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REVIEW: SOTA TOYS' STREET FIGHTER - ROUND 2
By Thomas Wheeler

Easily some of the most impressive action figures around today are those
based on the popular Capcom video game concept, STREET FIGHTER, as
produced by SOTA Toys. If you take the articulation of a Marvel Legends
figure, a quality of detail and assembly actually a bit higher than
Marvel Legends, and combine it with perfect likenesses of these popular
characters, the end result is the SOTA STREET FIGHTER series.

The only problem is that the action figures are distributed only to
specialty stores and online outlets, and saying that distribution is a
little bit on the variable side is something of an understatement. I was
honestly amazed to find the second series of these figures at the
Suncoast store near me in mid-April. It later turned out that Hot Topic
also had them, but in my opinion, no one over the age of 30 has any
business walking to a Hot Topic. It's just a trifle unnerving to see pop
culture icons anywhere from the 70's to the present day reduced to T-
shirts, patches, and the occasional toys, in an otherwise far-too-modern
environment of tattoos, piercings, and hair designs that look like they
were committed by the Florida hurricanes - and that's just the sales clerks.

Street Fighter, as a concept, has gone well beyond its video game
origins. There was an unfortunately less-than-impressive live-action
movie, which was followed by a surprisingly decent animated series that
ran for two seasons on the USA Network. There was also a more
straightforward Japanese anime movie and series which was translated and
brought over to the United States in video form several years ago.
Currently there's a comic book published by Devil's Due. And of course,
there's the backstory to the video games. For the most part, the story is
reasonably consistent, but there are some variables, which I will try to
address when discussing the characters.

The second series of figures includes KEN, VEGA, T.HAWK, BLANKA, and
CAMMY. Let's take them in order:

KEN - One of the two lead characters in the core concept, the other being
RYU, who was available in the first assortment of action figures. Ryu is
Japanese. Ken is American. But they trained at the same dojo in Japan to
gain their fighting skills, and while they are close friends, there's an
underlying rivalry between the two as to which is really the better fighter.
Personality-wise, they couldn't be more difference. Ryu is the serious
student, and based on a Japanese-anime movie that kicked off the Japanese
series, is pretty much a wanderer who spends most of his time in various
Asian countries, perfecting his skills in various street fights and
tournaments. Ken is more flamboyant and less serious, and resides in the
United States, with his girlfriend/fiancé. This element of the storyline
has also been carried over to the current comic book.

Ken's last name is a bit of a mystery. When Hasbro decided to introduce
Street Fighter action figures as an adjunct to their G.I.Joe line, they
had to give Ken a last name. Just calling him "Ken" would've upset
Barbie's then-boyfriend, and would've also been impossible to trademark
as a toy, as such. So Ken picked up the last name "Masters". This carried
over into the live action movie, as well as the American animated series.
But it's also mentioned in the initial Japanese anime movie. I'm certain
that the full name had to be met with Capcom's approval, so for all
intents and purposes, it is official.

On the other hand, the SOTA action figure does not use the last name. The
figure is simply called Ken. Of course, Barbie also dumped her Ken for an
Australian named Blaine a year or so ago. Not sure if that was any sort
of factor in all this, or if "specialty" toys such as these Street
Fighter figures can somehow sidestep the legal issues a bit.

The figure itself is excellent. While many aspects of the figure are
identical to the Ryu figure, they are not as extensive as one might
expect. Ryu's white outfit is somewhat ragged at the arms and legs. Ken's
red outfit is not. Both figures seem to share arm and body molds, and to
a degree, legs. Of course they have different heads. Ryu has fairly short
dark hair, whereas Ken has fairly long blonde hair.

The overall articulation is amazing. Head, arms, upper arm swivel,
double-jointed elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel,
double-jointed knees, ankles, and mid-foot and toe-group articulation.
The figure is also good and solid. All of the Street Fighter figures,
except the relatively small female characters, are quite heavy, and as
such good and sturdy.

It's good to add Ken to the collection, as he and Ryu are generally
regarded as the central characters.

VEGA - I'll admit that Vega's not a personal favorite of mine. He's one
of the bad guys, but he's just got a rather strange look and attitude.
He's incredibly vain, so protective of his appearance that anytime he's
in a fight, he wears a protective mask over his face. He is Spanish in
origin, and wears a flamboyant outfit that features tight-fitting purple
and yellow trousers, white socks, a huge red sash-like belt, and shoes
that - well, frankly look like penny-loafers.

To top off this bizarre image, Vega has a huge tattoo of a snake running
across his chest, back, and arms. He also has long blonde hair that is
tied off in a long braid.

Then there's his main weapon - he's got a set of claws on one hand that
would make Wolverine of the X-Men think twice about picking a fight with
him. As handsome as Vega is, he tends to be quite determined to use those
claws on anyone else, to make sure that he remains the prettiest Street
Fighter of them all.

