Reflections in a Dragon's Eye: From Ronin to Redemption

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Snafu the Great
Reflections in a Dragon's Eye: From Ronin to Redemption
A Street Fighter Fanfiction
By The Headcrook

Legal Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Capcom Entertainment. The idea of Ryu giving an interview was going on in my head for a while and I decided to act on it. With Fight Hina finished, I wanted to write this before I forget. This is basically a magazine article on Capcom's resident Japanese Ansatsuken warrior, as we see a different side of him that has not been seen before.

Bold text denotes the interviewer speaking.

(With his rugged appearance and polished charm, Ryu Houshi looks more like a Japanese heartthrob instead of a martial artist. We are at his dojo that he co-owns with his wife, Chun Li Xiang in the Aoyama district of Tokyo, sitting in the courtyard. The Ansatsuken-Wushu School of Martial Arts is one of the most popular schools in Japan, given the fact that the teachers are both world-class martial artists. The (formerly disowned) son of a Japanese corporate executive and a third-generation Japanese-American schoolteacher, Ryu - formerly known as Shun Ryuji Hiroyuki - is the youngest child, having a older sister who owns her boutique, and brother, who is also a martial artist and executive of his father's company.

There are no classes today, since Ryu and Chun Li had given the students the weekend off. Dressed in casual clothes and headband, Ryu's manner is cordial and mood light, but he has seen and been though many trials in his years. He speaks perfect English with no accent, but when he speaks Japanese, he does so with a mild Kansai-ben accent as we sit over a pitcher of iced tea, given that he spent his childhood in Osaka. This is his first interview he's given since the release of Street Fighter Alpha collection as he watches his pupil (and niece), Sakura Kasugano practice with his two children, ages 7 and 9.)

For starters, my last name wasn't Houshi at first. It was originally Hiroyuki before I was disowned and declared ronin by my father. Shocking, I know.

You speak English very well.

It's funny. I was taught how to speak English before Japanese. I can pull a mild or heavy Japanese accent just to throw people off. My mother was a English schoolteacher. I wasn't born in Osaka, I was just raised there. I was actually born in Honolulu, hence the dual citizenships. When I was six, I moved back to Japan with my family.

Is English the only language you can speak?

English, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese...what can I say? I got a lot of free time on my hands, so I tend to study.

It shows. But why did your father disowned you and made you ronin?

It was back when I was seventeen. He wanted me to follow him into the corporate world. But I've been studying martial arts ever since I was six and I was interested in opening up a dojo instead of working with stiff-necked executives. He also set up an arranged marriage between myself and another girl. She was in love with another man, so I canceled the engagement. (smiles sardonically) Dad was upset when he found out that the engagement was over. He meant good, but his problem was that he wanted to control our lives.

But I was the rebel of the family. When I told him that I didn't want an engagement to a woman who loved someone else, he was mad. But when I told him what I wanted to do with my life, he was furious. We ended up having a falling out and he threatened to disown me and declare me ronin if I didn't obey him. I refused, saying that he can't control my life and that he can go to hell for all I care. When I look back on that day, I tend to feel regret over what I said. We both had our pride and mine won out.

So what did you do?

When I told my master what had happened, he decided to let me stay with him for the moment. What I didn't tell my father was that Waseda University had offered me a full martial arts scholarship, so I jumped on that. But there was the matter of my name. Because I was disowned and a ronin, I needed a new name, otherwise they wouldn't have given me the scholarship.

People have been calling me Ryu instead of Ryuji ever since I was a kid and given my skills in the martial arts, people would tend to say that I was a rising star, a prodigy in the martial arts world. The Japanese term for 'star' was Hoshi, but I added the 'u' in the last name when I filled out the paperwork. Why I did that, I still don't know, but the last name looked good when writing it in English.

And so, Ryu Houshi was born.

In a sense. Without my father's constant badgering, I was truly free. I left my past behind and started to walk down my path in life. When I started working with Capcom, I legally changed my name to Ryu Houshi. For all intents and purposes, Shun Hiroyuki no longer existed.

What about your mother? What did she have to say about all of this?

