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Saturday, January 31, 2015

How does your beam katana swing?: gender identity and sexuality in No More Heroes - part seven: Tenacious Beats

This is the seventh entry in a series of short articles I will be posting that explores the gender roles and sexuality of various characters within the NMH titles. As mentioned in the first mini-article, some of what I will be covering deals with information that is explicitly stated within one game or the other, while other portions are pulled from my own personal speculations and fan theories. Fair warning: as the No More Heroes titles both bear 'M' ratings, there may be adult language and/or content referenced in these articles, as well as spoiler content for anyone who has not yet completed the games.

Tenacious Beats


In the last post, I discussed two of Santa Destroy’s veteran fighters who warn Travis of the trouble he’s getting himself into by aiming for the top of the stack. One of the earliest characters Travis encounters in the sequel game, Desperate Struggle, is an assassin by the name of Nathan Copeland. After Travis kills Skelter Helter, younger brother of the assassin Travis faced in the intro sequence of the first No More Heroes title and the ranking fight that set him on his path to glory, word quickly spreads across Santa Destroy that the so-called ‘crownless king’, Travis Touchdown himself has returned.

Nathan: “This must be karma… Travis Touchdown.”
Travis: “Spare me the mystic crap. I came here to fight.”

Nathan Copeland’s high-rise apartment is large, and decorated with gold and marble interior, similar to Death Metal’s mansion in the first game. However, unlike Death Metal, Nathan Copeland displays excitement at the prospect of facing off against Travis, and given the fashionable clothing and bling he’s decorated himself with, as well as the two scantily-clad groupies to either side of him, he appears to be drinking in his role as fiftieth-ranked assassin to the fullest. Nathan does not appear to hold much of a meaningful connection to his female companions, as he almost immediately throws them toward Travis as human shields that get caught between their flurry. They quickly die, with Nathan not displaying the slightest hint of remorse for their bodies being shredded to pieces.

Nathan: “Magnificent! Travis, the crownless king! I see the rumors were true.”
Travis: “I don’t know who’s talking about me, but that nickname’s alright!”
Nathan: “Listen to me, your highness, these rankings mean nothing to me! Neither does my sect, or the mob. My only true calling was to clash swords with you. That’s why I joined this contest – I was starving for a worthy foe.”
Travis: “Then you’re in luck, ‘cause I’m as worthy as it gets. And I’ve got a shit-ton of anger to work out!”
Nathan: “That’s what I like to hear! This is it! This is what I’ve been praying for! I’m weary of this gilded world – all glitter, no soul. Save me from sorrow, crownless king. Thy sword and thy wrath will deliver me.”
Travis: “Uh… you should go easy on that crazy punch. How about I just cut you a new one?”
Nathan: “We’ll both do as divinity commands!”
Travis: “Halle-fuckin’-lujah!”

This buildup to their fight an interesting parallel to when Travis first set out on his journey to become ‘number one’. This time, it is Nathan who fits the role of overconfident young assassin, and Travis who is the veteran. Travis was guided by delusions of grandeur, not fully understanding the ramifications of what would come with his drive toward greatness, while Nathan’s desire is to face a worthy opponent, namely the most legendary of all UAA assassins, Travis Touchdown. Nathan also appears to believe that some divine intervention will be decide who is best, rather than the respective skill sets he and Travis bring to the table, all of which is a tad ironic, considering his rank in the UAA. Number fifty of fifty-one is, frankly, nothing to really brag about, and given Sylvia’s warning to Travis in the first No More Heroes about how there could be someone just around the corner waiting to kill him, means that Nathan’s life expectancy is among the shortest of any of the UAA ranked assassins.

Nathan shouts out one exuberant line of “Deliverance!” before having his torso sliced in half. Thereafter, Travis and Sylvia talk about the road that lies ahead, before Travis can square off with his ultimate foe, Jasper Batt Jr., avenge the death of his pal Bishop, and dismantle the entire UAA. Sylvia praises Travis, saying that he was, “spectacular!” But whereas Travis is shown to be breathing quite heavily following his fight with Ryuji, feeling a great deal of pain from the electrocution and laser blasts dealt out by Destroyman, and even getting psyched as Letz Shake starts off the countdown for his disaster blaster, he does not appear to have even broken a sweat in his fight against Nathan Copeland.


Sylvia: “Look at you, Travis – violence is the only way you can express yourself, no?”
Travis: “Oh I’m in the zone, baby. Nothing’s gonna hold me back.”
Sylvia: “Good. I’ve arranged the next fight. It’s going to blow your mind!”
Travis: “Can’t fuckin’ wait.”

Even if Nathan Copeland effectively proved little more than child’s play, Travis does seem to get a sort of high off the acknowledgement of his returning to his assassin’s ways. I talked at length in a previous part of this series about the progression of Travis and Sylvia’s relationship, but over the course of Desperate Struggle, we see some rises and dips in the way they are building toward that passionate climax in Travis’ motel room. Sylvia guns down Ryuji with extreme prejudice when Travis refuses to finish him off, claiming that whatever honor he might have, he could come back and attempt to strike Travis down, and is, in a twisted way, showing that she cares for his well-being, which is quite a stark contrast to the first game, when nearly every boss fight would be preceded with a confirmation of her faith that Travis would die against his latest opponent. However, preceding Travis’ arena rematch with the now brain-in-a-jar Dr. Letz Shake, Sylvia displays some colder feelings toward him that would indicate her old ways are resurfacing.

Sylvia: “Travis, It’s me. Your next fight is arranged. You know what to do, yes? I’ve updated your map. Handle the rest yourself.”
Travis: “Woah there, ice queen! What’s with the harsh treatment?”
Sylvia: “I do not have time to waste on twenty-fifth-ranked scrubs like you! Take a hint, you impotent dipshit!”
Travis: “…I like her better when she’s horny.”

As we later learn, Sylvia separated from Henry at some point between the two games, and it is possible that Sylvia’s sudden shift to anger is actually derived from that. It would also make sense, given that she calls Travis ‘impotent’, despite the fact that they have not been physically intimate with each other at this point in the game. I previously discussed how Travis and Sylvia’s relationship is built upon confusion and sometimes contradiction, with the two of them not fully understanding what it is that brings them together in the end. It’s very possible then, that given the far more complex presentation of her as a character in the sequel, that this could be Travis catching Sylvia in a moment of wrestling with her own side of this conundrum.

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