‘Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist': Joey Ansah and ‘the definitive back story’

May 23, 2014 | 5:21 p.m.
Mike Moh as Ryu and Christian Howard as Ken in "Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist." (Machinima)

Mike Moh as Ryu and Christian Howard as Ken in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist.” (Machinima)

Joey Ansah might best be known as Desh, the bad guy who went toe-to-toe with Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne in “The Bourne Ultimatum,” but his love of martial arts and his desire to create memorable fight scenes extends to one of fandom’s holy grails when it comes to fisticuffs: “Street Fighter.”

“Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist” launched today on Youtube’s Machinima channel and Ansah co-wrote and directed the epic, 12-episode  series with an eye toward retelling and consolidating the story of how Ken and Ryu became names synonymous with video game action.

Ansah, who also stars in the series (Akuma), wrote the script with Christian Howard, who reprises his role as Ken Masters from the original fan film. The series also stars Mike Moh as Ryu, Togo Igawa (“47 Ronin,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “The Last Samurai”) as Gotetsu, Akira Koieyama as Goken, Gaku Space as Goki, Mark Killeen (“300: Rise of an Empire,” “The Dark Knight Rises”) as Mr. Masters, and Hal Yamanouchi as Senzo. Hero Complex caught up to Ansah as “Assassin’s Fist” hit the Internet to ask about the series and its fandom.

How did you go about adapting a story that people already think they know or have seen in many different media?

The whole “Street Fighter” mythology is very convoluted and there are many different facets to it.  If we take what is regarded as strict canon by Capcom, that is everything that is depicted within the games — the prologues and epilogues of whichever character you play through the game — that is the canon. So we adhered almost 100% to that detail. Then you’re going to see anime films — “Street Fighter the Animated Movie,” “Street Fighter 2,” “Street Fighter Alpha,” “Street Fighter Alpha Generations.” Now all of them give their interesting additions to the back story, telling a part of the past that’s never been told before. I think a lot of fans have some elements they really hate and some they like, even though it’s strictly regarded as canon, which is quite crazy that Capcom might’ve officially licensed an anime and allowed the story to take place then say, ‘Yeah, it’s cool, but it’s not canon.’  Then you’ve got the Udon comics, which has got some great back story and development.

So what we’ve done on “Assassin’s Fist” is to try to create the definitive back story. Not only the fixed backbone canon that Capcom can stand by, but also incorporates all those elements from the anime and the Udon things that people like. So it kind of unifies everything that’s out there and makes it cohesive and clear. We obviously put more meat on the bones in terms of characterization to make it very layered and deep, and put two new characters in: the crazy fisherman and also the groundsman, Senzo, the caretaker. As the series goes on, you realize that he’s got a significant role. Those are the two new additions to the world, but everything else there has largely been established — whether it’s been established in just one sentence or not, it’s been established. I don’t think there’s anything where people will say, ‘Oh, no! You deviated from the canon!’

Because with these fans, you know that’s coming…

I know that that’s the climate we live in. We’re fighting an uphill battle. As Blade says at the end of a big battle in ["Blade"], ‘Some …  is always trying to ice skate uphill.’ And that applies to this. Because of every terrible live-action video game adaptation that there’s ever been, you’re in a situation where you’re guilty as … until proven innocent. We have a massive loyal fan base — the trailer did over a million hits in three days and we’ve got a 97% thumbs up rating — but you’ll always get those haters. Some people are straight-up trolls, then you’ll get the people who just naturally sit on the fence, saying ‘I won’t be convinced until I’ve seen the whole thing play out and I’ll reserve judgment because I’ve been bitten too many times before to just get excited.’ And I would probably be the same, to be honest. We get served up so much trash by Hollywood in terms of these adaptations that we have a right to be cynical. But I really want people, even if you’re dubious, to watch it. I guarantee your mind will be blown. The series is one continuous gradual escalation.

Joey Ansah as Akuma in "Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist." (Machinima)

Joey Ansah as Akuma in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist.” (Machinima)

What was the biggest obstacle, besides corralling the canon, in crafting this story?

