Tag Archives: kenshi

MKK: Jacqui & Takeda & Kung Jin

These dorks

Mortal Kombat X was the first Mortal Kombat title to feature a woman in the leading role. MKX is Cassie Cage’s story, and that’s the first (and so far, only) time in the franchise when a woman was the one saving the world(s). It was long overdue for the franchise (particularly one that had ditched Sonya entirely for a game that should have been her featured title), and seems like the exact kind of thing that I, Super Woke Goggle Bob (universal arbiter of all that is good and pure), should be excited about. Unfortunately, Mortal Kombat X didn’t exactly sate my social justice wendigo cravings, as, well, let’s look at the races of the last few MK protagonists:

  • MK1: Asian Dude
  • MK2: Asian Dude
  • MK3: Asian Dude
  • MK Mythologies: Asian Dude
  • MK4: Asian Dude
  • MK Special Forces: Black Dude
  • MK5: (New) Asian Dude and Asian (kinda) Lady
  • MK6: (Newer) Asian Dude
  • MK7: Unknown Race Dude (another dimension dude/godling)
  • MK8: Asian God / Kryptonian
  • MK9: Asian God
  • MK10: Pretty Blonde Lady

So we got a woman in the lead after ten (or so) games, but she’s also the official first lily white protagonist in 20 years of Mortal Kombat. And, while it’s been noted that the MK franchise leans heavily into the “non-white cultures = mystic” side of stereotypes, at least the storytellers of Mortal Kombat avoided the old trope of having the white savior step into the leading role the minute mystical kung fu dudes fail. Well… until Mortal Kombat X. In fact, give or take an already immortal god, the only survivors of Mortal Kombat 9 were a pair of white people. The copious Asian population of MK all died, the sole Native American leader was vaporized, and the pair of African American (well, at least one was African-Edenian) fighters all bit the big one. But I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that pretty white lady and muscular white man survived to sire another pretty white lady. Happens all the time.

And, honestly, it wouldn’t be as noticeable if Mortal Kombat X wasn’t so much a “team” story. After MK vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat (9), and Injustice, Netherrealm Studios seemed pretty confident in their “story mode” style storytelling. So, since they could now eschew the common fighting game trope of “every fighter for themselves”, the new roster of MKX pretty quickly coalesced into a trio of teams. On one side, you have Team Shinnok, consisting of all the bad guys trying to revive/serve Shinnok and destroy the world. Then you’ve got team Kotal Kahn, featuring the new emperor of Outworld and his entourage. And, finally, you have the Special Forces, the good guys, which put the parents in management roles, and the new generation with boots on the ground. And, to review the MK Kids Club’s roster…

  • Pretty White Lady is the leader
  • Black Lady is second in command
  • Asian dude is on support
  • Other Asian dude is also on support

Damn dirty alien

And they’ve all got their roles and skills, but it’s pretty clear that white is right, and everybody else better get in line behind her.

It’s… a little disturbing once you notice that trend.

And a big reason this trend is so noticeable is Jacqueline Sonya "Jacqui" Briggs.

Jacqui Briggs kicks ass. She was a junior Olympian, a professional kickboxer, and, against her father’s wishes, she ran away to join the Special Forces. She has technical skills beyond the rest of the gang, she can pilot aircraft without issue, and she even has rad, mechanical gauntlets that augment her strength beyond normal capabilities. She’s also the only member of the “new” Special Forces to join up without any kind of supernatural abilities, which officially marks her as more heroic than Cassie and her ill-defined green powers. Jacqui is the exact kind of woman you want on your team when the going gets rough.

… And that’s about it. What does she actually do during Mortal Kombat X? Nothing much, unfortunately. She’s there to be a sounding board for the pretty white lady that is leading the story, and, aside from a few situations where she actively punched her way out of problems, she doesn’t really do anything. Does she grow and learn over the course of the story? I guess. Like… I guess she meets a cute boy, and maybe that’s a part of advancing as a human? Oh, and she avenges her father’s exploded arms by beating on Ermac. But is that dealing with her own stuff, or just her father’s baggage? Beyond that, she really doesn’t do anything for herself, and her complicated relationship with her father is barely even mentioned beyond, “Cassie, I know how it is.”