The character's most bizarre portrayal is certainly in the Japanese anime
movie. Here he is seen as a total psychotic nutjob, who is sent after
Chun-Li. He breaks into her apartment, and the two get into a massive
battle that leaves both of them down for the count. The American version
of Vega is a little more sedate, but no less vicious. In the American
animated series, Vega doesn't turn up very often. In one episode of note,
he doesn't really want anything to do with Bison, but Bison has learned
of a serum that might give Vega eternal youth. Blanka's after the same
formula, since it might reverse his monstrous form to human. Vega is seen
here as vicious and impossibly vain, but not quite the psycho nutjob of
the Japanese anime movie.

In the Devil's Due comic, Vega is seen as vain and arrogant, and has a
distinct hatred for Ken. In the most recent issue, he and Balrog
conspired to break up Ken's wedding. Personally, I tend to prefer the
more "scheming" version of Vega. There's just not much appeal or interest
to an incoherent psychotic.

The figure is very well done, although somewhat to my surprise, the mask
is not removable. One of the accessories is a second head, that is
unmasked, but there isn't a separate mask accessory.
Otherwise, Vega has the same high level of articulation as any of the
other figures. He's somewhat more slender, but don't let that fool you.
In the video games, what Vega lacks in size, he tends to make up for with
an astonishing level of agility. And he's one of the earliest Street
Fighters, so his addition to the collection is certainly worthwhile.

T. HAWK - This massive Native American was one of the first characters
added to the Street Fighter II video game, one among four when "Super
Street Fighter II" came along. According to the early stories, he resided
in a village in Mexico that came under attack by the major villain of the
piece, M. Bison, who wiped out the place.

The character is, despite his considerable size, not one of the major
players in the concept. In the live-action movie, T. Hawk was assigned to
Colonel Guile's Allied Nations military force. In the American animated
series, he was still a part of that military force, even though Guile
wasn't. In the Japanese animated movie, he turned up for about a minute
and a half to pick a fight with Ken in an attempt to build his rep as a
street fighter.

The figure is huge, easily the largest in this assortment. And he's
somewhat on the bulky side, as well. It's amazing this much articulation
could be put into this bulky a figure, but T-Hawk has the same level of
articulation as any of the other figures. But what's especially
impressive about the figure is the obvious level of detail that was put
into his appearance.

The fringe on his vest and boots was all molded as separate pieces.
There's a dry wash of paint, a practice which I usually abhor, but which
in this case works astoundingly well to give the vest and the trousers a
very authentic faded denim look, and the boots a sort of worn leather
look. The belt buckle is a remarkable sculpting job in and of itself,
painted silver with a slight overwash of black to make it look like a lot
of southwestern-style jewelry I've seen that follows the same practice.
For a relatively minor character, SOTA clearly went to several extra
lengths on T. Hawk to make sure the figure came out just right, and they
succeeded amazingly well.

BLANKA - This guy has always been one of my favorites in the Street
Fighter series. He's one of the most bizarre individuals in the line,
even though his origin was pretty badly muddled by the live action movie.
Granted, the character needed some sort of origin, given his mysterious
and largely unknown background from the game standpoint.

As far as the game is concerned, Blanka was an orphaned child, possibly
named "Jimmy", who grew up in the jungles of Brazil, and gained certain
skills and abilities from the animals around him, not the least of which
was the ability to deliver a really nasty electric zap, similar to that
of an electric eel. This is a viable enough explanation, but doesn't
really explain Blanka's standard green skin or wild red hair (granted,
these are also variable depending on color selections within the game,
but traditionally, the character is shown with green skin and red hair).

The movie took a different approach. Blanka was Carlos Blanka, an ally of
Guile's, who was captured by M. Bison and subjected to radical genetic
engineering to transform him into a monstrous killing machine. The
efforts to reprogram Blanka's mind were sabotaged, and the result was a
hulking man-beast who wasn't quite sure whose side he was on in the long run.

By the time of the American animated series, Blanka had regained much of
his mind, and made the decision to side with Guile in his ongoing
conflict with M. Bison and the forces of Shadoloo. He's accepted the fact
that he is viewed as a monster, at least for the most part. In one
episode of note, Blanka is informed of a serum that might reverse the
experiment that made him what he was. It works, briefly, actually turning
him into another Street Fighter character, a lesser-known character named
Charlie. But ultimately, he reverts to Blanka during a fight with Vega.

The Japanese animated movie didn't really do much of anything with Blanka
except turn him loose in an exhibition fight in Las Vegas against
Zangief, although the announcer did make reference to Blanka's wild
Brazilian origins.

The figure is superb, although in my opinion is a little too dark a
green. Still, he looks good, and has the same remarkable level of detail
and articulation as anyone else. His massive hair makes the figure's head
a little difficult from an articulation standpoint. It's back-heavy, so
the head tends to pose itself upwards just a bit. However, Blanka tends
to look best posed when slightly bent over, so it sort of compensates for
itself.

