The character as she appears in Bayonetta
|Created by||Hideki Kamiya|
|Designed by||Mari Shimazaki|
|Voiced by (English)||Hellena Taylor|
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Atsuko Tanaka (Bayonetta: Bloody Fate)|
|Portrayed by||Penny Drake (promotion)|
Bayonetta (Japanese: ベヨネッタ Hepburn: Beyonetta?), real name Cereza, is a fictional character and main protagonist of the video game Bayonetta and its sequel, developed by Platinum Games and published by Sega and Nintendo respectively. She was created by Hideki Kamiya, designed by Mari Shimazaki, and is voiced by Hellena Taylor.
Bayonetta is one of only two surviving Umbran Witches, along with being the child of a Witch and a Lumen Sage. During the first game, she goes in search of her forgotten past, heading for her old home of Vigrid, and fighting the angelic forces of Paradiso on the way. She is also to be main protagonist of Bayonetta 2, and is a downloadable playable character in the 2013 beat 'em up game Anarchy Reigns.
Reception of the character has been positive overall, with the common point of praise being her highly feminine image, which makes her both stand out among female characters in video games and go against several set conventions. However, her sexuality has also been a point of criticism and contention.
Conception and design
Given the suggestion to create another action game by producer Yusuke Hashimoto, project director Hideki Kamiya decided to create a female lead for the title, having felt he had already done all that could be done with male protagonists. To this end, he told character designer Mari Shimazaki to create her with three traits: a female lead, a modern witch, and to use four guns. Her name was inspired by a bayonet, meant to imply there was "more to her than meets the eye", while her four guns were named parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme after the old English ballad, 'Scarborough Fair', due to Kamiya's love of folk music. The process, which took a full year, went through a hundred character designs and alterations, with early appearances resembling a traditional witch, with a frayed black outfit and a "veil-like look" on her head. The outfit color persisted, described by Shimazaki as being her "theme color" due to being a witch. She was given longer legs and arms to make her more appealing as an action-game character, countering what Shimazaki felt was a trend of female characters in such games having short and thin limbs. Her limbs and the rest of her design were appealing to Kamiya, and development proceeded on the character's attire.
Bayonetta's beehive hairstyle was an aspect Shimazaki insisted on, using it as an alternative to the usual pointed hat seen on witches. However despite concerns, Kamiya had no qualms about the hairstyle one way or another. She was additionally given glasses at Kamiya's insistence, intended to differentiate her from other female characters as well as give her a "sense of mystery and intelligence", though Shimazaki attributed it to possibly his preference for women with glasses. Her guns were modeled after a derringer pistol, in order to remain convincing and familiar, as well as to give her weapons "capable of rapid fire; a simple, rugged gun". Kamiya approved the idea, on the grounds that he felt the weapon would look "hot" in a female hand. Holsters were additionally considered for her feet, however the developers discarded the idea after feeling it wasn't feminine. Despite the game's production in Japan, Kamiya was particular to insist that the character have an English voice actor, and had no Japanese voice actor assigned due to his belief that speaking Japanese would not suit the character.
The concept of creating her outfit out of her hair was intended to fit into her design as a witch, which the development team felt meant she derived power from her hair. It was designed to both be a "means of adornment and protection" while also giving her appear "fashionable" and accentuate the movement of her limbs. During this process it was decided that as she summoned creatures to attack her enemies during the game she would lose partial control of her hair and end up in more "comfortable" attire; Shimazaki noted this as one of the aspects of the character she loved. Kamiya in addition wanted to avoid giving her large breasts and cleavage, feeling that normal sized breasts were adequate and that being mysterious was more attractive than "baring it all". The character's model was created by Kenichiro Yoshimura, who observed non-Japanese models to keep her proportions authentic, giving particular focus to her backside which, as a result, led to it being made wider and more rounded than the typically slim-hipped female characters designed by Japanese artists.