Jacqui is there to support Cassie. And, incidentally, the race dynamics of that situation are pretty odious.

She's good with computers

But Netherrealm did show improvement in Mortal Kombat 11! While the status quo seems to be maintained at the start of MK11, Jacqui eventually peels off from Cassie to grab a macguffin with her time displaced daddy. Jax died during MK9, became a vengeful zombie, and was then revived in MKX as a man that wanted to retire from a life of skeleton-smacking. He wanted the same for his daughter, but Jacqui followed in his potentially disastrous footsteps regardless. So, apparently by the time of MK11, Old Man Jax has so totally lost this argument with Jacqui that he decides to team up with an evil time goddess so he can rewrite all of history so Jacqui majors in ballet or something. And this leads to a disagreement that includes far more metal hands launching missiles than you might expect when Old Man Jax tries to hamper the actions of Jacqui and Much Younger Jax. And, while this is primarily a battle between Jaxs young and old, it is at least all about Jacqui and her own choices, so we finally have some kind of specific payoff for a woman that was previously simply Cassie’s black best friend. It’s still all about one of the new kids and her relationship with her parents (well, at least her dad), but it’s about Jacqui, not Cassie, for a change. Yay!

My rope!

Unfortunately, the rest of the new class doesn’t fair as well. Takeda Takahashi is Kenshi’s son, but he was raised by noted murder ghost Scorpion, who was revived at the same time as Jacqui’s fullmetal dad. And, considering Takeda was initially named “Spider”, attacks predominantly with rope-y bladed whips, and evokes the general style of Scorpion much more than Kenshi, you can’t tell me Takeda wasn’t originally conceived as Scorpion’s revived son. Luckily, someone realized giving Scorpion back his (real, original) family would be one of those dumbass retcon moves akin to reviving Gwen Stacy or Bucky Barnes, so Takeda was designated as Kenshi’s son… even if it is kanon that Kenshi had next to nothing to do with raising the poor boy. Takeda’s mother hid the boy’s existence until he was eight, when Kenshi discovered the kid shortly after her murder. Then Kenshi decided vengeance was more important than child-rearing, so he dropped Takeda off with Scorpion. Scorps already got one child killed on his watch a solid decade earlier, so what were the odds that would happen again? In Kenshi’s absence, Takeda initially had a very rocky relationship with his “new dad” (“But I don’t wanna teleport to school! I want to ride the bus like everybody else! And stop saying ‘toasty’! That’s so old!”), but they eventually came to an understanding, and Takeda is now an official and dedicated member of Scorpion’s Shirai Ryu ninja clan (other notable members include absolutely no one). Takeda joins Cassie’s Special Forces squad because all the cool kids were doing it.

Takeda, like the rest of the squad, is basically there just to support Cassie, but he does get a smidgen of a story in the form of slightly different daddy issues. As one might expect, he has a bit of resentment reserved for the father that left him with a reformed skeleton, so their relationship is strained. This is further exasperated by father and son possessing a telepathic link, and Kenshi having a blind spot for boundaries or tact. Do you know how many times Kenshi has barged into Takeda’s mind at inopportune moments? Kenshi now has more knowledge of Kingdom Hearts fanfic than he ever expected. Other than that, Takeda seems to simply be “the funny one” in the gang, and caps off the story by earning an uneasy sort of truce with his dad via combating revenant hordes. And then neither of ‘em appear in MK11, so who cares?

This couple

Oh, and Jacqui and Takeda apparently fall in love over the course of MKX, and are engaged by the time of MK11. There is not a trace of an excuse across the plot for why the hell this happens, but it’s not like this franchise is called Mortal Kissing. Fill in your own romantic blanks!

No hat...

