I love MTV’s Teen Wolf.
I know what you’re thinking. Shut up and read.
I’m not sure what it is about this show, but even when it stumbles, there’s always something wonderful about it — namely, the characters. For those not familiar with the series, it’s a relentlessly dark-sexy-bloody take on the “high school boy becomes a werewolf” story. The main character is Scott McCall, played by the utterly charming Tyler Posey. Scott’s an adorable kid who gets bitten by a big, bad alpha werewolf. But it turns out Scott’s a “natural alpha,” which we gather is because of his moral courage and loyalty to his loved ones. This grants him a special position in the supernatural realm. It’s totally Buffy the Vampire Slayer for this generation, complete with MTV hand-feeding each episode terrific new musical tidbits.
While Scott’s first romance with Crystal Reed’s character, Allison Argent, was delightfully squishy and heartbreaking, it’s his second romantic interest that I really adore: Kira Yukimura.
Played by the talented Arden Cho, Kira is brave, intelligent and achingly sweet all at once. Seriously, as much as I love Stiles, Scott, Lydia, Coach and the lot, Kira is my favorite.
She’s a supernatural creature by birth known as a thunder kitsune. This means she has the ability to control electricity — also known as “foxfire.” We see her do this repeatedly on the show. With her bare hands, she reforges a shattered katana given to her by her mother, who is a 900-year-old kitsune. That very katana becomes Kira’s personal weapon. She displays some flashy moves to Scott in one episode of Season 3b, explaining that she is “picking it up quickly.”
Unfortunately, no matter how much she swings at the bad guys, she isn’t effective with her weapon. And when she does hit them, she does no lasting damage except in the episode “The Divine Move.” Even then, she doesn’t deliver a fatal blow without Scott’s help subduing the bad guy. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?) Eventually, she’s able to use it to deflect arrows, which is okay, but that’s not hitting people or monsters.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a lot to say about women with swords and how they’re depicted in the media. In the episode “Silverfinger,” which was beautifully researched and written by Moira McMahon Leeper, the characters learn that the pinky finger is the strongest in holding a sword…which is awesomely fucking true. The outer fingers anchor the tsuka. You don’t choke up on it like a bat, squeezing it with your thumb, index and middle fingers. I was really happy to hear this detail and enjoyed how it was used metaphorically in the plot.
What I’m not happy about is the flashy-splashy swordplay that they choreograph for Cho. Opposed to the bad guys with swords, she looks like a ballerina with a swizzle stick rather than a badass samurai. The katana is a two-handed sword. It “works” because it leverages the cross pressure of your opposing hands. But Kira is flinging that thing around with one hand like it’s made of paper. (And it might be, although it’s more likely aluminum.) The choreography of her fights doesn’t reflect any actual Japanese swordsmanship like Shinkendo, which would really make her look super freaking badass. While one can tell just by the way they let her choke up on the handle like a bat, it’s especially evident in that very scene with the arrow deflection. They have her chopping downward repeatedly rather than down and up in a natural kiriagi pattern, which would have been much faster and more elegant. (And, again, more badass.)
I suppose it’s possible that the MTV execs just don’t want her to look too scary. But that would be weird because the other women in the show — especially the werewolves — are incredibly tough fighters. You see them take down one opponent after the next without breaking a sweat. In fact, I otherwise totally dig the fight choreography. It’s always exciting, brutal and engaging, no matter who’s slashing whom. It’s another reason I love the show.
As mentioned in my admission about the character Michonne, I’m willing to let a lot slide if the audience perceives the character as strong. I’m sure fans see Kira that way. In my opinion, the things that make her strong have little to do with her fighting ability. But here’s the thing that super annoys me:
WHY DOESN’T SHE RUN FOXFIRE INTO HER KATANA?
Because here’s the thing: let’s say she’s even somewhat effective with her katana. If she channeled foxfire into the nakago (tang) and therefore into the blade (a ready and perfect conduit), she would be arguably the most dangerous character on the show. Are they keeping her from doing this on purpose? Or have they not thought of it? We all know about the foxfire. It’s not a secret. In the episode “Weaponized,” she even loses control of it temporarily. If it were an ability she needed to work on harnessing, wouldn’t she totally be focused on trying to turn that katana into a megawatt-shitting electrical weapon? She knows how electricity affects the werewolves. She would have figured this out. (And if she didn’t think of it, Lydia sure as hell would’ve.) She could have definitely dealt with those Berserkers that she and Liam were messing with so feebly. She could have also got the whuppin’ on Kate. (Come to think of it, in the fight scene where she was wielding a chain, the same thing applies.)
But by all rights, Kira should be a far more powerful character at this point. I know that Cho has studied swords of some kind as part of her extensive martial arts training, but that only makes her easier to work with. It doesn’t let her enact the full power of the character if it’s not written for her. It’s possible Jeff Davis and his writers are still trying to figure out foxfire, but I kind of doubt that.
Of course, I’m also assuming they’ve thought of this possibility. Maybe they haven’t.
So, here’s my appeal to Sensei Davis. Man, I love your show. You’re great. Everybody’s great. Please let the genie out of the bottle and have Kira don her true badassery.
Domo arigato gozaimashita.
(Follow Up: “Kira, That Dopey Belt, and the Sword Girl Ghetto“)