She actually supported me in my decision. That was a good thing for me.

So how did the rest of your family took the news of you being disowned?

There were mixed reactions. My older brother, who was also a martial artist and the pride of my father, supported him while my sister was against it. Hiro was always the ass kisser, if you will, always looking for Dad's approval. When Hiro found out about my name change and that I was working for Capcom, he threatened to out me as a ronin.

Wouldn't that have affected your employment with Capcom?

No. Because I had told my bosses about my past and my new name. As long as I didn't use my old name, they didn't have a problem with it. Pretty effective loophole. So Hiro challenged me to a match, saying that if he won, then I would acknowledge that he was the better fighter and I would resign from Capcom in disgrace. If I won, then he would leave me alone.

But you won the match.

You can say that I had several tricks up my sleeve. Not that I got out of the match entirely unscathed. Ever since we were kids, he would use me as his personal punching bag. But let's just say that my dear brother would think twice in challenging me. Not after I demonstrated my newest technique on him.

The Twin Fists of Death.

Or the Shin Shoryuken if you prefer. Dad was watching in the audience as well. I knew he was there, but he didn't came for me. He came for his eldest. I could care less about what he thought. He was pissed to see Hiro lose to a 'disgraceful ronin' as myself.

How did being a ronin affect your education?

Being disowned does has its advantages. You are no longer bound to family honor, you can't hold back. What I've learned is that honor means bullshit if it affects your conscience. Dad was upset that his honor was compromised with the breaking of the engagement while mine was still intact. He wanted to live my life through his decisions and I refused. I knew that no university would accept a ronin, hence the change in name. Nobody didn't ask any questions about Shun Hiroyuki, which is how I wanted it to be. For all intents and purposes, my old life was gone, my name was scratched off from public records, no birth certificate, nothing. (smiles) Ken's dad managed to pull some strings and gave me a new life as Ryu Houshi through several documents, a new birth certificate and identification.

So what got you interested in martial arts?

Watching old martial arts films. Fighters like Sonny Chiba, Chuck Norris, even the late Bruce Lee. Mom knew Master Gouken through his daughter and that was how Ken and I got to train under him.

Tell me about Gouken.

He's very demanding. He wants nothing short of perfection in the martial arts. As I said, I started my training at six, and by the time I was fifteen, I earned my black belt in Ansatsuken. When I turned twenty, I gained Shihan status in the art.

So he's not really dead? What about him and Akuma?

Gouken's retired from martial arts. Akuma took over at the Osaka school. Gouken's more of a traditionalist when it comes to fighting, but Akuma is something of a radical.

You learned from both of them.

When I came to Tokyo, I studied under Akuma. Ansatsuken is like two sides of a coin. And I wanted to learn everything I can about it. Akuma was happy to help. When we started working on Super Turbo, I pulled several strings to have him hired at Capcom. He played the part of a possessed fighter well, and that also helped out plenty with the Dark Hadou angle.

Do you know any other styles of fighting other than Ansatsuken?

I studied both Judo and Kyokushin Karate, since Ansatsuken was based off of those styles, and that helped strengthen my Ansatsuken. I also studied Jiujitsu and Chun Li taught me Kenpo. She offered to teach me Wushu, but I declined. To pay her back for teaching me Kenpo, I taught her Ansatsuken.

So it's really not really a form of Shotokan Karate, like we were originally told?

No. Ansatsuken was designed as a killing art, that much is true. The name translates to Murderous or Assassin's Fist. Because of Street Fighter II's release onto the home systems, Capcom of USA changed the name from Ansatsuken to Shotokan Karate.

The question that everyone want to know is how you got a job working for Capcom.

Well, I graduated high school at sixteen, and three years later, I graduated from Waseda with a degree in physical education. I worked my ass off to the point that I skipped a grade and I gained enough credits to graduate a year early. I was also active in martial arts and competed in both full contact and the underground fight clubs. That was where I met Sagat.

Snafu the Great
You mean you got a job at Capcom through Victor Sagat?