And speaking of romantic blanks, the last of the new kids is Kung Jin. Kung Jin is notable for being the first (and, apparently, only) homosexual in the whole of Mortal Kombat. Of course, while this has been stated to be kanon by his creators, it is only obliquely referenced in Mortal Kombat X by a brief conversation with Raiden regarding how the White Lotus society “won’t accept him” (which, incidentally, they do), and Kung Jin rebuffing Tanya’s sexual advances (him literally stating, “barking up the wrong tree, sister”). Again, Kung Jin preferring Kangs over Kitanas is stated externally to be kanon, but we’re definitely dealing with some Marvel-esque plausible deniability here, and I’m sure that has nothing to do with a history of people yelling particular slurs at each other over Mortal Kombat arcade cabinets…

But Mortal Kombat X doesn’t care about Kung Jin’s sexuality, and neither should you (there is no part of me that believes this sentence)! Like the rest of his buddies, Kung Jin has a more interesting backstory than his present: Kung Jin is Kung Lao’s cousin, and, when Kung Lao was murdered by Shao Kahn, his family lost its fortune and standing. Now, this raises all sorts of questions, as it seems to imply that Shaolin Monks operate like… what? Victorian Royalty? And, on top of that, somehow Kung Lao losing to an interdimensional despot that led an invasion of the entire planet and was eventually only stopped by the actions of a literal god is considered some black mark against the family, when the Kung Lao family would only have standing in the first place because their exalted ancestor won Mortal Kombat once before being murdered by the flunky of that same interdimensional warlord. But whatever, just roll with it, Kung Jin had to grow up on the mean streets because Kung Lao whiffed it in one fighting tournament. Kung Jin eventually grew to be a (vaguely magical) thief, and, five years before Mortal Kombat X, he attempted to steal a mystical stick from Raiden. Raiden caught the kid, and, after Raiden sat down and talked some “fresh truths” with his “homey”, Kung Jin went on the straight and narrow with the White Lotus Society (which had previously featured Liu Kang and Kung Lao). And, by MKX, he officially qualifies to join Cassie’s team of MK descendants, even if he only snuck in on a technicality.

This other couple

Kung Jin seems to make the biggest impact in Cassie’s crew. Not because he actually does anything, mind you, but simply because his “street smart” background means he’s the only squirt that isn’t a total babe in the woods. You can count on Kung Jin to be… well, he by no means knows what he’s doing, but he is the guy that at least acknowledges that sneaking around another dimension with lizard people and literal ogres walking around could maybe go very south very quickly. And he starts fights for naively optimistic reasons, but at least he isn’t doing it for some nebulous “for the good of the universe!” reason like the rest of the crew. And he’s carrying around a bow and arrow in a franchise that is obviously based on close-range combat, so that gets some bonus points, too. Whether or not he ever works out with a salmon ladder is unfortunately never revealed.

Kung Jin is missing and presumed irrelevant during Mortal Kombat 11.

And that’s the Cassie Cage Crew. Only Jacqui ever gets an encore, and the rest just have to hope they’ll return in MK12 with Wheels, I./Q., and Kid Vid.

Next time: There are no other kharacters, there is only Kahn.

MKK: Kenshi Takahashi

So Mortal Kombat 4, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Mortal Kombat Advance (don’t ask), and most of all Mortal Kombat: Special Forces combined to form an evil Voltron (Sincline) that ultimately killed the Mortal Kombat franchise for a good number of years. There was a two year gap between Special Forces and any sort of MK game, and a four year gap between fighting game installments. Four years might not seem like a long time to old and wizened gamers such as ourselves, but, to put that timespan in perspective, it only took a little over four years for Mario to de-age from a perfectly competent plumber to a useless, football-esque infant. Can you imagine what could happen to the Mortal Kombat franchise in that same span of time? Johnny Cage might become some manner of fighting fetus!

