OPINION -- When I first saw Kano's ugly mug in Mortal Kombat 1, I hated him. I really hated him. He had a bullshit knife projectile, an even more bullshit cannonball roll, and I mean just look at the guy--he wore a bright white gi, a dumb bandolier (for what?), and a cheap-looking metal mask. I hated the sight of him, especially because he was the one Obviously Bad Guy in the original roster. He was also just straight-up the least interesting character. In a game with ninjas and magical projectiles, Kano was just a boring goon with a knife; a waste of space.
He didn't get any better in the following 26 years, suffering from some questionable redesigns--especially the one where he started wearing a lock of Sonya Blade's hair around his neck like a creep. In Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe, instead of being a man of Japanese-American descent, Kano was retconned to be Australian, a supposed nod to the misinterpreted accent of Trevor Goddard's (RIP) cockney version of Kano in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film. This was an interesting decision, but not one that fundamentally changed how unexciting Kano was.
That is, until 2019. In Mortal Kombat 11, a game filled to the brim with objectively top-notch character redesigns, Kano is suddenly all about his Australianness. It's a great move, the perfect move even, and what's more, this redesign is executed in an unprecedented, brilliant way. In fact, MK11's Kano is the best and most authentic Australian character in any video game, ever. Yes, even more Australian than Roger, the playable kangaroo in Tekken.
Hear me out: In Mortal Kombat 11, there's a depth to Kano's character writing that goes beyond an imagined upbringing and accent that elevates him far beyond just a caricature. You can see it in the way he carries himself. The humorous Australianisms, throwaway swears, and casual "mates" that drop naturally into his quips. His more relaxed personality and grounded appearance--he looks like a dad you might meet at a beach BBQ, downing beers with his gut hanging out, embarrassing you in front of your friends with his 70s pornstar moustache and misguided, chauvinistic jokes.
Every little detail about Kano in Mortal Kombat 11 is in service of fleshing out his new personality--no longer just a Crime Dude with a knife, he personifies the mischievous, rowdy, and give-no-shits nature of the best and worst Australian society has to offer (often associated with being a "larrikin," a dated but idealised embodiment of these tropes).
It's rounded out with a stellar voiceover job by JB Blanc, who I was convinced was a native Aussie until I looked him up (he played Gustavo Fring's personal surgeon in Breaking Bad!), which sounds genuine without being over-the-top and cartoonish like say, Junkrat in Overwatch (though I love him too). Kano in Mortal Kombat 11 is endlessly entertaining to me--he is the world citizen's Johnny Cage.
I friggen' love Kano now. I love how well he represents my country despite being a baddie. I love how you can learn so much about Australian culture by simply observing and studying Kano. In fact, I love the details about his character so much that I spent far too much time ignoring my regular work and compiling this handy dossier of Kano-isms to teach you about Australia. Hey look, you've read this far, might as well keep on learning with...
KANO: A CULTURAL GLOSSARY
Kano's primary weapons of choice are his signature knives. Now, the obvious connection you might be drawing here is the well-weathered Crocodile Dundee quote ("That's not a knife...") but there's a more modern line to be drawn--Australia's strict gun laws. It is incredibly difficult to own any kind of firearm in this country unless you have a very good and specific reason, as it damn well should be. Kano doesn't have the luxury of bringing firearms into a fighting tournament like literally all the American fighters, so I imagine he just had to get really good with whatever he could obtain from the shops easily. Sure, he's supposed to be an inter-dimensional arms dealer or something, but according to Baraka in Mortal Kombat 11, all the guns he provided to the Tarkatans were busted anyway so who the hell knows?
On top of a seemingly infinite supply of knives to throw, in Mortal Kombat 11 Kano also has a seemingly infinite supply of beer to drink. And he drinks. A lot. There's an intro animation where he drinks a beer. There's an outro animation where he drinks a beer. There's a between-rounds animation where he drinks a beer while spacing himself out for the next round. One of Kano's fatalities has him sculling (quickly drinking) a beer, glassing (hitting) his opponent with the bottle, and then waltzing with their corpse like the fun-loving guy he is.