Yeah. Well, both Ken and myself managed to get jobs through him. He was at one of the clubs where Ken and I would fight and he approached us, asking if we wanted a job working for Capcom. We didn't start off at the top, you see. Instead, we started at the bottom, as trainers.

Ken? I thought that his father was a hotel tycoon.

He is. Whenever I wasn't fighting or at school, I was working at the Masters International in Tokyo as a receptionist. Knowing more than Japanese tends to be helpful to foreign visitors. Ken was like myself. He wanted to be more than just the son of a hotel magnate. Sure he want to run the business later, but he wanted to do more. When I wasn't working at the hotel, I was working as a part-time stunt man for the Japanese film industry.

How did you and Ken get involved with Street Fighter?

It was...I think about a year when we got hired. Capcom wanted to do a fighting game. Ken and I were both stuck in at the last minute. Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto saw Ken and I sparring and asked if we wanted to join the cast. Ken almost said no, but I managed to talk him into it.

Whose idea was it for you to win the tournament?

I think it was Matsumoto's idea. Now, that gimmick where I won by scarring Sagat for life, that's false. For starters, he already had that scar on his chest to begin with. We used prosthetics and makeup to cover it. When we started working on the ideas for Street Fighter 2, Sagat refused to cover it up again, since the makeup had caused his skin to break out the last time. We both came up with the idea that he was out for vengeance because I scarred him for life. Takashi and Hiroshi loved the idea and we used that in the game.

If you didn't scar Sagat, what happened?

Well, when he was training in Thailand, he actually got mauled by a tiger, hence the scars on his head and the big one on his chest. Compared to what happened to the tiger, Sagat got off lucky.

So you and Sagat are...

Quite the opposite. We're both good friends, as well as rivals. We spar on occasion. I think we're both tied at 5 matches. We got a match coming up in a couple of months. All the stuff you heard about Sagat, being able to free-dive anywhere, holding his breath for nearly 20 minutes underwater and being a national hero in Thailand, that's all true.

(By this time, the pitcher of tea is nearly empty. Chun Li appears and takes a seat next to Ryu.)

So how did you and Chun Li meet?

Chun Li was a college graduate in business. She was also a former Kung Fu champion in Hong Kong. The guys at Capcom wanted a more diverse cast this time around and Chun Li was chosen out of several hundred girls for the slot to play the role of an I.C.P.O. agent hell-bent on revenge.

(At that moment, Chun Li chimes in. She speaks English with a Hong Kong accent.)

CHUN LI: I met Ryu at Tokyo International Airport. I was pretty much like a fish out of water, a Hong Kong girl in a foreign land. He and Ken were there to pick me up from the airport.

RYU: She also couldn't speak Japanese very well. She was fumbling over some words and phrases, until she started speaking English.

CHUN LI: When Ryu stated speaking English, I was shocked. He didn't look like the guy who would speak perfect English. He introduced himself and Ken, saying that they were both from Capcom and that they would be working with me on Street Fighter 2. The job was originally an internship but when Capcom saw how popular I became, they gave me a full-time job.

So how did you two hook up?

CHUN LI: I asked him to show me around Tokyo. Turned into an all-day affair. We talked about our families and our personal lives. He was a lot different than the other men I dated. They were either scared or wanted to get into my pants. Ryu was different.

RYU: We started to spend more time together once Street Fighter 2 was completed. We would spar together whenever Ken wasn't around, she taught me Kenpo and I taught her Ansatsuken. It was clearly professional.

CHUN LI: Until that day in August. We were in Hong Kong, visiting my family--

Your family? I thought--

CHUN LI: That Bison killed my father? That was part of the storyline. My father is very much alive. He is a retired Hong Kong inspector. He and my mother are divorced. Anyway, we were visiting my family in Hong Kong and I took him on a sightseeing tour around my hometown. (smiles at the memory) We ended up sharing a kiss on the scenic point overlooking the city.

I'll bet Ken had a field day when he found out that you two were romantically involved.

RYU: He did. I had one hell of a headache from where he kept on giving noogies.

(Chun Li excuses herself. She takes the now-empty pitcher and returns to the house.)

We've kept our relationship a secret. Not because that I was Japanese and she was Chinese, mind you, but we just didn't want anyone asking too many questions.

