Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

Presentation // The “Nakoruru Problem”: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019 (Mechademia)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “The ‘Nakoruru Problem’: The Malleable Ainu Image in Samurai Shodown, 1993-2019,” paper delivered on the “Queered Through the Foreign, Fictional, and Fetishized Body” panel at the Mechademia Conference for Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 27-29, 2019)

ABSTRACT

Very little scholarly attention has been given to the visual representations of Native peoples in popular culture, even though media circulation has a role in forging most stereotypes of indigeneity. This void of scholarship is exacerbated in Japan, where the indigenous Ainu were only recognized as an indigenous group in 2008 and legally recognized in 2019. Even before their recent acknowledgment by the Japanese government, images of the Ainu steadily trickled into Japanese popular culture. Before the recent success of manga/anime Golden Kamuy (2014–present), two female heroines from the arcade fighting game Samurai Shodown—Nakoruru and her sister Rimururu—formed a dominant expression of Ainu identity in visual culture beginning in the mid-1990s. This paper examines their complex representation from three distinct angles: (1) the “official” image of these sisters as found in the game franchise, (2) the fetishized image of the women as coopted in fan-produced dōjinshi comics, which plays upon indigenous stereotypes of closeness to nature to further zoophilic rape fantasies, and (3) the adoption of the Ainu women as a local mascot to support Japanese environmental policies related to deforestation and clean water. In exploring the flexibility of the Ainu image as embodied in these two characters, this paper examines the ambivalence of desire and derision that exists between fan and official cultural productions, and the Ainu community response to what Ainu researcher Chupuchitsekor calls the “Nakoruru Problem” (Nakoruru mondai).

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Presentation // Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993)

CITATION

Spiker, Christina M. “Fighting Stereotypes: Reimagining Gender and Race in Street Fighter II (1991) and Samurai Shodown (1993),” paper delivered at the SGMS/Mechademia Conference on Asian Popular Culture, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (September 23-25, 2016).

ABSTRACT

Street Fighter. Mortal Kombat. Tekken. Dead or Alive. These game titles conjure iconic images of international fighting tourneys where characters test their strength in hand- to-hand combat; an alternate world history where button combinations and joystick movements solve global crises between heroes and villains. This paper examines two 1990s examples of the fighting game genre–Street Fighter II and Samurai Shodown–in an exploration of the multiple ways that the visual storytelling of fighting games challenges, complicates and constructs a parallel understanding of domestic and international relations. In my unique focus on popular female characters such as Street Fighter‘s Chun-Li, an expert martial artist and Chinese Interpol officer, and Samurai Shodown’s Nakoruru, an indigenous Ainu priestess of Nature from the Japanese island of Hokkaido, I demonstrate how these games reimagine issues of ethnic diversity, gender equality, and Cold War politics in 1990s visual culture against the background of Japanese racism and indigenous activism.

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