|Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters character|
Mai Shiranui in The King of Fighters 2001
|First game||Fatal Fury 2 (1993)|
|Designed by||Art: Shinkiro, Falcoon and others in the various games
Animation: C.A.C Yamasaki (KOF '94- KOF 2003)
|Voiced by (English)||Sarah Sawatsky (Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle)
Lisa Ann Beley (Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture)
Sheryl Stanley (KOF: Maximum Impact, Maximum Impact 2, KOF: Another Day)
|Voiced by (Japanese)||Akoya Sogi (Fatal Fury Special - FF: Wild Ambition, The King of Fighters '94 - KOF XI)
Kotono Mitsuishi (Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle, Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture)
Megumi Hayashibara (drama CDs)
Ami Koshimizu (Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting, Queen's Gate: Spiral Chaos, KOF XIII)
|Portrayed by||Tomomi Miyauchi (Fatal Fury 2 TV commercial)
Miki Hareyama (Fatal Fury Special TV commercial)
Maggie Q (film)
|Fighting style||Ninjutsu of the Shiranui style (不知火流忍術 Shiranui-ryū Ninjutsu?)|
|Weapon||"Fire Butterfly Fan" (花蝶扇 Kachōsen?)|
Mai Shiranui (Japanese: 不知火舞 Hepburn: Shiranui Mai?) is a player character in the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series of fighting games developed by SNK. She has also appeared in other media of these franchises and in a number of other games since her debut in 1993's Fatal Fury 2. Mai is a modern female ninja and the granddaughter of the ninjutsu master Hanzo Shiranui, with the ability to create and control fire. She is a founding member of the King of Fighters Tournament's Women Fighters Team and likes Andy Bogard but he is ambiguous about their relationship.
The character became SNK's primary sex symbol, often representing the company in crossover and spin-off titles. Due to her sex appeal, Mai become one of the most popular and recognizable female characters of the fighting genre and video gaming in general.
The character debuted as SNK's first female playable fighter. Before Mai Shiranui's creation for Fatal Fury 2, the series was intended to feature a male ninja master with the same fighting style. The SNK staff later included an idol character in the series, finally replacing him with Mai. According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), "the character wears a revealing outfit that accentuates her buttocks and displays large amounts of cleavage". In her profile, Mai's measurements are 87 cm (34 in) – 55 cm (22 in) – 91 cm (36 in); she is 1.65 m (5.4 ft) tall and weighs 48 kg (106 lb). Inspiration for Mai's appearance and attributes came from a number of sources. According to the Neo Geo publication Neo Geo Freak, her bust was modeled on Fumie Hosokawa and her buttocks on Ai Iijima—both well-known Japanese gravure idols when the Fatal Fury series began. The animated "jiggle" of Mai's breasts was inspired by the tales of kunoichi (female ninja) using their bodies for seduction and distraction. Her surname, "Shiranui" is the name of a Japanese optical phenomenon similar to will-o'-the-wisp which refers to the character's pyrokinetic abilities. She can create and control fire but she is not immune to her own flames. Her weapons are steel butterfly fans which can be used in close quarters and as projectiles.
Mai's appearance changes only slightly through most of the Fatal Fury and King of Fighters games. She has long hair (usually brown or red, but sometimes black) tied in a ponytail hanging down her back and long bangs framing her face. Mai usually wears a sleeveless red outfit or tunic with a decorative waistband—sometimes with long, decorative tails, and a loincloth with a thong (shorts in the U.S. version) around her crotch. In Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special (1993) and The King of Fighters she wears a pair of soft-soled tabi. From Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory to Real Bout Fatal Fury (both in 1995) she wears instep guards, exposing her heels and toes. In Fatal Fury 3, she wears a red vest and eye shadow. Mai has been regionally censored; the breast-bounce animation was removed in the North American versions of Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special and The King of Fighters 2002. In most of the games, Mai's Japanese voice actress is Akoya Sogi.
