19 characters across 24 players, legendary Sakura and Blanka masters from SF4 return, and 3 EVO champs in the same group — Topanga League 7 preview

The action will be blazing across two months' time in Japan with long sets and famous players — and you better not miss it

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • August 16, 2018 at 7 p.m. PDT

After a long absence, the Topanga League is back upon us yet again. The last installment was back in the early days of Season 2, before the so-called Season 2.5 patch released, and that was the only Topanga League we've seen for Street Fighter 5 until now.

Last week, we became aware that the Topanga League was indeed happening again, the 7th of its kind, and the initial announcement of the league's player lineup and schedule was covered here.

The announcement really came out of nowhere, but for the next few months, Topanga League is going to be broadcast on the regular, mostly during weekdays for the initial portion, and there are going to be a metric ton of matches between the finest players Japan has to offer for your viewing pleasure.

If you're unfamiliar with this monumental event that was one of the absolute highlights every year for the Street Fighter 4 series, many Japanese top players are divided into groups, in which they battle eachother in an online setting through first-to-3 round robin sets, until the first stage is completed.

Although the rules for advancing aren't always exactly the same, what happens next is a series of offline round-robin matches that are first-to-7, which is the core of the Topanga League, and where the best players who managed to make it that far truly rise above the rest.

The exact rules haven't been specified yet for this year, but continue below for a rundown of what we know, and of course, the most important part — a brief biography for each of the 24 players set to compete this year.

As of right now, we'll have to speculate that the rules are similar to the last installment, where the first placer in each of the three 8-man groups advances directly to the final round robin, while the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th placers in each group move on to a new set of 4-man round robins which are played in a first-to-7 format offline, from which the first places of each advance to the final 6-man round robin as well to do the final first-to-7 sets.

One big rule change we are aware of, though, is that players are now free to change their characters after a loss, the same way as in most tournaments — traditionally, Topanga has been a character-locked event.

The groups for this year's Topanga League were drawn completely at random, which is why you might be surprised to see the absolute monstruous gathering that is the C Block, though none of the groups look particularly easy.

Now, let's just dive straight in to the players.

A Block

FAV|Ryuusei

FAV|Ryuusei turned heads at EVO this year, considering he actually won the EVO championship title the year before in BlazBlue: Central Fiction, became interested in Street Fighter 5, and in just one year he was causing a multitude of upsets, and was just one single match away from making it in to the Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition top 8 at EVO this year, falling just short against FD|Fujimura's Ibuki.

This time, Ryuusei qualified through the online qualifier which was held to decide the last 3 spots (with the other 21 being invited). He won 1st place in the qualifier, and is moving towards the main competition with huge momentum and underdog status on his side.

Mago

Despite his results kind of being all over the place both in Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 5, anyone who's followed Mago as a player knows that when he's on, he's on. Having used Karin for the first two years of Street Fighter 5, many were skeptical of his sudden Cammy switch despite the character's strength, though it seems to have worked out quite well for him.

As one of the most classic Topanga participants, both in the A and B league system that the event used to have, Mago definitely knows his way around a high-stakes round robin, so hopefully nerves won't be any kind of factor for him here.

Trashbox

The legendary online warrior himself, and last I checked, the only person in all of Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition to achieve the isnane stretch goal that is the Warlord rank at the ridiculous height of 300,000 LP ... Before the rank was even out.

Trashbox is known far and wide for being the highest ranked player on the leaderboards, and it's not even close. His tournament performance hasn't been quite as amazing, but he's a true competitor who can definitely cause upsets when you least expect it.

RB|Bonchan

Famed for his spectacular defense in the Street Fighter 4 series which earned him the title "the man who blocks the unblockable" in his homeland of Japan, RB|Bonchan isn't a stranger to anyone who has kept up with Street Fighter tournaments for the last 10 years.

In Street Fighter 5, he's been famed for sticking with Nash even after the severe nerfs the character received in Season 2, albeit with a sub Karin to handle the rougher matchups, but now his old favorite Sagat has returned to the fray, and people are excited after hearing his latest declaration — "I will be using Sagat in Topanga League".

