Critique, Feminism, Games, Interviews, Opinion, Sexism

Oh My, Shiranui! AJ Brooks Talks Grappling, Costumes, & Video Games

U SERIOUS BRA is here again — the fun jazzy column where Wendy and Claire talk about how breasts are being treated in blockbuster video games. Such as Street Fighter!

R. Mika. That’s a name that has bounced around the internet since her reveal trailer, as part of the line up for Street Fighter V. The only playable woman wrestler in the Street Fighter universe, Rainbow Mika first appeared in Street Fighter Alpha 3 in an outfit that shows off her ample breasts and amplifies her butt-related wrestling moves. That same garish outfit—worn with far less sex appeal by a bear in Tekkenswirled at the centre of controversy, though some don’t (or won’t) see the concern.

Joshi puroresu costumes can get quite elaborate, but sexy, stylized women wrestlers isn’t a cultural phenomenon limited to Japan. North America also promotes wrestlers who are as famous for their fashion as they are for their fighting—both halves of their image come together to create the bombastic personalities that entertain us in the ring.

How do these outfits compare to R. Mika? According to US Gamer’s Nadia Oxford, these women have nothing on R. Mika.

R. Mika | Street Fighter Alpha 3 | Capcom“In fact, believe it or not, R. Mika’s representation is better than what most women wrestlers (‘Divas’) are subject to in the WWE. Though the entertainment empire’s female roster has gradually garnered greater respect and recognition in the House of McMahon, R. Mika is still miles ahead in many ways.” Street Fighter V‘s Rainbow Mika: A Force for Women in Games?

Miles ahead? We’re not entirely sure. The piece linked above focuses on Mika’s previous costume, which provided more supportive coverage. Here’s where we’re at now:

R-Mika-Street-Fighter-V

Some joshi and WWE women might have smaller breasts or lighter frames than R. Mika, but, as wrestlers, they do have one thing in common: those boobs are all reasonably well-wrangled within their flamboyant, gimmicked up, sexy costumes. During this edition of U SERIOUS, BRA? Claire and Wendy just can’t buy the practicality of fighting in an outfit like Mika’s (Her nipples seriously must be covered with adhesive. Those cups aren’t big enough! Outlook: sore). But since neither happen to be wrestlers, who are they to judge the character and costume design of woman fighters in comics, video games, and professional wrestling? Just fans, that’s all. Cough.

AJ Brooks | http://www.aj-brooks.com/

www.aj-brooks.com

But that’s why, for the precious readers of U Serious, Bra?, Claire and Wendy decided to consult a professional. Not only is three-time WWE Divas Champion AJ Brooks (a.k.a. AJ Lee) a non-compliant comic book fan, she’s also a self-professed foul-mouthed gamer. In 2012, Brooks became the first woman to win the WWE’s annual Superstar Challenge, a video game tournament which consisted of 16 wrestlers who competed in WWE ’12 at WrestleMania XXVIII Axxess, as recognized in the 2015 Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition.

Who better to ask about the comfort, respect, and the gimmickry of pro wrestling success than somebody who’s lived it?

As a new or casual fan, it’s hard to know how much influence a wrestler has over her ring attire. Can you fill us in any? How much leeway is there for personal aesthetic input re: normative hotness? We can imagine that it’s easy to choose a two-piece outfit for comfort or perspiration reasons, but nobody ever seems to go for a singlet! Or a full-body costume, ‘dust-style.

AJ: I purposely chose to wear a lot of things most people found visually offensive. At first, I picked lots of polka dots and plaid fabrics since it was intriguing to me to utilize something not traditionally feminine or attractive. My thought process was “let’s see if I can succeed while being as innocent as possible.”

AJ Lee WWE yellow plaid costume

I would eventually choose an outfit I felt was a second skin; Converse sneakers, jean shorts, and a cotton t-shirt. I wanted to pick something that reflected my practical style, was comfortable to move in, covered up the goods, and most importantly—was simple to cosplay. I wanted to encourage girls to dress up like me, and in order to do that, the costume had to be instantly recognizable and easily duplicated. Over the years I’ve had hundreds of young women and girls dress up like me for Halloween or at comic cons. It’s wonderfully weird.

Relating to that—what’s really important to consider, when ring attire is being designed? For comfort, for protection, for support (is underwiring worn to wrestle?) How is the dreaded nip slip avoided?

AJ: Ah, the dreaded nip slip. The ever-looming dark cloud of a compromising HDTV screen grab. Never happened to me, but I was also a wizard with double sided tape and often chose a safe bet of a neckline. The key was really to design an outfit with movement in mind.