In The King of Fighters: Maximum Impact (2004), Mai has shorter hair and ninja clothing resembling that of Kasumi in the Dead or Alive series. In KOF: Maximum Impact 2 (2006), one of her color schemes matches Andy Bogard's and she has blonde hair. Another outfit of Mai's with long green hair, tiger-print clothing and a hairpin with horns resembles that of Lum Invader from the manga and anime series Urusei Yatsura. This outfit is considered a cosplay of Cham Cham from SNK's Samurai Showdown series. The Maximum Impact series' producer, Falcoon, said that designing Mai's alternate look was "unforgivable" since he was uncertain of fan reaction to the change. Shinkiro, an illustrator who worked on The King of Fighters, said that Mai was the most difficult character to draw; he "thought she was going to burst out of her costume". When asked which character from which game he was happiest with, King of Fighters logo designer and illustrator Nao Q said, "You know full well it's Mai from Fatal Fury! As a fan of full-figured females, I can't do without her!"
Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters
According to the games' early canon, Mai Shiranui was born on January 1, 1974 (later the year was omitted.). Mai has a charismatic, laid-back, enthusiastic and flamboyant personality. She is a practitioner of hand-to-hand martial art koppo-ken, Shiranui-ryū style, and has also been taught by the close-combat judo master Jubei Yamada—her grandfather's friend. She is in love with Andy Bogard, an American who studied Shiranui ninjutsu with her grandfather Hanzo since their early teens. She is also a friend to Andy's older brother Terry Bogard and Joe Higashi. Mai can cloak herself with flames, channel flames through her clothes, weapon and anything she touches, change clothes within a second, temporarily stay airborne, float, glide and control her movements in the air. She is also a master of climbing and stealth.
Mai stars in Fatal Fury 2 to help Andy face the new host of The King of Fighters tournament, Wolfgang Krauser. She also plays a supporting role in Fatal Fury 3 and Real Bout Fatal Fury, fighting Geese Howard—the criminal who killed Andy and Terry's father, Jeff Bogard. According to Sega Saturn Magazine, Mai in Real Bout Fatal Fury "is one of the easiest characters to master and also has a huge range of pyrotechnically astounding special moves". The following games from the series, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special (1997) and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers (1998), do not contain a storyline. Mai was also added to the roster of Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition (1999), a 3D remake of Fatal Fury: King of Fighters which originally did not feature Mai.
The King of Fighters series tournament also features Mai as a regular character participating in the annual tournaments in the Women Fighters Team. Initially, the team is composed of Mai, King and Yuri Sakazaki from the Art of Fighting series, but it changes constantly. In The King of Fighters '99, the teams were expanded to four members, and so Mai goes to the Fatal Fury Team composed of Terry, Andy and Joe. She returns to the Women Fighters Team in The King of Fighters 2000 for the following games, until she leaves competition in The King of Fighters XI (2005) to search for Andy who was absent in the 2003 game—in the PlayStation 2 version of which Mai appears as a hidden character. In The King of Fighters XIII (2010), she returns to the series along with the other two members of The King of Fighters '94's Women's Team.
Mai is a playable character in every game in the SNK vs. Capcom crossover fighting game series issued since 1999. She is featured as a rival to Street Fighter's Chun-Li, and appears as a playable character in Namco Bandai's tactical role-playing game Queen's Gate: Spiral Chaos released for the PlayStation Portable in 2011. She is also a playable character in the fighting games SNK Gals' Fighters (2000) and NeoGeo Battle Coliseum (2005), in the 2010 shooting games KOF Sky Stage and Neo Geo Heroes: Ultimate Shooting, in the quiz game Quiz King of Fighters (1995), in the unreleased PC game The King of Fighters Online, and in the 2006 handheld games SNK Beach Volley GAL'S ATTACK and Neo Geo Tennis Coliseum.