But some people knew about the two of you.

Guile, Ken, Sagat, just to name a few. Before I met Chun Li, I dated a girl who was attending Tokyo University around the same time I was at Waseda. When I visited her at her apartment, I found her in bed with another man. Turns out she was cheating on me, has been for the past couple of weeks. I could have kicked the guy's ass to the moon, but I took the high road, informed her that we were over and walked out. I never saw her again.

Street Fighter 2 went through numerous changes before settling on Bison and Shadowlaw. Care to explain?

Originally, we had the idea that I became a fallen champion, having been seduced by the Dark Hadou and turning into a killer. That was scrapped, but we saved the Dark Hadou angle. Another was that Guile was a corrupt Air Force officer who was working with Shadowlaw, but that was scrapped as well. We came across Bison by pure chance. He was a former military man working as a bodyguard for some CEO. Capcom asked him to assume the role of the Shadowlaw warlord, and he accepted.

That's when you came up with the ideas that Guile and Chun Li were after him for killing their family and friends. So what's Guile like? Are him and Ken really in-laws?

They are. William met Julia when she and Eliza were working in D.C. Guile was a Captain in the Air Force back then. When he got discharged, Capcom USA hired him. William is one tough SOB. He can really push you to the limit if you're not careful. Some of the other guys found out the hard way.

But no one could ever guess that you would wind up being Capcom's posterboy following the success of Street Fighter II.

No one was. Street Fighter II pretty much shot my popularity to new levels, not just myself, but everyone else's. Everyone had their favorites from Chun Li to Guile. Chun Li especially, because of her she opened the door to female fighters you see now from Mai Shiranui to Ivy Valentine.

Rumors are running around that you and Ken are more than friends.

Those are just rumors. Ken is like a brother to me. We trained together, grew up together. At times he can be a royal pain in the ass, but you can't ask for a better friend and rival.

Snafu the Great
Now, you almost lost your job due to your addiction to painkillers. Care to elaborate on that?

Well...I was working with the other fighters. I would take aspirin for the pain after matches. Then as the months passes, I would go on to something stronger. I never thought that I would become addicted to something like Vicodin. To tell you the truth, I never thought I had a problem until I started breaking various objects.

But you never struck Chun Li.

Would you strike a woman who can fight back? Chun Li was the one who saw that I was addicted. So did the bosses at Capcom, who gave me six months to clean myself up. One of them wanted to fire me on the spot, but the other two decided that since I was a valued employee, they give me some time to recover.

How was the withdrawal phase?

Pure hell. Detoxing isn't as easy as it shows. You get the chills, you sweat, you just want to satisfy that craving. I knew that I couldn't detox in Japan, so I went to Hawaii. Chun Li and Ken came with me. If it wasn't for them, then...I don't even want to think about what would have happened. I owe my job and probably my life to the both of them.I managed to complete the detox in three months. I spent the other three recovering and training.

That's when you two decided to elope.

We did. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. We got married in a courthouse in Hawaii. Ken and Eliza were witnesses.

How did the higher-ups at Capcom take it when they found out?

Most companies would look down on employees being romantically involved, but I think they decided to let us slide on this one, since she was instrumental in helping me recover. I even heard that the bosses even placed bets on whether or not Chun and I would get hitched.

You came back just in time for Street Fighter III.

I felt better. A whole lot better than I felt in a long time. I almost missed production because of a flight delay. I went back to work the following day after I came back from Hawaii.

But then, you were hospitalized.

It was during the production of Capcom vs SNK 1. I was already finished with my spot and I was having pains in my side. Turns out it was my appendix, which nearly ruptured during production. So I was out for two months recovering from that.

We heard that Kyo had put you out for two months.

(scoffs) Kusanagi said that? He is a skilled fighter, but a bit short on manners. He can't even win a match by himself, let alone claim that he is my equal.

You've fought against him.

I have. Three times. The first two I managed to win, but the third match was on his terms - a King of Fighters-style match. He had his teammates, I had mine - Guile and Ken. If Kyo could let go of his ego and pride, he would become unstoppable. He pushed me to the brink, I'll give him that, but the match ended in a draw. We both executed our moves at the same time, but we ended knocking each other out the third time around.

