art behind the Street Fighter franchise. The book is very different from Eternal Challenge as it is laid out by the individual artists rather than grouping them all together.

The book begins with a hectic and violent illustration for the cover featuring Ryu being punched in the face while simultaneously recovering and countering. It doesn't credit the cover artist, but from what I can tell this is an AKIMAN illustrating.

The first artist to be spotlighted in the book is AKIMAN, the pen name for Akira Yasuda who has provided work for a number of animated television shows and video games in Japan. His section opens with an exclusive rendition of Chun-Li that is both amazing and beautiful. It's a simple headshot of Chun-Li eating an apple spread out over two pages, but it's a fantastic piece of work. His section continues with another two page illustration of Ryu from the Street Fighter Saga Kakutou Bushinden DVD package, and is followed up by another amazing illustration of Chun-Li from Street Fighter III. Then we get another headshot of Chun-Li that's an oil painting that's very pretty. AKIMAN is Chun-Li's creator and a lot of his illustrations in the his book, aside from the game art, is centered around her. Then there's the game art itself which is vast and varied, dating back to Street Fighter II, when AKIMAN first worked on the series. There's a group shot illustration, one of Ryu's back, and a series of portraits for Chun-Li, Guile, Sagat and Zangief from Street Fighter II. The Sagat illustration is the origin of Dan's character in the Street Fighter universe. The illustration shows Sagat holding a karate-based fighter, or one that would look as such, by the head after having apparently beaten him senseless. Several years later, a character looking identical appears in Street Fighter Alpha named Dan Hibiki and he has a hardon for getting revenge on Sagat for the murder of his father. Funny how things work like that. Several more group shots and Chun-Li illustrations, followed by a spectacular and very dark looking piece showing all the characters from Street Fighter II (including the four added in Super Turbo) doing things that have nothing to do with fighting. There's a light hearted side to Capcom's design team and it really shows in this book. In this illustration we're treated with much different representations of the fighters than we normally see. For instance Zangief is reading a book, Dhalsim is wearing a Hawaiian type shirt, E.Honda is in a business suit and tie, Ken is playing with a Sakura action figure, and Blanka is talking on a cellphone. A couple pages later we get a really nice series of Chun-Li illustrations that show her evolution over the years, including one of my favorites that you can see to the right. There's also a really wonderful, semi-erotic illustration AKIMAN did for Arcadia,a Japanese video game magazine, that was for SNK vs. Capcom: Chaos. It features Chun-Li and SNK's Mai Shiranui from King of Fighters and Fatal Fury fame in semi-fighting postures with their breasts pressed firmly against one another, and their lips almost touching. The image could be hinting that they're about to come to blows, or they're about to make out. It's a great image. Then we get to his famous character portraits from Street Fighter II and the selection screen art he provided for Street Fighter III, along with more illustrations of Chun-Li, a few of Ryu and Cammy, and some examples of his experimentation with digital art tools.

The second artist profiled is Kinu Nishimura, whose section opens with a two page spread illustration of Ken and Ryu that was used for a Street Fighter IV advertisement. It continues with two fantastic illustrations of Chun-Li, one of which (the one to the left) may be my favorite illustration of Chun-Li I've ever seen. His section continues with two group illustrations, one for Street Fighter II Turbo and another for Super Street Fighter II. Both illustrations are ones that I've seen before, but never knew the name of the artist. We get two character portraits from Street Fighter II, for Blanka and Guile, and some artwork for Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact. One was for a poster featuring Alex in the foreground looking up at the viewer, and Hugo in the back ground with his back towards us. The second is a fight between Ryu and Alex. Then we get some of Kinu's work for Street Fighter IV including a group shot of the new fighters introduced in the game, Abel, C.Viper, Rufus and El Fuerte. And a second featuring C. Viper which is also one my favorite illustrations from the book. You can see it on the right, there. Kinu does a very wonderful job at capturing the beauty of the female characters from the series. One of his next illustrations is a huge and elaborate piece that incorporates characters from all over Capcom's world of games from Street Fighter to Darkstalkers to Dino Crisis and Resident Evil in what seems to be all these characters barging in on Dan while he's eating. It's a very humorous image and I think I laughed out loud when I looked at it the first time. Some of the minor details are just wonderful to look at. Like the Zombie dog from Resident Evil waiting for Dan to drop some food for him to eat. In another funny group shot, we get an image of several Capcom characters watching Ryu (in his Street Fighter look) playing MegaMan at an arcade game of some sort. On the opposite page is an image of all the Street Fighter girls dressed up and having their picture taken with a Mickey Mouse-like character. Ibuki, Elena, Cammy, Chun-Li, Rose, Sakura and C.Viper are all in that image, and the only one wearing her fighting clothes is C.Viper. Sakura looks to be wearing the sundress that is going to be her upcoming downloadable costume for Super Street Fighter IV. Another group shot follows that featuring Sakura and Chun-Li from Street Fighter and Mai Shiranui and Yuri Sakazaki from King of Fighters. Shortly after that is another illustration that I adore featuring Chun-Li, Sakura and Cammy and all three girls look drastically different from one another. Chun-Li is stoic, Sakura much more child-like and maybe scared, and Cammy looking a bit more lusty than I've normally seen. Lots more group shots and a nice little illustration of Kyo Kusanagi from King of Fighters playing Sakura at a portable video game or another. A lot of Kinu's illustrations are rather humorous across the board. He's got several that dipict the entire cast of Super Street Fighter II in ridiculous situations. He provided a lot of illustrations that was turned into ingame art for Street Fighter III, including game endings and the like. The book provides a rough look at his art for those endings. He also did a large bulk of the character art for Street Fighter II, Street Fighter II Turbo and Capcom vs. SNK 2 -- he provided quite a bit of the Capcom art for the game, while another artist handled the SNK stuff. His section ends with a very expansive look at a character bible he provided for the Street Fighter II animated series, complete with notes that have been translated to English.