CYG|Fuudo

One of the most fearsome competitors throughout both Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 5's lifespan, CYG|Fuudo's Street Fighter 5 career really encapsulates the old idiom "always the bridesmaid, never the bride", because of how he continuously falls short of that grand victory, often netting 2nd or 3rd place instead.

There's no dobut that Fuudo is one of the strongest players in the entire world, and that pressure rarely gets to him. If there's one win to hold out for, Topanga would be it, and what a storyline it will be if this is where Fuudo's luck ends up changing.

Liquid|Nemo

There's really nothing dirty in fighting games since everything is within the game's rules, but the closest you'll get to dirty play is probably Liquid|Nemo, who is known in his native Japan as "The Trickster", for his unorthodox style of play with characters that are hard to get a proper read on.

Street Fighter 5 is no exception, where he uses Urien, a character with viciously deceptive mixups once he has his V-Trigger Aegis Reflector going. As the victor of the last Topanga League, during which Urien was admittedly a stronger character, Nemo is going in to this battle with a title to defend.

Mishie

Perhaps the least famous name of the ones listed here to non-natives, at least out of the ones who were invited, Mishie has made a name for himself in Japan as perhaps the strongest Laura players the region has to offer — which can be either impressive or underwhelming, considering her rarity of use in the country.

Nevertheless, he's a player who hasn't been to too many events due to his lack of sponsorship, and this'll be a big opportunity for him to prove himself as a player to be feared.

GRPT|MOV

The legendary Master of Vampires (yes, that's what his name actually stands for) himself, GRPT|MOV stands strong as one of the players who absolutely refused to abandon Chun-Li even in her weakened state last year, and has been rewarded with some much-needed tuneups since.

A top competitor in every event he enters, MOV truly shows the utmost limit of what Chun-Li is capable of as a character, and there's no shortage of comeback clips from him against the other top Japanese players. This old school player is a household name within the fighting game community, and moreso than with any other player, you must be sure not to count him out until the K.O. screen appears.

B Block

SZY|Mizuha

Another of the online qualifier participants, SZY|Mizuha placed second behind FAV|Ryuusei to get his spot in the 7th Topanga League.

A top level Kolin player, he has been fairly under the radar as far as Japanese masters go, so it will be interesting to see what he has to offer against the high character variety and strange specialists present in his round robin group.

Nishikin

Although he rarely travels outside of Japan, any fighting game fan should be well aware of the Blanka specialist Nishikin — he was in Capcom Cup back in 2014, after all.

After the return of Blanka earlier this year, Nishikin has recomitted himself to Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition in a big way, and it feels like this will truly be where we get to see just how good of a character, or bad of a character, Blanka really is. This man has brought him to the utmost heights of the game back in Street Fighter 4, and he's looking to do it again in this new title.

Gafro

Much like Laura, Balrog is a character that's fairly rare in Japan, and he wasn't all that common back in Street Fighter 4, either, but Gafro has been a contender with the character for a while now.

Showing up here and there at Capcom Pro Tour events across asia, Gafro is that type of player you've probably seen many times, but he has yet to make any dent in the upper placinsg of any tournament. With an official invitation to the Topanga League, you know his desire to prove himself is going to be huge, and this truly is his chance to hit the bigtime.

Uryo

Anyone who ever watched Topanga must know very well who Uryo is — he was a mainstay in the event, after all, and competed against some of Japan's finest, beating the top players many a time, though he very rarely traveled to any events outside of his home country.

Traditionally a Sakura main, he also used C. Viper and Chun-Li back in the day, though it seems that what's piqued his interest to return to the battle in Street Fighter 5 is the release of his old flame, Sakura Kasugano herself. Much like Nishikin, this'll be one of the major players to watch, since we're likely to see Sakura played at a whole different level than we've seen since her release back in January... and I can't wait.