So there are many fighting games featuring women in various states of ass-kicking undress; we’ll take a look at a few of the close combat grapplers to determine how well those costumes will hold them up in the ring. What about these costumes is good? What’s distractingly bad? And what’s bad (or good) in ways that only a pro would recognise?

Tina Armstrong, Dead or Alive

Tina Armstrong is the daughter of Bass Armstrong, the greatest wrestler who ever lived. She made her debut in Dead or Alive. She ends up bouncing around in a bikini a lot, but in the ring, she’s usually sporting variations of a southern theme.

Tina Armstrong | Dead or Alive

AJ: I once had to wrestle in a bikini on live TV (hi Dad!) and I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. So naturally, I worry about Tina and hope she has a lot of stock in the TopStick corporation. However what I’m most concerned about here is the impracticality of fighting in the occasional cowboy boot. Girl better wrap those ankles.

Cammy White, Street Fighter

Cammy White, a.k.a. Killer Bee, is the second female character introduced into the Street Fighter series. She debuted in 1993. Kotaku just reported that for Street Fighter V, Cammy’s face has been redesigned—and redesigned again, thanks to tittybaby mewling from “fans” about how ugly she’d become. Mm, that’s nice.

Cammy and Ryu | Street Fighter | Capcom

AJ: Speaking of Street Fighter, one of my nicknames growing up was Chun-Li. Partly because I loved video games and partly because the bottom half of my body looks like it was taken from an Olympic power lifter and mad scientist style sewn onto the torso of a preteen. I adore Cammy just for being one of the original females in the series, but as a kid I always felt a little awkward seeing all that exposed booty on my TV. However, we all have to give the girl credit for never chaffing or losing that beret.

Angel, King of Fighters

The King of Fighters series features Mai Shiranui, the ninja with rocks in her breasts. But KoF 2002 also introduced (Claire’s fave) Angel, a Mexican fighter who, by her story, learnt half her moves by watching American pro-wrestling, The Rock, specifically; she has a number of reference moves. Angel’s promo art made a lot of what she’s got, while her sprite is much more reasonable with a fully zipped jacket to keep everything snug. Even if it does unzip to reveal a bandeau bra that’s probably not incredibly anchoring. But I worry, every time…wouldn’t moves like that with a gusset that slim make labial display or discomfort a real danger?

Angel | King of Fighters | SNK Playmore

AJ: If your seamstress has enough fabric for chaps, they probably have enough fabric for full coverage shorts. Just saying.

Sonya Blade, Mortal Kombat

Claire has already expressed her disdain for Mortal Kombat, but let’s have a look at Sonya Blade’s [Editor’s correction: latestMortal Kombat 9 costume.

Sonya Blade | Mortal Kombat X | Konami

AJ: Do I lose my feminist card by saying that Mortal Kombat is my favorite fighting series, and one of my all time favorite games? [Editors’ note: No. And Wendy’s pretty fond of MK, too.] I’ve even cosplayed as Kitana and unsuccessfully attempted a Fan Lift on an episode of Raw (somewhere a glorious GIF of the moment exists). [Editors’ note: We found it!]WWE Divas HalloweenThe latest installment in the MK series has Sonya playing the role of MILF while her daughter, a surprisingly covered up, strong willed female character, serves as the main hero of the story. Though I’d appreciate if the General of Earth Realm’s Special Forces and the Princess of Edenia weren’t sponsored by Frederick’s of Hollywood, and this newest heroine didn’t end every winning battle by taking a selfie, a female-led story mode is certainly progress.

Jaycee, Tekken

In Tekken, Jaycee combines pro-wrestling moves with Xin Yi Liu He Quan and Baji Quan based Chinese martial arts.

Jaycee | Tekken | Namco, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Production I.G, Bandai Namco Holdings, Eighting, Arika

AJ: Jaycee might be the most secure of the list so far because she seems to be doubling up on underwear and typing this sentence has made me sad.

Rainbow Mika, Street Fighter

And finally, the inspiration for our analysis, Rainbow Mika, Street Fighter’s first playable woman pro-wrestler.

R. Mika | Street Fighter | Capcom

AJ: Have I become so numb to scantily clad heroines in video games that the most offensive part of this outfit to me are the ruffles? She sort of reminds me of an alternate universe Harley Quinn who is slightly more damaged from paternal abandonment. Personally, I wouldn’t want to encourage my enemies to aim for anything that can be misconstrued as bull’s-eyes.

And a last question—who are some of your personal faves? Which characters, or character designs, really make you joyful? Let’s love it up!

