Following the monumental success of The Street Fighter, the Toei Company (a Japanese film, television, and distribution corporation) decided to move forward in a shockingly progressive way by erecting a new karate series centered around a female lead. Toei opted to cast a young actress who was no stranger to The Street Fighter, her mentor, Sonny Chiba. Still in her teens at that time, Etsuko Shihomi burst on the scene in her first leading lady role. And thus, Sister Street Fighter was born. Creating a new type of character: a resilient fighter who was ferocious, valiant, and affable. Even more progressive, Toei decided to take a non-sexualized approach. Quite the antithetical retreat from their traditional formula.
Sister Street Fighter (1974)
When her brother Li Wan-Qing is kidnapped by a drug lord, Li Koryu seeks vengeance. The drug lord's bizarre and eccentric collection of murderers includes a group of Thai boxers called the "Amazon Seven," along with representatives of almost every martial art. Li Koryu brings the drug lord's compound down with the help of Seiichi Hibiki (Sonny Chiba) and other members of the Shorinji Kempo dojo.
Sonny Chiba: A Life In Action, Vol. 3
In an interview shot exclusively for Arrow Video in Tokyo in September 2016, legendary actor and martial arts movie star Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba talks about his role in discovering Etsuko Shiomi and her training as part of his Japan Action Club. Chiba discusses Shihomi and her growing up under his tutelage. He reflects on how much he loved her performances and just how special an actress she was. Out of 10,000 actresses, he knew right away that she was the one. He also ponders how big a superstar she could've been if she didn't give up acting for marriage. And more.
Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Kick-Ass Sisters
Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi speaks about his work in crafting three unique, female-led action series for Toei Studio and his work with Etsuko Shihomi. Yamaguchi discusses being introduced to this first-rate stuntwoman Etsuko Shihomi by Sonny Chiba. At first he didn't know if he wanted to make a female-led karate film. But soon after Yamaguchi saw just how capable Shihomi was. He talks how he mentally prepared her to work with all men. Also discussed, the decision for her to use Kempo instead of Karate. And how by the third film she had grown significantly as an actress.
Masahiro Kakefuda: Subversive Action
Screenwriter Masahiro Kakefuda discusses his work with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi and co-screenwriter Norifumi Suzuki in writing the first three entries of the series. Kakefuda discusses how he preferred writing erotic films but remembers just how fun he had writing the karate films. And how strong women are interesting subjects that you can come up with all sorts of ideas for. He talks about how initially he wanted to write contemporary dramas for Toei Studios. Also the adjustment it was for him to give Toei Studios what they wanted. Yamaguchi chuckles at the memory of wanting to destroy the traditional image of the historical drama.
Isolated Score Highlights, an Original Trailer, a Still & Poster Gallery and International Releases round out the Disc 1 bonus features.
Sister Street Fighter: Hanging By A Thread (1974)
After a detective is killed, Li Koryu is assigned to look into the case. The case involves the diamond smuggler, Kazushige Osone (Hideo Murota), who lives in Japan. After arriving in Yokohama and meeting her sister Li Ban-lan (Tamayo Mitsukawa), Koryu immediately finds herself on the bosses' "silence list." The boss carries out a scheme involving the trafficking of diamonds from Hong Kong to Japan, transported inside the bodies of "ladies of the night." Which are then brutally removed. Koryu's friend, Birei (Hisako Tanaka), is included in this dark form of trafficking. Koryu is now has no alternative but to fight an endless barrage of fighters and henchmen aiming to stop her. The mysterious Shunsuke Tsubaki (Yasuaki Kurata) arrives on the scene. In wonderment if she can trust him or not, Koryu continues taking on the thugs to stop their crazed trafficking scheme.
Return Of The Sister Street Fighter (1975)
A friend of Like Koryu (Etsuko Shihomi) is murdered. Now in pursuit, she travels to Japan to find her missing cousin that has disappeared into the Japanese underworld. Taking the girl's daughter Rika (Miwa Cho) along with her friend Michi (Mitchi Love) helps introduce her to Shurei (Akane Kawasaki) whom is the sister of the girl. Together, they're able to piece together her disappearance back to a shadowy figure in the underground, Oh Ryu Mei (Rin'ichi Yamamoto) who operates a special smuggling ring protected by a plethora of deadly fighters. Koryu gets deeper into the smuggling ring and faces danger at every turn from an assortment of henchmen and the mystifying Go Kurosaki (Yasuaki Kurata) that continually interrupts her mission. Koryu using everything but the kitchen sink will stop at nothing to bust up the ring and save her friend.
Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist (1976) (completely unrelated to previous three films)
Trying to please her mother, young Kiku Nakagawa (Etsuko Shihomi) continually leave their successful Kimono shop business in order to take martial arts at a local dojo. Her friend at the dojo, Michi (Mitchi Love) becomes anxious about her stepbrother Jim (Ken Wallace) who goes missing one day. They eventually learn that he's been in the employ of movie studio owner Fujiyama (Nobuo Kawaii), who's been using the studio as a base for a series of smuggling operations. The film sets/shoots are the front for the illegal activities. Taking the situation up with police, detective Takagi (Tsunehiko Watase), things take a dark turn when Jim gets murdered and Michi is kidnapped for investigating the drug ring, forcing Kiku to take a secret role in the studio's latest production in order to recover her friend and put an end to their operation.
Disc 2 Special Features include Isolated Score Highlights and Trailers.
The first pressing of this release also includes an illustrated booklet featuring writing on the series by Patrick Macias and a new essay on the U.S. release of Toei’s karate films by Chris Poggiali that I didn't receive to review unfortunately.
Man or woman alike, if you like your female lead kicking ass and taking names - pick up this exquisite Arrow Video Blu-ray release. Arrow Video's legendary video/audio transfer strikes again with this release of the Sister Street Fighter Collection. Sure to make any collector giddy upon (and long after) their purchase of this amazing 2-disc set!
The Sister Street Fighter Collection is available now from Arrow Video.