Street Fighter: Sakura Ganbaru! (さくらがんばる! Sakura Ganbaru!, "Sakura Gives it Her Best!") is a manga series written and illustrated by Masahiko Nakahira. The story follows Sakura in her quest to become a street fighter and meet Ryu. The manga take place during the Street Fighter Alpha series.
The story starts by introducing Sakura, an average Japanese schoolgirl with a passion for street fighting. She is more or less coached by Dan Hibiki in some simple street fighting techniques. Dan Hibiki promised to train Sakura if she beat him in a foot race (which he constantly loses). He teaches Sakura the basic techniques for the Hadoken (through his Gadoken) and commented that it can only be mastered through vigorous training. Later, a street thug steals a video game from her kid brother Tsukushi (who had it borrowed from a friend); Sakura seeks him out (turns out this thug was a massive high-schooler who stole game cartridges to sell to game rental stores) and defeats him in her first street fighting match, winning with a single Hadoken which she mastered in mere seconds. This makes Dan frustrated because he spent years to even learn the Gadoken.
Dan later takes Sakura out to the streets to give her some first-hand experience in street fighting, and she gradually grows to love street fighting even more. She imagined if she continued to get further in the field of street fighting she will meet a powerful street fighter that she called "that person" (Ryu). Karin Kanzuki, the very wealthy heiress of the Kanzuki Zaibatsu with an interest in street fighting and about the same age as Sakura, witnessed a fight of hers and got intrigued. After getting her aide, Shibazaki, to scout her for information, Karin arranged a meeting with Sakura at school (coincidentally, they both attended the same school, despite having never met until that point) and challenged her to a fight. Karin, who had an impressive win streak so far, was overconfident and eventually lost to her opponent, despite starting off with a good advantage.
Later Sakura is seen counting money which she had won from previous fights was reluctant to accept them but was persuaded earlier by Dan to keep them anyway, as she would need it at some point (for traveling, for example). She wanted to street fight for the passion and the experience but never for the money. Suddenly Karin abruptly came crashing through her window and challenged her to a street fighting competition which she had organized. Before leaving in a helicopter she promised to pay for the damages of the window.
The next day Sakura was reluctant to join the tournament and wanted to go to school. Suddenly she saw Dan on the streets already beaten one of the tournament's contenders. The fallen contender's brother, wanting to vent his anger onto an unsuspecting victim over the other's elimination, rushed straight towards Sakura, but was shocked when Sakura retaliated and defeated him in mere seconds. After that incident, she became eager to join the tournament even if it meant skipping school.
While she was fighting other oponents, Dan was defeated by an unsuspecting participant: Ken Masters, the American fighting champion. Ken later encountered Karin and managed to defeat her as well, but acknowledged her ability by saying that he could have his joints dislocated should he be caught off-guard. In the meantime, Sakura heard of a long-haired person in a red dōgi who fought similarly to "that person"; knowing it could only be Ken, she ran off to try and find him so he could lead her to "that person", but ran into Maki instead. While she gave Sakura a hard time with her tonfa, in the end Sakura's determination allowed her to turn the tables, and Maki conceded defeat and fled, despite still being in good fighting conditions. Eventually, when Sakura found Ken, they were the only two contestants left in the tournament. While they were fighting vigorously, Sakura's father, coming home from work, witnessed her battle, shocked that his daughter was involved in such activities. Both put up a great fight, but in the end it was Ken who won by a knockout.
Sakura wakes up initially feeling sad that she lost and did not remember to ask Ken about "that person". Coming downstairs, she found Ken, Karin and Dan in her living room having breakfast. Karin distributed the tournament trophies to both of them as the 2nd and 1st place. Before Ken left, he told Tsukushi about Ryu, which he indirectly told her sister. Ken was later seen in a car with quite serious wounds such as broken ribs. Dan was in the car with him commenting how his ego made him push on fighting last night even though he was hurt that badly by Sakura. As for Sakura, she apologized to her father about never telling them that she fought, expecting him to punish her, but despite his own disapproval of street fighting, he gave Sakura his blessing, as he saw fighting is something to which she truly dedicated herself and he would have no right to take it away from her.
After the street fighting tournament, Karin's father shows his disappointment on her, not just for choosing street fighting, but mainly for having lost two of these fights. He then gives her a series of tests to determine whether she was still fit to be his heir.
The first test requires Karin to cross over a deep chasm on a thin rope, while being attacked by the "King of Heavens", a hawk. Taking impulse from the rope, she casually kicks it away, commenting that its attacks felt like a bothersome breeze compared to Sakura's blows. The second challenge required her to pass through a waterfall guarded by a bear, who attacked viciously, scratching her face. Nevertheless, she defeated the bear by blocking one of its strikes and punching it on the head, saying that, compared to Ken's powerful fists, the paws of a bear are but stingers of insects. In the last challenge, she was supposed to fight the "King of Beasts", a lion, but Karin simply cast an intimidating glare at it, taming the beast, and then proceeding to pet it like a domestic cat. To add insult to injury, while all this was happening, 80% of the Kanzuki Konzern's assets were passed over to Karin, much to her father's chagrin. Karin points out that, through street fighting, and Sakura, she learned that one defeat may be worth more than a constant string of victories, causing her father to think of her words.