The biggest challenge is giving sufficient narrative depth to Ryu and Ken. “Assassin’s Fist” is two parallel timelines. You’ve got the past, which is set in the mid-’50s with Gotetsu, Sayaka and Goki, then you have the present with Ryu, Ken and Goken. The past is full of all of those great storytelling elements that go back to the “Iliad” and the Old Testament. Brother versus brother, father versus son, love triangle, betrayal, banishment, the rebirth … so that was much easier to get my teeth into and write with Christian Howard. I didn’t want to crowbar in some false threat … I wanted to make them human.  So Ken has got estrangement and abandonment issues with his father — a good place to start.  And Ryu has this … well, he holds back, and it’s a theme that keeps repeating itself throughout the whole series — and we’ll find out why as the series progresses. Their true adult stories don’t begin until the end of the series when their training is complete and they go back to America ready for the “World Warrior.” This is a coming-of-age story for Ryu and Ken, so creating an engaging enough narrative, drama, threats, obstacles to overcome and objectives for those young, fairly innocent characters was a challenge.

Because this is a definitive back story, were there elements that you felt you had to leave out at all?

It’s not that we omitted anything, it’s just that we chose to focus on certain details. For example, any true “Street Fighter” fan knows that Goken had another student before Ryu and Ken, which was Dan. So a lot of people kept saying, ‘Oh, if you’re going to keep it true, Dan better be in there’ … Well, Dan is referenced. And there are extended parts on the DVD that will showcase more. Did you see any missing parts?

No, actually, but my reference point is more focused on the popular “Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior” story and video game. Any plans for that?

Definitely. The irony is that the script treatment that Christian and I originally wrote — which I pitched to Capcom five years ago — was the “World Warrior.” Had Capcom said, ‘Great. We love it. Here’s a couple million dollars, go and make it.’ That’s what we would’ve started with. So that script already exists. After “Legacy” and the success of that, I said “Let me shelve the ‘World Warrior.'”  I want to go back and tell the lineage story [because] it’s the least detailed told element of the “Street Fighter” mythology, so even the hard-core fans out there are like “I want to see this cause there’s a lot to learn.” It’s more classical storytelling. For the wider audience who sees video games as crass, two-dimensional nonsense — people are gonna say “whoa, this is a character story.” It’s a much better jump on point for a mass audience.

Mike Moh as Ryu in "Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist." (Machinima)

Mike Moh as Ryu in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist.” (Machinima)

In the same way that Nolan took Batman back to the roots —  it takes an hour before you even see the Batsuit — you have to get people hooked on fundamental characters and story development before it gets too fantastical and supernatural.  If you just throw people in the deep end with Blanka and Dhalsim and everyone’s doing fireballs and stuff, a lot of people would say this isn’t for me. This is kids’ stuff.  It’s Harry Potter. I wanted to tell a really serious adult story.  And besides, “The World Warrior” would need a much bigger budget. This was made for about $2 million, and a hell of a lot of blood, sweat, tears and favors.  The core group didn’t even pay ourselves. We deferred our payments and put that money on the screen. We wanted to give the studio superhero films a run for their money in terms of narrative and length and action. So I do plan on doing “The World Warrior,” but that will be on a much bigger scale.

What did you take away from the experience, and what do you want fans to take away?

This could be the start of a franchise, and we’ll see from the demand of the audience. As a filmmaker, this is my gateway project. I’ve been an actor for years and have received a lot of accolades for “Bourne Ultimatum” and my now-famous fight in that with Matt Damon, but I have so many more strings to my bow. I wanted to tell a non-linear story. Stuff like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” … there’s no clear main protagonist that you’re forced to follow. You might have Akuma as your hero in the end. I want people to have open minds and if they love what they see, demand it and I’ll give them more.

– Jevon Phillips

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Comments


45 Responses to ‘Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist': Joey Ansah and ‘the definitive back story’

  1. Chris says:

    Just watched the entire series…it was BRILLIANT!!!Joey nailed Akuma's voice perfectly. It was over too damn soon!

