Akira’s story in Street Fighter V is a way too sugar-sweet tale of a bunch of girls who got together to have a tea party. As much as I hated what Capcom did with the story, I struggled to find anything at all that could give it any sort of purpose besides what we had seen. I proposed several different scenarios to what could be happening, and one of my overall conclusions was that this was a final scene of normalcy before Street Fighter heads into darker territory.
This is still very much true. However, as much as I dove into the fluff of Akira’s story, biting hard into the whipped cream topping and receiving nothing but tooth pain from all of the sweetness, it turns out I didn’t sink my teeth deep enough to reach the solid cake of information that resided within Akira’s narrative. As it turns out, I was missing something entirely.
Akira’s arcade ending provides the final piece of the puzzle to understand what is actually going on. While the ending shows several of Akira’s flashbacks, there’s one panel in the ending that is unusual. As we follow the panels, we first see Ryu and Hideo Shimazu from Rival Schools doing a team-up attack. This is a reference to the idea that Ryu and Hideo have very similar fighting styles. As Fandom states, “Hideo’s fighting style, Shimazu Style Karate, is very similar to Ansatsuken, the fictional fighting style used by “Shoto” characters such as Ryu, Ken, Akuma, and Gouken in the Street Fighter series.” This was alluded to by Batsu Ichimonji in Tatsunoko vs Capcom as well as Hideo himself in Project X Zone. https://capcom.fandom.com/wiki/Hideo_Shimazu#Trivia
The next two panels are Ibuki introducing Akira to Don-chan and Dan Hibiki and Blanka offering their Saikyo Boy and Blanka-chan dolls. Nothing unusual here, as Ibuki wants everyone to pet Don-chan and both Dan and Blanka are trying to promote themselves. Also, from the central picture of her arcade ending, where she is talking to Yurika Kirishima and Zaki, we see that Akira has both Dan and Blanka’s dolls. This explains why we saw Dan in Akira’s first gameplay teaser: they did canonically meet off-screen.
This leads us to the final panel of Akira’s ending, the one with Karin and her steward Shibasaki. At first, this doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. She appears to be offering Akira a ride on her private jet. Indeed, this is something she has already done with Sakura in the past, so it’s no surprise she would do the same thing with Akira. However, there is something else very unusual about this panel that puts the tea party and Karin in a whole new light. There’s something very uncharacteristic of Karin, who normally does her best to uphold the image of a conservative, corporate princess.
Why is she not wearing leggings under her dress?
Yes, this is a very subtle and seemingly minor detail. She’s worn shorts before in Street Fighter Alpha 3, so it’s not unusual for her to show off her legs. However, it is unusual for her to show off her legs in this particular dress, as she has worn leggings with it in literally every other instance we see her in it.
“It’s not that deep,” you say. “Maybe she just got tired of wearing them?” That doesn’t seem to be the case here, since she’s upheld her image with everyone else, including Sakura, Ibuki, and her stewards. It would come to reason that if she were to be in a state of undress that it would be with someone she already knew and not someone she’s only met for a few hours. “Well, she was wearing her swimsuit,” you say. Except that doesn’t pan out either, because even if this scene took place after the beach scene, she still brought her leggings with her. It’s also clear she is not wearing the one-piece swimsuit we see her wearing in Akira’s story underneath her uniform because we can see her abs.
In other words, this flashback must have been taken at another time, when it was just Akira and Karin getting on the jet. Now, you’re probably wondering if I’m going to say that maybe Karin is pushing Akira to join the Mile High Club, which is actually possible considering what I’m about to say. However, there’s more to this than just fanservice. Keep in mind that this was an intentional choice by the artist that Capcom gave the green light to.
So, what is the meaning of this very small, easy-to-miss detail that very few people would pick up on? Simple: it’s a shoutout to another character, one who I’ve covered before, and who isn’t even in the Street Fighter universe.
It’s an homage to Lili de Rochefort from Tekken.
When I saw this, the tea party scenario finally made sense. I have discussed the concept of Lili having a predilection for girls, but the difference between her and Karin was that Lili had precedent. While this very minor acknowledgement doesn’t necessarily mean that Karin is looking to knock boots with Akira, it does hint that Capcom is looking at Lili as inspiration for whatever it is they want to do with Karin.
Plus, even if Karin did like girls, she would likely be more open with her dating choices considering she seems to like boys, too. We can see this when she asks about Akira’s brother in her win quote to Akira: “A most entertaining fight indeed. Perhaps next time, your infamous brother and I could spar a little.”
Moreso, even though it was supposed to be a girls’ only party in Akira’s ending, Daigo seems to have gotten invited to the beach. Even though he was buried to his neck in sand for his troubles, it doesn’t look like Karin had the heart to kick him off.
Additionally, in Ibuki’s story, Karin gives Ibuki some extra incentive to stay and work with her as an attendant.
It’s clear that Karin has a keen eye for men, especially considering that one of the trials she had to go through to earn her father’s respect was to charm 10,000 men in a year.
All of this being said, it isn’t Karin’s sexual preferences that make the tea party important, but rather why she holds it in the first place and what she ends up doing during it. Karin has always been a person who likes to do things in a flashy manner, but it wasn’t until I realized her link to Lili that I could say for sure that she does those things for one reason – she wants people to like her.
This was somewhat alluded to in Birdie’s story, when she invites him to stay as a house guest.
Karin’s belief that a person’s betrayal would make her an unfit leader is her driving force to impress Sakura, Ibuki, and Akira, and much like Lili’s obsession with Asuka in the Tekken series, will go to any length to keep the people she wants in her life as close as possible. She usually achieves this with a good sparring match, but she isn’t above using her massive amount of resources to do anything she wants, like the purchase of an entire bakery.
The tea party really all comes down to one concept: Karin wants friends, companions, and possibly lovers, and she needs to find them in a way that will allow her to keep the image she presents. Since she still believes in achieving total victory no matter what the circumstance, it stands to reason she tries to completely win over everyone she comes in contact with.
In other words, Akira’s sugary story wasn’t really Akira’s story. It was Karin’s.