Bison is officially called Vega / ベガ in Japan. In the western world, of which my own country is part, the name M.Bison was chosen for him. When Street Fighter II was about to be launched in the United States, CAPCOM was afraid of a lawsuit from Mike Tyson over a character (Balrog) with his likeness as well as a similar sounding name (Balrog’s Japanese name being “Mike Bison”).
Additionally, when the designers presented the game to CAPCOM U.S.A.’s marketing division, they believed that the name “Vega” did not fit the character it was given to. They decided to rotate the names of three of the four boss characters in the following manner:
- The boxer is known as M. Bison in Japan and Balrog in the U.S.
- The Spanish assassin/matador is known as Balrog in Japan and Vegain the U.S.
- The final boss and head of Shadaloo is known as Vega in Japan and M. Bison in the U.S.
The image below makes it a little easier to understand:
So far, no official explanation has been given for the M. in the name M.Bison. CAPCOM likes to leave us to guess on this, adding to Bison’s mysterious character. Some believe the M stands for ‘Master’. A title many Shadaloo underlings, as well as Bison himself use to refer to him.
Bison’s character and personality
Bison’s personality is that of a villain in the truest sense. The box text on Storm Collectibles’ latest Bison figure states he is “Evil personified”. There could be no mistake about what kind of person Bison is. His ambition is nothing less than world domination, through the means of ultimate power.
Street Fighter Wikia sums up the following list of personality traits:
“He is a diabolical, ruthless, contentious, argumentative, foul-tempered, egocentric, arrogant, traitorous, manipulative, and unforgiving dictator who seeks to rule the world with an iron fist whilst also being universally regarded as the greatest and most powerful martial artist of all time.”
However, there are also times Bison is seen complimenting another fighter, being a warrior, nothing gives him more pleasure than battling a strong and worthy opponent: after all these opponents could be of use as pawns in his plans at a later time…
Bison’s ego truly knows no bounds. He often refers to himself in the third person and styles himself a just god. Often he states he will gladly send his opponent to hell. Most will agree that is exactly where Bison belongs himself.
He is not able to feel a smidge of pity towards his opponents. He regards those who serve him as mere pawns, though he does expect their undying loyalty. Strangely, he has many followers. The most prominent is the latest member of Bison’s Four Kings; F.A.N.G. who seems to adore his master.
Some claim Bison is not capable of showing human emotion because he purged his soul of its good side, if there ever was one. He could easily be compared to the psychological description of a psychopath; he indulges in seeing others suffer. And even more so when they suffer at his own hands. The expression on his face leaves no one to wonder about this: there is always this iconic but sadistic grin plastered on his face, to the point his gums are bared.
Bison won’t shy away from illegal methods to reach the goals he set for himself. His empire serves as a cover-up for many different criminal disciplines: extortion of governments worldwide, terrorism, drug-running, assassination, experimentation on humans… The list grows longer with each new Street Fighter game. Most known, however, he is for brainwashing skilled martial artists, converting them to his cause. The best example of this are the Dolls, young women serving as Bison’s elite team of assassins and bodyguards.
For his crimes he has earned himself the hatred of pretty much all of the Street fighter cast in some way. Of course, Bison does not care and thinks of his enemies as mere pests.
Important examples are:
- Chun Li: Bison killed her father when she was very young. He was a police detective who had been assigned to research and suppress Shadaloo. Enough reason for Bison to take him out of the picture. Her hatred for Bison is often shown.
- Guile: Bison killed Guile’s best friend and fellow soldier, Charlie Nash. Guile even goes so far to abandon his own family for the sake of having revenge against Bison
Sounds like an average cocky guy right? Mostly cocky characters cannot back up their arrogance, but Bison can. His superiority as a fighter does show his arrogance is well-grounded. In many different media Bison is seen easily overpowering opponents. For example, in Street Fighter: The animated movie, Guile is simply toyed with and proves to be no match for him. He also managed to stand tall in a fight with both Ryu and Ken at the same time. For the sake of good conquering evil in the end, Bison is defeated, but still…
Bison truly only meets his match in Akuma (Gouki in Japan), a practitioner of Ansatsuken who let his dark side prevail over himself just like Bison has. To kill Bison, Akuma ironically uses the most powerful attack known in Ansatsuken, called the ‘Shun Goku Satsu’ – ‘The Raging Demon’.
His signature attire is a red military uniform consisting of riding breeches and a tight, mandarin collared tunic edged in black. He also wears heavy spit-shined marching boots.
Covering the vulnerable parts of the body is a metal armor: Shoulder pads, forearm bracers and full greaves covering his shins, knees and upper feet. Bison often makes use of the shin guards during fights, dealing fierce blows with his knees. Some say the armor isn’t for show, claiming it serves as a lattice to help Bison channel the Psycho Power through his body evenly.