He can't see much

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was the first fighting game to see the return of the franchise. It was the official fifth game in the franchise (the logo looked like a deadly roman numeral), and it sought to right what once went wrong with Mortal Kombat 4. First of all, MK: DA ported the familiar fighters of Mortal Kombat into the third dimension in a way that didn’t completely suck. Finally, MK had graduated to graphical fidelity that would put War Gods to shame. And the gameplay had improved in this strange new dimension, too. Moving in 3-D space was bizarre and clunky (klunky?) in MK4, but MK: DA included side-stepping that actually felt smooth and remotely natural. MK was (and, seemingly, always would be) a 2-D affair (there are too many flying spears that would have to be adjusted to be infinitely wide to truly be 3-D), but MK: DA faked it well enough to make us all believe Mortal Kombat had entered the 21st century with uppercuts a-blazin’.

But the other gigantic change to the Mortal Kombat formula was that MK: Deadly Alliance was the first MK title to introduce a little bit of variety to the fighters. Previously, every kharacter had unique special moves, combos, and fatalities, but possessed “basic” movesets that were exactly the same. Sonya Blade’s roundhouse was exactly the same as Kano’s. Give or take a few pixels, every combatant was virtually identical when using anything but their generally unique fireballs and alike. MK4 made the babiest of baby steps toward some differentiation by granting each fighter a unique weapon… but this was unbalanced to the point that Fujin could snipe his opponents with a crossbow while Kai stumbled around with a staff. MK: DA, meanwhile, granted everyone an exclusive weapon and two distinctive fighting styles. Everyone was now completely dissimilar, random select felt more diverse than ever, and style switching was optimized for home console controllers, so going from roundhouses to sword slices was just a shoulder button away. This was a whole new era for Mortal Kombat!

He can't see much

Of course, not everyone liked it. One could easily argue that the appeal of the old MK system was that the fighters weren’t distinct, and claiming Scorpion or Kitana as your favorite didn’t mean you had to relearn how to play the game. Now, if you chose Reptile for his sweet acid spits, you had to also learn how to effectively use his crab fighting style, and restrain your laughter as this Yoshi-looking mofo scuttled across the battlefield. Fighters now had an “ease of use” rating, and, let me tell you, you didn’t used to have to figure out whether or not “ice throwing guy” was going to properly conform to your “playstyle”. In short, taking every kharacter from “0 variety” to “3 fighting styles each” very possibly overcomplicated the previously straightforward gameplay of the franchise.

And, heralding this brave new day of density is Kenshi Takahashi, the most complicated new fighter from the era.

Kenshi must possess the most archetypes crammed into any one fighter’s backstory. Kenshi was originally a Ryu-esque world warrior looking to be the best fighter. He eventually stumbled upon a helpful old man that claimed he could help Kenshi find a magical sword worthy of his fighting prowess. Unfortunately, that old man proved to be Shang Tsung, who was using Kenshi to uncover some magical crypt of fighting ancestors. Kenshi gained his own private Excalibur, but a curse upon the sword blinded the fighter, so now he was stuck with being a sightless master for the rest of his days. Shang Tsung ate some souls, but whatever leftovers were around possessed the sword and guided Kenshi, so he’s also got some soulcalibur wiz biz going on. And, as any Neurospear will tell you (I have decided to go all in on esoteric references now), losing your sight will increase your telepathic abilities, so Kenshi possesses both telekinesis and general mind control powers. And he’s probably really good at making sushi. And if he was on the Star Trek Enterprise, everyone would be his friend, and he’d totally be running the place by the end of the week. Captain Picard would cry happy tears.

Blindy

As you might expect from that origin story, Kenshi really wants to stab Shang Tsung but good, and he’s willing to use his two separate fighting styles and one magic sword-based weapon style to do it. He joined up with Sonya and the Special Forces sometime around Deadly Alliance in order to gain access to Outworld (apparently generating portals is one of the few powers he does not possess), and volunteered to help out Cyrax in exchange for access to sweet, sweet Shang Tsung murder. Better men than you have tried, Kenshi! Unfortunately, Kenshi never gets his chance, as Mavado (look forward to that bio!) was tasked with killing the swordsman, and world class fighter Kenshi here got his ass kicked. Kenshi spent the finale of Deadly Alliance lying dead in a ditch, but was rescued by Sub-Zero, who was similarly waylaid on his way to the final battle. They instantly became sword buddies, and ventured around having whacky adventures and distributing snow cones to Outworld children. So all Kenshi did during Mortal Kombat: Deception was bump around in the dark like some kind of dude with severe vision impairment.

