One of the hardest things for a lore theorycrafter to do is make a theory on someone that doesn’t have much of a backstory. Birdie is an interesting case. Even though he’s a recognizable legacy character, there isn’t a whole lot to really theorize on with him. He does, however, have one mystery to him that people have wondered about for years: why did his skin tone change from white in Street Fighter I to black in every single appearance he has held since? This is even canon in the games.
This mystery is surprisingly easy to solve if you know where to look. Birdie himself states in Alpha 3, “I looked pale because I was sick!!” Birdie had some sort of condition that made his skin turn pale, and after looking up the symptoms of several health ailments, from vitiligo to diabetes to cancer, I can conclude that Birdie’s particular condition is a severe version of anemia, specifically iron-deficiency anemia.
As the Mayo Clinic points out, some of the symptoms of iron deficiency include extreme fatigue, pale skin, and unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355034
For that last part, it’s his chain.
We can also tell by Birdie’s diet that even though he isn’t the healthiest of eaters, he at least eats foods that are supposed to help manage anemia. His doughnuts and chili peppers give him temporary fuel to keep him from crashing and his consumption of mass amounts of chicken provide the iron he’s sorely lacking.
As to how he acquired it to begin with, that’s a bit more complicated. Considering it’s one of the most common types of anemia in the world, anything from celiac disease to chronic blood loss could have triggered it. Since Birdie is a fighter by trade, it’s safe to say he’s lost a lot of blood in fights.
This should have concluded my Birdie theory. His skin tone change is one of the things people ask Capcom about constantly, and now that there’s a reasonable answer for Birdie’s condition, perhaps some of those people can be satisfied with the conclusion I’ve come up with. However, even though that mystery is solved for the time being, there is something else bothering me about Birdie.
Well, really, it’s not him that’s bothering me. It’s the people he works with: Karin and Ibuki.
“Oh no! Another Ibuki theory!,” you scream.
Hold on! I’ve already stated how important Karin and Ibuki are to the plot of Street Fighter. The least you can do is see things from Birdie’s perspective, since his story does the exact same thing Akira’s story does: enlightens us on other characters.
In Ibuki’s story, Birdie and Ibuki have the following exchange regarding Ibuki’s invitation to one of Karin’s parties:
Birdie seems to have the idea that Ibuki is an undesirable person at the Kanzuki estate, but it isn’t clear exactly what he means. He could be stating this because she’s suspicious, or because she’s a ninja, or even because she’s technically poor. This would make Birdie an incredible hypocrite, because he’s already worked for Shadaloo and has a suspicious past himself, the Kanzuki zaibatsu privately employs ninjas like Ibuki, and Birdie himself comes from the streets. He has no reason to suspect her for anything, although he does take offense to her running on the roof.
Interestingly, as I’ve been theorizing on Ibuki a lot and showing how she could become a villain, this would make Birdie a surprisingly good judge of character. Birdie knows Ryu, and even shared a meal with him in his SFI ending as seen above. He knew that Ryu was a good-hearted person. However, this doesn’t seem to extend to his employer. He finds Karin to be “eccentric and scary” for her love of fighting. In fact, he’s not wrong, as his first task under Karin was a 100-man kumite, much to Birdie’s chagrin.
You could argue that Birdie is actually a poor judge of character, being someone who willingly joined Shadaloo. However, this really isn’t an argument considering Birdie wanted to be a bad guy to fulfill his own personal goals; he’s still avaricious, but he at least knows how to weasel his way around in life.
When it comes to Karin, he knew she was a fighter when she challenged him after he showed up on her doorstep. He didn’t know she was gonna do the kumite, but something subconsciously led him to her estate. It could be that Birdie has a sixth sense he’s simply unaware of – the ability to be in the right place at the right time. It’s either that, or Birdie’s incredibly lucky (Birdie’s Alpha 3 ending notwithstanding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5QfEOsD-zM).
