Representation is everything in entertainment and fighting games are no different.
In fact, the fighting game genre is a great example that video games are an excellent medium of representing diversity in many ways and means.
Video games, in terms of representation, are similar to books (including comic books and graphic novels) as they can provide necessary breathing space for characters of diverse backgrounds.
It's usually difficult for other forms of visual media (stage, TV, film, and web streaming) to get the desired representation because of the many factors at play.
The 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians, though not the most perfect film, was a very important catalyst for Asian-American representation on TV and screen.
Since Crazy Rich Asians hit theaters across the globe, let alone the United States, catalyzed the proliferation of AAPI (Asian-American & Pacific Islander) representation.
Actor-turned-director Jordan Peele has broken black stereotypes through Get Out, Us, Hunters (on Amazon Prime), and Lovecraft Country (on HBO).
These are remarkable accomplishments for visual media, but none of this happened overnight. A lot of fighting had to be done.
There is still MORE fighting that must be done for representation.
That's also the case for video games, but there's still more breathing room compared to the medium's other visual counterparts.
Even though video game projects are bound to budgets, like other forms of visual media, you still have the leeway to create a diverse cast of characters and that includes characters who have mixed heritage.
Welcome to the second part of “Representation – Mixed Heritage Fighting Game Characters.”
Number #1 – Setsuka, Soul Calibur
Setsuka would not have made it to the list had it not for the release of Soul Calibur 6, which she part of the game's latest downloadable content (DLC) made available on August 4th, 2020. She debuted in Soul Calibur III as a new character and served as a new rival to Mitsurugi, replacing the Chinese assassin Li-Long.
Like Li-Long, Setsuka also has a beef to settle with Mitsurugi.
A samurai's life is never dull, especially when you killed or allegedly killed a warrior and someone close to that person wants revenge.
Unlike Li-Long, who thought Mitsurugi killed his lover (revealed to still be aline in Soul Calibur III, plus Mitsurugi having no part on the attack), Mitsurugi did kill Setsuka's surrogate father figure in a duel.
That's the gist of Setsuka's backstory.
In Setsuka's backstory for Soul Calibur III, she was a white girl who ran away from home and ended up in Japan.
She was treated with scorn and contempt because she was a “barbarian,” which was the term for white people in Japan at the time.
Setsuka's original hair color in Soul Calibur III was brunette, then changed to blonde in Soul Calibur IV.
The developers left Setsuka's ethnicity ambiguous.
Setsuka didn't appear in Soul Calibur V, but was mentioned several times. The story revealed that Setsuka left Japan, traveled the world, and settled in Turkey, where she became the mentor to Patroklos (Sophitia's son).
Soul Calibur VI rebooted the series' timeline (focusing on an alternate timeline) and gave Setsuka more backstory, where the representation comes in. The new timeline revealed that Setsuka is a biracial woman whose father was Japanese and whose mother was Portuguese.
This is a rarity for mixed heritage representation in general, especially for mixed Asian characters, where it's usually having an Asian mother and non-Asian father. Setsuka's story mode in Soul Calibur VI shows her originally having brunette hair with a few blonde streaks, then having her hair turn completely blonde.
Most of her storyline remains the same, but with a few changes.
The name of her master and adopted father figure is revealed as Shugen Kokonoe, who was still killed by Mitsurugi in a duel.
Even though it's non-canonical, Setsuka clashes with Hoahmaru from Samurai Shodown after she mistakes him for Mitsurugi.
On a side-note, Hoahmaru was added as a special guest character.
The developers gave Setsuka's story more substance by introducing the Kokonoe Clan, which is the main opposing force in her storyline.
In Soul Calibur VI, Setsuka's storyline isn't centered specifically on hunting down Mitsurugi. Shugen has skeletons in his closet before finding Setsuka and that closet has opened full-force.
Number #2 – Alice Garnet Nakata, The King Of Fighters
If you strongly followed The King Of Fighters franchise, you'll understand the interesting legacy behind Alice Garnet Nakata.
Alice made her fighting debut in The King Of Fighters XIV, but it's not the only game in the franchise was part of.
