Since their first appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 3, the Shadaloo Dolls have proven to be a popular addition to the story. Over time, their presence has expanded from being background characters to being one of the most integral parts of Street Fighter’s lore, becoming a driving force in several characters’ storylines. However, very little is known about who the Dolls actually are. Their past lives are mostly shrouded in mystery.
The few things we do know relate to some of the Dolls being connected to other characters: Juli and Noembelu are connected to T. Hawk as Juli is the woman he loves and Noembelu is a fellow member of his tribe; Decapre is Cammy’s disfigured twin, although it hasn’t been revealed as to exactly what their relationship is; and Aprile has a brother, Maggio, who is looking for her and, like Menat, has become an apprentice to Rose. Outside of those four (and Cammy), no other details have been given on who the Dolls were before Bison turned them into assassins.
Since Cammy saved all but one of the Dolls in Cinematic Story Mode, it’s possible that the background of each of the Dolls will be revealed in time. I am also of the firm belief that Marz will play a role in the future as a companion of G, which I’ve suggested in a past theory. https://manestreetblog.com/2019/05/26/g-is-not-the-fool/
So, if we look at the remaining dolls that haven’t had their time in the limelight, we know there’s still a lot more story to be told. Enero, Fevrier, Satsuki, Santamu, Xiayu and Jianyu (also known as Yanyu) haven’t quite gotten a clear character arc. All do play small roles in Street Fighter V, but none really make that much of an impact to really warrant their inclusion outside of giving closure to Cammy’s story.
The good news, however, is that Capcom knows just how important they are not just to the overall canon but to the fans as well. As a group, they’ve become some of the most beloved characters in the lore, so to not include them in V would have been a tragedy. Unfortunately, it was a no-win situation for the developers who had to cram as many characters as they could into Cinematic Story Mode while at the same time making the story coherent. They did their best with the resources they had, and while the end result was clumsy, it wasn’t the total disaster that some people make it out to be.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Cinematic Story Mode, the story of Street Fighter couldn’t advance, and several of the theories I’ve written wouldn’t exist. There would still be the short vignettes that Street Fighter has used since Street Fighter II, but in a time where epic stories are the norm in gaming, Capcom had to take the risk, and their attempt was decent.
The majority of the Dolls not playing a big role in V doesn’t mean they won’t play a role in future iterations, as well they should, but the real story of the Dolls lies in the supplementals, which Udon’s Street Fighter World Warrior Encyclopedia Arcade Edition has condensed for easy reference (which you can buy on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Street-Fighter-World-Warrior-Encyclopedia/dp/1772940704. For the record, Udon is not a sponsor of this blog… but could be!)
As the Encyclopedia Streetanica has pointed out, each of the Dolls have their own unique personalities and quirks. Enero has the ability to mimic voices, Fevrier has a wild streak which Aprile and Juli have to talk to her about, and Santamu tries her best to not seriously injure her opponents. If you’ve been paying attention to the lore of Street Fighter, though, you would know that none of this is actually supposed to happen. In Street Fighter Alpha 3, the game in which the Dolls were introduced, the Dolls had no personalities and talked like robots. You can see this in Cammy, Juli, and Juni’s story modes!
Cammy’s Ending: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roAgPm6eHZA
Juli’s Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJogPsTCZAg
Juni’s Ending: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFahOTMLQQk
In V, the robotic aspect of the Dolls was dropped in favor of giving them individuality. One of the best scenes to highlight this is the segment at the Kanzuki Estate where Birdie is guarding Marz. Marz is shown to be fearful of Birdie. However, Aprile kicks him aside to rescue her fellow Doll, and shows genuine concern for Marz’s welfare. After Birdie beats Aprile in a fight, he gets beaten up from behind by Noembelu, and the following exchange occurs:
In three sentences, a lot is said about who the Dolls are. Aprile believes that Birdie is a genuine threat, Enero is angry at Marz for being caught in the first place, and Marz apologizes to both Aprile and Noembelu for having to come help her out. It’s more than a bit odd considering these are some of Bison’s personal bodyguards, and as evidenced by Cammy’s own past, it’s even stranger that they would retain their uniqueness.
