Dead or Alive 4 and the Pattern of Kokoro

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Finally got last month’s Official Xbox Magazine in the mail yesterday – and this month’s issue today, which is really weird, as if somebody was holding back last issue at the local post office. That said, I finally read the cover article on Dead or Alive 4. It looks interesting, but the DOA series is too demanding for me – all the combos, the frenetic pace of gameplay…

Because they’re so beautifully put together and promise hours of fun, I’ve picked up the DOA games as they come out for the Xbox. That doesn’t mean I mastered these games, however. Far from it. DOA 3 was pretty and fun to play in short spurts, but I was lucky to get past a handful of opponents in Survival mode. DOA Ultimate I tried, but couldn’t get into for the same reason. Also, I got my butt kicked repeatedly when I tried to play online.

If I’m going to play any DOA game, it will be Xtreme Beach Volleyball – and I do still play it once in a while, if I need some quick, painless gaming relief. Or want to shop for bikinis. (The volleyball’s fun, but what keeps me playing is the dating sim aspect.) If I need to play a fighting game, I turn to Soul Calibur II, which seems more newbie- and klutz-friendly. (And I prefer Talim for that game, mostly for her grab combos, including the one where she goes all spanky on her opponent.)

Anyway, the new characters being introduced in DOA 4 include the cutie pictured above, whose name is Kokoro. She’s Japanese and confirms a pattern I’ve detected in the DOA series.

Specifically: all the Asian females in the game are in their teens (or at least look that way), while all the non-Asians look older, perhaps in their mid-twenties. At the very least, the non-Asian women are bigger, more statuesque – though admittedly, all the DOA women are infamous in their proportions. On one side, we’ve got Lei Fang (my favorite in DOAXBV), Hitomi, Kasumi, Ayane, and now Kokoro. On the other side, we’ve got Tina, Helena, Christie, and Lisa. And yeah, I know Hitomi’s supposed to be half-German and half-Japanese (like my wife, actually – and, um, Asia Carrera), but it seems that even half-Asian means she falls in the younger, more petite set.

I’m not sure if there’s any significance to this. It could just be based on the assumption that Asian women are generally smaller than Western women. But the academic inside me thinks it may – and I stress “may” here – have to do with the association of a certain docility in Asian women, as opposed to the brasher, more forthright Western women. Such assumptions would lead to making the Asian women less dominating in stature, and younger with its association of immaturity and pliability.

And the fact that DOA is a Japanese series doesn’t mean that such opinions about Asian versus Western women couldn’t possibly be expressed. I’ve heard enough Asians express this notion (both for and against Asian women) to know that it isn’t an exclusively Western bias.

I could be making a big deal out of nothing, but the introduction of Kokoro perpetuates this pattern, whether intended or not. Why can’t there be older Asian women, like Taki in Soul Calibur II (herself a big, bouncy DOA kind of girl)?

And another “new” character in DOA 4 – pictured above, a mystery woman in a bird-like mask and outfit – seems a lot like Lisa, who’s yet to be in a DOA fighting game, though she was a key part of DOAXBV. Whether or not she is (and I hope she is, because I really like Lisa), she does seem to fall in the older category, and it’s pretty likely she’s not Asian…

Whatever the case, I’m still convinced of the mad genius of Team Ninja leader Itagaki Tomonobu. He always brings care and respect to his games and as with previous DOA games, I’m going to pick up DOA 4 when it comes out and at least try it out before realizing I’m not up to snuff to its demands. Then I’ll wait for the promised sequel to Xtreme Beach Volleyball and look for yet another new addition to the DOA femme roster.

And then we’ll see if the pattern I’m seeing still holds…