Drinking is Kano's most endearing new character trait to me, because of how true to character it is--Australians love to drink, for better or worse. We have one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the world. It is a central part of our cultural identity. It's part of our day-to-day. Pubs are places you take your families for lunch. One of our best former prime ministers was famous for inhaling beers, and even has a brew named in his honor. Hell, I had a couple of beers at lunch before writing this. Drinking defines our best times and our worst times--having a laugh, and having a brawl. Kano's drinking behaviors exemplify both.
Kano's default intro animation sees him pissing on the floor before a fight ("Bloke's gotta mark his territory"). It doesn't matter if it's outside in the dirt, in a robotics lab, or on a nice glossy stage. His brutality victory animation also sees him piss on the floor. I mean, I get it--a person who drinks as much as Kano is going to need to piss a lot, and honestly, when you're camping or driving through the rural areas of Australia you'd be forgiven for pissing on the side of the road or by a tree--only about 0.2% of Australia's landmass is urbanised (though 90% of the population occupies that 0.2%, it's wild). After a big night of drinking I could understand if you needed to piss in an alley or something, even though it's legally a punishable offence here.
But Kano's pissing habits are more likely an indicator of his disregard for the self-seriousness of Mortal Kombat's pageantry, which is definitely an Australian attitude to take. However--I just want to make it clear that we don't all piss on the street at every opportunity, okay? Okay.
Kano doesn't wear a shirt in his MK11 default costume. He definitely isn't the most toned fighter on the roster, though he does alright ("Over 50 and still a rippa!"). It's a dad-bod flaunt more than anything, and like most dads he's probably reached an age where he doesn't give a shit anyway, especially when you're in Outer Realm and it's friggen' hot. It's hot in Australia, too. Our summers regularly hit over 40 degrees Celcius (104 Fahrenheit), even higher with climate change, so it's not a big deal to see people walk around without shirts. You do what you gotta do, and Kano is a practical guy.
KANO, THE NAME
I have no idea where series creators Ed Boon and John Tobias actually got the name "Kano" from. My best guess, via Google, is that "Kano" is a Japanese name that loosely translates to "masculine power", and given that his original nationality was Japanese-American, I guess that checks out. It still checks out in Mortal Kombat 11--Kano is a pretty manly middle-aged white man, after all. But man, Kano works so well as an Aussie-as-hell Australian name.
We like to truncate long words in Australia, but not only that, we like to add an "O" to the end of words, too. Avocado? Avo. Liquor store? Bottle-O. Gas (service) station? Servo. Afternoon? Arvo. I could go on forever. With Kano's retconned nationality, I could 100% believe that "Kano" is just an Australian nickname for something longer. What could that be? Kane? Kayden? Caleb? It could be anything. But it works--"Yea mate, Kano's (Kayden's) gone to the servo (gas station) to pick up some durries (cigarettes)".
SHITS, NONE GIVEN (See also: SELF-DEPRECIATION)
There was a thing in entertainment news recently, where middle-aged American actress Anjelica Houston threw shade at the middle-aged cast of Poms for, what I can gather, doing what she thought was a dumb middle-aged movie idea. Jacqui Weaver, a beloved middle-aged Australian actress who is part of the Poms cast, publically retorted in a separate interview, seemingly without any regard for social etiquette or self-preservation, saying simply, "She can go f*** herself."
Australians aren't one to beat around the bush and put up with bullshit. The blasé, single-minded dismissal of pretentiousness, I think, is an endearing cultural trait. Kano does this so many times in his interactions with the rest of Mortal Kombat's high-and-mighty cast of rulers, gods, and narcissists, casually dismissing whatever holier-than-thou shit they might have going on. This sits comfortably together with a self-deprecating lack of awareness, too, for better or worse. Some of my favourites:
Noob Saibot: "I am Death's hand!"
Kano: "Bugger off, mate"
Sonya: "I only deal in dead criminals."
