A member of staff at the Japanese publication Famistu delivered the goods a little earlier than expected as leaked images for Street Fighter V's latest newcomer briefly popped up on their website, the young Brazilian woman whose name is Laura was leaked in some candid screenshots squeezing the life out of a powerless Ryu. The moment the team laid eyes on her, there was instantly a mixed reaction to Laura's initial appearance, most notably her melanin deficiency and thus disappointment soon set in.
Why the disappointment? Well the reason why Laura's skin tone is an issue is because for one she doesn't exactly stand out amongst her current SFV peers from a complexion perspective, Laura's practically the same skin colour as Ryu, we think a darker skin tone would have given Laura the extra oopmh she needed to really outshine the competition, as opposed to Capcom taking the safe route and conjuring up a character that looks similar to say Christie from the Tekken series and Jacqui Briggs from Mortal Kombat X. The point is this was a reasonable opportunity to have a female with a darker complexion in the game without it being seemingly pandering, considering the country she comes from. Rather, they went with lighter skin.
Now don't get us wrong Laura looks absolutely stunning and there's nothing wrong with her skin tone, but in regards to fighting games you can't deny the fact that Colorism has played a huge part especially when designing women of colour. We feel that Capcom had the chance to finally create a dark skin female character who doesn't have blue eyes and straight white hair. There's only been one black female character in the history of Street Fighter and this could've been chance to finally create one that doesn't look so ambiguous that her appearance has people debating her ethnicity or race.
Elena shouldn't be seen as the only black girl representing the Street Fighter series, especially since she falls into the stereotypical trope of black women with white silver hair, a hairstyle popular with black girls in Japanese animation and fictional media. The Kenyan princess lacks African features and instead was designed to have light blue eyes and straight white hair, features non-existent to the people of Kenya. Which is why this was the perfect opportunity for Capcom to introduce a black female character with actual African features and a generous amount of melanin.
Our problem isn't that Laura is light skin, our problem is that dark skin representation for women of colour is non-existent and this was the perfect opportunity for Capcom to change that stigma with Laura, a Brazilian woman from a country with the second largest black population in the world. And while Brazil is a melting pot of different races, that's not the point, the point is dark skin representation for women is at an all time low in fighting games and Capcom could have reversed that by simply giving Laura a darker skin tone, that's our gripe, pure and simple.
The SolutionNow we could continue to address why we feel Laura being light skin doesn't really break any barriers but instead let's come up with a solution, several in fact. Of course the initial design of Laura is already released but that doesn't mean this problem can't be neutralized.
1. Darken Laura's Skin Tone
No character's design in SFV is set in stone so the most evident solution would be to alter Laura's melanin and give her slightly darker skin, this is something that wouldn't be hard to do, it's simply a palette swap, thus trading in the light complexion for a brown skin tone. This is the best possible method and would instantly resolve any issue we had with Laura originally. Mind you since Laura has already been revealed to the public we wouldn't imagine this happening any time soon, besides we still like Laura's current look, let's move onto the next option..
2. Alternate Colours
While not the most efficient solution, it's still one nonetheless. Bringing back alt colours for characters would be a step in the right direction. In Street Fighter IV there are 10 colours available to choose from which alter not only the character's attire but in most cases also their skin tone. With this option selectable, Laura's skin tone could be darkened by simply selecting one of the 10 selectable alt colours.
3. Debut an African American Woman
If Laura's appearance is set in stone for Capcom's character designers, then why not debut an African American female character, if there's no chance that Laura's skin tone will change then why not make this the opportunity to introduce a female African American female character for Street Fighter V? There's been over 17 American characters in Street Fighter history but there's never been an African American women. This would be the best solution, a thick and curvy dark skinned AA female character with a mixed martial arts or urban brawling fighting style.
4. Bring back Elena
It was great to see Elena again in USFIV and we'd love to see her return for Street Fighter 5, if all else fails then bringing back Elena would be another solution, while it wouldn't change Laura's skin tone it at least gives us the chance to play as a female character with lots of melanin to boot.
5. Colour Edit
The one thing which was cool about Street Fighter X Tekken besides the crossover and hearing the Tekken characters speak English was the ability to edit your character's skin tone, hair, attire and accessories with the neat Colour editing feature, which took it one step further than the Alternate Colour system. This would also resolve the issues with Laura, allowing players the freedom to choose whether they want Laura to be light or dark skin.
What we like about LauraNow before you write this off as an attempt to bash the character before she's found any foot, let's just say we're still digging Laura, Despite our critical analysis Capcom has done an exceptional job with her but here's why we particularly like her so far..
Laura's half n' half cornrow hairstyle is exceptionally fresh and gives off a heavy afrocentric vibe, it also suggests that Capcom did a little more research into this character rather than pulling straws out of a top hat. Laura's hair was one of the first things we noticed, it also helped us decide Laura's race.
- The hair
Laura's bright and vibrant clothes gives off not only a sensual vibe but they also remind us of another Afro Brazilian character, that's right.. Eddy Gordo from Tekken. Laura's outfit has the sexy Eddy Gordo-esque colour exterior look going on and it really compliments her skin, not to mention she has huge breasts which her outfit doesn't exactly hide. We're also loving the colourful wrist bracelets and martial arts belt around her waistline.
- The attire
Blanka isn't the only Brazilian character to send shock waves down your spine as Laura also has access to lightning-based attacks, which has us wondering what exactly do they put in the drinking water of Brazil? While a played out and overstated ability for black characters in anime and comics, she certainly looks electrifying.
- She's a shocker
Laura's brawling style is another interesting aspect to her character, it appears she uses jiu-jitsu as her main fighting style, with some capoeira thrown in, from the screenshots it appears that Laura has several lethal grab moves that imitates the fighting art of jiu-jitsu.
- Her fighting style
As stated above, from the looks of the screenshots and the variety of strikes and clutches she's using, it seems as though her fighting style could well be Brazilian jiu-jitsu as opposed to the series' other Brazilian mainstays Blanka, who practices his version of capoeira and Sean Matuda who imitates Ken's Ansatsuken style. It seems as though Laura could share some similarities with Blanka as she also appears to have electricity-based attacks, including what seems to be some kind of projectile attack.
Laura is Sean Matsuda's sister.. (Updated: 10/10/15)
It's been revealed that Laura's last name is Matsuda, indicating that she's related to Street Fighter III's original shoto Sean Matsuda. The relation? She's supposedly his older sibling, and to be honest this only further elevates our issue with Laura's fair skin tone, since they're related why couldn't she be a similar shade to her younger brother? While Sean and Laura have mixed ancestry and complexions can differ between siblings, it still doesn't excuse the fact that she's 15 shades lighter than him, where's the logic?
We believe it would have made more sense for Laura to resemble Sean due to the continuity of the plot and context of her character. Yun and Yang aren't immensely different complexions. Ken's child Mel heavily resembles his father and yet Laura looks nothing like Sean, so it appears she has almost been whitewashed. There is still a certain degree to how much the complexion differs between siblings and in this case it doesn't make much sense. Laura's light complexion distinctly sets her apart from her brother and she could easily pass for a character with no family ties to the Street Fighter universe. (P.S we sincerely hope that Sean Matsuda is not whitewashed.)