FD|Haitani

Many peopel were skeptical of FD|Haitani's switch from Necalli, who he used for two years, over to Akuma, and indeed his results were quite lackluster at first. However, once he got used to the character, he's been posting great placings, though fumbling here and there as well, and truly showed himself as a fearsome Akuma expert.

Like several of the others in this league, Haitani is no stranger to the Topanga stage, meaning that he has without a doubt steeled himself for the trial ahead, and is mentally prepared for the long and grueling sets that await.

Surugaya|Machabo

Despite proving himself multiple times at this point, Surugaya|Machabo is a dark horse in Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition if there ever was one. A EVO champion in Guilty Gear Xrd, he famously said that he would move over to Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition because he wasn't able to find a sponsor playing Guilty Gear.

Given his amazing results at EVO in both titles (2nd in Guilty Gear Xrd and 13th in Street Fighter 5), it's looking like he's doing an amazing job juggling both, though. In any Japanese event, Machabo has shown how big of a threat he is even against the Japanese gods, and Topanga is unlikely to be an exception. This is a player many viewers may be underestimating as they read his name, but he's definitely not to be looked down upon.

DNG|Itabashi Zangief

The grappler god of Japan, Itabashi Zangief has been famous for his prowess with big command grab characters, although he's strayed away from Zangief quite a bit in Street Fighter 5, especially lately.

Currently, the quite strong Abigail is his character of choice, and we've seen time and time again the huge upset potential inherent within this pick. That, coupled with the otherwordly reads that Itabashi Zangief does on his opponents on the regular — even moreso now that he's fighting players he knows very well — is bound to ensure we're getting a lot of clips for highlight compilations from this event.

YHC-Mochi

The classic Dhalsim expert who has been a mainstay at practically every Topanga League that's been played, YHC-Mochi was unfortunately not able to compete in the later stages of last year's league due to illness.

I'm sure his head has been filled with thoughts of what could have been, but thankfully for him, he no longer needs to wonder. The past is the past, and he has a chance to overcome his old demons here and now, and take some of that massive prize money for himself this time around — with no regrets.

C Block

Powell

A virtually unknown Cammy player outside of Japan until EVO Japan in January where he famously sent then-current EVO champion FOX|Tokido to Loser's early on, Powell is the final player who wasn't invited to Topanga, but rather earned their spot through the online qualifiers.

Given that he made it in as the third placer, below FAV|Ryuusei and SZY|Mizuha, it wouldn't be inaccurate to say that he's the player with least hopes pinned on him going in to this event, especially considering the horrible luck of the draw he's had to be placed in the C Block. But, he's pulled off a huge upset before, and he's one of the best Cammy players in the country. His journey isn't over, even though it's looking to be a difficult one.

FD|Fujimura

One of the most hyped players in the world right now, FD|Fujimura seems to be winning more tournaments than he isn't, and is always around the very top of the finals with his masterful Ibuki play, truly putting the characteer back on the map after players feared she would be irrelevant in the new season.

There's a lot of pressure weighing on him because of his huge performances lately, and he's definitely one of the favorites for taking home the event, but we haven't really seen him compete in long-set round robin format before, besides a brief stint in ELEAGUE earlier this year, so it'll be interesting to see how the godly Fujimura does in this format.

GGP|Kazunoko

If there were ever a player absolutely incapable of spreading himself too thin, that would be GGP|Kazunoko. At EVO 2018, his schedule demanded that he jet back and forth between playing in the top 8 of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (ended in 5th place), top 32 of Dragon Ball FighterZ (ended in 5th place), top 32 of Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 (ended in 9th place) and top 64 of Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition (ended in 49th place).

A former Capcom Cup champ from the Street Fighter 4 era, GGP|Kazunoko is always a fierce opponent who will find any hole in your defense to send you packing, and his Cammy play has treated him quite well so far in Street Fighter 5. He's also a seasoned Topanga veteran, so he should be more than prepared for this hard battle.

FOX|Tokido

Generally viewed as the best, or at least one of the best, Street Fighter 5 players around right now, FOX|Tokido is always a player who has the eyes of the world on him, and he's put Akuma on the map in more than just one game at this point.

