A brand new character from the newest installment of the highly-popular fighting game series Tekken is making the rounds online, and yes, it has made netizens, fans and even the government up in a frenzy.
Her name? Josie Rizal… and she is described as a Filipina.
The name may sound familiar, as according to lead Tekken Game Designer Katsuhiro Harada, “Josie Rizal” was taken from the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal.
The design of Josie was made by Mari Shimazaki, who also designed the characters from the game Bayonetta. The design incorporated several Philippine elements patterned on the Sun symbol of the Philippine flag. The design also included intricate embroidery which Shimazaki calls it as “Sumpa-kita”
Her attributes include an adeptness in Kickboxing and Eskrima, which are the country’s leading traditional martial arts. She is also a “crybaby” but a strong character, as shown by her emotion when she wins in a fight.
The day “Josie Rizal” was announced by Harada, the initial response were met with different reactions, some agreeing with the character while others raising eyebrows on the character design and the name of the character.
IGN Asia contributor Kenn Leandre asks in his blog “What sort of considerations and Filipino traits were put into the creation of ‘Josie Rizal’? Which part of Josie Rizal’s fighting style spell F I L I P I N O? Was Harada aware of how Filipino girls look like? Why does she look more like Sakura than Kristine Hermosa or Bea Alonzo? She fights Eskrima so where are her arnis sticks?”
He then stresses that if one is going to create a token character from the Philippines, “the least you could do is create someone that looks like he or she came from the streets of Manila or Palawan. Is it too hard to do?”
Adonis Dorado, a known Filipino illustrator and poet based in Oman, in an interview with The Gulf News and quoted by Kotaku, says that Josie “….doesn’t have any trace of Filipino-ness-neither in her physical attributes nor in her outfit.”. He further adds that if her fighting style is Eskrima, why were Arnis sticks were not included in her design.
A historian from the University of the Philippines, Gonzalo Campoamor II, also criticized Bandai Namco, who is the game’s publisher, on the character’s inclusion saying that the company made an “offensive” move.
“All it takes is probably an interview with one historian on Rizal” He said in an interview with The Philippine Star newspaper.
Responding to the numerous criticisms on and offline, Harada said on his twitter account that a “majority” of gamers and fans has approved Josie and those criticism of her was only a minority. He also ignored calls to change Josie Rizal’s name.
Similarly, a controversy erupted when a Cultural educator from Cebu, a certain Dr. Leodenito Canete, who said in an interview with GMA News Online that he is planning to “correct” Bandai Namco, adding that Josie Rizal’s design is not a representative of the legacy of the national hero.
Canete was erroneously described by the same GMA News Online report as a “coordinator” for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, though the agency itself has denied that Canete is a representative of theirs and that his statements would not be construed as an official statement coming from them.
NCCA, though, has stressed that while the questions of historical context should be directed to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), both agencies are looking into the legal ramifications on the use of the name and image by Bandai Namco of the national hero.
This has prompted Harada to threaten the pullout of the character from the game after an “article” wrote that the NCCA will file a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Bandai Namco for using the name of Jose Rizal in the game.
But NCCA Legal Counsel Atty. Trixie Cruz Angeles was quick to dispel rumors of a potential lawsuit, saying that the article in question was in fact a satire article, and asserting that the NHCP is the agency that has the overall jurisdiction over the country’s national heroes, which contradicted their earlier statement.
Harada was later mollified and tweeted to the fans to calm down.
“Josie Rizal” is not the only character that was added in the Tekken 7 roster, which is the first fighting game to use the Unreal Engine 4 game development software. Shaheen, from Saudi Arabia, and Lucky Chloe, a cat-costumed girl who is reported to be an “otaku”, are among the other new characters in the series, alongside the return of the series’ original character Jin Kazama and its Devil Jin counterpart.
“Josie” is also not the first Filipino-blooded character in any videogame. As early as 1999, Filipino characters have been introduced in different games such as Front Mission 3, Def Jam: Fight for NY, and Dead or Alive.
The most noticeable, though, was Talim, who first appeared in Bandai Namco’s SoulCalibur II in 2002, in which, reports note, offer the very same moves as that of Josie’s.