The next volume depicts Sakura boarding a plane to Hong Kong, accompanied by Dan, in order to find Ryu. Dan first led her to an illegal underground street fighting ring to search for the whereabouts of Ryu. The leader of the ring, Lou, agreed to give him information if Dan stepped up for the next fight and won. Being confronted by the American boxer Balrog, banned from the sport for fighting dirty, Dan realized he was being set-up, but got a severe thrashing from Balrog before he had a chance to escape.
In the meantime, Sakura got knocked unconscious by Lou's female assistant, in order to be sold as a sex slave. Sakura soon broke free (as the handcuffs kept her hands in position to throw Hadokens), but found Dan's life threatened by Lou, who had a gun pointed at his head. At that point, his lady servant attacked him, revealing herself to be Interpol officer Chun-Li, who was undercover in an attempt to bust Lou's operation. After the arrest of Lou's gang, Chun-Li interrogates Dan and Sakura and, learning that they were searching for Ryu, decides to help them, out of concern for Sakura's safety. Following a series of leads, the group finds an abandoned training place once used by Ryu, with a large tree with thick rope wrapped around its trunk. Sakura notes Ryu used this tree as a training dummy, with the rope protecting it from his blows, and feels it was kind of him to think of the tree.
At that moment, a chase was taking place over at the nearby sea, culminating in a fight between Gen, an elderly, highly efficient assassin, and a young, very skilled female fighter. As it turns out, she is a defector from "The Organization", and Gen was hired to eliminate her. When the fight spilled over to where the protagonists were, Chun-Li decided to take matters in her hands and bring Gen into custody. However, Gen was able to quickly incapacitate her by hitting a deadly pressure point on her stomach. Despite her shock and her awareness to the danger the man represented, Sakura steps up to fight the master of the deadly Soryu and Kiryu.
While able to effortlessly dodge every attack, Gen became intrigued by the fighting spirit within the girl, as well as the fact that she utilized a martial art developed for assassination without any negativity in her mind. As he wondered about the "light" in her fists, he lost his focus for a moment, allowing Sakura to land a hit. Deciding to finish the battle for good, Gen rushed in for the kill, but allowed himself to stop just one moment early, by a cherry tree leaf. The impact, however, was enough to send Sakura into unconsciousness. The girl Gen was pursuing, puzzled, asked him why he spared Sakura's life when he was never hesitant to kill anybody before; he replied that, having found the "light", he no longer held the desire to kill.
Sakura only woke up 12 hours later, in the hospital, with Dan, Chun-Li and the girl from before watching over her. Having discovered a lead to Ryu's location in Russia, Chun-Li led the group there, the girl included. There, they find the national hero Zangief in a cage wrestling match inside a steel mill where he has just defeated Blanka, and subsequently knocks out Dan, who jumped into the ring to avenge his friend, with one blow. Zangief recognizes the girl, as he had trained her while she was in "the Organization" and, remembering how it had played him for a fool, decides to take out his frustrations on her. Even though she is ready to throw the match if it means restoring Zangief's honor, Sakura enters the ring for a tag match, unwilling to let "Cammy" (as she dubs the girl, after a stray cat she found one day) get pummeled to death. Zangief accepts to take on both of them, and Sakura's drive to fight to the finish eventually gets to Cammy, and the fight ends on a stalemate. Noting that Sakura's fighting style was very reminiscent of Ryu's (down to the Hadoken, which he so hates), Zangief instructs her to find the answers she seeks in Thailand. Chun-Li and Cammy decide to part ways with the group there in order to resume investigation on "the Organization", leaving Dan and Sakura to head for Thailand by themselves. Before they leave, Cammy asks Sakura to keep calling her by this name, even if she manages to remember her real name.
In Thailand, Dan and Sakura promptly go looking for Sagat, whom they know to be Ryu's fiercest rival, and so should know of his whereabouts. Finding him at a temple amidst the jungle, Sagat informed Sakura that Ryu was in a place called Suzaku Castle in Japan, then asked to be left alone. Dan, however, had a score to settle with Sagat, and requested Sakura to leave him and return to Japan alone. Despite her fears for Dan's well being, deducing Sagat's power only by witnessing his imposing presence, she obeys and leaves.
Back in Japan, Sakura set out to find Suzaku Castle and, to her consternation, found out there was a bus line operating there, from a sightseeing company owned by the Kanzuki family. As it turns out, Karin had known where Ryu was all along, and was secretly monitoring Sakura's journey, withholding that information in order to help her grow as a street fighter. Arriving at the site, Sakura impatiently ran to meet Ryu, and shed tears of joy upon finally finding him, much to his confusion. Sakura proceeded to challenge him to a fight, which Ryu promptly accepted. Ryu held back for some time, but upon realizing Sakura's true strength, started to go all out, and so they went for hours on end. In the end, they promised to meet again and, as Ryu started to leave, Sakura took a photograph to have something to remember him by as seen at the end of Street Fighter Alpha 2.
Years later, Sakura has become a P.E. teacher in her old school. One fateful day, Ryu and Ken went to visit her at school, fulfilling the promise Ryu and Sakura made at the grounds of Suzaku Castle. The story ends with Ryu challenging Sakura to a street fight, and moving in to trade the first blows.