Drug-induced Showdown

After a post-WWII industrial boom, Japan’s economy through the ’70s started flattening. Illicit drugs became the norm, with rising addiction rates. The solution, at least according to Sister Street Fighter, is to send an angry martial artist into the drug den to clean things up.

That specialized high-kicker is Etsuko Shiomi, part of Sonny Chiba’s crew. She takes Sister Street Fighter as her own, with plenty of roundhouses and literal killer elbows.

Art reflects society, so here’s Japan bundled into an exploitative, violent kung-fu epic. Also, cheap since Japanese cinemas struggled to retain patrons throughout the decade. It’s thus wild and surreal, anything to grab attention, with ripped out intestines, darkly comic murder, and uncomfortable sexual explicitness. Although a film meant to light a feminine fire, Sister Street Fighter still deals with rape as a plot device and female nudity. In that, it’s tired.

Sister Street Fighter deals with a national heroin crisis as only Japan could

But, the rest isn’t. Sister Street Fighter deals with a national heroin crisis as only Japan could. The smirking villain never removes his sunglasses, and hires a slew of nonsense gangs to track down Shiomi; blowgun ninjas and dress coordinated Amazon women give Sister Street Fighter a wild, uncontrolled identity. Shiomi pops up wherever needed, as if gifted with the sixth sense for drug dealers. Often incoherent plotting uses a gender reversal to get going – it’s Shimoi’s brother who’s kidnapped and in need of rescue.

Watching Sister Street Fighter is akin to a drug trip. Maybe home studio Toei saw an additional market to tap. Addicts wouldn’t notice the flagrantly missed kicks or the incomprehensible, hardly relevant plot. Yet the whole thing is stupidly enjoyable, flashing color and phony blood, but without the careful choreography that made Hong Kong’s exports successful. Sister Street Fighter uses their outline, and little else.

Sister Street Fighter finds a goofy imbalance and runs in headlong. The seediest elements deal with undercover cops and shabby drug dens. Consider too this drug trade happens via wigs shipping in from Hong Kong – each hair is dosed with heroin (maybe that works?). Lighter elements see Shiomi brawling with an aggressive group of men in a restaurant, doling out punishment to the glee of women who wish for the same when harassed. It’s almost a shame Sister Street Fighter doesn’t go all out into a feminist exploitation film, instead just settling into routine while confronting a national dilemma.

Sell drugs, get kicked. That’s more effective than a government warning anyway.


Appearing of the era, the dusty look of Sister Street Fighter puts it firmly with comparable kung-fu imports of this time. Time took some of the contrast from this source, but it’s otherwise in remarkable condition. Minimal specks invade the print, leaving everything clear and clean.

Grain holds a consistent level, a bit mushy, lacking the same refinement of the image as a whole. It’s soft, like an analog appearance in a digital era. That’s fine. Detail in close shows some facial detail, and resolution is enough to draw texture.

What’s great is color, even with a slight bleed to the reds. Most of the villains come color-coded, some red, some blue, some draped in yellow, and saturation brings out their quirky costume work. Not lost is the grubbiness of industrial Japan; aerials of the city look polluted and gray, setting mood as well as place.


Both English and Japanese dubs show up in PCM form. Considering the Japanese language track, the score suffers at the uppermost top end. Oddly, lows won’t falter at all; their smoothness belies their age. Those dramatic drum beats hit flawlessly.

Naturally scratchy, dialog sounds coarse. That adds to the exploitation aesthetic. All damage is avoided, so expect no hissing or popping.


Arrow tracks down three key players to Sister Street Fighter for individual 10-minute interviews: Sonny Chiba, director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, and Masahiro Kakefuda. Each is a necessary watch, but Kakefuda explains how he approached writing women characters from the perspective of that time. That’s the best one here.

An additional cut of the movie – a censored version released to the US – finds itself in the extras menu. A chunk of this (more than a chunk, really) plays in SD, but it’s here for completionist’s sake. The pure funk of Sister Street Fighter’s soundtrack is celebrated for 11-minutes in a selected isolated score. Some trailers (including international ones) and an image gallery bring this disc to its closing moments.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Sister Street Fighter
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The spin-off series Sister Street Fighter finds its niche by tackling Japan’s growing drug problem in the ’70s with exploitation kung-fu.

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