The next section is for an artist going by the pen name CRMK, but most people would know him as Bengus. His section opens with a nice and cut illustration of Sakura for Street Fighter Alpha 2. It's followed by a group shot for Super Street Fighter II that features multiple versions of each character in different colored outfits. The next illustration is one that has been burned into my memory for almost two decades, also for Super Street Fighter II, featuring Cammy and Chun-Li standing in Cammy's background stage for the game. I remember it because of the pose, the two girls standing back to back, and that for some reason Cammy's sticking her tongue out. Then we get a massive black and white illustration of Gouki for his first appearance in Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Gouki is best known as Akuma in the States, but I still call him Gouki. 'Cause it makes sense. The next illstration is the main illustration for Street Fighter Alpha 3 featuring the new characters like Cammy, E.Honda, R.Mika fighting Blanka, Cody from Final Fight, Karin and Vega -- all of which were appearing in the Alpha series for the first time, with Mika and Karin appearing for the first time ever, and Cody appearing for the first time in a Street Fighter game. The next two pictures are both of Kyo Kusanagi and Ryu for Capcom vs. SNK. We even get an illustration he provided for a game called Canon Spike that revolved around Cammy and Charlie and involved roller blades, skateboards and a lot of guns. Lots and lots of Alpha illustrations throughout CRMK's section, all of which are favorites of mine. One illustration that isn't Alpha related has all the girls from Street Fighter in a POV picture from Ryu's POV with them standing over him as though he just got knocked out. It's a really pretty image and he captured each of the characters personalities with the limited space provided. Lots of illustrations of Sakura and a crazy amount of character art. CRMK provided character illustrations for Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, some retcon art for the original Street Fighter, all three Alpha games, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Street Fighter EX, Street Fighter EX 2, and one character for Street Fighter III 3rd Strike. What's really unfortunate is that none of the Marvel characters are represented here for the X-Men and Marvel related games. Just the Capcom guys.

Next we get Ikeno who begins with a pretty interesting illustration for Street Fighter IV featuring Ryu delivering a Shoryuken to Sagat's chin. Next we get the two different covers he provided for Eternal Challenge, the Japanese cover which was also used for the Street Fighter Collection on the PS2, and the North American edition. Of which, I don't have either, I have a special edition cover drawn by an artist later on in this book. A great deal of his art is game covers and character art. His section ends with a lot of design work for Street Fighter IV with notes.

Dai-Chan is up next who provides us with one of the more famous known images related to Street Fighter Alpha, to the left as the box art for the Japanese Dreamcast version of the game. He also did the illustration of Ryu being stared down by Gouki that appeared prominently during the game's release.

Edayan is the next and we get his awesome cover art for Street Fighter ALpha 3 that was on the PlayStation cover. Edayan provided a lot of art for the Alpha series and filled in the character slots left open by CRMK.

Then we have Shinkiro who gives us an illustration of Ken vs. Ryu. Shinkiro provided the art for Eternal Challenge cover that I had and is more known for his work on various SNK games, having just joined Capcom pretty recently. His work is usually known for his photorealism in his artwork, but has been slowly providing less and less photorealism in some of his Capcom works. We get several illustrations of Capcom vs. SNK here, some more cartoony illustrations for Capcom Fighting Evolution, and his anime inspired work for Tatsunoku vs. Capcom. We also get a handful of illustrations he did for UDON's Street Fighter comics, and his character work for Capcom vs. SNK and Capcom vs. SNK 2.

The final segment of the book is Other Illustrators that has Shoei, Sensei, Shima Maeda, Harumaru, Akiko Nishizawa, Hideki Ishikawa, Uji, Shinsuke Komaki, Ooishi, L. George, Sakura, UDON, Polygon Pictures, Tamio, Syukuo Murase, Falcoon, Nona, Takuji Kawana, Namco X Capcom Staff, Collaborative Illustrations and Capcom Design Staff. Lots of cool stuff in here including the game endings that UDON did for Capcom Fighting Evolution, the Street Fighter IV character art from Polygon Pictures, some Capcom vs. SNK illustrations by Falcoon including a very breasty one featuring Mai and Chun-Li, and some art by Takuji Kawano who works for Namco Bandai and has done most of his work for the Tekken series of games.

The overall package of the book is amazing. Lots of the pieces feature commentary by the artist, the book is tethered with string instead of bound by glue, so it's much less likely that it'll fall apart at the seams. The paper quality is extremely high and the art being reproduced here just glows of high quality printing. This is possibly the best Street Fighter art related book that's ever been published and definitely comes highly recommended from me. Some of these images I hadn't ever seen before, and others I've seen only online and don't look as good as they do in the book.

You can get SF20: The Art of Street Fighter here, here, and here, with being the cheapest.

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