Taking a short break from examining the data in Smash.
I recently watched this video:
At first, I didn’t understand the issue. For me, it was always clear that Sheik was just Zelda in disguise. However, as the video states, there is some controversy over whether Sheik is still female as Impa or Zelda uses magic to change form. So, I decided to investigate the claims further. I don’t intend to provide a definitive answer, instead I’m merely investigating the claims and explaining my own thoughts.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Nintendo of America has changed sex in order to avoid transgender controversy in the States.
Before I really begin, there’s a legitimate argument that since Smash is not canon, the Sheik in Smash is different from the Ocarina of Time version of Sheik (Especially Brawl, as that Sheik was based off of a Twilight Princess rendition of the character). I’m only commenting on the text that’s in Smash today.
For this blog post, I will be using a Japanese copy of Melee and both the Wii U and 3DS trophy/ instruction manual reference. Unfortunately, I do not have a Japanese copy of Brawl nor could I find Sheik’s trophy text online. If you have it, please send it to me and I’ll update this post. Lastly, please take note of the colored text.
I figured I’d start with the description for Zelda/Sheik’s down-b move. Surely, the answer would lie there.
Literal translation: Sheik Change: Transform into Sheik. If you take damage during your transformation, the move will cancel.
This is the key word: 変身します (Henshin Shimasu) – a metamorphosis; a transformation, a disguise. Personally, whenever I hear the word I think of Viewitful Joe.
So, let’s look at the trophy text for more clues:
Here’s Sheik’s Melee Trophy Text:
This is Zelda’s alter ego. Using a variation of the name of the ancient Sheikah tribe, she appears before Link and teaches him melodies instrumental to his success. It’s believed that she’s not just a quick- change artist, but rather that she is able to instantaneously alter her clothing and her eye and skin color by using her magical skills.
Literal translation: Zelda’s transformation form. Calls themselves the last member of the Sheikah, a tribe said to be extinct. They appear in front of Link teaching him an important melodies. It’s thought that the change not simply a metamorphosis, but they use powerful magic to switch over; not only the clothes (of course), but also the physique, eye color and even the skin color change in an instant.
Japanese does identify sex within the language (which adds to this debate!), so I chose to go with the neutral expression “they” in my version. Not as different as I expected. Not sure why they dropped the part of Sheik saying they were the survivor of the Sheikah Clan but that’s irrelevant for now.
変身(Henshin) and 変態(Hentai) are very similar words, so it’s important to understand the difference.
…No, not that kind of hentai! Baka!
Essentially, 変身 is to change one’s outside appearance. Think Viewtiful Joe, or Power Rangers. Several sites that I’ve read stated that an important aspect of 変身 is that you can change back.
変態, is to change your substance, to become something else/ someone else. Like a werewolf or a butterfly.
切りかえる – switch over, to change, to replace, to exchange.
Henshin and Hentai are extremely close, but the difference is important. The text says that Sheik is only temporary changing her outside appearance. Before I draw my own conclusions, let’s look at Smash 4 3DS/Wii U.
『ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ』でシーカー族の 生き残りとして登場する。その正体は、ゼルダ。 ガノンドロフから逃れるため変装した姿である。 忍者や盗賊のような衣服を身にまとっている。 『スマブラ』では、ゼルダとは対極をなすように スピードを活かしたき攻撃が得意なファイターだ。 手数で攻め立てて、ダメージを蓄積していこう。
America: In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Sheik claimed to be a surviving Sheikah. However, this was just a cunning disguise for Princess Zelda so that she could escape Ganondorf. In Smash Bros., she’s the complete opposite of Zelda, striking with fast attacks that can keep an opponent off balance.
Europe: Sheik is introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as the “survivor of the Sheikah”, although it turns out to be Zelda, who took on the disguise to hide from Ganondorf. Sheik’s ninja-like speed is a real contrast with Zelda’s, and it allows for sneaky, fast-paced attacks that overwhelm opponents before they can even react.
The European version of the text is much closer to the original Japanese. As you may have noticed, they took out 変身. Instead, the 3DS version refers to it as a 変装, a disguise.
The green text is untranslated. It says that Sheik wears the same kind of clothing that a ninja, a thief, etc would wear.
Ranma ½ is a series that deals with a similar situation. Depending on the temperature of water, the main character changes sex. When describing the main character, Ranma Saotome on the fan wiki, the community still refers to Ranma as a “he”, even when “he” is his girl form. This probably because gender identity is extremely complicated and touchy subject.
Essentially, there are four main identifiers for sexuality. Sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. There’s more, but for simplicity sake I’m only covering these ones.
Sex: Are you biologically male or female, or somewhere in between?
Gender: What are the societal expectations/ feelings on how a particular sex should act? Ex: a women should wear a dress while men shouldn’t.
Gender Identity: Where you believe you personally fall in on the gender scale.
Sexual Orientation: What you are interested in.
In Melee and Smash 4, Sheik’s sex could be male or female, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. Sheik is still Zelda, and Zelda clearly identifies herself as female. She is only taking on the form of Sheik as a form of protection from Ganondorf. It’s not a permanent change, as she throws away the disguise to return to her original self. In the end of OoT, she show’s interest in the Hero of Time (unlike Midna).
What do you guys think?
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)