In Bayonetta, Hair Defies Everything

DIGITAL GEMS: Now that Bayonetta's on PC for the first time, Caty's using the opportunity to write about her favorite gun boot-strapped witch.

Digital Gems is our weekly column where we highlight contemporary and classic downloadable games that we think are worth your attention.

Over the weekend I saw Your Name, Japanese animator Makoto Shinkai’s lush new animated feature which broke box office records in Japan upon its release. There’s a moment in the film where a character cuts her hair short, and her friends are quick to make assumptions as to why. One suggests a break-up, then the comments are hushed away.

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This scenario is all-too common whenever a girl cuts her hair. I know from experience. My friends know from experience. Chopping any dramatic length off of hair is often seen by the outside world as a result of external change, like a breakup. Or a new job. Or quitting a job. Any sort of change is fair to muse about in the face of freshly shortened hair. But in reality, sometimes a girl just wants to cut her hair off because she feels like it. In Bayonetta, an action series starring a confident woman whose entire outfit is constructed of her own magical hair, hair is just another asset of style. Nothing more, and nothing less. (Except for the fact of being a weapon.)

For Bayonetta, newly re-released onto Steam today for PC, hair is her power. Her hair both clothes her, and helps her in summoning demons at her behest. In the first Bayonetta, the hair atop her head directly is orchestrated into a beehive. According to character designer Mari Shimazaki, the beehive was meant to stand in lieu of a traditional witch hat—since Bayonetta is a witch after all. In the sequel, Bayonetta’s look changes: her hair is cut short (and much more practical in the heat of battle, honestly).

In Bayonetta 2, Bayonetta’s pal Jeanne towers as a strong contrast. Her hair is long and flowing. Bayonetta’s is short and unkempt. Together, they storm into the combat against angels and demons. “Thinking of how she would look side by side with Bayonetta, we decided to give her long hair,” wrote Shimazaki in a blog for Platinum Games. “I wish I was a witch and could just summon my hair into any hairstyle I wanted.”

In media, folklore, and literature, when a girl cuts her hair, it’s often to symbolize a rite of passage. Like a princess embarking on an adventure. Or a girl shedding her old life away. Or, yes, even a break up. But Bayonetta defies all of these. Her hair grows long just as often as it’s cut short. Her hair emboldens her. It gives her magical powers (witchcraft, y’know). It boosts her confidence and makes her look more stylish than anyone around. Bayonetta’s always been about her hair—short or long. And she flips the expectation that by tampering with it, she’s signaling the world around her of some life change. When in reality, Bayonetta just feels like changing her hair for the hell of it, and that’s really all.

"Bayonetta's not the kind of girl who'd show up with the same hairstyle for her sequel," wrote Shimazaki in a blog regarding Bayonetta 2. "A girl can be known to change her hairstyle depending on her mood, so I guess Bayonetta was in the mood for something short. Still, knowing her, there’s no telling when she’ll decide to change it again." I guess we'll see, if Bayonetta 3 ever happens.

It took everything in my power to not insert a Pavement reference in the headline.

Tagged with Bayonetta 2, Digital Gems.

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