Let’s say, though, that it’s the first. Let’s say Birdie can sense people’s true intentions, much like Birdie does in his Alpha 2 ending.
This means that, outside of Shadaloo, there’s at least two people he doesn’t fully trust. So this leaves us in an interesting place. If you’ve been reading my past theories on Ibuki, you’ll know she has the capacity to become a terrifying villain. Birdie not trusting her at this point absolutely fits the narrative I’ve been telling for over two years. However, outside of Karin’s intense desire to both fight and watch others fight, Birdie doesn’t really have a reason to fear Karin.
Or does he? It really comes down to one scene from Street Fighter IV.
Who threw the kunai? It has to be Ibuki, right? It’s the only thing that makes sense. Guy had no reason to protect Fei Long, and the kunai is Ibuki’s signature weapon. There are no other possible candidates unless Capcom creates a whole new character!
…Except there is, and it’s someone I didn’t even fathom to think of because of Street Fighter’s need for someone to run the world who isn’t evil.
It’s Karin herself.
Karin’s role in the story is looking to become a lot bigger. She’s grown into her own character, and even though she will always have her rivalry with Sakura, it seems that Capcom wants more out of her, and more Karin is never a bad thing. The only real question is what does Capcom want to do with her?
It seems that there are two possible paths for Karin to go. The first is as a benevolent businesswoman who uses her power and resources for the greater good and makes the world better for having her light in it. It’s clear this is how Karin sees herself, at least, and she certainly knows the dark side of having power. An excerpt from the side reader Queen’s Resort states:
“It is all too natural for leaders to fall prey to their desires. Power begets power, wealth begets wealth. Soon enough, the difference between good and evil becomes a moot point, and leaders become power-craving monsters, just as Shadaloo has become.
“If I lose my way, and power consumes me, the influence the Kanzuki family wields will only ever serve nefarious ends, Karin thought to herself. I cannot allow that to happen.” https://game.capcom.com/cfn/sfv/column/130364.html
This is a noble thought, and is the ultimate test that influential people like Karin must inevitably face. The issue, however, is that those in power sometimes just don’t see themselves being evil even when they commit great atrocities. It is entirely possible that a person’s original goals are completely warped by circumstance to the point they justify commiting said atrocities for the “greater good”.
This leads to the second path that Karin takes: she becomes the monster she has been fighting.
What we need to figure out is what Karin potentially stands to lose if she doesn’t take matters into her own hands and proceed on potentially terrible things. Fei Long’s story is the best way to determine this, and is important not just because of it’s ending, but because of its beginning.
Fei Long’s movie, Street Tournament II, was put on hold because the sponsors had reservations with the script, with the antagonists from the previous film being changed from a Shadaloo-like organization to a big corporation. It’s all but stated that S.I.N. or Shadaloo is behind the attacks on Fei Long’s crew, and Fei Long thinks that Seth was the one who gave the orders. However, if you look carefully at the beginning, it doesn’t make sense that Shadaloo or S.I.N. would attack the crew at this stage of the movie – the script was changed prior to filming specifically to appease them.
The only entity who would want to stop this version of the script from getting made would be someone who represented a global corporation, someone who was very much concerned about image, someone with a large sphere of influence who could inspire fear in anyone who opposed them.
Someone like Karin.
Basically, Fei Long’s movie studio would have to deal with two opposing threats: S.I.N/Shadaloo and the Kanzuki Zaibatsu, and only one could get their way. This brings the kunai attack on Seth into question, as Karin owns a private ninja army as part of her empire, all of whom have mastered Karin’s fighting style. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Kanzuki_Zaibatsu#Ninja_Army
However, while Karin usually lets others do the dirty work for her, she would probably want to take out Seth herself as a way to both strike back at Shadaloo and give Fei Long a warning. While this scenario may be a bit uncharacteristic, the idea that Karin trains an entire ninja army exclusively in Kanzuki-style martial arts indicates that her self-developed fighting style is a form of ninjutsu. In other words, Karin is a ninja.
