The Butterfly Effect

Within the realm of chaos theory, the butterfly effect is “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” Basically, it suggests that a small change at one point in the world could create a larger change somewhere else. For example, the flap of a butterfly’s wings can alter atmospheric conditions hundreds of miles away to such an extent that a tornado could be produced. Within the world of Street Fighter V, certain conditions have been reached that appear to have radically altered the story of the Street Fighter series – Ryu has made peace with himself, the Black Moons took out electronics across New York, Necalli has failed to fulfill a prophecy, Li-Fen has been revealed to be a computer expert, and G simply showed up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect

All of these separate events, while at first glance self-contained, mean bigger things in regard to the story, especially when it’s taken within the context of the Street Fighter III series. It becomes clear that Ryu has indeed defeated the darkness inside of him, Li-Fen was kidnapped by the Illuminati for her hacking skills, and G and Q have some sort of connection. Interestingly though, Kolin, who has considerable fighting talent and the power of ice, did not fight in III, choosing to take a more passive role as Gill’s secretary. Yes, this was more of a development issue than anything lore-based; while the events of V take place before the events of III, III was created in the ’90s, with far more limited software and hardware. Still, this means that there has to be something storywise that shows why she chose not to participate in the Third Strike tournament.

Based on what we know now, she didn’t have to. By III, Gill had finally made his presence known, if not to the world then by those he chose to know. Since he was underground at the time, it only made sense that he would send an agent to fulfill his plans, and Kolin was the perfect person to do it. When the events of III happened, he didn’t need to send her on covert missions – he needed her to fulfill duties that were closer to home; she happily obliged.

After getting the spotlight in V, it’s safe to say that Kolin is essentially doomed by canon since, while she will still be a presence in the lore, she likely won’t become anything more than Gill’s loyal secretary from here on out. That being said, Kolin leaves a mystery in her wake, and one that could define Street Fighter for years to come.

It is clear that Kolin has manipulated events for Gill in Street Fighter V – everything from gathering characters to fight Bison to arranging him to meet G to reviving Charlie Nash. It hasn’t been stated, however, just how far her influence can spread nor how far her powers can go. It appears that Kolin’s revival of Nash in particular means she has the power to bring back the dead… except it’s explicitly stated that she used Illuminati science to bring him back to life, utilizing the remnants of the project known as Eleven to serve as the basis for Nash’s new body.

This does not mean that Kolin’s powers are completely scientific, however. There is one particular symbol of Kolin’s that brings both a great air of mystique to her character and lends itself to one of Street Fighter V’s deepest mysteries: her butterflies. There are at least six instances of butterflies appearing in Street Fighter V; four instances appear in Cinematic Story Mode and two instances appear in relation to Kolin.

I stated in Necalli’s True Purpose that I believed these butterflies were envoys of Itzpapalotl as means of communicating with Necalli, guiding him in the path that the goddess wanted. The theory ended up getting several hundred views, and afterwards, I knew I had to continue with my research into the story of Street Fighter, eventually finding things on different characters no one else would have found. Eventually, though, it came time for the Necalli theory to be scrutinized, and one commenter pointed out something I had neglected to research. As user superVeritech pointed out:

“The butterfly that appears throughout the story is connected to a god, but it is in reference to Gill. The same butterfly is seen in Kolin’s character story when she is lost and saved by Gill. It’s appearance represents the over watching eye of Gill and his intention to bring about the rebirth of civilization. It appears to prevent Necalli from devouring Nash, the Illuminati’s ‘mud-doll’ who is a part of their plan to bring about the fall of Shadaloo. It appears under Ryu’s fist when he defeats Necalli to infer that this was also Gill’s will. It appears at the end of the story when Gill is revealed, again linking the key actions in the story back to him.” https://manestreetblog.com/2019/02/20/necallis-true-purpose/

This appears to be a pretty open and shut case then. In Cinematic Story Mode, the butterflies go from Nash to Necalli back to Gill, and seem to show that it was Gill himself making sure everything happened as was prophesized. In fact, Gill’s power is the best answer to how butterflies could have entered purgatory to resurrect Nash in the first place! He has the ability to revive himself if he dies, and it stands to reason that he can revive others as well provided the Illuminati prepares the body in a way to allow him to do so (explaining why Eleven was needed to restore Nash in the first place).
So, that’s it? We can all go back to what we were doing, right?

Nope.

We’re just getting started with this, and the situation with Gill can be explained away with two very particular facts.

1) Gill’s power is surprisingly limited. He may be able to revive people, but he still needs their bodies as a vessel. He may be a powerful being, but he can only use his power to fulfill the Illuminati’s prophecy. He seeks to become the messiah of the world, but his own thought processes forbid him from seeing the bigger picture. Gill has neither accounted for nor planned on anything else to happen except as how it is written in the prophecy, so when something goes awry, like Ryu beating Bison instead of Gill himself, Gill seems to be taken aback.

A very good example of this is his win quote to Necalli, who, in Gill’s own words, shouldn’t exist in the first place: “…A variant. It must be removed for the sake of the time to come.”

