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Akuma Speaks! Joey Ansah on STREET FIGHTER: ASSASSIN’S FIST

According to Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist co-creator, the Machinima web series might not exist without The Bourne Ultimatum. Ansah boasts that the close-quarters fight between his assassin character Desh and Matt Damon’s killer amnesiac Jason Bourne has gone down “as one of the greats,” but more importantly for the then 23-year-old actor, it gave him the confidence to see one of his dream projects to fruition.

“Having been a massive fan of Street Fighter for most of my life, seeing it done wrong two times over in live-action, I thought ‘Enough is enough.’ I couldn’t stand around and do nothing as this keeps happening.”

Assassin’s Fist presents some of the early history of fighters Ken and Ryu, told across the 13-episode series. Ansah not only served as writer and co-creator, but also lends his fighting skills as the demonic Akuma later in the series. The web series is a follow-up to 2010′s Street Fighter: Legacy, a fan film made with the blessing of Capcom.

At the time, Ansah was rooming with Chris Howard, who would later go on to play Ken in both Legacy and Assassin’s Fist, serving as co-writer for both. In our interview with Howard, the writer and actor talks about how the duo attempted to adapt the World Warriors storyline from Street Fighter II, but the expense and time necessary to bring that project together led them to scale the story back, focusing on Ken and Ryu.

Ansah says that he pitched that project – which would become Street Fighter: Legacy – to Capcom in 2009 the hopes that they might invest in his then unusual distribution strategy across home video as well as online on the same day.

With Super Street Fighter IV on the way at the time, the publisher was willing to play ball. Ansah is proud that this was more than a fan project: “I did it all by the books, I got permission from Capcom, and got the producers from Capcom passionate and excited about the project.”

Howard and Ansah like to talk about the faithfulness and respect that Legacy and Assassin’s Fist show the Street Fighter canon. Both projects were born of a desire to bring together some of the disparate threads of the fiction throughout the franchise in a way that made sense to new viewers while still respecting the two decades plus of storytelling across the games, comics, manga, and anime.

“It was a bit of a mess,” Ansah said of the series’ continuity. “You have an official license in the Udon comic book series and then you have the anime where are all official, licensed Capcom products. But a lot of the story told in them are not regarded as canon.”

Ansah likens them to Marvel’s What If? stories, except you would have a major project like one of the anime claiming that Akuma was Ryu’s father – which could be a little confusing to fans. “For a lot of fans, being a lack of anything else explaining that section of the past, they’re happy to latch on to what the anime presumes and they do take it as canon.”

So Ansah and Howard, in writing Assassin’s Fist, attempted to stay true to some of those story elements while still respecting what Capcom considered canonical, with their hopes being that Capcom will at some point consider their story to be part of the canon.

When it came to the look of the series – particularly its ample fight scenes – Ansah wanted to go as practical as possible. “I know CG has its place and I know CG is amazing, but why would you do an entire CG minecart chase when you could do it practically like they did in Indiana Jones?”

Given the pyrotechnics of Street Fighter‘s brawls, Ansah hoped to add a tactile quality to some of the supernatural attacks. For instance, when it came to the fireball throw, his team connected a high tensile wire to one of the fighters in order to yank them back upon “impact” with the fireball which would be added in postproduction by the Bulgarian FX house CineMotion.

After the successful launch of Legacy, Ansah and Howard hoped they might get Capcom on board for the full-length Street Fighter feature. “I guess I hoped that after the success of Legacy, Capcom would have been like ‘You guys clearly love the brand and treat it with care and class and we’re going to give you the rights to go ahead and do it.’ But that wasn’t the case – my producer Jacqueline Quella and I had to fight against other studios to get the license.”

For Ansah, the Street Fighter franchise is one that’s constantly on the hunt to stay relevant in the lulls between games. With the exception of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the Capcom vs. SNK games, there wasn’t a lot of new Ken and Ryu action at homes and in arcades until the release of Street Fighter IV in 2008. With Ultra Street Fighter IV out this summer, Ansah says Capcom was looking for something to keep the franchise in the limelight until the inevitable Street Fighter V makes its bow.

“I just hope that people feel that we’ve been able to represent a Hadouken on screen,” Ansah said.

You can judge for yourself: Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist is available via Machinima.

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