In Neco Drop 2, the biggest surprises I ran into were the Q Mask blocks, which were added puzzle elements not seen in the first Neco Drop. It became pretty clear to me that, even though Neco Drop 2 was an April Fools Day project like its predecessor, the game was providing a glimpse into the future of Street Fighter.
What I found unusual about the masks, however, is that with the exception of Gill and G himself, the masks did not appear in the puzzles of the cats you would expect them to be in. The cats based on Dan, Rashid, Azam, Menat, Rose, and Ibuki did not have Q Masks in their puzzles, yet every one of these characters have either met or are associated with G in some way.
The first question I had was, “Is this a misdirect?” If it was, it was a pretty decent way to throw lore theorists like me off the scent of what they were trying to do. The only problem? If there were truly trying to do that, they would have randomized everything. Giving the Q masks to a mix of cats, like Lucia’s and Sagat’s, would have been more ideal. Instead, what we have is a pattern – the Q Masks were in puzzles given to very particular cats. The characters represented are Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Akuma, Birdie, Nash, Sakura, Alex, Oro, Gill, Seth, Juri, Laura, G, and Sawada.
The question is, of course, why these cats? Why don’t G-connected characters like Rashid and Menat have Q Masks in their cats’ puzzles? To figure this out, we have to look at the characters the cats represent. What story can the chosen characters tell us?
From what I could detect, it’s a story of groups, and the Q masks represent the groups that G and his organization have their eyes on.
The primary groups involved in the story of Street Fighter V are the U.S. Army, the Kanzuki Zaibatsu, Shadaloo, and the Illuminati. Since Shadaloo is presently disbanded, it makes sense that none of their former members are being kept tabs on. G has no reason to watch former Shadaloo members flail about. Besides, he likely already has an in with Vega anyway to keep him informed on any Shadaloo updates. https://manestreetblog.com/2020/09/11/fallen-claw-the-cosmic-threads-of-vega-q/
S.I.N. is also defunct, but G looks to be keeping his eyes on Seth and Juri. In Seth’s Story Mode, it was revealed that there was at least one more person that Juri had a connection to: someone in a tech support role who hasn’t been revealed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeFiHoV-41s
It’s also possible that the voice on the phone in Seth’s Story Mode is the one who sent Juri on a mission to revive Seth. As Fandom states in Seth’s profile, Juri appears to be “working on the behest of an unidentified party.” If there is another party involved that isn’t S.I.N. or Shadaloo, then it makes Seth’s revival all the more interesting. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Seth#Street_Fighter_V
In any case, it seems that G is monitoring the (former?) S.I.N. agents with a bunch of Qs who stalk the shadows. This seems to be the case for everyone with Q masks as well – Qs appear to be watching everyone who is important to the game’s story.
“Wait,” you say. “He’s watching Laura, Birdie, and Sawada for some reason. They have no importance to the game’s story at all!” Not in the way you’d expect. Laura and Birdie have minor roles in the plot, and Sawada doesn’t appear at all, but there is a reason they’re being followed.
Let’s start with Sawada. He was only recently made canon to the Street Fighter universe, having only appeared briefly in the live-action 1994 Street Fighter movie and the game based on the movie. One of the stories in Neco Drop, “Lost Memories of Live Action” revolves around his feline representation being forgotten by the other cats.
Why is his inclusion important? Because he has a connection to both Guile and Charlie Nash: he’s a member of the United States Air Force. Since he is part of the organization along with Guile, Nash, and Byron Taylor, this is a clue that G has been monitoring everyone in that organization. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Sawada#Street_Fighter_series
This also means that, by her association with the members of the USAF as a member of Interpol, Chun-Li is marked for monitoring as well. In other words, G has Qs watching two of the most powerful groups in the game that are set out to stop people like him, the Illuminati, and Shadaloo.
So why would Alex and Laura be on his watchlist – neither one of them have any plans to stop him? This is likely because of Alex. Since G, having already monitored Gill, would know about Alex’s hidden power, he would keep an eye on Alex as much as Gill did. Gill, being the Illuminati’s leader for a reason, would also be a powerful soldier at G’s command. G would do well to have both fighters on the front lines.
Laura is an interesting case, considering she is not nearly as strong as Alex or Gill, but she marked herself for monitoring with one action: entering the wrestling handicap match as Alex’s partner at the beginning of Street Fighter V’s Cinematic Story Mode.
In other words, G was watching that match, and liked what he saw.
As for the outliers, we have Ryu, Akuma, and Oro, all three being traveling fighters. G would already know of the existence of all three – he has the ability to spy on everyone else. He would also know the power they possess and, again, all three would make for power soldiers under his command. However, Oro serves a double purpose. He is one of three keys to getting someone who could possibly be G’s ultimate prize.
The remaining three characters all have one thing in common – they have connections to arguably the most powerful group in the Street Fighter universe. Oro is being pursued by the group’s leader. Birdie was hired by the group’s leader. Sakura is best friends with the group’s leader.
Of course, it’s Karin.
What would make Karin such a coveted acquisition for G is that if he can control her, he would have access to some of the most powerful military technology in the Street Fighter universe. It was the exact same reason why Shadaloo kept tabs on her through her own satellites in Queen’s Resort, one of the Street Fighter Side Readers on their CFN website. https://game.capcom.com/cfn/sfv/column/130293
More so, Karin has shown that her knowledge of Kanzuki-ryu allows her to do some spectacular things. In her win quote to Dhalsim, she states, “Kanzuki-ryu has its own secret levitation technique, you know.” We can take this at face value, since another of her techniques was actually shown to be just as impressive as her being able to levitate:
Her Ruler’s Staying Hand has the ability to knock people away from her with the rhythmic movement of her muscles. In other words, she can parry people by flexing. This could potentially be described as Q-like. Why? Because Q does the exact same thing.
Both Karin and Q can tank other people’s attacks if they so choose (though in Karin’s case, giving her the ability to absorb attacks would probably ban her from competitive play). This could potentially be a sign that G copied or absorbed Karin’s ability in some way and gave it to one of his Qs. G could have also borrowed the ability from Zangief, who was able to mimic Karin, though it isn’t clear if Zangief’s version of The Ruler’s Staying Hand would be considered an inferior version.
So why doesn’t G just send a bunch of Qs to follow Karin? It’s not that he doesn’t want to. The issue is that he can’t. Unlike Gill, who exposed himself and gave G the chance to monitor him, Karin is very well-guarded and has people around her at all times. The Qs won’t be able to follow her undetected – the slightest warning will send everyone on high alert. Birdie and Sakura, on the other hand, wouldn’t have that same guard to protect them, making them far easier to follow around. In fact, Birdie was left alone at the Kanzuki Estate when März was captured. This shows that his safety is not the highest of priorities for the Kanzuki Zaibatsu.
In any case, we’re left with one nagging question: besides Gill, why didn’t anyone who has actually run into G have Q masks in their puzzles? The answer is pretty simple, actually: G’s already made contact and they’re already vulnerable to his influence. He doesn’t need Qs to monitor them.
“What about Ibuki?” G’s monitoring of Gill also extends to Ibuki. He knows she has the G File. She isn’t a priority. For now, the Glade of Ninjas is on the back burner, but at some point in the future he will turn his attention to them.
He just needs Karin’s zaibatsu to do it.