But things were really looking up in Mortal Kombat Armageddon! Kenshi found his way back home, and decided to drop the pretense and just straight up become Daredevil. He dismantled criminal empires “from the shadows”, and probably would have had time to complete his law degree if another stupid Mortal Kombat tournament didn’t pop up. Kenshi actively decided to refuse the call when he not only heard murmurings of the Armageddon plot amongst the criminal elements, but also when Johnny Cage straight up invited the dude to come along and fight for the forces of good. But Kenshi’s ol’ reliable psychic powers kicked in when the battle began in earnest, so he turned his car around and lead the forces of good at Armageddon (which is apparently in Edenia). Kenshi probably did lead the armies of general friendliness well, but he definitely died, too, so he couldn’t have been that great of a general.

Blindy

Not like it mattered, though, as Kenshi got a second shot as one of the few “later” MK kharacters to appear in the rebooted universe. That’s right, boys and girls, we’re almost out of fighters that bother to show up for MK9 and later! Kenshi was DLC for MK9, and only appeared in the storymode as a name check during nuMK2. But his DLC appearance confirms that he has the same backstory, and he’s out to get all blind justice on Shang Tsung. Unfortunately, he whiffs that blow again, and is now 0 for 2 in two different universes on actually exacting vengeance. That’s a fairly impressive loss record when you consider how many times Shang Tsung has been killed by other people.

Smarting from that loss, Kenshi decided to find comfort in the arms of a woman. Or maybe he did earlier? Look, what’s important is that Kenshi met a woman by the name of Suchin, had wild, probably telekinetic sex, and then didn’t think to use any of his powers for birth control. Suchin had a kid a few (probably, like, nine) months later, but, by that time, Kenshi had already knocked off to the pub for a cig. Kenshi did not learn of his son, Takeda, until years later when Suchin was murdered for the crime of being a woman in a man’s story. Kenshi was then granted custody of his only son… and immediately dropped the kid off with Scorpion. Scorpion. You know, the one guy in Mortal Kombat who kanonically got his son killed as a result of being an assassin for hire (or whatever the hell he was doing in MK Mythologies). Father of the freaking year. No, I don’t care if he’s a recovering fire skeleton that needs something new to focus on. That is a poor choice, Kenshi. Regardless, Takeda winds up in the care of Scorpion so he can become the next generation of Shirai Ryu ninja, and Kenshi ventures forth to knock off to the pub for a cig avenge his baby mama’s death. Unfortunately, the outcome of that quest was lost with the cancelation of the Mortal Kombat X comic book, but let’s just go ahead and assume Kenshi failed yet again.

That's going to smart

Kenshi was moonlighting with the Special Forces again all this time, though, so he had an excuse to participate in the prologue and main bits of Mortal Kombat X’s story. He’s instrumental in stopping Shinnok’s initial invasion, as his magical sword directs the party to a magical elevator. Seriously. That’s a thing that happens. It’s supposed to be triumphant or something. Then he spends most of the “present” of MKX telepathically informing his son that he’d love to swing by and help, but the pub has got so many cigs, and he’s gotta go get them, and he’ll be back to help just as soon as he’s done. Kenshi is last seen being knocked out by a revived Shinnok, and does not appear again even after his son leaves with the other newbies to save the world. Kenshi and his son don’t appear in Mortal Kombat 11, leaving Frost as the only MK: Deadly Alliance protagonist to carry the torch into the final reboot.

In the end, that’s a pretty complicated life for a guy whose name just means “dude with sword”.

Next time: Ice to meet a chill fighter.