Representation Roll Call, vol. 2: Big in Japan

armor_hisako_ichikiThis, ladies and gentlemen, is my strong suit: pulling comic characters you might not know about from the ether and telling you why they’re awesome. I get to be nerdy and people will read it and even find it interesting. In short, I want to tell you about more of the awesome women of Marvel Comics. We’ve talked about how important it is to pull back the veil on the representation of women in Marvel, and why it’s important to not leave people out of the coolest categories. So, while I’m on the subject on Marvel and the representation of women, I’d like to indulge the basest of my weeaboo instincts. Let’s talk about some Japanese girls.


noriko_nori_ashida_surge_xmenNoriko “Nori” Ashida, known by her x-name “Surge”, is a young Japanese superheroine who has been the reluctant leader of the New X-Men, a heavy burden in stark contrast with her seemingly individualistic and confrontational personality. She’s fought and argued with Hellion, Cyclops, and Dust, among others. It is self-evident that she’s a firestarter who refuses to back down from her opinions, or her values. That being said, she has never shied from her role as leader, and is perhaps particularly suited for it, because, as Chris Yost says, “Surge is the right candidate, because she wants it the least.”

emma_frost_noriko_ashida_leaderIt seems, rather, that of all stakeholders, Noriko has the least faith in her ability to lead while others like Emma Frost (who chose her to lead the team) have full faith in her, saying that she chose Noriko because she “knew you’d protect them, no matter what. Even from me.”

Surge displays not only her ability to lead and manage a team as well as her ability to take the lead when necessary in the fight against the nigh indestructible Sentinel Nimrod. She forces him back in time using the whole of her electrical powers, and later leads her team against Lady Deathstrike and Predator X. Her badassery is not to be denied.

Her powers are well-matched to her dynamic personality. Surge constantly absorbs electricity from her environment and can channel it into lightning bolts and superhuman speed. In fact, the sum total of her power was enough to force Nimrod back in time, in case you had any doubts.

surge_nimrod_lightningNow, when she chose to lead her team against the Purifiers, Surge needed another teammate to back her up. And she chose:


armor_marvel_comicsHisako Ichiki (市来 久子) is a young Japanese mutant whose greatest aspiration since childhood has been membership in the X-Men. Armor can create a powerful psionic exoskeleton, so strong that it can only be pierced with truly extraordinary means, such as the adamantium claws of Wolverine, or the anti-mutant abilities of The Fury. She can also use this armor to deliver devastating physical blows capable of leveling buildings.

What is most compelling about Hisako’s power is that it appears to be thematically related to her Japanese culture and its emphasis on family and heritage. Much is made of the Muramasa Blade’s inability to pierce her armor, despite the fact that it can equal adamantium in hardness and suppress Wolverine and Sabretooth’s mutant healing abilities.

All this owing to the fact that her armor is linked to her lineage, and the memories of her family, traditions, and ancestry. Put another way, the one thing that the darkest of blades in the Marvel Universe cannot destroy is memory. To further the thematic point, in Ultimate Marvel, Hisako’s armor manifests in the form of a dragon, though this might be a tad heavy-handed. Regardless of form, however, she does have fun with Wolverine.

armor_hisako_smash_wolverineAll told, Armor goes toe-to-toe with the Purifiers, Daken (son of Wolverine), the Skrulls and the Dark X-Men, and is as tough as her New X-Men team leader, maybe tougher.

Both Noriko and Hisako are young Japanese women, standout combatants, and don’t represent any Asian sex kitten stereotypes. And while Noriko isn’t the picture of modesty (and who cares?) she does passionately argue for her rights and the rights of a woman to dress as they please, even if her arguments with Dust do fall a little misdirected.

My favorite thing about these two is that their Japanese-ness is not incidental to their characters or backstories, and their Asian-ness doesn’t seem to be a random choice or the mere alternative version to a white character (cough, cough, Psylocke).

Well, this has been your second…representation roll call? Actually, I like the sound of that. If I think of any other badass Marvel characters who’re doing some serious justice to positive representation of their group, this is how I’ll bring them.

Oh, did I mention that Hisako is hilarious?