For years, there has been one theory in Street Fighter that has seemed to overtake all others. It’s one that has been debated over the years, with strong opinions from either side of the debate. Non-canon accounts in Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist and Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation have only fed fuel to the fire. However, Capcom has stayed quiet on this particular theory and hasn’t revealed very much in-game. With lack of definitive proof, it seems to be an idea that will continue to rage on. Even if Capcom decided to roll with it, though, the truth is the answer they would give wouldn’t be very clean, as it would raise even more questions.
So, how do we look at the theory that Akuma is Ryu’s father?
I feel like I answered this question in “The Truth About Ryu’s Parents?” I stated that Ryu was a revenant, the reincarnation of the Maiden of Matsue. I pointed out the symbolic relevance of everything from Suzaku Castle to the appearance of the Furinkazan signs when you fight in that stage in Street Fighter II. https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/07/12/the-truth-about-ryus-parents/
I stated pretty clearly that based on the in-game evidence, Ryu likely isn’t the son of Akuma because he was never born to begin with. Taking a page out of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”, as a revenant, he just sort of materialized out of nowhere. While you may scoff at the explanation, in a game where a forbidden arts karate master, an Indian yoga practitioner and a superpowered dictator all have their own variations of teleportation, the idea that a young man simply came into existence shouldn’t be that hard to believe.
That being said, let’s assume that Capcom takes the more realistic approach and does end up saying, “Akuma is Ryu’s dad.” Both Assassin’s Fist and the Alpha movie would have been the first pieces of media to confirm this idea. Again, though, both are non-canon, so we can’t rely on these as confirmed sources. What we’re left with in-game then is the idea of a father seeking a match to the death with his illegitimate son.
So… what’s going on there?
Let’s start with the person who everyone thinks is Ryu’s mother, a woman who has not made a canon appearance at all in the games, Sayaka. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Sayaka
As Fandom explains, Sayaka is the niece of Goutetsu, the only known person Akuma has killed with the Shun Goku Satsu. She cared for both Akuma and Gouken, both of whom were students of Goutetsu, but ended up falling in love with Akuma. At first, Akuma seemed to care for Sayaka, and the two ended up becoming secret lovers. However, as Akuma began to study deeper into the Satsui no Hado, he turned away from all physical attachments, including his relationship with Sayaka (as well as turning away from Goutetsu and Gouken). Before he left for good, he had consummated his relationship with Goutetsu’s niece, and it is said Sayaka bore a child, who is speculated to be Ryu.
If Capcom decided to make this canon, it would answer a few things about Ryu’s heritage and why Ryu’s story is what it is. It wouldn’t even invalidate my “Ryu is the Maiden of Matsue” theory as it would serve as how Ryu came into being. Rather than just appearing out of thin air, he would merely be born and reincarnated as a male child with a female soul.
I would have an issue with this, though, as it would make my theory that the Satsui no Hado is born from a sexuality conflict straight-up wrong. Akuma would have realized he was straight by this point, but nonetheless rejected love and chose to pursue the dark arts instead. It also would make my idea that the reason Ryu has the Satsui no Hado in him in the first place is because of the conflict of being a female soul within a male body incorrect since it could be explained that Ryu, being Akuma’s son, would have residual aftereffects of his father’s acceptance of the Satsui no Hado.
I don’t like the idea of Ryu being Akuma’s son. Since I do not own the intellectual property, however, I have no control over what Capcom does with their own character, and this could very well be what Capcom had in mind all along. So, we have to identify what Akuma’s motives are to determine why he would want to fight his own son.
By examining Akuma, we see that his design is based off of Nio statues, a common sight around Buddhist temples.
As Wikipedia states, Nio statues “are dharmapala manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapāṇi, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with Gautama Buddha to protect him and there are references to this in the Pāli Canon as well as the Ambaṭṭha Sutta. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nio
Akuma’s Street Fighter V design further adds to Akuma’s “guardian” aesthetic, as he is depicted with a lion’s mane hairstyle. This is representative of the komainu, the guardian lion-dog statues seen guarding the entrances of Shinto shrines. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komainu
Solidifying Akuma being representive of a guardian, in Street Fighter III: Second Impact, both Ibuki and Yun comment on his similarities to the statues described above in their character-specific win quotes to him.
Ibuki: “Hm. I think I saw you somewhere before… Ah, a Chinese guardian dog!”
Yun: “I’ve seen a statue of you somewhere… in a temple?”
So, we have in-game proof that Akuma is based off of those guardian statues. However, those statues are meant to be protectors, and not destroyers. This means the developers made Akuma the opposite of what those statues represent. In a sense, Akuma represents a fallen guardian, someone who turned away from what they were supposed to be doing. In fact, there is a very well-known story that Akuma seems to emulate almost exactly. In fact, his own English name alludes to it: the story of the fallen angel, Satan.
Satan believed he could usurp God and tried to overthrow him. He was defeated and thrown out of Heaven, and the angel who would be the Devil has been trying to fight his way back since. Akuma, whose very name means “devil” (and whose Japanese name “Gouki” means the similar “great demon”), surrounds himself with allegories to both Satan and Heaven. He killed his master Goutetsu as a lashing out against his master, then eventually attacks and nearly kills his brother in an obvious reference to Cain and Abel. However, it appears that what Akuma wants is to restore himself to Heaven’s graces. One particular scene in Street Fighter V points this out:
Akuma genuinely believes that utilizing the Satsui no Hado will allow him to attain godhood, but must contain the desire to destroy everything in order to achieve it. In other words, Akuma seeks to enter Heaven the way he wants to, and not the way God or anyone else wants.
So, what does this have to do with Ryu? Simple: it’s the concept of the Sins of the Father. As Wikipedia states, the “Sins of the Father… derives from biblical references primarily in the books Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers to the sins or iniquities of one generation passing to another.” This concept generally refers to children paying for the sins of their parents; for example, children being ostracized from society because their parents have committed grave sins against said society, like murder or robbery, even though the kids themselves did nothing wrong. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sins_of_the_Father
Akuma’s relationship to Ryu would be a twist on this: he wants Ryu to kill him with the Satsui no Hado because he believes he could pass on his own sins to Ryu and reach heaven. If Ryu kills him with the Satsui no Hado, Ryu would have to atone for Akuma, and by paying the ultimate price, Akuma would be purged of his sins and be able to enter Heaven’s gates.
“That makes no sense,” you say. “Wouldn’t Akuma just go straight to Hell?” Maybe, but that’s obviously not what Akuma believes. With the Shun Goku Satsu, it appears he has the power to send people to Hell, but he sees himself more of doing a favor to the world and eliminating those he feels are unworthy. Hell is only for those he thinks are weak, and Akuma believes strength is the true way to enter Heaven.
There’s one final thing that needs to be addressed then. Why was Akuma depicted as a guardian? Was he supposed to be protecting someone to begin with? Maybe. I suggested in “The Goddess of Street Fighter” that the person he should have been going after was Chun-Li rather than Ryu if he wanted to take over Heaven. https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/06/11/the-goddess-of-street-fighter/
I also suggested that, based on the evidence I found, Gen was the Black Turtle, one of the Four Divine Beasts who were meant to serve as Chun-Li’s protectors. However, this position may have supposed to have gone to Akuma. Since Akuma renounced his destiny as a guardian to instead serve his own needs, Gen would have had to fill the gap he created.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time Akuma rejected a woman.