Sister Street Fighter Collection Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Sister Street Fighter
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Written by Norifumi Suzuki and Masahiro Kakefuda
1974, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on March 5th, 2019

Etsuko Shihomi as Koryu Li
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba as Selichi Hibiki
Asao Uchida as Tetsudo Fujita
Sanae Ôhori as Shinobu Kojo
Bin Amatsu as Shigetomi Kakuzaki
Hiroshi Kondô as Li Gyokudo



When her brother goes missing, Koryu Li is pressed by the Hong Kong police department to travel to Japan and track him down. Her brother is an undercover narcotics agent investigating one of the largest drug operations smuggling heroin into Hong Kong. Koryu is a famous martial arts champion and the police believe she can take care of herself. She agrees to the assignment and is told to meet her contact Fang Shing in Tokyo for further instructions. Koryu arrives in Japan and immediately gets into a dust-up with a group of street thugs before moving on to meet her contact at a popular night club. Before she can get her intel, Fang is whisked away in a car, leaving our heroine without answers. Her investigation leads her to the Tokyo Shorinji School, run by the benevolent Tetsuzo Fujita, where she catches up with Fang.

Koryu learns that her brother is alive, but is being held captive in the basement of Mr. Kakuzaki, the head of the drug cartel. He is a wicked man who collects trained killers like pets. He has surrounded himself with a highly trained army of fighters and when he gets word of Koryu’s arrival, he turns his full might against her. Joined in her quest by the students of the martial arts school, she works her way through countless bad guys, displaying a wide variety of fighting styles. She continues to close the distance between herself and the elusive crime boss facing unbelievable odds while punishing evil.

In 1974, the Toei Company created The Street Fighter franchise, a successful trilogy of movies starring the acclaimed martial artist Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba (Kill Bill). Knowing they had a hit on their hands, the company looked to expand their winnings by ordering a spin-off series called Sister Street Fighter starring Chiba protégé Etsuko Shihomi. She was known at the time for her impressive stunt work, but she had a small part in The Street Fighter and Chiba believed she could be a leading lady. The studio initially balked at the choice, citing her less-than-feminine physique, but her abilities won them over. Chiba offers street cred to the new film by appearing in a supporting role, but this is entirely Shihomi’s vehicle.

Sister Street Fighter aspires to be nothing more than simple entertainment, delivering a brisk storyline that strings together a parade of elaborate fight scenes every few minutes. Acting proficiency is not the top priority and nor should it be in an exploitation picture. The over-the-top fighting styles own the spotlight and the cast is totally up to the challenge. The movie plays like a contemporary video game with our unstoppable heroine clearing boards as she makes her way to the big boss at the end of the level. Giving the film a strong female lead is exciting and quite a welcome change to the familiar formula of your standard kung-fu flick.


Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Written by Norifumi Suzuki and Masahiro Kakefuda
1974, 85 minutes, Not Rated

Etsuko Shihomi as Koryu Li
Tamayo Mitsukawa as Li Hakuran
Hideo Murota Kazushige Osone
Masashi Ishibashi as Inoichiro Honiden
Michiyo Bandô as Kotoe Fujita
Hisayo Tanaka as Oh Birei



Koryu has resumed her life in Hong Kong when she learns that her friend Berei has been kidnapped by Japanese gangsters. She tells the girl’s father she will do everything possible to get her back - and with that our movie is quickly in motion. In her research as to where Berei may be located, Koryu learns of the Osone mansion, the home to several deadly martial artists protecting the cruel leader Kazunari Osone. He is operating a diamond smuggling ring out of a popular night club in the city. No sooner has Koryu arrived at the Tokyo airport than her taxi driver tries to kill her. Taken to a remote train yard, she is greeted by a pack of ninjas who attack her - introducing our first big fight sequence. She soon crosses paths with the Honiden brothers, a deadly trio working for Osone. Koryu escapes their attack unharmed and visits her sister in Tokyo. A mysterious fighter named Tsubaki offers his services to the crime boss, but he carries a secret of his own.

Koryu tracks down her friend and receives an urgent phone call from her sister warning of an imminent attack. It turns out her sister is a sex slave to Osone and has inside knowledge of the organization. Her phone call is cut short and she is summarily tortured and blinded for her warning. Koryu trains in the woods before facing off against the villain and the dreaded Honiden brothers. Many fights ensue, edging her closer and closer to the boss and an unlikely pairing with Tsubaki. This sequel has her facing off against incredible odds, but she is ready to deliver the pain to these thugs.

Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread was released just a few months after the original picture and follows the exact same template. The plot is a little more elaborate this time, with Koryu having to rescue several people and squaring off against even deadlier assassins. The villain once again is an over-the-top caricature of evil, missing only a mustache to twirl. There is wall-to-wall action, with a fight scene playing out every few minutes. The acting is a step up from last time with Etsuko Shihomi given more to do in the role of Koryu.

This is another fast-paced flick that delivers where it needs to and doesn’t concern itself with logic. Good guy fights bad guys; good guy kicks a lot of ass and saves the day. That’s all you need. Kazuhiko Yamaguchi is back in the director’s chair and writers Norifumi Suzuki and Masahiro Kakefuda return as well. They know what worked last time and up the ante, giving audiences more of what they want with satisfying results. The picture was a success and the third chapter was already in production before this one was released. Shihomi is an exciting female voice in the male-dominated world of martial arts films and she deserves to be heard.


Return of the Sister Street Fighter
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Written by Takeo Kaneko and Masahiro Kakefuda
1975, 77 minutes, Not Rated

Etsuko Shihomi as Koryu Li
Akane Kawasaki as Shurei
Akemi Hayakawa as Aya Kotocha
Miwa Cho as Reika
Mitchi Love as Michi



We open once again in Hong Kong as Koryu enjoys a day out with her family. This time, her cousin Sho and his daughter Rika tell her that his wife Shurei has disappeared at the hands of a mysterious organization in Yokohama. Koryu agrees to go to Japan and meet Shurei’s sister Reika for clues. Suddenly, Sho is stabbed in a street fight and his dying wish is for Koryu to take care of young Rika. Now, Koryu and the little girl are on a mission to find her mom. No sooner than they arrive, they are attacked on the docks by a whole new wave of bad guys. After the fight, Koryu is reunited with her old friend Michi from the martial arts academy.

The villain this time is Ryu-Mei Oh, the shadow ruler of Yokohama’s Chinatown. He is an older man in a wheelchair with a red mechanical hand. He summons his key fighters for a death match with the top four survivors serving as his personal guard. Following the match, Takeshi Kurosaki returns to challenge the winner and serve in the army of evil. This causes friction with lead henchman Hebikura.

Ryu-Mei Oh is holding Shurei captive for her extensive pharmaceutical knowledge that aids in his smuggling operation. Shurei’s sister Reika is also working with the boss in order to maintain her drug addiction. Koryu is determined to help the sisters escape and reunite Rika with her mother. She must face off against Kurosaki and the rest of the cartel if she is to avenge her family and try to live a normal life.

Return of the Sister Streetfighter provides star Etsuko Shihomi more to do from an acting standpoint. She plays well off her co-stars and proves herself more than just a stunt performer. That being said, there are quite a number of elaborate fight scenes and she is superior in her skills. Once again director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi follows the previously established formula that works so well. The film skillfully navigates the delicate waters of introducing a child into the mix and manages not to fall victim to scenarios that are overly-comedic or too cutesy for comfort. The action remains the focus and Shihomi handles both types of material with ease. This movie serves as a closing chapter of a trilogy, leaving Koryu with closure and in a good place. The following year would bring another title in the franchise, but feel free to stop here.


Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist
Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa
Written by Motohiro Torii, Isao Matsumoto and Seiko Shumura
1976, 77 minutes, Not Rated

Etsuko Shihomi as Kiku
Mitchi Love as Michi
Ken Wallace as Jim Sullivan
Masafumi Suzuki as Takeo Nakagawa
Masako Araki as Aya



Following the success of the Sister Street Fighter trilogy, Toei came back to the well a year later for a fourth installment titled Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist, with quite a few changes. Etsuko Shihomi returns to star, but in a completely different role this time. This is a weird move to pull so deep into the franchise. The original writers and director did not return and instead we are given a whole new adventure. It is odd that they would keep the title and the star but get rid of everything else. This proves particularly shocking when you realize it was directed by Shigehiro Ozawa, who made the original Street Fighter trilogy. Radical changes aside, this is the film we are given, so let’s see how it holds up.

Kiku is a free-spirited Japanese girl with conservative parents and a free-thinking friend named Michi. She likes to spend much of her time at the Seibukan martial arts dojo. Michi has a black half-brother named Jim and the two dream of returning to Okinawa where they were born. Jim is caught up with some rough characters but is a good person at heart, always looking to protect his little sister. Kiku lives an uncomplicated life and enjoys spending time with her friends.