Any other notable fighters you came in contact with from SNK?

Terry Bogard, for one. Now that's a guy I wouldn't mind getting into a full-blown brawl with.

Which you did.

Several times. (grins) To tell you the truth, I like fighting Bogard more than Kusanagi, because Terry is more of a challenge. He can really give you one hell of a workout. Kim Kaphwan is another. A bit eccentric on his ideas of justice, but still a good guy. The guys from the Kyokugenryu School, although Yuri tends to steal my moves.

What about from the other companies, like Namco and Tecmo?

I've had several memorable matches with fighters from both companies. The Mishima Wrecking Crew, that's one...Paul Phoenix, that's another. The two kunoichi Kasumi and Ayane from Dead or Alive got extraordinary talent as martial artists. But my favorite matchup would have to be against the man who shares the same name as I do: Ryu Hayabusa.

You fought Ryu Hayabusa?

Ever since Street Fighter II came out, we've been fighting. We both lost count on how many times we won and lost. He's a sneaky little fighter. But then again, all ninja are.

Out of all that has happened, what happened between you and your father? Did you two reconcile?

We did. I guess it was after the match with Hiro that he started to think about what he done. I wasn't expecting him to show up at the opening of Chun Li's restaurant. I could have went to him, but he was the one who threw me out, so I wanted him to come to me.

Like I said, aside from co-owning the school, Chun Li is also the owner of a bar and grill restaurant in Shujinku which specializes in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. She opened the restaurant after we completed SvC Chaos with SNK. Now, if you took a good look at the old man, he looks a lot like Sonny Chiba back when he was younger. He still looked the same, only his hair was starting to go gray.

Mom was with him, as were my brother and sister. The entire restaurant was silent as I faced my father, with Chun Li at my side. They knew about the circumstances of me being disowned and they wanted to see what I would do. He bowed to me, saying, "I'm sorry, Houshi-sama. I am so sorry."

I guess my next move surprised everyone. When he came back up from the bow, I embraced him. With that little gesture, I forgave my father, and we made our peace. Turns out he was keeping tabs on me from all my accomplishments to even my painkiller addiction. Mom had finally gotten to him, making him admit that he was wrong and told him to make amends.

What about your brother?

We managed to come to a truce of sorts. Then the party resumed, this time with my family joining in. Dad was a bit apprehensive in me introducing him to several world-class martial artists, but it worked out pretty well. We're talking now. He got a chance to meet his grandchildren for the first time in a decade.

How old are your kids?

Lynn is nine and Kai is seven.

You and Chun Li were married in a courthouse. Did you two ever got a chance to go through a real wedding ceremony?

We talked about it after we got hitched, and we agreed that after I completed Street Fighter III, we'd have a Western-style ceremony. It was in the papers, the wedding was held on the front lawn of the Masters Estate in San Francisco, the reception inside the Masters Estate itself. We honeymooned in Fiji, a place Chun Li wanted to visit. We stayed there for almost a month before going back to Japan.

I see that you took Sakura on as your pupil.

Why shouldn't I? She is my niece, after all.


She my sister Miko's eldest daughter. I told her about the work-study program that Capcom was hosting and Sakura jumped on that. She's a good kid, but a bit too cocky.

Just like you when you were starting out.

But I managed to grow out of that. Sakura's potential is limitless. After Alpha 2, Capcom offered her a full-time job...provided that she also attends college. I still had some connections at Waseda and got her in. She's majoring in physical education with a minor in photography. She already works as a junior teacher here, but she wants to be certified in teaching Ansatsuken.

Good for her. So what can we expect from Ryu Houshi in the near future?

Aside from kicking ass? Well, I'm just playing it by ear for the moment. I got a stable job, a loving family, a successful business and friends I can depend on. Someone once said, "Redemption isn't given. It is earned." They were right. With all that has happened to me, I feel that I have gained my own personal redemption and have found inner peace.

In the meantime, I'll continue to fight and keep the fans happy.

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