Her page on the SNK Wiki shows that she originally appeared in the slot game Garou Densetsu: The Legend of Wild Wolf. In the dating simulator game titled Days of Memories, Alice is your personal nurse as she's training to be an actual nurse.
Alice is portrayed as a huge fangirl to the Fatal Fury Team, but specifically admires Terry Bogard.
In KOF XIV, Alice uses a self-taught fighting style that combines moves of the Fatal Fury Team members and moves of Rock Howard (the son of Geese Howard). She joins up with Mai Shiranui and King to form the Women Fighters Team.
Representation-wise, Alice is half-Japanese and half-American.
There are strong indications, but not officially confirmed, that the creation of Alice is a reference and nod to Alice Chrysler.
Chrysler was created to be an original character for Fatal Fury 3 as Mai Shiranui's replacement, but the idea was scrapped. She was referenced only in Chae Lim's storyline in The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact.
Like Alice Garnet Nakata, Alice Chrysler is a huge fan of Terry Bogard.
The main difference is the use of fighting styles as Alice Garnet Nakata uses a self-taught style that mixes moves from different fighters, where as Alice Chrysler is a student of Kim Kaphwan and uses Tae Kwon Do.
In Days of Memories, Alice's song is titled “Chrysler Shout.”
Number #3 – Lynn Baker, Rage of the Dragons
Rage of the Dragons is one of those obscure fighting games that never got to see a sequel, but that could change as Siliconera reported that the title's IP got bought by a company called PIKO Interactive.
Before I talk about Lynn Baker, a bit of the game's background needs to be explained.
The game was released in 2002 by Playmore (before merging with SNK to become SNK-Playmore) for the Neo-Geo arcade system. Its development was a joint collaboration between Noise Factory, BrezzaSoft, and Evoga.
It was supposed to be created as a sequel to the Double Dragon fighting game, based on the critically panned live-action adaptation of the same name, but wasn't meant to be as the Japanese studio Million purchased the intellectual property rights for the characters.
All the characters had to be renamed.
A new storyline was made, too.
When you have to start off new and fresh, that leaves the opportunity to create new characters and we have Lynn Baker.
Lynn is one of the main stars of Rage of the Dragons as half-Chinese and half-American, who has spent her childhood in China before having to move to America. She studied the martial art style of Ryu Zui Ken under her grandfather and then became acquainted with his two star pupils, the Lewis Brothers (Billy and Jimmy).
There is a lot of pressure on Lynn as she's being groomed as the “White Dragon,” whose role is to protect the dragon scrolls that are sought out by Johann.
After her grandfather got murdered, Lynn teams up with Billy to join a special tournament.
In terms of gameplay, she is a faster and smoother version of Billy.
Lynn is one of four characters from the game that got added as bonus characters to the fighting game titled Power Instinct: Matrimelee.
Number #4 – Hitomi, Dead or Alive
Hitomi, making her series debut in Dead or Alive 3, is a Karate specialist born to a Japanese mother and a German father. She fills the role of the token martial artist trained from an early age by either one or two parental figures.
She studied Karate directly under her father, which is shown in her ending in Dead or Alive 3.
Her primary role in Dead or Alive 3 is a newcomer with a swath of formal martial arts training, who wishes to test their skills against specialists of other styles. This makes her one of the least affected by the events of the Dead or Alive timeline.
However, Hitomi does have “skin in the game” as she serves as a crucial support character to Hayate.
After the events of the first Dead or Alive, Hayate went missing and found himself in Germany with a bad case of amnesia. He was discovered and rescued by Hitomi in Germany's Black Forest, where he quickly mastered their style of Karate.
Living his life as “Ein,” Hayate left the family dojo and joined the second tournament.
After the events of Dead or Alive 2, Hayate regained his memories. He parted ways with Hitomi and then took control of the mantle as the Mugen Tenshin Clan's leader.
At the end of Dead or Alive 3, Hitomi was allowed to leave the dojo and travel the world.
Hitomi, in a sense, remains close friends with Hayate.
This is a good thing as she still maintains a strong connection with the main story, while focusing on her own development.
Maybe Tecmo will give Hitomi a charming third time and have her win the seventh tournament if there is one. She ended up winning second place and third place, respectively, in Dead or Alive 5 and Dead or Alive 6.