Even within the absolute den of beasts that the C Block is, it's not unfair to assume that Tokido may very well be the one the other players are looking at the most, and preparing the hardest for. Despite his extreme prowess in Street Fighter, Tokido may indeed have the absolute most difficult path to the top of all the 24 players participating.

Gachikun

Last year, there was a rise of Rashid players in Asia, but Japan in particular. Amongst them, Gachikun has now risen to the top as the most notable, with Ponos|Moke switching characters entirely while UYU|OilKing and Liquid|John Takeuchi still do amazingly well, just not quite as well as the surprisingly unsponsored Gachikun does.

As the sole Rashid player in all of Topanga, Gachikun may very well be a bit of a measuring stick for fans to see how good the character is after the nerfs. At first, people claimed the character was entirely dead, though tournament results have rebuked that quite well. Gachikun has been in Topanga before during the Street Fighter 4 days, so his experience, skill and clever character choice make an excellent equation for success.

FOX|Momochi

A lot of people were hopeful that FOX|Momochi would gravitate more to his old favorite Cody when he was released, but after ELEAGUE he hasn't been showing up much at all in Momochi's matches, with the EchoFox representative opting for his old character Kolin for the most part.

That said, Momochi has been a variety player if there ever was one, and with the new character switch leniency present in this season of Topanga, there's barely any pick Momochi could make that would surprise us. Kolin has been listed as his main, but we'll see what happens once the matches begin. Besides Kolin and Cody, he's also used Ken, Akuma, M. Bison and Zeku in tournament before. He could pull out literally anything.

CYG|Daigo

The Beast himself returns to the Topanga battlefield, and of course he's in the by far most stacked group the competition has ever seen for its early stage.

Coming off of some very big placings lately including a win at VSFighting last month, CYG|Daigo is a top contender to bring this home, in fact being the only player to take home two Topanga Leagues in the Street Fighter 4 area, where he won the 2014 and 2015 leagues back to back, including the secondary Topanga World League which is invite-only.

I don't think anyone would ever sleep on a player of Daigo's level, and even though his last Topanga performance while using Ryu was lackluster, Guile has given him much better results, and doubting him at this point would be nothing but foolish.

FAV|Sako

The execution god and original Topanga champion back in early 2012, FAV|Sako has finally found his stride in Street Fighter 5 this year after comitting to using the execution-heavy Menat, posting many strong results fitting of his legendary status in the FGC.

Although you could argue that he has the deck stacked against him with the group he got stuck in, there's also the argument that they're the ones stuck in there with him. If there's anything Sako knows well, it's long sets against top Japanese players he's been fighting for over 10 years at this point. He's definitely one to look out for in this group of death.

Thanks for reading this runthrough of the upcoming Topanga festivities, and I hope you're as excited as I am for the 7th Topanga League to finally begin.

Although it was already detailed in the original post featuring the players, I felt it would be nice to include the matchup schedule here, as well as the prize breakdown in case you missed the original piece. You can find both below.

Topanga League 7 Prize Money Breakdown

1st — 1,5 million yen ($13,529)
2nd — 600,000 yen ($5,412)
3rd — 300,000 yen ($2,706)
4th — 150,000 yen ($1,353)
5th — 100,000 yen ($902)
6th — 50,000 yen ($451)

Topanga League 7 Schedule

Topanga League Online Preliminary Portion
Tuesday, August 21st - 7:00 P.M. JST
Wednesday, August 22nd - 7:00 P.M. JST
Tuesday, August 28th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Wednesday, August 29th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Wednesday, September 5th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Wednesday, September 12th - 7:00 P.M. JST

Topanga League Offline Main Stage
Friday, September 28th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Saturday, September 29th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Sunday, September 30th - 7:00 P.M. JST

Topanga League Offline Final Stage
Monday, October 8th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Tuesday, October 9th - 7:00 P.M. JST
Wednesday, October 10th - 7:00 P.M. JST

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