Baiken is a hodgepodge of samurai tropes. While her initial design does come from Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin (whom Ishiwatari thought to be a woman at first,) Baiken is quite a lot more than just that. She gets her scar and lost arm from the literary character of Tange Sazen, though which eye has been scarred has been switched around. While Sazen is a man, the very second movie the character starred turned things around and starred Michiyo Okusu as Lady Sazen in Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword.
Certainly we can trace some elements of Baiken’s designs to characters like Tezuka’s Hyakkimaru as well, but all this really is to show that Baiken encompasses characteristics from an archetypical ronin samurai stories, including her traumatic past and thirst for revenge. Hell, she even kicks tatami up with a special move, and let’s not forget she gets her name from Baiken Shishido, who probably influenced her use of Demon Tools through his proficiency with the kusarigama, the sickle-chain. However, I do argue that Lady Sazen and Kenshin were the main influences here, and everything else was more or less a supplement to fit popular samirai tropes. Hell, she even has a pose where she holds her chin like Sanjuro from Yojinbo. Let’s get it on after the jump.
Baiken’s design has gone through a very similar evolution to that of Jam. While her overall design hasn’t changed all that much at the very core, it has been blown up, exaggerated and curved with each iteration. The very basic kimono she has been wearing most of the time has gotten detail along the way, and much like other Xrd characters, she’s wear more layers than before. Added details and points of interest are also a must nowadays, but what has stayed all this time is her ragged and torn left sleeve.
It should be noted that the image I’m using for Guilty Gear Baiken above from one of the collectable cards rather than from any books. This is because Baiken went through a visible design change in a very short of time that probably didn’t manage to be reflected across the media at the time. For one, Baiken has been depicted with that tattoo on her face, except in original GG sprite and in these cards, but books seem to use the same piece that is often associated with her GGX visual.
Let’s start there, from top to bottom. Baiken’s hair gains volume between the first two games, and it could even be argued that her hair colour was changed from reddish-orange to pink to make her stand out more as an individual than a Kenshin clone. The kimono has gotten more details, with her left sleeve gaining a pink rim to it and larger black stripes around waist and bottom. Some seem to think Baiken wears a vest over her kimono, but the main body of her kimono is black with white sleeves and white flaps and it has always been this way. There’s another card where we can see that her arm pits should be open, but this has never been reflected in the sprite or elsewhere. The symbol on her kimono, a sun of sorts, has gained thicker outlines as well. Notice the pink rim on her collar too.
The only reason I included her Accent Core illustration here is for two things; to show how black again has gone more towards grey, how her ripped sleeve now has the same pink rim and how tightly her kimono hugs her body.
I shouldn’t ignore her handguards either, which went from simple ragged tied around her arm to a proper bronze rimmed one. Baiken also switched swords at some point, with the one she’s carrying in GGX and GGXX has square holes in the tsuba. Well, they’re not square in her GGXX-R character image, but more like Core Cannon from Space Invaders.
As for Baiken’s Xrd design, quite a lot of stuff has changed, and while the silhouette has gone through rather drastic change due to the volume she’s gained, the overall appearance is very much recognizable Baiken. Pretty much the opposite of Potemkin.
Let’s get to the meat of things.
As mentioned, Baiken’s hair got lots more volume, but it also went through a change. The forehead bangs got shorter while the rest of the while thing got a whole lot bigger. Baiken’s hair had been very flowing and sleek before, but now it’s wild like fire. Colours are again broken, but we can’t have strong colours anyway nowadays, so there. Baiken’s face got a bit more angular, but is still very recognizable. Furthermore, her mono-goggle over her scarred eye may be yet another ronin trope, maybe referencing Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi. After all, she has the scar on the same side. Jubei is usually depicted having a tsuba as his eye-patch in popular culture.
Speaking of her theme music, while this is a design comparison, I have give a special mention to her new theme, 六文 – ROKUMON, for including a shamisen section from Momentary Life in it, much like how Dizzy’s One Dawn included a cue from Awe of She. The title of her new theme is based on the saying It takes a toll of six mon to cross the Sanzu River. The Sanzu River the Buddhist equivalent of River Styx, and it is believed that the dead must cross the river in order to be passed to afterlife. The dead were buried with six coins to help with this.
Much like Jam got really nice, shaped and perky pair on her own front, one of Baiken’s heavier change is her bust size, which now rivals with the largest out there. She would not lose to Mai Shiranui’s if contested. Despite this, half exposed bust has been Baiken’s signature design from the start, the shape just has become more round. This of course has dictated some of the design choices, like how the red strap frames them. The strap is strangely symmetrical, with two tassels hanging on either side with two bronze holders.
Speaking of the strap, the jacket she now wears is a new one. Continuing with the gold and brass theme from other characters, Baiken has a set of three buttons in the front and on the sleeves, that probably have some carvings on them. The skull motif is somewhat new, but not entirely unprecedented. It also sits only her right shoulder, making the jacket’s design interestingly asymmetrical. There is no pattern on the back either. Combined with the fact that the collar the jacket has reminds that of a schoolboy’s jacket, I’m betting all this is to give Baiken a bancho vibe.
The kimono she wears underneath her has gone an overall design change. The black stripes have taken more area and are framing edges. Baiken’s logo, a sun of sorts, have now become a fiery spin. Underneath that jacket, just on the sides of her breasts, we can still see it being mainly black in body. Of course, her right sleeve is ripped, and clearly shows that the inside of her kimono is now red rather than white. The pink rim in kimono’s collar is also gone, replaced with black. Baiken’s right arm has a guard, but this time it’s pitch black without any rims and is tied with red threads. While the ripped sleeve is missing the black ring, it’s visible on her left one.
The obi she wears has changed too, and now is tied with a bright red rope with two huge tassels. Considering how big things are all around in Xrd‘s, designs, the tassels almost look sensible in size. I guess Baiken’s hair take the cake in this one. The sword’s also the same old one from GGXX, seeing it has those Core Gunner -like cutouts in the tsuba. The sword is tied to her waist with a proper grey belt set, which surprisingly doesn’t have a huge buckle. The sheath itself is red though, so she had to get a new one at some point. Combined with the eyepiece and the jacket she’s wearing, this design has modernised Baiken quite a lot.
There’s not much to talk about her lower body. Baiken has opted to wear a sarashi as her undies, tied around her like boxers. She still wears sandals, thought they’re high cut this time around with red string in order to match her jacket’s and guard’s ropes. The sole is thicker than before, but is coloured the same black as the rest.
Outside the hugely exaggerated ornaments, Baiken lacks one other element that appears on pretty much all other characters; the text. Most characters have loads and loads of short quotes everywhere on their outfits. Baiken seems to lack any text on her, perhaps because she’s the only one not taking main inspiration from music.
Because of these changes in dimensions and how much each detailing takes space, Baiken’s overall visual impact has changed. The reds, whites and blacks take up different amount of space and thus give off just radically different enough vibe. She has a more directly threatening atmosphere to her appearance. Rather than a sleek, swallow-like appearance, what we have now is a rowdy, hell’s gates kicking no-nonsense lady.