Then again, something could happen in a future title and Hitomi proves to be a crucial ally to Hayate.
Number #5 – Kokoro, Dead or Alive
Kokoro debuted in Dead or Alive 4 as an unlikely ally to Kasumi, who continues to be pursued by members of the Mugen Tenshin Clan. It leads Kokoro to having a temporary beef with Kasumi's illegitimate half-sister/cousin, Ayane, who was hunting down Kasumi under Hayate's orders. As any typical concerned person with no clue about the events that happened before the scuffle, Kokoro did what any typical good-aligned martial artist would do.
Kokoro, originally groomed to be a geisha, wanted more and decides to join the Fourth Tournament, despite her mother's concern.
It is revealed that Kokoro, like Helena Douglas, is one of Fame Douglas' illegitimate children.
That makes Kokoro a character of mixed heritage.
What I found interesting about Kokoro, from a martial artist's standpoint (I currently hold a 2nd Dan in Tae Kwon Do and an orange tip in Judo), is that her fighting style is Baji Quan. In Dead or Alive 4, Helena suggests Kokoro learn the fighting style of Pigua Chuan.
I find it interesting is that this nuance shows the careful consideration the developers took.
I do a lot of research for creative projects and that includes researching martial arts styles, where I learned that Baji Quan and Pigua Chuan are often taught in conjunction with each other.
Number #6 – Roberto Miura, Rival Schools
Rival Schools is a fighting game series created by Capcom that exists within the same story universe as Street Fighter, Final Fight (Guy's storyline in Street Fighter Alpha), and Strider (Guy's former master and predecessor, Zeku, creates the organization in his Street Fighter V storyline).
During the events of Street Fighter Alpha, something sinister takes place in the fictional Aohiri City as students from different schools have been attacked by students from the mysterious elite school known as Justice High.
The game uses a three-versus-three format, similar to SNK's King of Fighters series, where the playable characters represent the student bodies of different high schools. Each high school has its own unique focus.
Robert Miura makes his debut in the first installment of the spinoff series, Rival Schools: United By Fate.
While Sean and Laura Matsuda, respectively from Street Fighter III and V, are a quarter-Japanese, Roberto is a quarter-Brazilian.
He, along with Shoma Sawamura and Natsu Ayuhara, represent Gorin High, which is a sports-themed high school.
Roberto's gameplay is unique as he specializes in kicks, not from any martial arts, but the sport of “real football” aka soccer. He has a projectile move, called “Long Shoot,” which literally allows him to kick a soccer ball at his opponent.
Roberto serves as the goalie for Gorin's varsity boys soccer team, but he does get recruited by a college to serve as a forward for its soccer team.
According to his entry in the Street Fighter Wiki, Roberto seems inspired by Roberto Hongo from the soccer manga Captain Tsubasa.
Hopefully, Roberto will make a playable appearance in a future installment of Street Fighter, as fellow Rival Schools character Akira Kazama will be in Street Fighter V Season 4, or another Capcom crossover fighting game title.
He would be an interesting rival to Street Fighter characters such as Sean & Laura Matsuda, Juri Han, and Elena.
Number #7 – Inuyasha, Inuyasha
If you're not familiar with manga or anime, Inuyasha is the titular protagonist of the series Inuyasha.
The story centers on the titular Inuyasha and female protagonist & future wife, Kagome Higurashi, as they focus on vanquishing the demon lord known as Naraku.
You can read the original manga that is written by Rumiko Takahashi.
If reading manga is not your thing, you can catch the anime adaptation on a number of streaming services.
As for Inuyasha, he is half-human and half-Inugami, the latter being classified as a dog demon in Japanese mythology.
He had a rough childhood as he's not accepted by the human world for his half-demon heritage and vice-versa.
Inuyasha crosses paths and falls in love with a priestess named Kikyo, the subject of Onigumo's lust.
Onigumo, a bandit who surrendered his body to demons, becomes Naraku and devises a plan that leads Kikyo to bind Inuyasha to a tree for fifty years. Kikyo dies and her soul gets reincarnated into Kagome, who ends up in Inuyasha's timeline, 50 years after Kikyo bounded Inuyasha, via the Bone Eater's Well in the backyard of the Higurashi Family.