Mai is featured as a character in many minor mobile games by SNK Playmore, such as The King of Fighters Mahjong, The King of Fighters Volleyball, The King of Millionaire, KOF Gals Mahjong, SNK Beach Volley Gal's Attack, SNK Gal's Open Cutey Shot, SNK Gals Island Dokidoki Puzzle Shock! and The King of Fighters-i. In the dating simulation series Days of Memories, Mai Shiranui retains her name and general design but is an otherwise unrelated character with a different role in each game. In Boku to Kanojo no Atsui Natsu she is a rich maiden and protagonist's neighbor and in Koi wa Good Job!, she is an office lady by day and a masked vigilante by night. In Kaze Maou Miyako de Tsukamaete!, Mai appears as a popular school beauty and the protagonist's classmate, and in Sekai de Ichiban Atsui Fuyu she is a school beauty with strange motives.
In The King of Fighters: Kyo, a role-playing video game set between KOF'96 and KOF'97, Mai is an non-player character who provides the protagonist Kyo Kusanagi with information and help during his trials. She makes cameo appearances on a stage in Garou: Mark of the Wolves and in character endings in Samurai Shodown, Art of Fighting 2 and Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits: Bushidou Retsuden (in the Neo Geo CD version only). In the North American release of Art of Fighting it is implied that Eiji Kisaragi has feelings for her, but this does not occur in the original Japanese version. Mai also features in the 1999-2006 card battle video game series SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash.
In the 2013 Korean free-to-play 3D fighting game Lost Saga, a premium character of Mai Shiranui in both male and female versions was added to the Japanese edition. That same year, she also joined the roster of another Korean game, KaKaKa Together.
According to The Complete Anime Guide, "the animation of modern-day ninja girl Mai Shiranui gave an all-new meaning to *bouncy* anime girls." Mai has made her first anime appearance in Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle (1993), where she follows Andy on his search for Krauser in Germany. She is approached and later attacked by Laurence Blood; whom Andy defeats and rescues Mai. In Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture (1994), Mai is present with Terry, Andy and Joe when Sulia gives them the quest to find the Armor of Mars and stop Sulia's sister Laocorn Gaudeamus. Mai tags along mostly to spend time with Andy. After Hauer fails to seduce Mai, he takes her hostage after a fight, but she is saved by Andy and herself defeats the henchwoman Panni. Mai then articipates in the final battle against Laocorn Gaudeamus, which ends with Laocorn dying to save her from the god of war, Mars. GamesRadar's Henry Gilbert wrote that director Masami Ōbari "found a fitting muse" in Mai, "never missing a chance to fill the screen with her heaving chest" and actually giving more attention to her shower scene than he did to the film's fight scenes. Mai also has a minor role in the 2005 original net animation The King of Fighters: Another Day.
In the 2009 live-action film The King of Fighters—loosely based on the game series—Mai is a major protagonist and is played by Maggie Q; this version bears little resemblance to the video game character. As with the other KOF characters in the film, her appearance, biography, and personality were completely redesigned. Maggie Q's promotional photoshoot showed a look different to that which appeared in the film. Peter Rubin of Complex ranked Mai in the live-action film The King of Fighters as second best among the "hottest women in video game movies" despite "a couple of very ... prominent differences."
Mai also appears in the Dengeki G's Magazine CD drama Fatal Fury, in the licensed manga and yonkoma released for Fatal Fury 2—including Fatal Fury Special, The King of Fighters '94 and The King of Fighters '95,. She also appeared in several other manga series, including Capcom vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000, King of Fighters Maximum Impact: Maniax, SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos, The King of Fighters '97, The King of Fighters '99: Millennium Battle, The King of Fighters 2000, and The King of Fighters Zillion. Chiba Reiko's single Non Stop! One Way Love includes the vocal track Kachou Fuugetsu Otome Mai, which also is featured on Garou Densetsu SPECIAL Image Album Part 1 and NEO-GEO Gals Vocal Collection by Pony Canyon.
Merchandise and promotion
Mai is the main character in one of the Queen's Gate erotic gamebooks published by Hobby Japan in 2008 as part of its Queen's Blade series. She also appears as a roulette character in several pachinko game machines—including "Garou Densetsu The Legend of Wild Wolf", "Garou Densetsu Special", "The King of Fighters", "The King of Fighters 2" and "Maximum Impact"—and in the board game The King of Fighters: Battle de Paradise.
