I was looking forward to Akira’s story mode, pondering where Capcom could potentially go with it. Akira’s backstory is kind of dark, what with her brother being brainwashed twice and her having to rescue him on both accounts with her friends. I was hoping that Capcom would stretch their writing abilities with her and give her an incredible story like they did with Rose.
They instead went in the complete opposite direction and gave her the most cloying, saccharine story imaginable: a girls-only tea party.
Fitting for a biker girl, right? Oh, it gets better. They threw in a shot of all the girls who attended the tea party on the beach in swimsuits, taking Akira out of her biker garb and putting her in a two-piece, immediately turning her from one of the best written characters in Rival Schools to shallow fanservice. This isn’t to mention that the other important characters in this shot, Karin, Sakura, and Ibuki, had to deal with their own crises at some point in the Street Fighter series.
So, we have a bunch of fighting schoolgirls who have the popularity and character development to carry Street Fighter into the future, and Capcom squandered the opportunity to give them a relevant story. They took nearly every bit of character development from them and turned them into waifus.
The reason? One belief that still prevails in this franchise: that women are not as strong as men. It’s the reason that Chun-Li nearly got a lower health bar before she was even put in the game that made her famous: Street Fighter II. It’s why she wasn’t the one who beat Bison in Street Fighter V’s Cinematic Story Mode. It’s the reason there has never been a female lead character in Street Fighter.
In other words, women are weak and need to sit back and watch as the men save the world. This is likely the reason Luke was created – only men can advance the story.
In the meantime, Sakura, a fan-favorite character with her own manga series and the heir apparent to Ryu’s fighting style, sits on the sidelines waiting for a chance that may never come. To be fair, the writers did boost her profile somewhat in Akira’s story by showing that it was her who brought Akira out of her shell.
Still, Sakura is seen as a helpful side character and nothing more. This is unfortunate, as she would be the perfect character, besides Ryu, who fits Oro’s concept of a person who can fight the impending apocalypse.
However, let’s say I’m being too unforgiving and accusatory here. Maybe Akira’s story is meant to be a “calm before the storm” scenario, where we can see a bunch of Street Fighter characters enjoy themselves before G inevitably destroys everyone and everything they’ve ever loved. This may even be a chance for some of these characters to say goodbye, to both their friends and to the players, meaning that this whole bizarre tea party that played out in Akira’s story is far more ominous than it lets on.
So, do we have any solid hints in Akira’s story that might foreshadow their deaths? Honestly, not really. However, there are a few things we can still look at in the story that may or may not prove to be important in the future.
The first thing we need to get out of the way is the idea that one of my predictions came true, although not quite in the way I had imagined – Akira did end up fighting Ibuki. I had nothing to go on but her gameplay trailer at the time and I was able to correctly guess that Ibuki would be involved in her story at some point. https://manestreetblog.com/2021/05/25/the-purpose-of-akira-kazama/
This wasn’t a hard guess to make, though. Being one of Sakura’s friends almost completely ensured that they would run into each other. What I got wrong were the circumstances behind it. I did say there was a chance her story could be more light-hearted and, unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. I would not have guessed a tea party would have been involved considering no amount of research I did would have been able to predict that, but Capcom made their choice of setting.
This leaves us with a huge question though: why?
Why did Capcom decide that what they needed for the schoolgirls was a fanservice tea party when they could have told a much better story with Akira? This goes back to the idea that they want some normalcy in the franchise before traveling the assuredly dark path that the story is going with G and Q. Despite having enough sweet fluff to give a person cavities, at the very least, the story achieves its goal of establishing canon relationships between Sakura, Karin, Ibuki, and Akira (as well as Tiffany Lords and Hinata Wakaba) and could potentially lead to a far heavier story for the four girls in Street Fighter 6.
In other words, what we might be seeing is Street Fighter’s version of the movie Stand By Me, the spirit of which was emulated to great effect by another video game, Final Fantasy XV (which also happens to have a phenomenal cover of the song the movie was named after by Florence + the Machine, which you can listen to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vv2DSmy3Tro).
What makes this idea a bit more interesting is the fact that the edible sweets involved in the story come from a place that all four girls know about: Delfone Bakery, which apparently held some minor relevance in the Rival Schools franchise since it was the place where Sakura, Hinata, and Natsu Ayuhara liked to hang out, and a place which is now currently owned by Karin. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Hinata_Wakaba#Trivia
As a matter of fact, Akira’s story is something of a love letter to Rival Schools, as even the text boxes are an homage to the series.
These are the same text boxes seen in the Japanese-exclusive Nekketsu Seisyun Nikki 2, an update to the first Rival Schools game. In Japan, both games had a school simulation mode that expanded the story of the game, and what we’re seeing in Street Fighter V appears to be an extension of that.
There was also a character introduced in Nekketsu Seisyun Nikki 2 by the name of Nagare Namikawa, a student and swimming coach who took part in the events of Project Justice and is friends with Shoma Sawamura and Roberto Miura. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Nagare_Namikawa
While he doesn’t seem to have a connection with Akira in the Rival Schools series, there is some dialogue in Akira’s story that may or may not allude to him being involved in Akira’s life at some point. Akira was established as having a fear of water and couldn’t swim, but as Sakura points out, the opposite appears to be true now.
This potentially means that Nagare taught Akira how to swim. If this turns out not to be true, however, this means Akira’s story leaves open a very interesting possibility, which explains the sheer strangeness of the entire thing: that it didn’t actually happen. I’m not saying that it’s non-canon, but that what we’re seeing could actually be a simulation.
One of the more interesting things I discovered was that you apparently must create your own character in the school sim mode for both the original Rival Schools and its update. If we’re following this same formula in Street Fighter V, then what could be happening is that we’re seeing Akira’s story through the eyes or memories of another character as they envision it. https://capcom.fandom.com/wiki/Nekketsu_Seisyun_Nikki_2
So, if this isn’t Akira’s story, whose is it? The truth is… I can’t say for sure. A huge part of me wants to say this is actually Ibuki’s story as she sees it. She is the first person who introduces herself to Akira, is completely unaware of Akira’s gender until her helmet is removed, serves as something of an observer throughout the story mode, and holds a shared love of confectionaries with Akira.
However, it can also be argued that the story is just as much Sakura’s and Karin’s simulation as well, unified by some very strange coincidences that happen to connect them all. So, in the end, what are we seeing? A last glimpse of normalcy in the world of Street Fighter? A final goodbye for some beloved characters before they’re obliterated in the apocalypse? A simulation of a time that never happened? Or should we take it as a sign that the writers don’t care for the girls very much and just kind of gave up on her story to work on Oro’s instead?
Honestly, it’s probably all of the above.