    • John says:

      i'll be honest, i have been a big street fighter fan since i was 4 when i watched my big brother playing the game.

      Never got into season shows that take a while to get into but Street Fighter just did that. I cannot wait for the next part of this show. I am thankful and congratulate you for re-introducing street fighter.

  2. Steve says:

    Assassin's Fist was fantastic, kudos to the cast and crew. Can't wait to see more!

  3. eli says:

    omg I fell in love with the set kudos I honestly cant wait to see the next episodes im 28 years old and feel like a kid again. I want to know how long before the next episodes come out? ealtamirano@laquintaresort.com please if you can keep me updated thx

  4. Death Metal says:

    The series is incredible. Everyone is recommended to watch it, even if they don't know anything Street Fighter, but for the fans of the games, it is a mandatory watch. It was beautifully made, a lot of attention to detail has been put it and the characters are incredibly true to the cannon story. I was taken aback by the high production quality of this and can hold it as the definitive Ken and Ryu backstory.

  5. Wazinated says:

    great series i love, only that Ryu looks like Fei long and the fighting gloves look weird… 8/10 rating for me. Cant wait or the World Warrior. great job

  6. J.J. says:

    Just finished watching the webseries. Wow! As a long time Street Fighter fan I have to say they got it right. This is Street Fighter proper. I'm glad they waited on the world warrior story line and told this origin story first. Can't wait to see more!

  7. Phabe says:

    I just watch the whole first season of the Assassin's fist and it is the best street fighter film I ever watched that includes the cartoons too.

  8. Fabian says:

    Watch the series. I dare you to find inconsistencies , if you do find some, just wait they ALWAYS come back and correct the things you knit picked. For example, Ryu’s song, the glove color, Ryu’s headband color, EVEN KENS SLIGHTLY DARKER EYEBROWS. It’s all as accurate as can be. I want more!

  9. Andrew says:

    Epic classic series. All I could say is this was a pleasure to watch as it brought me back to my child hood. Great file, can't wait for the next series!!!!

  10. Dennis says:

    Amazing I want to see more.

  11. Sal says:

    That was the true street fighter story. Come one season 2!!!

  12. Anthony Romero says:

    This was awesome!! Been waiting for this can’t

    Wait till part 2

  13. Joon says:

    Awesome series, the best live action street fighter ever made! Make more!!

  14. Ryan says:

    Best street fighter ever!i wanna cry!

  15. Thor says:

    Best adaption ever, Hollywood needs to wake up and fund The World Warrior… A blind duck would see the potential in this.

  16. danny says:

    Please continue the series…try to get netflix to produce!!! I wanna see more!!

  17. Jonny says:

    It was perfect!! I’m tired of those childish street fighters they made in the past. The characters are a perfect match. Now I’m hooked. We need more. Also liked the mortal kombat series. We need a movie!

  18. tvd says:

    awesome series can't wait for more episode..when will the new episode comes out??? anyone know???

  19. Lista says:

    Just watched the whole series and in all honesty, it was the ONLY adaptation to ANY book, comic, video game or whatever that was SPOT ON. I dumped butt loads of quarters in ALL the Street Fighter games because I wanted to know each character's story, and THIS movie did NOT disappoint. This is what a TRUE adaptation should be. Note to Marvel and DC, you CAN stay authentic for the fans and capture a new fan base at the same time. Focus on a STRONG STORY and save the CGI.

  20. Avi says:

    This was awesome! Congratulations to everyone who put their heart into bringing this to life!! You have one more fan and a supporter.

  21. luckjaw says:

    Super webseries…. I hope to see more soon!

  22. guerino says:

    Amazing….I can’t believe this is on YouTube and not on a big screen…..

  23. heenja says:

    just finished watching the whole series. This is amazing. Between the deep character development to making hadoken look decent to the little additions like classic sf 2 music bgm playing to dan being referenced, this has been a joy to watch and I honestly cannot cannot wait for what is going to come out of this. Origin type series for more characters?

  24. alfredo says:

    so when is season 2. time frame please.