When he meets G for the first time in his own story mode, Gill states:

In his win quote to G, Gill says, “An undocumented power… Is this person just a clown, or perhaps…”

Returning to the point, Gill has very little knowledge on what’s going on around him, which I find fascinating because its the job of the rest of the Illuminati to get him the information he requires. In other words, outside of particular sciences, the Illuminati’s kind of stupid. Even Juri was able to get Kolin’s phone number in her story mode, which caught Kolin completely off-guard, and goes to show that the Illuminati can be breached very easily.

“But wait!’, you say. “These are Gill’s butterflies! They were there every time Necalli showed up, so he must have been aware of Necalli’s presence!” Well, this leads me to my second fact.

2) They’re not Gill’s butterflies.

“Impossible!”, you say. “The butterflies led us from Nash to Necalli all the way back to Gill, and one landed on his hand at the end of Cinematic Story Mode! How can they not be Gill’s butterflies?” The butterfly is an effective narrative device, but nowhere in Cinematic Story Mode was ownership ever suggested by either Gill or Kolin. The butterflies were ignored the entire time, only appearing as a metaphor to the audience; in fact, only Nash and Necalli overtly reacted to it, and only because it was out of place and ready to explode in a bright blue light.

The only time we ever see anyone even hinting at ownership of the butterflies is during Juri’s story mode, when she calls Kolin. She is surrounded by butterflies… but there’s something very telling about the butterflies Kolin has: they’re different from the ones that appeared in Cinematic Story Mode. These butterflies have red spots on their wings. The ones throughout the Cinematic Story Mode were a bright blue-green without a hint of red.

“But Gill has magic powers! Maybe the blue would have covered the red spots!” Ok, why didn’t his magic powers cover the black parts? As I’ve stated before, Gill’s powers are limited.

Anyway, we’ve gotten off-track. Now, there is a scientific explanation for the red spots. When butterflies hatch, they produce a red substance called meconium, which is the unused parts of the butterfly that remain after it’s full transformation from a larval stage. It’s very possible that the butterflies are merely blue and black, have freshly hatched from their chrysalises, and the red spots we see are meconium that will simply disappear over time. If this is true, it makes a far stronger case that these are the same butterflies in the Cinematic Story Mode.

There’s just one problem, though: the red spots are in a roughly consistent pattern on each butterfly’s wings, and are identical on each butterfly’s tails, meaning that it’s likely not meconium and is instead the natural color pattern of the butterfly itself.

In other words, it’s likely we have two completely different sets of butterflies, and as I said, neither set belongs to Gill. One set belongs to Kolin, the butterflies with the red spots. Based on everything we know about Kolin’s story mode, we can safely assume that she is the one raising and hatching the butterflies, especially because they play a huge role in her own story. Gill has no hand in raising the butterflies since it would be considered grunt work for a person like him – he has to worry about the world, not take care of one particular species of insect.

“What if the butterflies aren’t real? What if they’re a manifestation of Gill’s own power?” If the butterfly that emerges from its chrysalis in Kolin’s Story Mode is any indication, the butterflies still have to be hatched. If anything, Gill can create larvae… but I really don’t think the developers are going to design Gill being covered in caterpillars. (Feel free to picture this to your heart’s content… or don’t. It’s not a pretty sight.)

This leads to the second set of butterflies: the ones we see in Cinematic Story Mode. Yes, one butterfly touches Gill’s hand, but this doesn’t really mean anything as neither Gill nor Kolin react to it at all. Since neither one were really paying attention to it, and now that we know through Juri that the Illuminati can be easily breached, it could be entirely possible that the butterfly belongs to someone else who is spying on them.

Someone like Itzpapalotl.

“Wouldn’t Gill know that the butterfly didn’t belong to Kolin?” No. He doesn’t know who G is. He doesn’t know who Necalli is. Gill is still human, and he’s not omniscient, so do you think he’s going to notice the subtle differences of a similar-looking blue butterfly to the ones Kolin has? If Kolin doesn’t know, Gill doesn’t know.

Itzpapalotl, the Aztec goddess, is closely associated with the Orizaba silkmoth, which isn’t a butterfly but was considered one by the Aztecs. And yes, the colors of the moth are nowhere near the intense bright blue of the butterflies in Street Fighter, but it doesn’t really matter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothschildia_orizaba

Why not? Because of Necalli. This is his story costume.

Necalli’s original form is the exact shade of blue that the butterflies are. So, this leaves us with a pretty overt connection between Necalli and the butterflies.

At this point, you may be thinking that Gill may have a vested interest in Necalli because of his power and because he is different to what the Illuminati’s prophecy says, but it’s more likely that Gill wouldn’t be interested in Necalli at all BECAUSE he is a variant. He also has no reason to help Ryu both because Gill already has a strong interest in Alex and because Necalli’s presence would awaken the Mu no Ken in Ryu, which risked him showing up to defeat Bison, a man Ryu knew quite well. That’s exactly what happened, which contradicts the prophecy. Gill is supposed to be the one who ends Bison, not Ryu. He should have taken a more direct approach to both Necalli and Ryu. His ultimate reaction, however, says everything:

“The ending is slightly different… from the text written in the ancient prophecy. Could it be an inconsequential error, alone in the endless expanse of time? Perhaps….”

