It’s another Dead or Alive girl this week — and, like her friend Marie Rose, she’s a relatively recent addition to the overall cast, having first shown up in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round.
And also like Marie Rose, she’s proven to be a popular character since her first appearance, often appearing in collaborative, crossover events with other games and series such as Senran Kagura — and, of course, Koei Tecmo’s own Warriors All-Stars.
If you’ve been following Dead or Alive’s Byzantine narrative over the years, you’ll also know that she’s quite important to the overall series lore, too…
Honoka was raised by her grandmother ever since she was born, and it’s clear that they have a close familial relationship. Throughout her time in Warriors All-Stars, she often expresses concern for her grandmother’s wellbeing, and hopes that she will be able to return and make sure she is all right.
The exact circumstances that meant Honoka ended up being raised by her grandmother are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but we do know that her father is Raidou, the notorious “missing shinobi” of the Mugen Tenshin clan that Kasumi and Ayane hail from, and a recurring antagonist in the series ever since its very first installment on PS1.
We don’t know if Honoka’s conception was consensual as very little is known about her mother; we do, however, know that five months after Honoka was conceived, Raidou raped his half-sister Ayame, which resulted in the birth of Ayane. As such, it’s not a huge leap to assume that Raidou was not intending on settling down to start a family with Honoka’s mother; he may even have killed her, though at the time of writing, her true fate remains unknown.
Honoka grew up far from this dark past, however, and was raised as a happy, cheerful girl who attended a normal school, and taught herself martial arts — her own form, which she refers to as “Honoka Fu”, and which is actually an amalgamation of a wide variety of styles ranging from ninjutsu to pro-wrestling.
Honoka has a natural talent for learning new moves. This is an ability she inherited from her father; he had the uncanny ability to copy, retain the knowledge of and replicate the techniques of any warrior he encountered, and this is what made him such a formidable foe. Honoka’s take on this is not quite as flawless as Raidou’s, mind; canonically, she was disqualified from the fifth Dead or Alive tournament for being unable to control her powers, releasing a blast of red energy from her right hand during a match which injured both her and her opponent at the time. This narrative moment is the origin of the glove she wears on her right hand; it’s a take on the common trope of the “demon” living in a character’s arm.
Personality-wise, Honoka is sweet and friendly, but energetic and always enthusiastic to test out her powers. She doesn’t do so because she wants power or desires to hurt people, however; after battling someone, she often seems apologetic and offers to help them. Rather, she is keen to understand the origin of her powers and how best to control them; she wants to be able to help people with her powers, particularly if there’s some sort of reward on offer for doing so.
Honoka is an appealing, popular character because she ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people. She’s a nice person, but she’s also a capable fighter. She’s an attractive young woman, but not one who is heavily sexualised in her default outfits. And she has a charming, child-like innocence about her, but she is of key importance to Dead or Alive’s overall plot and setting.
Supposedly, Honoka was a character added to Dead or Alive 5 Last Round to satisfy the Japanese audience’s desire for more cute female characters that followed anime tropes — speaking with Siliconera, Dead or Alive 6’s producer Yohei Shimbori explained this as the appealing contrast between her childish face and her formidable bustline — while Raidou returned to the series as a nod to Western fans that were looking for a powerful male character.
In Warriors All-Stars, Honoka is allied with Setsuna’s forces, which puts her alongside her friend Marie Rose and Kasumi. One of the conversation scenes in the game suggests that Honoka has been a fan of Kasumi ever since she saw the latter win the first Dead or Alive tournament — though Warriors All-Stars’ nature as a spinoff makes it questionable as to whether or not this is canonical. Not that it matters; its status in canon doesn’t change how adorable it is to see Kasumi not quite sure how to deal with having a fangirl.
Honoka’s fighting style in Warriors All-Stars reflects her somewhat improvisatory “Honoka Fu” style from Dead or Alive. Many of her charge attacks feature her thrusting her bust or backside at her enemies, and her special attacks and skills make use of her love for “rock, paper, scissors”; this is a reference to the fact that a quick game of janken is her taunt move in Dead or Alive — two Honokas can even play against one another. The exact effect that is unleashed depends on which of the three moves she feels like throwing out at any given moment, so there’s an element of risky RNG there at times!
Honoka is one of many examples we’ve seen that prove it’s possible to introduce new characters rather late into the run of a well-established series, and have it feel like they fit right in immediately. Her background makes sense in the context of Dead or Alive’s overall lore, as complicated as it is, and at the time of writing there are still enough mysterious gaps in the story to allow subsequent games to explore the history of her and Raidou further, too.
Plus she’s just fun to have around. Even if she is a bit of a copycat at times…
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