According to Kotaku, "there are literally a gazillion Mai Shiranui figures". Scores of figures, statuettes and dolls—including those by Aizu Project, Alphamax, Daiki, Max Factory and Volks—were made in her image. In 2009, an exclusive Volks figure was sold in an auction for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Two action figures of Mai were made in the Cy Girls series. Other licensed merchandise includes several official t-shirts and a Neo Geo joystick controller for PlayStation consoles decorated with Mai-related imagery, and a number of cards in the Universal Fighting System collectible card game.
Mai was used extensively by SNK and then SNK Playmore for promotion. Five promotional models who dressed as Mai at the 2008 Tokyo Game Show (TGS) were the fifth most popular "booth babes" among visitors to the event according to a survey by Famitsu. One of SNK's attractions at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) was the signing of limited edition posters of Mai Shiranui by Falcoon. In 2009, Capcom also teased UDON's new SF20 art book with Akiman's image of Chun-Li and Mai Shiranui "almost kissing and almost punching each other". An exclusive Mai Shiranui t-shirt was given to all registered participants in the KOF XIII championship at the fighting game event EVO 2012.
Reception and cultural impact
Mai's sex appeal quickly made her a famous and popular character, and a female icon of SNK and later SNK Playmore. Japanese magazine Gamest named her as one of the best characters in arcade gaming for five consecutive years in its annual awards, placing her second in 1994, tenth in 1995, 21st in 1996, 28th in 1997 and 25th in 1998. Seraphina Brennan of Joystiq wrote in 2009 that "throughout all of the countless [massively multiplayer online games] that we've played, we've always asked ourselves one important question: 'Where is Mai Shiranui and why can't I be her?'" In 2010, Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku wrote, "Mai is one of the most popular and recognisable fighting game characters. Her image has been recreated in countless figurines and endless fan art." That same year, Kotaku's Luke Plunkett included Mai among the possible candidates for the title of the greatest video game character of all time.
Mai has been often compared to the genre's other game female icon, Chun-Li from Capcom's Street Fighter franchise. UGO called Mai the "Chun-Li of the SNK universe", stating the authors' preference for her. In 2011, Rich Knight of Complex pitted the characters against each other in his "battle of the beauties" feature, stating: "Breasts or legs? Personally, we'll take 'em both." In ScrewAttack's "Death Battle!" series the same year, Mai—dubbed "the queen of fighters"—defeated Chun-Li due to her superior ranged attack abilities. Joystiq's Richard Mitchell wrote in 2006 that "there's one thing Street Fighter will never have, and that's Mai." GameSpy's Hardcore Gaming 101 called the Street Fighter's Maki Genryusai—introduced in Final Fight 2 in 1993—a "sexy Mai Shiranui ripoff." Comparisons between Mai and Maki have been made by other sources, including CNET and IGN.
Mai has appeared on several lists of top ninja characters in video games; she was ranked seventh by CrunchGear in 2008 and ninth by Wild Gunmen in 2010. GamePro ranked her the sixth top video game ninja in 2010 and comparing her to Taki from Namco's Soul series, it called her a "a gravity-defying marvel of science and physicality." In 2011, UGO listed her among the "hot ninja girls" in all entertainment. In 2012, Gelo Gonzales of FHM included Mai among the nine "sexiest ninja babes in games", comparing her to Daiana Menezes, while Complex placed her at number one on its list of "hot female killers" in video games. Jon Ledford of Sushi Arcade included her among the ten best video game "ninjas" in a 2013 list.
Cosplay and modeling
The character became very popular in the cosplay community. During the 1990s, Japanese adult model and actor Ran Asakawa appeared in a pornographic cosplay session. Another pornographic actress Misa Nishida appeared in a homage video Queen of Fighters 2005. There were cosplays by the Chinese and Taiwanese models Yoyo Mung, Wu Xi Er, Li Mengtian (Shan Shan Maity), Yang Qi Han (Isabella Yang) and Lan Fenghuang (Mia). Mai was also subject of work by Yuuri Morishita. GamePro noted Mai as being "also notable for being the favoured costume choice for cosplay attention-floozies."
