Fans of Marvelous Entertainment and Tamsoft’s over-the-top, titillating video game franchise, Senran Kagura, are most likely familiar with the character, Yumi. First appearing in Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus for the PlayStation Vita, she is the most popular character in the franchise, with her story stating that she is the granddaughter of the infamous renegade shinobi, Kurokage, and lost her parents in the war between two opposing ninja factions. She was originally cast as a misguided semi-protagonist, semi-antagonist, intent on purging the world of any individuals that she considered evil. However, during her interactions with other shinobi factions, she eventually discovered the error of her ways and was able to co-exist with the others peacefully. In the leadup to the release of the game’s sequel, Estival Versus, Yumi won a popularity contest for all characters in the series, and was heavily marketed as a result. However, despite her strong advertisement, her overall role in Estival’s story ultimately proved lacking for a character so strongly marketed by her publisher. This is not a good thing.
This form of marketing, where a character that plays little-to-no role in the storyline is marketed the more than others, is an example of what some have coined, “Wolverine publicity”. Now, what is Wolverine publicity? Let me explain by first branching into the subject of another media franchise: Marvel comics. You may be familiar with the antihero, Wolverine, best known for his appearances in Marvel’s long-running X-Men comic franchise. He is one of Marvel’s most popular characters, and in the late 20th century, he became a big marketing tool for Marvel, and was perhaps advertised a little too much. In fact, he was even featured on the covers for books where he didn’t even appear at all in the storyline.
Now, what does this have to do with Yumi? Well, Marvelous has announced a new Senran Kagura game, titled Senran Kagura: Peach Beach Splash. And Yumi is again being heavily advertised, being the franchise’s most popular character. Considering the relatively small role she played in Estival Versus, some might worry that her heavy marketing push is once again an empty one, where she experiences very little significant development or involvement in the larger storyline despite the strong marketing for her, especially considering that, despite Peach Beach Splash being a vastly different game than previous titles, it has been confirmed to be a part of the franchise’s main canon. This is another example of Wolverine publicity, where even if a character contributes very little to a particular fictional storyline, they are still heavily marketed with the intent to sell the story anyway.
Wolverine publicity is a very bad form of marketing that hurts popular characters by taking away what makes them so appealing in the first place and reducing them to mere marketing tools. And right now, the threat it poses to Yumi is high. Some fans are already observing that the marketing for Yumi may be too much, and in some ways, comes at the expense of other characters. It’s no surprise that this form of marketing is being heavily criticized by fans of the games. It’s only natural that popular characters receive heavy advertising, but when they are used the most to market works where the role they play is minimal, it is only natural to be critical of this sort of marketing. And these sorts of criticisms should not be discouraged. Yumi was not the only character to receive the short end of the stick for development in Estival Versus, but her lack of development only becomes more disappointing when one takes the time to consider how she was marketed, and the expectations that such marketing sets for characters in the first place. When these expectations aren’t met, the character’s reputation suffers exponentially.
-Until next time, Dan Bordelon, Jr.