Bayonetta was born in Vigrid from the forbidden union of a Lumen Sage called Father Balder and an Umbran Witch: the Witch was imprisoned and the Sage exiled from his clan. Bayonetta's birth caused a rift between the formally peaceful clans and eventually led to them engaging in a war. Bayonetta became a black sheep among the Umbran Witches, and during the war, Jeanne, a former childhood friend and rival, seals her away from the world while wiping her memory to protect her from those who would exploit her. For the next five hundred years, she is sealed in a coffin at the bottom of a lake. She is later rescued, at Father Balder's instructions, by a journalist, who is then killed by Balder's angels as his son, Luka, looks on.
In Bayonetta, the witch sets out for her hometown of Vigrid, where Father Balder is preparing to awaken the creator Jubileus and trigger the creation of a new world at the cost of the old one. She is followed there by a now grown-up Luka, who himself has become a journalist and has set out to show Bayonetta to the world, as an act of vengeance for her supposed part in his father's death. She also encounters Jeanne, who is under Balder's control, and Cereza, Bayonetta's younger self sent through time by the Lumen Sage. Cereza and Bayonetta become close, with Cereza thinking Bayonetta was her mother and Bayonetta eventually telling Cereza that she should keep things she treasured close to her heart (referring specifically to a charm Cereza's mother had given her as a birthday present). Eventually, Bayonetta learns the truth of recent events after defeating Balder and sending Cereza back to her own era: the "Left Eye" is actually Bayonetta herself, and regaining her memories allowed her to awaken her latent power. By bringing Cereza into the present, Balder set events into motion that would prevent Bayonetta from forgetting her past when Jeanne sealed her away. Knocked unconscious by the awakening of her power, Bayonetta is sealed within Jubileus by Balder, only to be rescued by Jeanne, newly freed from the Lumen Sage's control. Together, the two destroy Jubileus and save the world.
Bayonetta is set to return as lead character for the 2014 sequel Bayonetta 2, sporting a new, short-haired appearance. She also appeared in the animated film Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, an adaptation of the first Bayonetta game.
At the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Sega chose Penny Drake to model as Bayonetta after auditioning 100 women. To promote the character and the game, Playboy featured several models dressed as her for viewers to vote which they considered the best. Sega also joined men's lifestyle website Maxim.com to run a contest to find women who looked like Bayonetta; the grand prize winner was Andrea Bonaccorso.
Critical response to Bayonetta's character has been mainly positive. Computer and Video Games praised her as more interesting than the game's storyline, describing her as the "sexiest collection of pixels [they've] ever seen", though not a character they considered a sex object. They further compared her to "Lara Croft without the prudishness, Rubi from Wet played with honest sexuality", and one of the most memorable characters they'd seen. GamesRadar stated the character deserved plenty of respect, describing her as "sexy, witty and can certainly handle herself in a fight" and further named her one of the game's most positive points as she "kicks all sorts of ass and is funny too." GamePro felt that the character's "overt sexuality and frantic anime-inspired shenanigans" hampered the game's presentation, adding they would have enjoyed the character more if less focus had been put on her sexuality. IGN's Ryan Clements described the character as a "hardcore badass" that was also "brimming with sexual energy", further describing her as an "immensely powerful protagonist". However, associate editor Nicole Tanner disagreed, noting she didn't find the character's sexuality at all empowering, stating "Just because you give a girl an attitude and guns isn't enough to offset what she looks like". Other members of IGN's staff named her their favorite video game character, describing her as "the playfulness and versatility of Dante" combined with "visually inventive combat". They cited her constant nudity as a point of appeal, calling the mechanic of her hair serving as her clothing both one of the stupidest and one of the coolest elements of a character.
In 2012, GamesRadar ranked her as the 100th best hero in video games. The same site later lister her as the 17th best character from her generation. Complex ranked her as the 19th hottest video game character in 2012, and as the 20th "most badass" video game character of all time in 2013. On the other hand, UGO listed Bayonetta in their 2010 list of top 20 "unsexiest sexy" video game characters.
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