Don’t worry, we’re not going to talk about the really obvious factoids, like Mike Tyson’s uncanny resemblance to a certain Boxer. Instead, we’ve found some characters in anime and manga who mark the origin of some of the greatest characters in fighting games. There are a lot of fighters to get through and not a lot of time, so let’s drop our quarters in and get started.
Okay fine, we have one obvious pick here, but it’s not like we had a choice. Good old U.S. Air Force Commander William F. Guile is one of the best characters in Street Fighter and inspired by a character from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, one of the best manga in history. You probably know this already, but Guile’s design as a valorous green-clad soldier with an amazingly tall flat-top is taken from Rudol von Stroheim.
The amount of similarities they share in appearance is only matched by their fighting styles, which both center around using projectiles at a long-range. Guile with his spam-friendly Sonic Booms and Stroheim with the obscenely large machine gun he somehow conceals in his abdomen and his shoulder-mounted weaponized UV lights.
For all their similarities, though, their alignments are about as opposed as they could be since Guile is an American soldier and Stroheim is a fucking Nazi. Why Capcom thought their air force commander should resemble a member of his nation’s most notorious enemy force is beyond us, but it’s at least good for a laugh.
M. Bison (Dictator)
Known as Vega in Japan, Street Fighter’s longstanding villain is generally agreed to have been created as a riff on Yasunori Kato, the main antagonist from the classic Japanese historical fantasy novel series Teito Monogatari, which we in the West mostly know for its anime adaptation which was dubbed under the title Doomed Megalopolis. It’s easy to see how Kato’s Imperial Japanese battle dress and psychic powers resemble Bison, but Japan also spawned another fictional character who resembles Shadaloo’s sovereign even more closely.
Enter Washizaki, a bad guy from the somewhat famous seinen manga Riki-Oh. He’s only really around for one arc, but in that time, he lay the groundwork for Bison’s character being that he’s a dictator with an imperial Japanese military uniform with a penchant for getting into martial arts battles. Washizaki even follows the storyline of Street Fighter’s antagonist by being repeatedly beaten by tougher bad guys, with Riki-Oh’s brother Nachi and the genocidal Mukai essentially acting as Washizaki’s Akuma and Seth respectively.
Still not convinced? Well, in the original arcade release of Street Fighter II; The World Warrior where Bison debuted, his character portrait was just traced from a drawing of Washizaki, specifically the panel where he kills the vengeful cyborg Robotomi 560SEL-Mk. II. Capcom started adjusting the portrait in later editions to avoid legal issues, of course; revising his uniform as of Champion Edition, altering the proportions of his facial features with Hyper Fighting and by Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, his appearance had been overhauled beyond any significant resemblance to Washizaki, but his original portrait still stands as a testament to his inspiration.
One of the sources behind the characterization of the most famous fighting game character is legendary Korean Karate master Mas Oyama who was known for traveling from dojo to dojo and tournament to tournament. He would also disappear for years on end to train in the mountains, essentially living Ryu’s entire life, albeit with fewer fireballs.
But we can’t talk too much about the real guy, because we want to spotlight his representation through Karate Baka Ichidai, a manga closely inspired by Oyama's life. The hero is introduced as a young street fighter who is inspired to take his karate training more seriously through different means, most notably by traveling to Thailand to fight the deadly muay Thai master Reiba. Thailand is, of course, the home country of the first two main villains in the Street Fighter series, Sagat and M. Bison, the former having a character design that is only marginally different than the aforementioned Reiba's.
And if that’s not enough Street Fighter inspiration for you, know that this manga hero who inspired Ryu is named Ken. We couldn’t make that up if we tried.
We hope you enjoyed our look at the ways our favorite form of entertainment influenced our favorite fighting game series and that at least one of them surprised you. But who's your favorite Street Fighter character? Do you know who inspired them? Be sure to let us know in the comments and keep clicking through the links to find a new challenger.