The MoeGamer Awards are a series of “alternative” awards that I’ve devised in collaboration with the community as an excuse to celebrate the games, experiences and fanbases that have left a particular impression on me in 2018. Find out more and leave a suggestion here!
This award was suggested by Krystallina.
It’s a disappointingly frequent stereotype to brand Japan as “weird” simply because many of the things in its society and media don’t conform to what we’ve come to think of as Western norms.
That said, sometimes our friends in the East do come up with characters that are clearly designed to be outlandishly strange, surreal and weird — and when they accomplish that successfully (preferably without crossing that fine line into Sharon from Accounts-style “Woo! Look, I’ve put cheese up my nose and a turkey leg down my pants, I’m so random! Teeheehee!”) it’s worth celebrating. Because those characters can end up being very memorable.
There were plenty of possible choices for this one, but in the end, there’s one I just had to give it to. If you’ll pardon the expression.
And the winner is…
Sylvie Paula Paula (SNK Heroines)
SNK Heroines as a whole encompasses the idea of “deliberately weird”. The concept is that of a perv bringing a bunch of women into his strange pocket dimension-type affair and then making them fight so he can seal them in sand and break his smutty little world out into reality. The mechanics are unconventional for a fighting game, requiring that you weaken an opponent then use a specific “finisher” on them to attain victory rather than a conventional knockout. And the presentation of the game is screaming with bright primary colours, exaggerated visual effects and meaty sounds.
So for a character to stand out among all the chaos that the game already brings to the table, she must be particularly striking. And, well, if you’ve encountered Sylvie Paula Paula, you know that she certainly is that.
Sylvie first appeared in The King of Fighters XIV in 2016, where she was introduced as one of the last remaining members of secret society NESTS, an organisation known and feared around the world for their sinister scientific experiments, including cloning and the creation of super-soldiers. Sylvie was almost completely rejected by the society until she manifested her electromagnetic powers for the first time, at which point she became an agent for them up until the death of chief executive Igniz at the conclusion of The King of Fighters 2001.
After the demise of Igniz and the collapse of NESTS, Sylvie defected what was left of the organisation in an attempt to get away from her past trauma. She finds herself recruited by The King of Fighters XIV boss character Antonov following an underground fighting tournament, and joins his Official Invitational Team alongside Mian and Kukri, both of whom are also in SNK Heroines, the latter as the perverted final boss.
Sylvie is presented as a cheerful, child-like character with the implication that either her electromagnetic powers or the experimentation performed on her by NESTS left her with something of an addled mind. Her iconic costume is heavily adorned with various accessories that she considers to be her “friends”, with the best among these being the eye-like ornaments she wears in her hair. She also hears voices in her head, has a hobby of collecting fingerprints from good-looking men and suffers from something of a low sense of self-esteem, particularly when she encounters her former seniors; she particularly fears them reminding her of the time she was considered to be a “reject” or a “failure”.
This might all sound a bit bleak and sure, it is — almost enough to make me feel a bit bad for branding her “weird” — but as she is presented in SNK Heroines, she is full of the joy of life and appears to relish the opportunities to prove and express herself freely. In this strange other world, she can be free to be who she “really” is, and thus despite her behaviour being depicted as… not the sort of thing you’d do in polite society in most cases, there’s a charm about her. Sylvie knows she’s strange and embraces it, but not to an excessive degree; it’s just who she is, so she doesn’t feel the need to draw specific attention to it. She just takes something of a “this is me, like it or not” approach.
Sylvie’s attitude is expressed through everything from her various outfits — which include a bath towel as her default costume, her elaborate almost “clown-like” costume from The King of Fighters XIV and a rather fetching black leotard with fishnets — to her animations. Her standard walk cycle is a confident but slightly awkward, robotic strut, and many of her special moves are accompanied by overly flamboyant gestures. And as for her “winface”… well…
It’s widely believed that Sylvie’s appearance is modelled on Japanese singer, model and blogger Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the “Harajuku pop princess”, though Sylvie is not an idol herself. The inspiration is pretty apparent in Sylvie’s second outfit (and The King of Fighters XIV default costume), which mirrors Pamyu Pamyu’s use of a deliberately exaggerated, heavily accessorised “cute” style — known as decora — in order to give her a distinctive, immediately eye-catching appearance.
In Pamyu Pamyu’s case, her over-the-top fashion has drawn comparisons to Lady Gaga, and indeed the singer notes that Gaga, Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry have all been inspirations to both her clothing and music. Her fashion is as much a part of her identity as her music, arguably more so. In Sylvie’s case, meanwhile, one could argue that her in-your-face appearance reflects one of two things: either a desire to compensate for her feelings of low self-esteem, or a wish to express herself as freely as she sees fit, without any concern for the “conventions” of modern fashion and society at large. I suspect a bit of both.
Sylvie Paula Paula may be one of the strangest characters I’ve encountered for quite some time, then, but she’s an absolute delight to both be around and to play SNK Heroines as. While I enjoy playing all the different members of the cast, something keeps bringing me back to Sylvie. Maybe it’s the fact she can spew electric death from her fingertips. Maybe it’s her distinctive outfits. Or maybe she’s not the only one with a voice in her head telling her what to do…
More about SNK Heroines
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