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Jump Force is one heck of a boys’ club

Crossover fighting game features just three women out of 40 characters

Ichigo and Rukia together in Jump Force. Spike Chunsoft/Bandai Namco

Jump Force, the manga-crossover fighting game that’s out now on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One, is a boring game that rides on its license and not much else. But look past the perplexing character styles and monotonous, frustrating combat, and notice an even bigger issue with the game.

In Jump Force’s 40-character roster, replete with reps from Bleach, Dragon Ball, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and other staples, there are 37 playable male characters. Math tells us that means there are three women.

Kaguya, a villain from the end of the Naruto manga, is playable; so is the sexy temptress Boa Hancock of One Piece. Finally, there’s Rukia of Bleach — although Jump Force uses a version of her that notably does not have access to the powers that made her one of the strongest fighters earlier in the manga’s storyline.

Boa Hancock fighting in Jump Force
Most of Boa Hancock’s abilities emphasize that, hey, she’s sexy.
Spike Chunsoft/Bandai Namco Entertainment

Three out of 40 characters means the roster is just 7.5 percent female — a grossly paltry showing for a game based on a magazine with 50 years’ worth of characters to pick from. Yes, Shonen Jump targets young boys; it’s right there in the name (“shonen” means “boy”). But there are plenty of amazing women that have graced its pages, as at least one previous Jump crossover makes plain.

Other crossover fighting games of late have suffered from homogenous rosters. Players rightly called out Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite for its male-heavy character selection; even that game has more female options to choose from than Jump Force, with five to the latter’s three. Dragon Ball FighterZ’s roster has grown since it launched last year, but updates have introduced very few women to the initial cast of bro after bro after bro — by “very few,” I mean three. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is comparatively balanced, with more than 20 female characters (including characters with male/female options) available.

Here’s how Jump Force stands among all of the above, based on its percentage of women in the full lineup:

  • Jump Force: 7.5 percent female fighters
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ: 9.375 percent female fighters
  • Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite: 13.88 percent female fighters
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: 16.4383 percent female fighters

To sum that up: Jump Force finishes last in an already frustratingly weak pool.

But it’s not all horrible news in this genre. The fantastic, Japan-exclusive DS game Jump Ultimate Stars boasts nine women in its lineup of 55 fighters — not fantastic, but a higher ratio (16 percent female) than Jump Force’s. Meanwhile, the poorly received J-Stars Victory VS, which launched in 2015, only has two women out of 39 fighters to choose from, making it even more male-skewing than Jump Force. But four years later, there are several new series featuring women to pick from. And, again: Shonen Jump has existed for more than 50 years. There are definitely female options, no which way about it.

Jump Ultimate Stars serves as a good model for an at-least-slightly-more diverse Jump game roster. Its female cast represents a broader spectrum of Shonen Jump history, with gag manga Dr. Slump’s goofy mascot Arale fighting alongside One Piece’s Nami, a more traditional fighter; Sakura Haruno, a close ally of Naruto’s throughout the series, also joins the fight, right there with the sci-fi fantasy series D. Gray-man’s Lenalee Lee. They’re all memorable characters with unique move sets that complement their male companions’, not just reiterate them.

Jump Force has playable female options through its character creator, and playing as a woman of our own making, fighting among these manga heroes, is ... fine. But the biggest appeal of crossover games is taking the reins of a favorite fighter and throwing them against another favorite to see who wins. There’s none of that tension with an original character, and it’s not like there aren’t plenty of great women the team could have added to the game.

Jump Force can continue to be a boys’ club all it wants. I’m going to stick with Jump Ultimate Stars for my playable manga wish fulfillment.

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