This entry is part of “Natacha Guyot’s Blook Blog Tour!”
I don’t usually care much for summer blockbusters, which usually have more explosions than compelling emotions. However, Pacific Rim is one of those rare “popcorn movies” that I felt gave a layer of depth to its characters. I confess that I was surprised to see Mako, a female Japanese Jaeger pilot, get as much screen time and character arc as she did! Women as primary main characters is becoming more prominent, albeit slowly, and there is still a dearth of women of color in such roles. Pacific Rim provided a step in the right direction, even if it fell short on certain points. But I was unaware that a long-running 1970s comic book series from Belgium had already allowed a female Asian character to step into the spotlight. Natacha Guyot’s brief but engaging treatise Before Mako Came Yoko: A Comparative Study Between Pacific Rim and Yoko Tsuno elaborates on how the title character of Yoko Tsuno and Mako of Pacific Rim share many key traits.
The book is divided into three parts that explore these similarities, as well as a few of their short-comings. The first part, “Women of Color as a Female Lead Character” explores the history of the two characters as they developed through their respective media. While Yoko has four decades of story to draw on and develop from, Mako only has a single film. Yet both present strong, well-rounded, engaging characters who aren’t reduced to eye candy, exotic tokens, or inevitable love interests by the presence of male associates. (However, like Ms. Guyot, I would have preferred Mako as the main character and focus of Pacific Rim, since I found her origins and presentation far more interesting than that of the male lead!)
The second part is “Combat, Science, and Compassion,” which looks at the skill sets Yoko and Mako possess that helps make them real people and helps solidify their importance and relevance to the plots of their respective stories. Scientific knowledge and martial arts are a shared skill set, although Yoko Tsuno touches on religion and spirituality in a way that has little to no place in Pacific Rim. A big difference is that Yoko faces danger on a more or less regular basis throughout the comics. Mako doesn’t have the opportunity to fight her enemies, the alien Kaiju, until well into the film, and even then, only for a short time. Visually and narratively, Mako and Yoko break the mold in progressive ways.
“Composite Family and Inner Circle” comprises the final section. Yoko and Mako share many similarities in their creation of a new “family” outside their blood relations. With so many years of development, Yoko has far outpaced Mako in this area. This may be a necessity of the medium, but there is hope that future installments of Pacific Rim will expand on Mako’s role in the story and her circle of friends.
Before Mako Came Yoko is an intriguing look into the world of representation for female and minority characters in media. It draws connections between modern cinema and classic comics to show how progressive some of these characters are… and how far we still have to go. Be sure to check out Ms. Guyot’s website for other books and articles discussing similar topics in Star Wars, Farscape, and more!
Natacha Guyot is a French researcher, author and public speaker. She holds two Master’s degrees: Film and Media Studies (Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Digital Culture and Technology (King’s College London).
Her main fields of interest are Science fiction, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies. Besides her nonfiction work, she also writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories.