Mortal Kombat is one of the most iconic video games in history. Back in the early 1990s, it was a byword for excessive gore and illicit kicks. I had to beg and plead for months until one of my parents (I suspect my dad) finally gave me Mortal Kombat II for Christmas in 1993. Fortunately, I didn’t turn into a raving lunatic after spending hours in front of the TV graphically killing fellow combatants in Outworld.
To many people with barely a passing interest in the franchise, Mortal Kombat is a simple fighting game involving colorful characters and a vague backstory. However, serious aficionados know there is a whole Mortal Kombat universe that the embarrassing 1995 film barely even touched. Each and every combatant in the game has a story. Some are more interesting than others, while few are widely known by the general public. Such is the case of Kitana, the fan-throwing martial artist who comes across to the naked eye as the female version of Sub-Zero. While it’s true that Kitana likes wearing a blue mask and blue highlights, her background sharply differs from her male counterpart. As both one of the more popular characters and a staple of the cosplay scene, it’s good to know a little bit about Kitana.
15. Kitana’s Debut
Mortal Kombat II was not only the first video game ever owned by yours truly, but it also represents the first ever appearance of Kitana. In 1993, a year after the debut of the first installment of Mortal Kombat, which immediately sent millions running towards the nearest arcade (anyone remember those?), Kitana made her debut in MK II. Alongside Kitana, Baraka, Jax, Kung Lao, and Mileena also made their first appearance in MK II.
Kitana’s original backstory depicted her as an assassin in the employ of Shao Kahn. In this way, both Kitana and Mileena represented more or less female versions of the supernatural ninjas Sub-Zero, Scorpion, and Reptile. This backstory would not last, however as fans grew to love the fan-wielding Kitana. Today, twenty-three years after her debut, Kitana is a beloved “good guy” in the MK universe and one of the more popular characters because of her excellent striking combinations.
14. Her Rivalry With Mileena
Every hero needs a foil, and every white hat needs to fight a black hat. Or, in the case of Kitana and Mileena, a blue mask needs to fight a purple one. Like Kitana, Mileena began her MK career as an assassin from Outworld. In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Kitana, Mileena, and Jade are depicted as three baddies united in their desire to kill on command. They hunted after Liu Kang and the other Earthlings.
However, in later installments of the franchise, Kitana and Mileena are described as being twins, with Mileena being the evil one of the two. This story has provided the fodder necessary for numerous cosplay battles and rather salacious forum posts and articles of fan fiction.
In one passage in the strategy guide for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, it is mentioned that Kitana was tried by the High Courts of Outworld for treason. Her specific charge? Murdering the evil Mileena.
13. Her Love Interest With Liu Kang
The relationship between Kitana and Liu Kang is a complicated one to say the least. Besides being the primary good guy of the whole franchise, Liu Kang is arguably also the main protagonist in almost every single MK game. As such, players are supposed to identify with him, root for him, play as him, or at least be sympathetic to his humanity.
Kitana, as an evil girl gone good, has frequently been paired with Kang as a love interest. In 2011’s Mortal Kombat, Kitana dies in Kang’s arms. Before passing, she admits “I wish we had met under… different circumstances.” That’s tension that can be cut with a knife. In the two Mortal Kombat films of the mid-1990s, this love interest is played to the max and is one of the key storylines in both films.
12. Her Friendship With Jade
Even assassins need to have pals. Ever since Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Kitana and Jade have been closely linked as two badass females. Both once served Shao Kahn loyally until Kitana decided to turn against the emperor of Outworld in order to liberate her home world of Edenia. Jade was ordered to assassinate Kitana, but declined. Instead, she joined Kitana in her quest to free Edenia. Don’t let the skimpy outfits fool you; these women are warriors in the cause of nationalism and freedom.
For her friendship, Kitana made Jade a general of the Edenian Army. As explored in Mortal Kombat 2011, Jade’s passionate devotion to Kitana is one the main facets of her character. Again, this has led to some rather uncomfortable fan publications. Similarly, if you ever go to a large enough convention, it’s likely that you’ll see two close friends dressed up like the blue and green pair.
11. She Is Royalty
Going from assassin to princess is quite the bump up in pay grade. Indeed, the change in Kitana’s background and storyline show just how popular she became after the release of MK II. Following MK II, Kitana was given a much more elaborate and heroic backstory. Specifically, Kitana became a beautiful and young-looking woman of 10,000 years (which is apparently a blink of an eye in Edenia). Furthermore, Kitana was made into a princess and a native daughter the slain king.
After serving as an assassin and stepdaughter to Shao Kahn, Princess Kitana broke ranks and returned to Edenia in order to lead the anti-Shao Kahn resistance. In later installments, Princess Kitana’s forces do much to insure that Kahn can never return to power in Outworld. In the Mortal Kombat universe, Kitana is a kind of Queen Boadica.
10. Her Family
Kitana’s storyline “face turn” (that’s pro wrestling terminology for when a bad guy goes good) has a lot to do with her family history. Specifically, in the Mortal Kombat comic books and the TV show Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, the violent overthrow of King Jerrod, the former ruler of Edenia and Princess Kitana’s father, is shown to be the work of the nefarious Shao Kahn. Once Kitana learns about this past subterfuge, she stops being an assassin and becomes an insurgent leader for the people of Edenia.
Kitana’s mother, Queen Sindel, was also captured by Kahn during the same coup. Although characterized as a sort of Goth banshee, Sindel is actually more of a good character than naught. Indeed, sympathy is generated for Sindel in Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 because Kitana joins the brave warriors of Earthrealm in order to free her suffering mother.
9. Her Friendship Finishers
Mortal Kombat is best known for its gory finishers that tend to exceed whatever bounds of decency normal people might have. That’s why I wanted the game so many years ago–blood and guts struck my five-year-old fancy. I remember all of my friends crowding around the TV and cackling every time an especially brutal fatality was performed. Sick, I know.
However, Mortal Kombat rarely gets lauded for its levity. From that high-pitched “Whoopsie!” that ’90s kids mimicked all the time to the various friendship finishers, the twisted minds of MK were and remain not averse to dark humor. For Kitana, her friendship finishers are frankly ridiculous. In MK II, Kitana presents her defeated opponent with a birthday cake. In Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy she blows nice bubbles for them.
8. Animality and Babality
Also in UMK 3 and MKT, players are capable of dispatching their opponents with an animality. Think Animorphs (which were hugely popular in the 1990s) but for twisted teenagers and adults. These animalities are surreal and appropriately blood-drenched maneuvers whereby the victorious combatant changes into an animal in order to kill off the defeated combatant. It’s like a fatality, but with a slice of gallows humor.
Kitana’s spirit animal is a vicious rabbit (reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, maybe?) who greedily consumes her opponent. A less grotesque finisher is the babality. In MK 2011, Kitana transforms into a baby holding her beloved steel fans. Upon flying into the air, baby Kitana falls down and begins weeping when her deadly fans uselessly fall to the ground. Truth be told, babalities are so weird that one has to imagine that they were designed by bored game designers.
7. Those Awesome Brutalities
Almost everyone loves a good Mortal Combat brutality (or fatality). Fortunately, Kitana has some of the best in franchise history. Alternatively gory and funny, Kitana’s brutalities emphasize the duality of her character as a beautiful princess who also happens to be a trained assassin.
She has six brutalities in Mortal Kombat X alone, including a decapitation via her fans, a “Square Boost” that sees Kitana impaling her enemy with her own body, and a Glaive Throw that lodges one of the fans directly into the defeated enemy’s forehead.
In MK II, Kitana’s first fatality involves her removing her mask and kissing her opponent. This causes a violent reaction where the opponent balloons in size until ultimately exploding. In MKII, Kitana literally makes it rain. Instead of greenbacks, she makes blood, guts, and bones fall from the sky. My personal favorite is from UMK 3 where Kitana’s kiss painfully elongates her opponent until they implode.
6. Her Inspirations
According to MK creator John Tobias, Kitana was originally named Kitsune. In Japanese folklore, a “kitsune” is an ancient fox with nine tails that can turn into a beautiful woman. These clever and magical foxes have a vicious side–they can breathe fire, possess mortal, and the “kumiho,” which is the Korean version of the creature, is a fan of eating human livers. In several interviews, Tobias has admitted that he was also influenced by the character of Princess Mariko in the 1984 video game Karateka. An early draft of the character’s look makes this influence very clear.
Besides her looks, Kitana is also known for her fatal kiss finishing maneuver. Producer and co-creator Ed Boon claims that he got the idea from the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die. Kitana’s fatality is supposed to mimic Dr. Kananga’s hilarious, balloon-like explosion at the film’s end. Rather than use superpowers, British super agent Bond forces his adversary to swallow a shark gun compression pellet which causes him to rapidly expand until his light body explodes upon reaching the ceiling.
5. Shoutout From WWE’s AJ Lee
It’s well known that former professional wrestler AJ Lee, the current wife of former superstar and current UFC fighter C.M. Punk, is a big fan of video games and comic books. Her upcoming memoir, entitled Crazy is My Superpower, makes it quite clear that the former Divas champion is a proud nerd.
Lee let the world know this all the way back in 2011 when she was still just an undercard talent. During the Halloween edition of RAW, Lee showed up at the Divas Battle Royal dressed like Princess Kitana from Edenia. Lee even came equipped with Kitana’s trademark fans.Furthermore, if you keep your eyes on Lee, you can see her mimic the same movements that the character uses in the Mortal Kombat video games. It was a bold shoutout in many ways.
4. Shoutout From TNA’s Velvet Sky
AJ Lee is not the only female wrestler to cosplay in Kitana garb. Before she became the toast of the wrestling world, Sasha Banks was photographed in Kitana garb at a comic convention and performed in similar attire during her early days in WWE’s developmental system.
Velvet Sky, a former two-time TNA Knockouts champion, once answered a tweet from NetherRealm Studios, the primary creators of modern MK video games. Right before Halloween in 2013, the people in charge of the Mortal Kombat franchise asked if anyone was planning on dressing up like an MK character. Sky tweeted an image of herself dressed like Kitana alongside a screen grab from one of the MK realms. A logo for Impact Wrestling, TNA’s flagship program, was also tastefully added to the bottom-right corner.
3. The Original Actor
In order to make their games as realistic as possible, Midway Games enlisted real martial artists to go through the paces of a mock fight in the hopes putting their movements into the game’s fictional characters. Although few players back in the 1990s realized it, Mortal Kombat did try to stake out a claim for its own realism, despite all of the over-the-tope gore. For Kitana, Katalin Zamiar was enlisted to play the role of the game’s new female assassin.
Then just 22-years-old, the Chicago-born Zamiar had only recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a degree in Anthropology. At the time, Zamiar was a forensic science teacher, a fitness instructor, and a martial artist who specialized in Okinawan karate. In a weird twist of fate, a behind-the-scenes article claimed that Zamiar was then dating fellow MK actor Ho Sung Pak, who portrayed Liu Kang for MK II.
2. Those Terrible Movies
A lot of people tried to cash in on the popularity of Mortal Kombat during the mid to late 1990s. World Championship Wrestling created three gimmicks in 1997–Glacier (portrayed by Ray Lloyd), Wrath (portrayed by Bryan Clark), and Mortis (portrayed by Chris Kanyon)–that were clearly inspired by the video game.
On an even larger scale, filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson released a full-length feature called simply Mortal Kombat in 1995. The romance between Liu Kang (played by Robin Shou) and Kitana (played by Talisa Soto) is amplified, with Kang’s jonesing for the heir to Outworld being one of the major plot devices in the film. Kitana is unquestionably a good guy in the film. Later, in the 1997 sequel called Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Soto again plays Kitana. This time Kang and Kitana are an obvious couple, while the freeing of Sindel (played by Musetta Vander) from Shao Kahn’s spell ends the film.
1. Kitana As A Symbol
If you ever see a countdown or a headline blathering on about the sexiest video game characters of all time, you can bet your bottom dollar that Kitana will appear somewhere near the top of that list. Since her debut in 1993, geeky gameboys have drooled over the blue-masked princess. Even after these boys grew up, the maintained their attraction to Kitana. As evidence, the following publications have called Kitana one of the hottest virtual characters of all time: Den of Geek, JoBlo.com, GamesRadar, GameDaily, Bright Hub, and FHM.
In the more modern games, Kitana’s “assets” are accentuated too the point where little is left to the imagination. And, as already stated many times in this article, Kitana is a favorite among cosplayers who aren’t afraid to show a little skin. Take all of this together and you have to come to the conclusion that Kitana is an international sex symbol.
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