Attached to the shoulder armor is a long blue, green or dark grey cape. In ‘Street Fighter Alpha’, Bison keeps the cape in battle. In ‘Street Fighter II’ he removes it before the fight commences.
Around his waist a black leather belt featuring a lightning bolt design on the buckle.
The look is topped off by a visor cap crowned with the winged skull insignia of his crime syndicate and empire, Shadaloo. Bison is almost never seen without it. Friend and foe know this: in the ending of ‘Street Fighter V: a shadow falls’ Chun Li concludes Bison has perished, because she saw his cap left among the rubble of the Shadaloo base.
Bison’s uniform has often been mocked by other characters. Here’s a small piece of dialogue between Bison and Ryo from the game ‘SNK v.s. Capcom Chaos’:
Ryo: Hey, how did you attach those big old knee and shoulder pads in there?
Bison: That’s enough chatter.
Ryo: Those babies in-sewn?
Bison: You prattling cretin… Put a sock in it!
In ‘Street Fighter V’, Bison altered his uniform. The red color now much darker, and the cape seems to have fused with his tunic.
Bison’s physical appearance has been through several changes over time. Bison can possess a newly developed body each time he is killed in battle. This has happened several times by now. In ‘Street Fighter Alpha / Zero’ Bison is in his original body. At the end of the game, it cannot seem to handle the full extent of the Psycho power and explodes. In ‘Street Fighter II’, the game following up the Alpha series, Bison is seen in a much slimmer and weaker body, as seen on the right.
M. Bison has neatly cut dark-colored hair under his peaked cap. After a round finishes in the game, Bison is sometimes seen taking off his cap to run his hand through his hair. In ‘Street Fighter V’ this became a part of his victory animation. In this game his hair has now turned white due to the strain of his powers.
In the Brazilian Street Fighter comics (Editora Escala), he was instead bald.
His eyes were originally red both within and outside the irises (though the irises were still visible); after Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, they were changed to a complete ghastly white, a trait shared by other characters such as Sagat and Dhalsim. His eyes will glow pink when his Psycho Power is being focussed, as seen in the .gif below.
Manner of speech
Bison uses a very distinct way to speak to people. His speech is very articulated. He also seems to enjoy calling people names, but never does so with swearwords. Terms such as ‘worm’ are often used by him. He also seems to know just what would anger his opponent, he probably does because most of the time he is to blame for their anger and grief in the first place…
In the games, M. Bison fights with a self-taught style using the Psycho Power to its full extent. In ‘Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game’, M. Bison is said to use a martial art developed and taught by himself, known by him and its students as Lerdrit. Though in reality, Lerdrit is a form of martial arts traditionally used by the Royal Thai Army. Bison’s fighting style in the games is unique, but there are definitely traces of Lerdrit to be seen in it, such as the heavy knee strikes Bison uses.
Bison has been designed by one of CAPCOM’s lead artists: Yasuda ‘Akiman’ Akira.
It is often mentioned the design for Bison was inspired by by Washizaki (鷲崎 “Eagle Cape”), a villain from the manga and anime Riki-Oh; and Yasunori Kato (加藤保憲), the antagonist from the fantasy film, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (aka Teito Monogatari (帝都物語).
Below a comment about the conception of Bison from Akiman, from the book ‘Street Fighter x Tekken artworks’:
“M.Bison was created because Nishitani insisted “the story needs an evil overlord”. At the time I was a naive young buck and thought the idea of “an ‘evil overlord” was so passé. Now, however, I can see that Nishitani was right. Just when you think you’ve sliced him with a sword, you find that he’s actually standing on top of your sword… but wait, now he’s behind you! M.Bison was designed to be like a scary demon with powers beyond mortal understanding.” – Yasuda ‘Akiman’ Akira
- Double Kneepress – ダブルニープレス Daburu Nii Puresu
- Bison performs a forward somersault with his legs outstretched, kicking the opponent twice and aiming to land on the opponent’s knees.
- Head Press – ヘッドプレス Heddo Puresu
- Bison leaps into the air and lands perfectly on his opponent’s head, in a standing position with his arms folded. He then backflips off again almost immediately, and can land a good distance away if desired, even if the attack is blocked.
- Devil Reverse – デビルリバース Debiru Ribaasu
- Bison leaps into the air and towards the opponent. If punch is pressed while in mid-air, he changes direction in mid-air, flipping upside-down and throwing a Psycho Power-infused punch toward the opponent while descending.
- Bison Warp – べガワープ, Bega Waapu
- Bison folds his arms, grins widely, dematerializes and teleports to another location.
- Psycho Crusher – サイコ クラッシャー Saiko Kurasshā
- Bison charges his right hand with Psycho Power, then surrounds himself with the energy while flying spinning towards his opponents, similar to a torpedo.