Tekken’s Josie Rizal gets flak

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A professor of the University of the Philippines yesterday hit the portrayal of a Filipino character, whose name was based on Jose Rizal, in a Japanese-produced video game.

“(It’s) offensive and unsuited for a big company like Bandai because they have the money to do research,” Gonzalo Campoamor II, professor of Life and Works of Rizal in UP Diliman, told The STAR.

“All it takes is probably an interview with one historian on Rizal,” he added.

Japanese giant Namco Bandai recently introduced Josie Rizal, the first Filipino character in the popular fighting game franchise Tekken.

The colors of Josie’s outfit – with long yellow sleeves and light blue and red short skirt – were based on the Philippine flag. She is also accessorized with sun buckles and wears a sun necklace matched with golden sun earrings.

She specializes in kickboxing and Eskrima, although the demo play video released by Bandai did not show her wielding any weapon.

On Twitter, Tekken creator Katsuhiro Harada confirmed that the name of Josie, who was described in some reports as a “cry baby,” was a based on the Philippine national hero.

But according to Campoamor, he cannot find any connection between the character and Jose Rizal or Filipinos.

“Happy to see a Filipino representative in probably the most famous fighting game in the world. But ‘Josie Rizal’ seems too tokenist,” he said.

“Tokenism is when you represent the minority just for the sake of representation,” he added.

Josie does not even look like a Filipina, even though the colors of her outfit did adhere to the red-blue-white of the Philippine flag, he said.

“The closest (characterization of a Filipina) is when she cried after winning. That’s Maria Clara. It doesn’t matter if she’s happy or sad. She will cry,” he said in Filipino.

He pointed to the problems in portraying Josie as Maria Clara, as the latter existed in an ultra-macho Spanish-era Philippines.

“Filipinas have already changed,” he said.

Why not ‘Rizal’ himself?

Campoamor said he has no problem with the different contemporary portrayals of Rizal as this puts the hero closer to the youth, especially the students.

He suggested using Rizal himself as a character in the game, noting that the hero knows Eskrima and uses a pistol.

“You can even make it funny, say he sits down and starts reading after winning a game.”

He suggested a character based on Elias, a character from Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.

“Elias is the quintessential representative of the Filipino masses,” he said.

For Campoamor, what is important is the inclusion of the necessary elements, considering that the character is a portrayal not just of Rizal, but of the Filipino people.

No effect on national identity

Campoamor does not believe that the portrayal of Rizal as Josie will have an impact on the national identity or influence how the national hero is viewed by the public.

“That’s pop culture. Rizal is an institution. He has survived for 150 years.”

His concern is mostly on the failure of Bandai to conduct enough research before it developed a character that portrays a different culture.

“You have all the money in the world. All it takes is simple research,” the professor said.

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