“But Seth isn’t a part of Shadaloo!,” you insist. “S.I.N. opposes Shadaloo! Plus, doesn’t Karin state that she only wants to punish Bison?”
Yes to both accounts. However, with S.I.N. being an acronym for Shadaloo Infiltration Network, it still has ties to the original organization. As for the part about Karin, her exact win quote to Seth is, “It’s not you I wish to punish; it’s your creator.” This would make it seem that Karin has no interest in Seth’s dealings. However, Seth’s win quote to Karin is, “You and all other fighters will kneel before me!” By now, Karin would have already known that Seth was a threat, and even though she doesn’t want to punish Seth, she knows she has to.
This brings up yet another strange, but curious question: if Karin knew Seth was a threat, why wouldn’t she want to do everything she could to stop them? “Because Seth’s not a threat anymore,” you say. “Seth went crazy after being put into Doll Unit Zero.” Yes, but if Karin was the one who threw the kunai (or gave the order to one of her ninjas), this shouldn’t have mattered since Seth was well on their way to conquering the world; even if Bison went crazy, she wouldn’t have felt pity for him.
What does this tell me? It tells me that they may have partnered up at some point in the past. Karin would have been both an opposer and a funder of S.I.N.’s operations.
Crazy, right? It’s hard to wrap your head around, but keep in mind that this is just one way Karin could be perceived as a villain. In fact, some people already think she’s headed that way. As Gavin Jasper of Den of Geek noted, “Karin should by all means be a villain with the way she holds herself above the common folk.” https://www.denofgeek.com/games/street-fighter-characters-ranked/
While the Karin we see in Street Fighter V is certainly one of the heroes of the story, the thing is Capcom may have planned for Karin to make a heel turn at some point. Along with her massive ego and wealth to boot, Karin already behaves like one in a very important way: she constructed her own CPT stage, the Ring of Pride.
With the exception of Ring of Destiny and the possible exception of Ring of Justice, which represents Metro City and Final Fight as a whole unless it’s operated by a reformed Mad Gear, every other stage is run by a villain or a potential villain. Gill, Bison, and G are all final bosses of their respective games. This means that if we follow the same pattern, Karin would also be an antagonist. In Alpha 3, she was, being a heated rival of Sakura’s who wanted nothing more than to beat Sakura to a pulp until she ran into Bison.
Like every other individual with a CPT stage, Karin’s arrogance and love of flaunting her wealth get the better of her, as the hair ringlets on the statue at the center of the stage signify. This stage isn’t about the fighters competing – it’s about her. Every other CPT stage based around a character is the exact same way. Bison, Gill, and G’s stages all have motifs based around that character, from the Shadaloo symbol and the Four Kings to Gill sitting on a sofa to G having monoliths shaped in his image on his satellite.
Of course, this is expected of Karin, even if she turns out not to be a villain. Just because she’s arrogant, it doesn’t mean she’s evil, but that being said, can a person that arrogant ever truly be good?
Let’s ask Ibuki.
Ibuki was mad that Mika called her arrogant, but the two ended up becoming friends… maybe. If Ibuki is going to become a villain, then Mika would just be an obstacle in her goal of bettering her ninja clan, just like her other friends would be. So, it all comes down to one question: who’s going to make the villain turn – Ibuki or Karin? There is an argument to be made that both could potentially become villains, leaving Sakura, Akira, and Mika to be the heroes of this particular arc. That would be very interesting to see.
However, only one of them could have thrown the kunai.
Who was it? I’m still leaning towards Ibuki, even though Karin has the resources to have made it happen. Ibuki wants to be free, whereas Karin has the freedom to do what she wants, live how she wants, and even eat how she wants. As Birdie states in his win quote to Zeku, “Ibuki showed me some of those ninja meals, but man, it was nasty! Tasted like medicine. No thank you!” Ibuki is stuck with eating meals that even Birdie won’t touch.
Meals that are enough to make a man sick.