  25. Jabari says:

    Amazing Series….really loved it, please continue the great work and do more… this could and should of been on big screen!!!!!!

  26. Newland says:

    Ansah and Howard… fantastic resurge of the last live action SF plot Jean Claud Van Dam ruined… series was excellent… I am some of the biggest fans to comics games and anime! Very critical of what I see and I must say Thank you guys for bringing back a shame to the live action movie!! I truly can't wait to see what else is to come! Also put in note that can you also bring back alive of a great story line that killed any more live action to be made which I'm sure everyone knows, Dragonball Z!?!? What a shame they did to that… Can't wait to see what's to come… keep in mind that Street Fighter and Marvel… something for you guys to think about future project… something I hope can happen in the future! Copyright that please get at me… lol… for real though… I would love to be a part of it as it's part of my passion!

  27. Armani tay says:

    Thanks for making my chilhood dream come to life! Its really awesome

  28. carlos says:

    i would love to see more episodes being made. come on you cant have a cliff hanger here not now.

  29. Adam says:

    Bloody Brilliant!! i can't wait for the next season!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do more

  30. paulo says:

    awsome….the plot , the characters the figths keep making more of them and fast…….

  31. Irie says:

    Just finished watching the whole First Season. I have to say that this film was brilliantly prepared with attention to detail. I can't wait for the next episodes to be released. My only request is to keep me posted on updates and release date of next Season. email: warren.quitugua@gmail.com

  32. Carlos says:

    As a fan of Street Fighter, I could honeslty not be happier with the series. The style, theme, actors, fighting, it all blew me away. I truly feel this should be on the big screen, its just too good for everyone not to watch. Its a stand alone movie that regardless of it being Street Fighter, it would still be amazing!

    10/10 being a little balanced Ill give it a 9/10….not many martial arts movies get that rating from me

    well done! no questions guys! make more make more make more! dont stop you nailed it!

  33. Ghost says:

    MAKE MORE!!!!

  34. HyTz says:

    I remember when street fighter the game came out this movie was awesome and took me back there loved it the only thing that will disappoint me is they don’t come out with the 2nd season!!

  35. ronn says:

    I can’t wait for next episode. This is the best Street Fighter film’s i ever watch

  36. tenju says:

    the bar fight shows all guile mens. so guile must be in world warriors? whos playing him?

  37. Kiwan says:

    MOREEEEE!

  38. Jermaine Alexander says:

    I just finished watching it and o man I love it I remember turning on my Sega gen and beating my brother with the hadoken and rubbing it in his face. I’m very happy they made it like it truly needs to be not like chun li movie I mean come on bison shouldn’t die to quick I thought he’s powerful but overall this is my favorite movie now and you need to make more please oh I’m requesting after this over with please redo live action Dragonball z movie me and the dbz fans need it but let me know if the second season starts I need to know and thanks guys for making this masterpiece I appreciate it

  39. Fil says:

    I have been waiting for this film since I was 13. I am now 35. Brilliant!

  40. wil says:

    yo dawg , sick movie! GREAT! 2 thumbs up! , are you people goin to continue this movie to part 2?I CAN WAIT NO LONGER! ,HADOU!

  41. jcooo says:

    Just watched the episodes back to back… Amazing!

    when will season 2 available?

  42. Red Atkinson says:

    I watched Street Fighter Assassins Fist for the first time a couple weeks ago, I reached the last episode and was up in arms on the edge of my seat wanting to see more! I would like to express my true appreciation of this fantastic story of Ryu & Ken from the beginning of their adventure from the 1st episode I was captivated to the last when the left their dojo to venture the world. I love every part of this series and cannot wait for the next intake of episodes showing more Street Fighter. I would just like to ask one (or maybe two things) 1st if the budget is increased substantially could you please keep the same look of the episodes it’s already great!! and 2nd pay yourselve’s for an incredible job making this!

    Thanks for your time.

  43. Noah says:

    Excellent work! This was a great origin story for Ryu and Ken! More origin stories for the other characters would be a good move at this caliber before a full blown Street Fighter film…..

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