Meanwhile, the police are tracking a drug-smuggling operation that is secretly located within the Far East Movie Studios, with crime bosses posing as producers and upper management. Captain Takagi is the head of the narcotics division and is trying to figure out how they are getting the drugs into Japan. Professor Douglas of Asian Studies at a nearby university has been brought in to assist, but one of the cartel recognizes him as a narcotics agent and has Jim kill him at a party. Kiku interferes with the police and allows Jim to escape.

In an odd subplot, Kiku’s father keeps trying to push Kiku and Takagi into a relationship even though the cop is much older and the two have nothing in common. Takagi is a chauvinist who is interested in dating Kiku and keeping her as a “traditional” woman who will tend to his needs. Creepy. Later, Michi gets abducted and taken back to the movie studio and Kiku follows. She goes undercover as an extra in one of the films currently in production and searches the area for Michi. This leads to a large fight sequence with cartel henchmen doubling as members of the cast and crew. Can Kiku rescue her friend and survive a meeting with the elusive crime boss before the police catch up or will she be arrested or worse for her efforts?

Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist is an uneven film that would be better served as a standalone vehicle for Etsuko Shihomi, without the expectations of the previous entries in the series. This movie does not follow the same template and instead relies on extended sequences of high drama and awkward comedy taking the place of the traditional fight scenes. This entry has the least amount of action and the worst pacing of the franchise. Shihomi is given a bigger opportunity as an actress, but this is not the reason people come to see these films. One over-the-top comedic bit that actually works is a throwaway gag of Kiku dressed as an extra getting into a fight and quickly changing back into regular clothes while leaping through the air. The rest of the picture is frequently just as absurd, but not very satisfying building to a highly contrived and abrupt ending.

The Sister Streetfighter franchise makes for a solid trilogy of movies with a bonus film thrown in as something of a victory lap. Etsuko Shihomi shines in the lead role and brings a strong screen presence to an otherwise male-dominated genre. The tone is light and the action is frequent, keeping things moving at a brisk pace. The villains are cartoonish caricatures that wait patiently in the background as their private armies of trained assassins repeatedly line up to challenge Koryu one at a time. It always kills me in these movies when a group of people are fighting our heroes and they politely take turns before engaging them. Sister Street Fighter is a product of its era and has earned its place among the pantheon of kung-fu flicks that filled grindhouse theatres in the 1970s, often playing as double or triple features. You don’t have to think too hard and you will not have learned anything once it’s over, but if you are simply looking for entertainment you have come to the right place.


Video and Audio:

All four movies are presented in their native widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio and have received spiffy new HD digital transfers. The picture still has some minor issues, but this is the best these films have ever looked.

Each title comes with a Japanese LPCM Mono track and the original Sister Street Fighter includes the English dub on the domestic cut of the movie. Audio levels are quite satisfying with the over-the-top sound effects and dramatic music score playing a huge part in the presentation.

New optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Actor Sonny Chiba appears in this excerpt from the 2016 interview Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action vol.3 (10 minutes) which continues the discussion started on previous releases. He talks about acting versus stuntman school and championing Etsuko Shihomi as an actress/ fighter. He also reflects on his time working with the director of this film and the decision to combine certain fighting styles. The interview ends abruptly and may be continued on a future disc.

In Kick-Ass Sisters (10 minutes), director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi shares his memories of working with aspiring actresses, including Shihomi, and watching her talent grow over the span of the first three films. He also expresses his preference for working with trained fighters over actors. He comes across as an instantly likeable gentleman with some good stories.

Screenwriter Masahiro Kakefuda is the focus of attention in Subversive Action (11 minutes), in which he discusses coming up with the character of Koryu, working for Toei Studios, collaborating with producers and his approach to writing.

Each of the first three films comes with a collection of isolated score highlights that play over clips from the movie. Part one plays for 12 minutes, part two runs 19 minutes and part three lasts 10 minutes.

A photo gallery of 137 images covers all four films in the series and includes production stills, publicity shots, lobby cards and international poster art. The pictures included are both in color and black and white.

The international English-language edit of the first film (81 minutes) is included and features a variety of changes to the source material including censored scenes of violence.

The original Japanese trailers for all four films appear here for a look at the marketing campaign.

The exploitation style US trailer for Sister Street Fighter has been included.

The German trailer is joined by the alternate German opening titles sequence to the film.



Sister Street Fighter:

Sister Street Figher: Hanging by a Thread:

Return of the Sister Street Fighter:

Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist

Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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