Bayonetta: a woman made of women

Who I am
Judit Llordés
Author and references

Bayonetta is one of the most charismatic characters in the gaming world, capable of establishing itself in a universe purely oriented towards a male audience both as a sex bomb and as an icon of female empowerment. Her strength and her elegance, her irreverence and her sweetness, her beauty and her brutality: Bayonetta thrives on contrasts and balances, managing to capture the affection of many fans around the world who wanted to go beyond the first, provocative, appearances.

We have now reached the third chapter of the saga (you can read our review here), we wonder if perhaps the success of this character is all in being born almost for fun - the choice of having a female protagonist was almost a coincidence - or even in having entrusted many elements of its genesis to women capable of creating real magic. And jokes about witches have nothing to do with it.

Mari Shimazaki – Character designer

“A female protagonist, a modern witch, and capable of using 4 guns”. That was all that information Hideki Kamiya had passed to the pencil that he should have tried to give shape to the heroine of his new stylish action game. Not much for someone not in the industry, but more than enough to kickstart the creative process that would go into shaping our favorite witch.

Mari Shimazaki, as well as most of the staff PlatinumGames, had in his curriculum experiences lived under the label Capcom, especially the work of character designer for the graceful and dreamlike Okami. After studying some ideas without reaching the desired result, he finally came to the finalization of the first prototype, which centered the point in many elements that remained definitive.

When adorning a witch, the main color could only be black, but to give an extra touch to the characterization, Shimazaki she thought of making the hair an integral part of the outfit, almost as if they were a dress that wrapped around Bayonetta's body and could accentuate her dynamism.

Another central element of the design is found in the slender physique with long and tapered arms and legs, in stark contrast to what was the typical conformation of female characters in video games, often outlined as more slender and contained just to give contrast to the male characters.

The curious hairstyle of Cherry is another precise choice of Shimazaki, proposed insistently throughout the character creation period. Bayonetta being a witch, the intention was to evoke the imagery of the classic pointed hatwithout necessarily using it. The final touch of class is given by the glasses, under the precise indication of Kamiya. Adding a touch of fashion and a clear reference to the aesthetics of characters such as Madama Butterfly, therefore the most characteristic accessory of the whole design took shape and, with this, Bayonetta in its definitive version.

Shimazaki is today among the most popular character designers on the Japanese scene, and has continued to offer his art for both Bayonetta 2 and the third chapter, without missing out on other opportunities to express his creativity, as in the case of collaborations with Bandai Namco for franchises of Tekken o Soul Calibur.

Ikumi Nakamura – Concept designer

Became a true icon of the gaming world with its presentation of Tokyo Ghostwire on stage Bethesda during the'E3 2019 (don't pretend nothing happened, you remember her posing very well while saying "Mitene!"), for many Ikumi Nakamura revealed herself as a new face for gaming, when in reality she already had a lot of experience behind her.

A bit like for Mari Shimazaki, Nakamura also came from a past between Capcom and the birth of Platinum Games, arriving at the development of Bayonetta in the role of Concept Designer – with the task therefore of giving life to the game world in which the events of the first chapter take place, between scenarios and details.

An important, crucial role one might say, however set the tone of the experience. Being a story of mysterious witches, who find themselves reliving the fragments of a lost age, Nakamura has prepared its designs on the idea of ​​the past, starting from the treasure boxes that recall ancient tombs (in which the sages of Lumen have trapped the rebel witches) to move on to the accessories that reveal cultural elements from different sides of the globe.

To emphasize the protagonist, Nakamura chose the contrast between graceful and sensual character with the vast world, with imposing and at times oppressive architecture. Much of her work passed from direct confrontation with Kamiya, with whom she had already had to deal with at the time of Okami, which she describes as a clash of ideas "outrageous".

There are many characteristic elements of the title that have emerged through this continuous "challenge" to the director, who had the strange habit of get excited about the proposals that Nakamura found less convincing. In the end, however, the red and black tints, the moon, the demonic circle and all the other details found in the logo derive from this creative contrast.

Today Ikumi Nakamura is the head of his own studio, Unseen, created as a result of the abandonment of Tango Gameworks following some concerns about his health. After working as director for Tokyo Ghostwire, now his goal is to create projects that are not only related to gaming, working with people and companies from all over the world.