Interestingly enough, the idea of the Dolls having individual personalities appears to be part of the original concept, as evidenced by the distinct features that the Dolls had. In Alpha 3, the Dolls were head swaps of Cammy, and each one had a different head that looked nothing like Cammy’s to tell them apart. Despite Capcom’s desire for Bison to have disparate soldiers, Capcom’s choices here would have a long term effect on the lore, and brings to the forefront a question that few people have really asked: is Bison really as evil as people think he is?
I really do not want to ask nor answer this question, as the whole “Thanos did nothing wrong” meme is overused, and there’s always going to be someone who takes the villain’s side for everything anyway. Plus, the idea that the bad guy is really the good guy is such a ubiquitous notion that I cringe thinking about using it, but here we are. As reluctant as I am to ask the question, for the purposes of this theory, I have no choice but to answer it, and the answer is, yes, Bison is truly evil, but even he allows the capacity of free will.
Here’s what I mean by this: Bison uses mind control to get people to do his bidding; however, he allows higher-ranking soldiers and associates to do pretty much whatever they want. Balrog, Vega, and F.A.N.G are not controlled by Bison whatsoever, and Sagat had the freedom to walk away, although Shadaloo brands him as a traitor. Birdie fled from the group, but even he had the choice to do it; he was not strong-armed into the group, he was not put into any experiments, and he made the choice to leave of his own accord.
One of the main factors that each of those characters share, however, is that they’re all male. It could be that Bison has tighter protocols with female soldiers, but even Juri, who worked for the Shadaloo offshoot S.I.N., had the freedom to do anything she wanted. Plus, Bison kept tight watch over both Ed and Seth (Seth being completely male in their first form), and has been shown to mind control men as well as women, which we will discuss later.
“Well, it’s obvious,” you say. “The people who joined willingly wanted to be there and didn’t have to be controlled.” That’s true to an extent, but it’s not that cut and dry. Besides the different identifiers that the Dolls have, like clothing pieces and hair color, and the idea that Shadaloo allows freedom to certain members for following Bison’s orders, there is one other example that seems to be an outlier, and an example a person who both has freedom and doesn’t.
It’s Cammy. Her first appearance in Street Fighter II: the New Challengers revealed a design that would remain a staple throughout her many appearances in Capcom games: her green unitard, red gauntlet-like gloves, and blonde braids. There was one part of her design that made her stand out among others in the cast of II, though: the green camouflage paint on her legs. In lieu of pants, the developers opted to make her bare-legged, and likely added the paint to make her look more interesting. this became one of Cammy’s most ubiquitous features up until her appearance in V, where she does not wear paint at all in her default costume.
Was this an oversight by Capcom? No. They wanted to change up her look, so they gave her holsters instead. Plus, her design is consistent through out the game except in flashbacks. What Capcom wanted to show was how much she’s changed over the years in terms of character development. To that end, getting rid of the leg paint was one step of many. However, it also leads to one of the biggest questions in Cammy’s story: why would Cammy feel the need to stop painting her legs altogether?
Many answers could be given to this, but one answer stands out most prominently: it reminded her of her time in Shadaloo.
Chronologically, Street Fighter II was not Cammy’s first canon appearance in the series – that would be Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold (while she was first playable only in Versus Mode as a hidden character, a later release made her playable in Arcade Mode, complete with ending). Cammy retains much of her familiar look, including her leg paint.
Before you point it out, yes, the first appearance of this costume was in X-Men VS Street Fighter, but with Cammy’s appearance in Alpha 2 Gold, and subsequently Alpha 3, this costume was made canon and became her famous Shadaloo Doll costume, of which the other Dolls were also similarly dressed, just with the addition of tights.
All that being said, what we have here is Cammy painting her legs at a time she was supposed to be brainwashed, a strange habit that she continued into her time with Delta Red. So… what does this mean?
