Zeku is the 38th grandmaster of Bushinryu whose disciple, Guy, dethroned him for the title, leading Guy to become the 39th. Zeku’s inclusion in Street Fighter 5 was received with a warm welcome, although he has proven to be a relatively tricky character to play as; he has two fighting styles, brought about by his ability to shift his age at will. However, with his inclusion into Street Fighter, his appearance has opened up the floodgates in terms of lore. In fact, Zeku, simply being in the game, has fulfilled something that Capcom has likely been wanting to do for years: creating a connected universe. However, it goes further, as Zeku is not only the key to a unified Capcom universe, he is also the key to one of gaming’s greatest mysteries.
In Zeku’s ending, it is implied that Zeku was the one who came up with the idea of Striders, originally wanting to call the group Shin Bushinryu as an offshoot of the original fighting style he was grandmaster of (for those of you who have no idea what a Strider is, it’s a futuristic ninja, the most famous one holding the code name Hiryu; he’s also in the Marvel vs Capcom series). As such, it’s now canon that the Strider clan are practitioners of this new branch of martial arts, and by association, that the Strider games are in the same universe as Street Fighter.
So what does this mean? It means that we can answer a question that Strider fans have been asking for years: who, or what, is Grandmaster Meio?
According to Fandom, Grandmaster Meio showed up one day in the year 2042 in modern-day Kazakhstan and took over the world (https://strider.fandom.com/wiki/Grandmaster_Meio). No one knows who or what he is, with the mostly agreed upon theory being, “he’s a space alien.” It’s a clean answer, but Capcom has been quiet about his origins for years, and very little has been revealed since his very first appearance in the first Strider. However, with the evidence we have, which spans multiple game series, a picture begins to form, and the truth begins to reveal itself.
We’ll start with looking at the origin of Bushinryu. In the game Forgotten Worlds, the primary antagonist, BIOS, creates eight gods to help him maintain his power, one of them being Bushin, also known as the War God. In the real world, Capcom created this martial art as an homage to the original character. In the games, Bushinryu was created to honor this god, and was likely an attempt for its students to become more like him. Basically, Bushinryu was created for a god who was a minion for another god who wanted to take over the world. This leads to the primary issue of Bushinryu: as useful as its techniques are, it was meant to control masses of people. As Fandom states in the Trivia section, “In the Street Fighter Alpha manga and Sakura Ganbaru, it is often mentioned that practitioners of this style specialize in taking on groups of opponents, a reference to Final Fight.” https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Bushinryu
In other words, Bushinryu would be the best way to subdue groups, like groups of enemies in Final Fight… or enslaving people in Strider. This means exactly what you think this means – Grandmaster Meio practices Bushinryu. He even has the title Grandmaster in his name! This is enough to speculate that Meio isn’t a space alien, but that he was once a normal man.
So, the question remains: who is Grandmaster Meio? We can take the primary villains off this list: M. Bison, Gill, and Seth. We can also somewhat eliminate G, because while he may know many different fighting styles, there’s no proof he knows anything about being a ninja (plus, ninja’s are known for their secrecy, and G, for all the mystery surrounding him, is not exactly a quiet person).
What about Zeku, then? Did he become Grandmaster Meio? Well, no. He had no incentive to. Striders were his creation, and it is implied that through his teachings, they became the heroic guild he wanted them to be.
That means there is only one known candidate left.
A grandmaster of Bushinryu…
Someone who wanted to shape the world in his own way…
And someone who had the ability to influence others to do what he wanted….
Grandmaster Meio… is Guy.
You may ask yourself where in the story Guy has the ability to influence anyone. He couldn’t get Cody to become good again and he couldn’t prevent Rose from going after Bison. However, it’s a non-canon game that shows he has the ability to influence people – Final Fight: Streetwise. While it has no effect on the lore, it does shed a light on what Guy can actually do with enough money and time. He has his own mansion and henchmen to undertake any missions he deems important.
“That’s not evidence,” you say. “If its non-canon, it doesn’t count.” You’re right, but there is another game. While its canonicity is questionable, because Final Fight: Revenge was created specifically as a way to explain the backstory of Final Fight characters and their origins, it’s acceptable for the purposes of this theory.
Guy is known for having a strong moral code, so him turning to the dark side just seems out of character. However, he didn’t become evil by choice – he was under the influence of an evil he couldn’t stop: Belger.
In Final Fight, Belger was killed when he was defenestrated from a high rise building (for those of you who don’t know what “defenestrate” means, it means being thrown out the window; I just saved you a Google search). Belger returns in Final Fight: Revenge as a zombified version of himself. He fights Guy and loses, but before his body disintegrates into the ether, he bites Guy and infects him with his essence. Guy’s ending shows the consequences. https://youtu.be/es3cXb1z2iA?t=179
Belger is trying to possess Guy’s body. While this wasn’t brought up again anywhere in the Street Fighter series, since he becomes Grandmaster Meio anyway, it’s obvious that Belger’s influence remained dormant inside of him. To be transformed, though, one of two things had to have happened: either Guy died and Belger took over his corpse, or Belger was just too strong and his will simply overpowered Guy’s. Both could have also happened at the same time, where Guy slowly became a zombie, technically killing him, but having him retain his consciousness, which Belger slowly turned evil.
In any case, “how” it happened isn’t as important as the “what”. Meio is shown to have great control over both organic and technological beings, and the merging of Guy and Belger’s minds to form Meio’s fulfills this condition as well: Bushinryu for the organic and Belger’s aptitude for weaponry for the technological (remember the weaponized chair he created just to fight Cody, Guy, and Haggar?) Also, while Meio Prime in the Strider game released in 2014 was stated to be his “true form”, in all likelihood, it was merely a display of the power created when Guy’s and Belger’s minds bonded.
One other thing about Meio that needs to be stated. Meio is shown as legless in all of his incarnations. Belger, while fully capable of walking before he died, didn’t really use his legs to fight preferring to sit in his futuristic chair, so this is somewhat karmic.
So we’re left with one last thing: where does Zeku fit in all of this? The truth is he’s there simply to make Strider canon in the Street Fighter universe. He was the original Strider, and as such, it was his destiny to pass his knowledge on to others.
The knowledge to defeat the man who replaced him….