AJ: I’ll always have my complaints about the unnecessary sexualizing of female characters in games, such as, “Why couldn’t Jill swing by her apartment in Raccoon City and grab something more sensible than a tube top and leather skirt to fight hoards of zombies?” or “Why exactly does Quiet’s action figure come with squish-able boobs?” (This is a real thing. Please Google it so we can cry together.) [Editors’ note: We Googled it. We are crying.]

[pullquote]But for every slightly confusing to massively depressing portrayal of our gender, there have been just as many inspiring, relatable, and generally badass female representations.[/pullquote]

But for every slightly confusing to massively depressing portrayal of our gender, there have been just as many inspiring, relatable, and generally badass female representations. Jill Valentine is actually one of the most interesting, capable, and intelligent characters in the Resident Evil series. And when Metal Gear Solid isn’t forcing boys into early puberty, it gives us wonderfully complex and strong women such as Meryl Silverburgh and The Boss. Some of my other all time favorites include Final Fantasy’s Aerith, Yuna, Lulu, and Lightning, MK’s Kitana, Metroid’s Samus, Silent Hill 3’s Heather, the newly redesigned Lara Croft, and The Last of Us’ Ellie (whom I secretly wish was real and adoptable). I also have to give myself credit for the female heroes I designed in Fable and Skyrim. Those chicks were legit and never had to live in fear of a deep v-neck.

Meryl, Metal Gear Solid 4, Konami

Meryl Silverburgh

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  1. Marg B

    November 2, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Yes! I love AJ’s comments and I’m not really a fan of Street Fighter or WWE/WWA but I’ve always thought that female wrestlers and female athletes are the closest, in terms of physique , to real life superheroes. Shouldn’t comic book artists and game developer interview one or study the designs of their performance suits for plausible inspiration in designing outfits?

    Plus I love this, AJ: “Jaycee might be the most secure of the list so far because she seems to be doubling up on underwear and typing this sentence has made me sad.”

    1. Wendy Browne

      November 4, 2015 at 11:45 am

      AJ had some really great insights, didn’t she!

  2. Ashly

    November 3, 2015 at 10:44 am

    HA! The fan-lift attempt was one of my favorite AJ moments during her WWE run. Especially her little disappointed look when it didn’t work.

    And it’s great to see her comment on all this. I always loved her style and how her ring gear evolved a lot with her characterization. She was one of those wrestlers who I felt like, yeah, that’s totally how I’d want my gear to look if I ever wrestled.

    Thank you so much for this great interview! Would love to see more collabs like this in the future. Hint. Hint.

  3. John H

    November 6, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Hey all, first time poster, long-time fighting game and pro wrestling fan. I’ve always loved the female characters in fighting games because speed and maneuverability trumps power to me as a player, but as a person with reasonable critical thinking skills, it is a bit insulting to see characters like Mika (who, mechanically, are very fun to play) being pushed in 2015. Compare her to Chun-Li, or Leona of League of Legend’s fame.

    That being said, I do think there is some leeway for context, the one case standing out to me being Sonya in Mortal Kombat. Now admittedly, I haven’t played an MK game since MK3, as I’m just not a fan of the game engine and playstyle (that’s an entirely different and far too nerdy of a rant). However the aesthetic of Mortal Kombat has always struck me as being that of a B movie, rife with blood, guts, bones, etc., and I would argue that the overly sexualized ass-kicking blonde does seem to fit into that style. The MK series in general is predicated on these types of tropes.

    Also, if by chance anyone is interested in seeing the state of WWE women’s wrestling now, or what it will look like in a few years, I strongly urge anyone to check out the last year or so of NXT’s Women’s Division. NXT is WWE’s developmental promotion, and has put a strong emphasis on putting together legitimate women’s wrestling matches. Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Emma, and others have been putting on great matches over the last few years, and garnering more attention every week.

    1. Claire Napier

      November 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Would you argue, or do you? If you do, that’s fine, but I argue back: naw

      1. John H

        November 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

        Well, I’m not really invested enough in the series, it’s lore, the history of it’s creators and their influences, etc to make a distinction between “would” and “do” in terms of that argument. I guess I’m just saying that the argument could be made. Which, fair enough, could just be the social equivalent of legalese. Also like I said, I haven’t played MK in over a decade, so for all I know they went the full Lara Croft route and upped her a cup size every game or so (although from what another person posted, she seems to have a more tactical military look in MK10, so at least very recently they’ve gone a more realistic direction).

  4. Brandon

    November 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    “Why exactly does Quiet’s action figure come with squish-able boobs?” (This is a real thing. Please Google it so we can cry together.) [Editors’ note: We Googled it. We are crying.]