Inuyasha appears in three obscure fighting game titles.
The first title is Inuyasha: A Feudal Fairy Tale, which follows the series plot in fighting game form, which was released in the early 2000s for the original Playstation console.
The second title is Inuyasha: Feudal Combat, which was released in 2005 for the Playstation 2 console.
The third title is called Sunday VS. Magazine: Shuketsu! Chojo Daikessen, a Japan-only game, that was released in 2009 for the Playstation Portable (PSP).
Number #8 – Joe Shimamura, Cyborg 009
Joe Shimaura is the titular protagonist of Shotaro Ishinomori's manga series Cyborg 009, which has received many anime TV show and film adaptations.
He is of half-Japanese heritage and was ostracized as a result of it, which still happens in Asia today.
Orphaned after childbirth, his mother dying after giving birth to him, Joe was adopted by a Catholic priest.
Joe was captured by the secret criminal organization Black Ghost and made into a cyborg, which he became the ninth in the organization's 00-Cyborg program. He and the first eight 00 Cyborgs escape Black Ghost and form their own small group.
As a cyborg, Joe's unique ability is to move at superhuman speed.
He appears in two obscure fighting games.
The first title is Sunday VS. Magazine: Shuketsu! Chojo Daikessen for the PSP, which also stars Inuyasha.
The second title is the obscure free-to-play and defunct Street Fighter Online: Mouse Generation, in which Joe along with a couple of other 00-Cyborgs star as special guest licensed characters.
Number #9 – Ban Mido, Getbackers
Ban Mido is one of the two main protagonists of Yuya Aoki (writer) and Rando Ayamine's (illustrator) manga series, adapted into an anime series (currently available to stream on Amazon Prime), titled Getbackers.
He and Ginji Amano, the other main protagonist, work together as the titular “GetBackers,” a special retrieval service that has a success rate of nearly 100-percent. The duo is often successful in their profession, but they are often broke because of special circumstances during their contracted jobs.
The anime series, which aired from 2002 until 2003, was adapted from Yuya Aoki and Rando Ayamine's (respectively writer and illustrator) original manga, which ran from 1999 until 2007.
As for fighting games, the franchise created three fighting games that only saw the light in Japan.
The first in the series is GetBackers Dakkanoku: Ubawareta Mugenshiro, released in 2002, for the PC and Playstation 2.
The second in the series is GetBackers Dakkanoku: Dakkandayo! Zenin Shuugou!, released in 2003, for the PC.
The third in the series is GetBackers Dakkanoku – Urashinshiku Saikyou Battle, released in 2004, for the PC and Playstation 2.
In the story, Ban is portrayed as having a quarter-German heritage, from his father, famously known as “Der Kaiser.”
Ban's combat proficiency, crucial to his job, comes from two abilities, which are “Jagan” and “Snakebite.”
The first ability allows Ban to force a target to witness a one-minute-long illusion.
The second ability gives Ban superhuman strength with the ability to grip with a force of 200 kilograms with each hand for a total of 400 kilograms.
If you want to watch the anime adaptation of Getbackers, it is currently available on Amazon Prime.
Number #10 – Yasutora “Chad” Sado, Bleach
Tite Kubo's original manga has created a franchise that got adapted into an anime series & full-length feature animated films, a full-length live-action film, a couple of live-stage musicals, and a lot of video games with a specific focus on fighting games.
Chad, one of the main characters of Bleach and a good friend to the story's titular protagonist, is of Japanese and Mexican heritage. He was born in Okinawa but spent a good number of years living in Mexico after his parents died.
When his adopted father died, Chad moved back to Japan.
He the same middle school as Ichigo Kurosaki and they became good friends.
Chad plays a fundamental role in the major story arcs of the story, where he discovers that his powers are similar to Hollows (the main enemies of Bleach). That leads to a new story dynamic, the power of Fullbring.
He makes playable appearances in the following fighting game titles in the franchise: Blade Battlers, Blade Battlers 2nd, The Blade of Fate, Dark Souls, The Third Phantom, and Heat of the Soul.
This concludes part two, but stay tuned for more.