Gill continues, saying that the world is meant to become “ashen and barren” anyway, and suggests that he will be the one who will restore the world. In other words, it didn’t matter what either Necalli or Ryu did – Gill believes he is the messiah and nothing anyone else does matters in the long run. He has no reason to care.

Itzpapalotl does, though, as Necalli is meant to fulfill his own prophecy by devouring Bison’s soul. Therefore, the goddess needs to ensure that Necalli devours the correct person to make her own plans come to fruition.

So, do we have any proof as to if the butterflies in the Cinematic Story Mode belong to Itzpapalotl? Considering she’s not even in the game, not really. We only have the connections of the butterflies to Necalli, so to find out if the butterflies are associated with Itzpapalotl, we need to look at the butterflies themselves.

Based on the brilliant blue colors of the butterflies, I had originally thought them to be a type of blue morpho, of which there are several species. The butterfly that looked most like the ones in the game was the Adonis morpho (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho_adonis) but there were some odd connections that pointed to other morpho butterflies as being the species of butterfly in SFV – particularly their names. The Helenor blue morpho has a connection to Kolin as Kolin went by the pseudonym Helen as she was recruiting people for her cause. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho_helenor

The same could be said about the Helena morpho, which, although there is a visible white streak on the wings, could have also served as a model for the butterflies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho_helena

While these could be chalked up as coincidence, there’s one morpho whose name really stood out to me: the Peleides morpho. While there doesn’t seem to be any information on the name “Peleides” I could easily find, the name stands out as a variant name of a topic that I have already associated with Necalli: Pleiades, the star cluster. If the butterflies were indeed Pleiades morphos, then we have found the link between Necalli and the butterflies, all but proving that the butterflies were associated with Itzpapalotl. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morpho_peleides

I thought I had it. I thought that was going to be the final link. However, as I double-checked my research, to my dismay I realized I had completely missed one particular feature of the Street Fighter V butterflies that proved they were not morphos: their tails. Morphos are a tailless species, meaning they don’t have the extra feature on their wings. This was a crushing blow to my original theory, and meant I had to go back to square one.

However, it didn’t take me too long to find out exactly what type of butterfly the ones in SFV are – they’re swallowtails, and the ones in the game looked to be based on the Ulysses butterfly, otherwise known as the blue emperor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papilio_ulysses

I needed confirmation, though, so I reached out to one of my mutuals to get contact information for the artist of Kolin’s story mode, Bengus, to get his take. As of the writing of this article, he hasn’t responded, which I was expecting, so I had to find someone else. The same mutual suggested reaching out to cosplayer and butterfly hobbyist Kitty Kaboom, and I told her what I was seeing. Based on her analysis, she hypothesized that the butterfly in question was indeed a swallowtail, but believed that it was based on the pipevine swallowtail rather than the blue emperor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battus_philenor

I ended up suggesting the butterflies were hybrids, bred by Kolin for specialized characteristics. The Illuminati deals with genetics, so it’s not out of the ordinary to say Kolin created butterfly amalgams for her own purposes. This still remains a distinct possibility; however, in the absence of even circumstantial evidence within the game, this remains conjecture.

So, what species of butterfly are the ones in SFV? Likely both, especially if there are two entities who control two sets of butterflies. Here’s where things get interesting, though. The blue emperor is endemic to Australia, and while it’s not apparent that the butterfly is native to New Zealand (which serves as a prominent backdrop in SFV and is the location of Charlie Nash’s tomb), Australia is close enough in proximity to New Zealand for Kolin to take a side trip for butterfly collecting. That being said, the butterflies Kolin has in her Story Mode are not blue emperors, and are more likely the pipevine swallowtails, which are native to North and Central America, including Mexico, where the Aztecs and Necalli originally hail from. The blue emperors are instead the ones we see in Cinematic Story Mode, the ones that are controlled by Itzpapalotl.

Basically, if everything I’ve said is true, the butterfly breeds were unintentionally switched by the developers – based on their places of origin, the ones in Kolin’s story should have been in the Cinematic Story Mode and the ones in Cinematic Story Mode should have been in Kolin’s story.

Finally, we get to the last part of this whole theory: the underlying meaning of the butterfly in the first place. It was revealed in Street Fighter III that the Illuminati had a version of the Bible called the Book of Miraha; the prophecy itself is found in verse 3:11 (most likely an allusion to the Bible’s Matthew 3:11), which talks about the Black Moons. I looked for the origin of the name Miraha, finding that two variants were Hebrew – Mariah, meaning “the Lord is my teacher”, or alternatively “drop of the sea, bitter, or beloved”, and Mirha, meaning “Light Of Allah, Nimble, or Agile”. After some more searching, however, I found the exact definition of the name. The word “miraha” is Somali rather than Hebrew, and means “fruit”. Quite literally, “Book of Miraha” means “Book of Fruit”. If the Illuminati sees its members as fruit, with the very shady means of how they do things, the Illuminati could be seen as rotting fruit. Coincidentally or not, rotting fruit is a way to attract butterflies, who end up feeding on it.

Like Necalli, they’re just looking for a meal.

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