Blanka also comes with the most offbeat accessories of any of the figures
to date. Among his accessories are a pineapple and a slice of watermelon
with a bite taken out of it (hey, the guy's gotta eat), and a tiny human
skull, almost disturbingly authentic in its detail and paint. You could
probably bury this thing at an archaeological site and have someone think
that he'd discovered a race of extreme pygmies. A more agreeable (and
plausible) use might be to have any number of action figures do the
"Yorick" speech from Shakespeare.

Granted, any large green humanoid monster these days is going to be
compared to a certain large green humanoid monster from Marvel Comics.
Was Blanka inspired by the Hulk? I really don't know. Granted, there is a
resemblance, but most of that pertains to size and primary color. Given
the hair, one could see Blanka as the Hulk's tropical cousin, but I'm not
sure Blanka could defeat the Hulk in a fair fight.

I should also mention that Blanka has also received the highest number of
variant repaint figures, most of them exclusive to one online outlet or
another. There's a transparent version, a glow in the dark version, a
blue-skinned version, and a yellow-skinned version. Good luck if you're a
completist.

CAMMY - The second female character introduced in the Street Fighter
concept, after Chun-Li, she, like T. Hawk, was among the four introduced
with "Super Street Fighter II". She's also certainly become the most
prominent of the four, given an extensive background, if a somewhat
disturbing one.

Technically, Cammy works for a British Intelligence agency that seeks to
put an end to M. Bison's villainy. However, there's reason to believe
that Cammy has been brainwashed by M. Bison to unwittingly carry out
assignments on his behalf. This has shown itself in virtually every
version of Street Fighter media outside of the video game.

In the American animated series, Cammy actually turned against the other
Street Fighters during the second season, and went off with M. Bison.
This led to a multi-episode arc which culminated in the final episode,
where Cammy regained her senses and fought to defeat her former master.
This also led to one of the funnier (in its own way) villain lines in the
entire series, where both Chun-Li and Cammy accuse M. Bison of killing
their fathers, to which M. Bison casually replies, "Yes, yes, I know.
What is it with you women, anyway? I killed my father, too, and you don't
hear me whining about it!"

In the Japanese anime movie, Cammy first appears attacking a diplomatic
official, breaking his neck, but is then captured. During interrogation,
she claims not to remember doing so, or much of anything else, even
though her background check shows her to be a member of British
Intelligence. The status of the character is pretty much left hanging at
that point.

In the Devil's Due comic, Cammy is one of the good guys, but a number of
captured Shadoloo agents recognize her, calling her "Killer Bee". She has
no memory of whatever it is they're talking about, and it troubles her
greatly.

The figure is excellent. Distinctly smaller than any of the males in the
assortment, the figure has an excellent sculpt and superb articulation.
It can't be easy to do those long hair braids, or get those little
cowlicks of hair to stick out from under her beret as well as they do.

Cammy's outfit is - interesting. It's basically a one-piece skin-tight
leotard, apparently bare-legged. Cammy either has green camouflage paint
on her legs, or is wearing flesh-tone camouflage leggings with green
camouflage in the pattern. The live-action movie, which changed the color
of her outfit, clearly showed these were camouflage leggings. On the
other hand, the movie wanted an agreeable rating to bring the kids in.

If Cammy is bare-legged, then the reverse side of this figure shows
uniform lines that one would think it would be distinctly painful to
fight in. "Thong" is a term that leaps to mind. So does "wedgie". Still,
SOTA should be given credit for the overall sculpt. Cammy is essentially
dressed, one way or the other, in a skin-tight outfit, and that's always
a difficult sculpt, because you can't really conceal the articulation
joints in folds of clothing, if you're trying to conceal them at all.

The resultant Cammy figure really looks good. The articulation joints
might be a bit more obvious than on some of the others, but she's still a
very worthwhile addition to the series.

SOTA has announced the next two "Rounds" in this superb action figure
series. "Round 3" will feature Adon, Gen, Sakura, Balrog, and one of my
personal favorites, Guile. Round 4 will feature Remy, Fei Long, Ibuki,
Birdie, and Akuma. Of the seventeen characters generally considered the
most-familiar and best-established of the lot, that only leaves four
unmade - Zangief, Dhalsim, Dee-Jay, and E. Honda. Let us hope that they
turn up in future assortments, although there might not be enough plastic
in the world to make the massive sumo wrestler E. Honda.

For any longtime fan of the STREET FIGHTER concept, which is one of those
rare video games that readily exceeds its video game origins, these
action figures from SOTA Toys may well be the ultimate figure
representation of these popular characters. I personally wish they were a
little more readily available, but there are various ways to obtain them.
I gave the first assortment my highest recommendation, and I extend that
recommendation to the second assortment. If you're any sort of Street
Fighter fan, you will want these figures!