Maiko Uchida – mocap per la danza

After talking about women with some experience in the world of video games behind them, it's time to call into question instead a real successful outsider, or the person who literally gave birth to the sensual and hypnotic movements of the witch of Umbra.

Maiko Uchida, this is his name, enters the Bayonetta project in pure cinematographic style, presenting himself to the auditions with the naive lightness (and a bit of clumsiness) that we find in adolescent films, in which the protagonists hope to change their destiny by aiming to a leading role.

The team's idea was that Bayonetta could combine the expertise of various professionals in the sector in a single character, therefore taking the movements of martial arts experts for combat, of athletes for acrobatic situations and of dancers to recreate the most harmonious dances and movements.

Uchida era among the 8 dancers who had passed the initial selection, who were called to audition in the studio in front of the staff. All were also provided with a music track in advance, to allow them to listen and practice in time.

After the first tryouts, the team had practically already identified a person capable of meeting the required requirements. At least until the last candidate arrived, who even managed to annoy the staff by showing up late and saying she hadn't listened to the piece as requested. It was indeed Uchida.

Trying Kamiya's patience, he asked to hear the piece once, remaining motionless in place under the amazed gaze of those present. Once the listening was over, a performance began which literally left the audience speechless, who forgot the previous candidates in a breath, convinced they had found la vera Bayonetta. We don't know today what turn Maiko Uchida's professional career has taken, but the fact is that she represents the indeterminate and crazy element that made our witch truly special.

Hellena Taylor / Atsuko Tanaka / Jennifer Hale – dubbing

We can't turn a blind eye: the recent controversy surrounding Hellena Taylor's failed reconfirmation as the voice of Bayonetta has created an unpleasant atmosphere around the release of the 3 chapter, on which the exchanges of accusations via social media and the impractical request for a boycott of the game that the actress addressed to her fans weigh.

Regardless of how things turned out, it is undeniable that Taylor played a fundamental role in underpinning the personality of the witch, offering a sensational performance that will remain in the hearts of all lovers of the saga (despite everything). marking a clear gap between the "before" and the "after".

In character creation, it was Kamiya to impose the choice of an English voice, because according to him no Japanese voice actress could have done justice to the vision that was taking shape. Taylor thanks to his theatrical experience gave the right charisma to Bayonetta, putting in his lines irreverence and sensuality in equal measure, seasoned with that posh touch that makes it almost irreplaceable.

Such was the goodness of the results that Taylor was confirmed to take part in all the side projects to the franchise, starting from Anarchy Reigns to get to Super Smah Bros. for Wii U e Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. She was also cast as the western voice of Bayonetta in the animated feature film Bayonetta: Bloody Fate.

And it is thanks to Bloody Fate that comes into play Atsuko Tanaka, to date the Japanese voice of the witch. With the release of Bayonetta 1 and 2 for Wii U, PlatinumGames and Nintendo decided to introduce Japanese dubbing for the first time, and given the success of the animated film among fans, Tanaka was also confirmed as an interpreter in the video game.

With the release of the third chapter and the events that we all know, Taylor is no longer the English voice of Bayonetta, replaced by the much appreciated Jennifer Hale (Commander Shepard in Mass Effect, to name one role). The end result is in line with the quality that Hale has always guaranteed in her long career as a voice actress, e this must be acknowledged, but inevitably remains a step behind Taylor's interpretation, extremely more natural and in character. A pity, but from now on we will have to deal with it.

After this brief journey into Bayonetta's past it is curious to remember how this character was the result of many curious, exaggerated, conflicting and in some cases absolutely unpredictable choices. When we think of the creation of a female figure for commercial purposes, we always have in mind a production dictated by specific needs related to the male audience, but this has perhaps represented the first case in the video game to see an almost spontaneous genesis, the result of contaminations and comparisons.

The witch of Umbra managed to overturn the conventions, literally escaping from the hands of its creators to pursue the ideas and performances that ultimately shaped it. One would have to say that a little bit of magic really was part of the equation in the end, almost as if the protagonist - in her own way - had managed to create herself by pulling the threads of reality. Will she ever do something like this again?

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