    She doesn’t. The final retail release does not have squishy boobs. She shipped with a very stiff chest that limited shoulder articulation as a result.

    For the record that entire controversy was overblown by people who know nothing about action figure engineering or why soft rubber/plastic is used. Play Arts Kai uses soft parts on both male and female figures in order to increase range of motion with the articulation. This is often used on the upper chest, shoulder pads and hip areas of various figures to allow maximum range of motion.

    I’d appreciate a correction in your article to reflect this, thanks.

    1. Claire Napier

      November 6, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      Tuff tits, Brandon — the action figure was WIDELY advertised & publicised by way of pliable mammaries, so you can sit on your objections.

    2. Wendy Browne

      November 6, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Kojima’s “pushed and lifted” comment really doesn’t translate to “range of motion.”

      1. Brandon

        November 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

        Criticizing Kojima’s commentary on the engineering is perfectly reasonable but it’s important to understand he doesn’t work for Square-Enix who makes Play Arts Kai. He also had no hand in engineering or sculpting the figure.

        My issue with this controversy is it wasn’t focused on Kojima’s commentary but more so on demonizing basic engineering needed to pose figures more naturally. Figures without this kind of functionality can’t reach in front of their chest to grab weapons with both hands, cross their arms or do other poses. Considering figures in this line cost $100+ it’s not unreasonable to want them to be the best they can be.

        As a collector I don’t want to see female figures end up inferior to male figures solely because some people made offensive jokes about engineering advancements that actually make figures easier to pose naturally.

        1. Wendy Browne

          November 7, 2015 at 7:59 am

          And it’s very important to you that your female figures have a squishable chest so that they can cross their arms and reach forward? Is this how your Quiet doll in it’s teeny bikini is regularly posed? Kojima might not be responsible for the design, but his comments epitomize the logic and the ridiculous excuse that continues with the “tactical advantage” zip down suit and that gods awful trailer of her “dancing.” Is that the range of motion that’s actually needed for a Quiet action figure?

          1. Brandon

            November 7, 2015 at 8:27 am

            I don’t own Quiet because I wasn’t interested in her design wise. Please don’t assume that because I am defending good toy engineering I have any interest in her. As for the functionality, yes, it’s important on every figure including males with bulky chest armor or pecs. If I can get someone in bulky armor and pose them like a ninja that makes me happy as a collector. It’s not about what’s “actually needed” for a character, it’s about going beyond that. That’s why people buy highly articulated import figures and pay the premium price.

        2. Claire Napier

          November 8, 2015 at 12:46 pm

          So complain to the people who design the characters to optimise traditional sex appeal, making it impossible for reams of buyers to see the figures in a decontextualised, sex-neutral light. And find a more obviously sympathetic approach to use when discussion of objectification is the order of the day.

  5. Lanoom

    November 6, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I agree with the article’s overall tone and points, but I am a stickler for facts, too. That is not Sonya Blade’s latest appearance; it’s from the re-booted Mortal Kombat (AKA Mortal Kombat 9) in 2011. Not too far off from the present, of course, but not her latest appearance, circa Mortal Kombat X, 2015, which is also where her daughter Cassie first appears.

    This is Sonya in MKX: http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/mkwikia/images/e/ea/Sonya_2RENDER.png/revision/latest?cb=20150410162418

    Not really a walking MILF fetish anymore.

    In addition, Cassie does not end every match with a selfie, it’s one specific Fatality (warning, extreme violence/gore…though this is MK and that should be apparent): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu9xGd8TsXk

    1. Wendy Browne

      November 6, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      A much better look for Sonya and more akin to Jeri Ryan’s portrayal of her in the webseries, which I definitely liked. Thanks for the clarification — pity it’s taken 10 games for her to finally get dressed.

  6. Manami Toyota

    November 8, 2015 at 2:35 am

    As a longtime Joshi fan, the worst thing about Mika’s costume is how ugly it is. No joshi would wear that. All the other outfits posted here, save Sonja Blade, are exactly the sort of thing you can see real wrestlers wearing.

    “Butt based” offense, AKA hip attacks, are pretty common in Japanese wrestling and aren’t considered as sexual as they are in the US. They’re usually done for comedic purposes, but not always. Kana used some pretty vicious hip attacks around before she became more of a kicker.

    As far as the exposed butt goes, that’s a thing too. Hikaru Shida and Asuka Ramey (though she got injured in her first match and didn’t return) are two examples. Again, it’s not seen as being as sexual as it is in the west. Mothers will get their young daughters to do Shida’s “hip pose” with her after matches.

    I may have a chance to get some joshi wrestlers thoughts on R. Mika et. al, I’ll pass you a link if I do.

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