May 13th, 2009

I’ll admit right off the bat to never having played a Onechanbara game, most of which have only been released in Japan. I’ll also admit to not seeing the movie, which showed at the New York Asian Film Festival last year. However I have, admittedly, been doing some reading on the Japanese, zombie hack-and-slash series. The ever-eloquent IGN, on 2006’s Onechanbara Vortex:

Onechanbara Vortex opens with a cutscene showing a schoolgirl watching the news while her sister is lathering up in the shower. That’s when the zombie outbreak occurs. If there is anything else you need to know about the game, it is that the girl in the shower puts on a bikini and a cowboy hat so that the two sisters can begin slicing the zombies to hell and back again with samurai swords.

Onechanbara first registered on my radar when a friend sent me an email with the title “This game actually exists!?!” To be sure, it’s an absurd concept. Hot girls + bikinis + cowboy hats + swords = killing zombies. But I can’t, for once, be peeved — not at the shallowness of the concept or the exploitation of sexy (and apparently dripping wet) women. I’m intrigued by how the series pits strong, ballsy, albeit goofy ladies against the undead.

I wrote “Women Monsters and Monstrous Women,” which looks at the relationship between gender and zombies in survival horror games, years ago now — but the topic is still one of my favorite. I can’t help but compare these katana-wielding cowgirls to other female protagonists pitted against brain eaters, like Resident Evil‘s quietly powerful Jill Valentine, or the sisters from Fatal Frame. In those cases, putting players in the bodies of women made gameplay scarier by giving a sense of increased vulnerability. The female avatars of Onechanbara, on the other hand, cut through the frightening tension like a blade through rotting flesh. They’re badass, even with bikinis on. How could you be scared?

I suppose what I’m saying is: half-naked, zombie-fighting hotties, I salute you. Or what you do for the progression of women in the survival horror genre. Or your rock hard abs. Or something. Now go forth and slay the undead with your outlandish fashion choices!

Tags: gender, survival horror games, Women rock!

4 Responses to “Women in bikinis take on zombie-fighting gender roles”

  1. soulofaqua Says:

    With such games it doesn’t even matter anymore whether the gameplay values are poor! (which they are)

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Oh, I don’t doubt that. But the content, at the least, makes a statement. Bad art is still analyzable :).

  3. Tony Says:

    Nicely put, I like the half naked look in my video game characters. Especially if the game play is horrible!

  4. Swords Says:

    It’s the old pig with lipstick. Still a pig

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