According to Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft, "In Asia—especially China and Taiwan—models keep popping [up] in non-gaming related events." Ashcraft said that rather than showing a following for the King of Fighters games, the character was popular because "the outfit is skimpy and revealing and has become a uniform of sorts." American role-playing video game designer Brian Mitsoda imagined "Continue?, a little joint on the Sunset Strip where the game development crowd goes to get away from the public" with "ninja bartenders passing along a mix of vodka and spree to the waitress in the Mai Shiranui outfit ... "
Mai Shiranui was awarded the title of "Hottest Game Babe of 1994" by the staff of Electronic Gaming Monthly. Since her introduction, Mai has been featured in numerous lists of the sexiest female video game characters; she was ranked the fourth top "babe in games" by Bryan Johnson of GameSpy in 2003, who wrote that she "probably went a little over the top." Johnny Firecloud of CraveOnline also listed her fourth in his "hottest video game girl of all time" list in 2010, In 2008, UGO Team placed Mai seventh on their list of top "girls of gaming", and GameDaily ranked her as the sixth "hottest game babe". In 2009, MSN declared Mai the fifth "hottest babe" in gaming, and the staff of Complex included her on their list of the top ten "hottest video game girls". In 2011, UGO listed her among the finest 25 female characters from fighting games, and ranked her as the sixth "hottest videogame hottie". The same year, Mai was ranked as the 18th "hottest" video game character by Larry Hester of Complex, and Kristie Bertucci of Gadget Review placed her seventh on a similar list. She also included in the 2012 lists of ten "sexiest girls of games" by Onet.pl, ten sexiest game characters by Gamemundo, who also noted her as one of the most "sympathetic" characters in fighting games, and 20 "hottest women in video game history" by MSN Malaysia. Stuart W. Bedford of WhatCulture placed her second on his 2013 list of "most sexually charged" female characters in gaming history.
GameDaily featured Mai in several "babe-of-the-week" galleries, including "Outrageous Boobs", "Asian Beauties", and the special "Mai Shiranui"; they also discussed her in their 2007 article "Boobs Through the Years", stating that "when it comes to 2-D breasts, no character tops Mai Shiranui." In 2010, Mai topped machinima.com's list of "gaming's top cleavagey characters", and ScrewAttack ranked her classic costume as second on their list of the sexiest outfits in games. Heavy.com said Mai is "notable for having one of the sluttiest costumes in video game history", and PLAY placed her third on its list of top "side-boobs" in games. In 2011, Ross Lincoln of GameFront ranked her bust as the fifth best in gaming history, and Rich Shivener of Joystick Division ranked her first on his list of "incredible chests" in video games. In 2012, Mai's breasts were placed second-best on a similar list by Drea Avellan of Complex; the magazine also ranked her as the 23rd most dominant fighting game character, who it said is "mostly known for having the most ridiculous pair of baby feeders in gaming history. She still moves faster than the wind and puts up a good fight with those things."  The same year, Zachary Miller of Nintendo World Report ranked Mai as his third favourite "chesty heroine" on Nintendo systems, calling her "arguably the queen of gaming cleavage," while ZoominGames ranked Mai's classic costume as the third most sexy outfit in games.
Some commentators wrote about the sexualization of the character. In 2011, Winda Benedetti of NBC News included Mai's classic costume on her list of the "top 5 most preposterous getups in games", and wrote, "Oh Mai! When you arrived on the scene in the early '90s, you set womankind back decades." American comic book artist Adam Warren drew a picture of his character Emp cosplaying as Mai Shiranui; the drawing shows the character saying, "This goofy costume would be even more potentially mortifying that my own stupid supersuit!" and declaring her "sincerest sympathies" for Mai. In 2012, self-declared feminist Anita Sarkeesian included Mai among the 12 characters featured in an illustration for the Kickstarter bid for her controversial video blog project Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mai Shiranui.|
- Mai at The King of Fighters 15th Anniversary official website
- Mai at the Fatal Fury 15th Anniversary official website (Japanese)
- Mai Shiranui at the Internet Movie Database