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 Tekken—swirled at the centre of controversy, though some don’t (or won’t) see the concern.
People complaining about R. Mika's costume probably haven't watch joshi wrestling.
— SRK Front Page D3v (@D3Vlicious) August 27, 2015
bit diff tbh pic.twitter.com/ZVa7JLmclN
— claire "🤡" napier (@illusClaire) August 27, 2015
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.
“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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
AJ: If your seamstress has enough fabric for chaps, they probably have enough fabric for full coverage shorts. Just saying.
Sonya Blade, Mortal Kombat
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!]The 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.
In Tekken, Jaycee combines pro-wrestling moves with Xin Yi Liu He Quan and Baji Quan based Chinese martial arts.
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.
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.