There are two potential answers here. The first, paint is a basic part of the Shadaloo uniform for women. There are two pictures found on both Fandom and Capcom’s Street Fighter V character guides that show this may be the case. https://game.capcom.com/cfn/sfv/column-130927?lang=en
However, it isn’t made clear just who the Dolls in these pictures are. Since both Dolls really look like Cammy (and by extension, Decapre), there is a possibility that they are clones of Cammy. It could also be that they are kidnapped Dolls who are simply made to look like Cammy. The third option is that the Dolls are actually flashbacks of Cammy herself in various stages of her life in Shadaloo. Whatever the reason, all three involve Cammy in some way, which tells me that the paint they wear also involves Cammy in some way. In other words, Cammy is the prototype, and Cammy likely started the whole paint thing to begin with.
This leads me to my second, and most likely answer, that the leg paint has always been Cammy’s quirk from the very beginning. Yes, Cammy is Bison’s clone… or at least she’s supposed to be. There are some very weird things that are happening in the lore that point to another possibility, which will have to wait for another day.
Let’s assume, though, that Cammy was indeed the first Shadaloo Doll to paint her legs. What this means is that Cammy, as a creation of Bison, was allowed to express creativity, something that shows both mental awareness and intellectual stimulus, which goes completely against what Bison’s mind control is supposed to do. Yet, we see other members of the Dolls with creative sparks and personal attachments. Even Santamu gets to keep her war paint, a necklace, a thighband, and her companion monkey. https://youtu.be/P6KKsSAbbaM?t=3217
It looks like Shadaloo just isn’t very good at brainwashing. Sure, there are Psycho Power-enhanced Shadaloo soldiers who listen to Bison’s (and F.A.N.G’s) commands, but even then, they’re shown to be rather unspectacular.
So, is Shadaloo just plain terrible at all of the experiments they conduct? Perhaps, considering it’s F.A.N.G who is in charge of the whole thing; but with the successes they have had, it’s more likely there’s another reason that their brainwashing isn’t completely thorough: Psycho Power doesn’t control the mind – it controls the soul, or rather the emotions and feelings that a person experiences.
Psycho Power harnesses the negativity of people around the world, as F.A.N.G alludes to in Cinematic Story Mode.
This negativity is used to power Bison and make him stronger. However, Bison is able to fully utilize it since he expelled the good part of his soul (which became Rose). While it “nourishes” Bison, it becomes problematic for anyone else who uses it. Although non-canon, Birdie’s Alpha 3 ending shows exactly what happens to people who try to control Psycho Power. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5QfEOsD-zM
With the exception of Bison (and to an extent Ed and Falke, who are able to utilize it as a force for good), no one can use Psycho Power without heavy consequences. Birdie and the Shadaloo soldiers get severely weakened, and as seen in her ending above, Juli’s life is shortened because of her “enhancements” (and perhaps, the other Dolls as well).
Birdie’s ending shows that what happens is, in essence, burn out – their bodies are overwhelmed by the forces of Psycho Power to the point that it completely exhausts them, much as a regular person who is overcome by anger or sadness gets emotionally fatigued. You can see this in several instances in SFV’s Cinematic Story Mode. One is when Abel attacks Zangief; Zangief even alludes to the idea that Abel is uncontrollably angry.
Decapre also suffers from this in the few times we see her in the story.
It happens again when F.A.N.G increases the intensity of Psycho Power in the Dolls when Karin’s group attacks the Shadaloo base for the last time. https://youtu.be/P6KKsSAbbaM?t=6070
In all of these instances, every person affected by Psycho Power is angry and aggressive to the point of losing control, and it affects their entire personality. It isn’t so much that they’re being told what to do – they’re just hyper-focused on the people in front of them. They know what’s going on, but they’re so angry that they just don’t care and attack whoever they see. Basically, Psycho Power is Street Fighter’s version of Hulking out.
So why are the soldiers so calm, and why did the Dolls act robotic in the first place? They were all checked out, overwhelmed by their emotions to the point that they just didn’t care anymore. As the adage goes, the lights were on, but no one was home.
What does all of this say about Bison then? Well, it can be summed up in F.A.N.G’s story mode.
Bison doesn’t need loyalty – he needs strength from his subordinates. All he desires is power. Everything else is of no concern, including personal habits, affects, and quirks.
Bison just doesn’t care.