Kano: "Talkin' out of your clacker (anus), luv."
not to mention:
Kano: "Why is it we ain't we mates, Raiden?"
Raiden: "Perhaps your life of sin and licentiousness"
Kano: *pause* "Yea that could be it."
Okay, so despite his newfound endearing dad energy, Kano is still a dishonest dude by nature. He's a little bit of a sleaze:
Kano: "Want to taste Australia's best blood sausage?"
Skarlet: "I would rather taste your blood, Kano."
Kano: *pause* "Would you settle for me sausage?"
...and he's definitely still wickedly unscrupulous, often talking about making shady deals, cutting people open, and delivering heads in boxes. No doubt you've already drawn the "Australia is a criminal colony" conclusion, and look, that's fair. A lot of white Australians are descended from the convicts who arrived from England in the 18th century, but a lot has changed since then.
Today, Australia is a massively multicultural nation that is heavily comprised of immigrants and refugees (my family included) from all over the world--Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa--and we're also home to some of the world's oldest indigenous cultures. What I'm saying is that the English criminals we're often associated with are a part of our history rather than our identity. Kano is an exception, rather than a rule to our modern upstanding values. But then again, our current, mostly Anglo government regularly locks up refugee families and children in off-shore detention centres so hey maybe not.
And now, a crash course in Australian slang:
KANO'S FIGHT QUIPS: EXPLAINED
"On Ya Bike!"
|F*** off, basically. You don't actually need to be referring to someone's physical bicycle for this to work.|
"Best chuck a u-ey!"
|A u-ey is usually in reference to a u-turn in a car, but also can be used to refer to a 180-degree turn. Again, Kano is basically telling someone to f*** off. Related: doing doughnut in a car is called a "dough-ey".|
"Nice bit of tucker."
|"Tucker" means food, but I know very few city people who use that term in casual conversation. Also, Kano eats a lizard while he says this, and I don't know any Australian who has ever eaten a lizard. Does a crocodile count? They taste like chicken.|
|"Don't be a bludger."||"Bludger" is slang for a lazy person. "Bludging" might also mean skipping out on school or procrastinating. You hear a lot about bludging in this country.|
|(To Cassie Cage) "You sound like a shithouse American tourist."|
Basically what it sounds like. American tourists are shithouse.
(To Baraka) "That's a bonza attitude!"
|"Bonza" means good!|
|(To Kano) "Whaddaya say we split some stubbies?"||A "stubby" is a term for a small-sized bottle of beer, as opposed to a "longneck", although the measurements for beer vary by region in Australia.|
|(To Scarlet) "Now your blood's worth bottling."||"You're very special", basically, but to be honest I have never heard anyone say this so someone at NetherRealm obviously just Googled "Australian slang" when they ran out of ideas.|
|(To Kotal) "Let's just give it a burl."||"Give it a go", basically. We had a former GameSpot employee who said this quite regularly, and for a long time I thought he was just making words up.|
|(To Jax) "We ain't here to f*** spiders"||A turn of phrase that means you came here for a specific reason. Not f***ing around, and not spider f***ing, naturally. That's gross.|
|(To Jax, when asked about his first crime) "I was an ankle biter, five or six."||Ankle biter is Australian slang for child. Australian children do not actually bite your ankles. Except for maybe that feral kid in Mad Max 2.|
|(To Johnny Cage) "Good luck with that, ya drongo."||"Drongo" is Australian slang for "idiot" or "stupid person".|
|(To Liu Kang) "Whatta bunch of dills."||"Dill" is also Australian slang for "idiot" or "stupid person".|
|(To Kabal) "Back off, you ungrateful yobbo."||"Yobbo" is also Australian slang for "idiot" or "stupid person" (we have heaps), but usually a rude or particularly unsophisticated one.|
KANO'S MOVELIST NAMES: EXPLAINED
|Spewin'||"Spewin'" is what you say if you can't believe something happened. I guess it also means "vomiting". The combo string that has this name involves Kano spitting (not vomiting) in his opponent's face so I think "Spewin'" probably refers to the act of surprise here.|
|Fair Suck Of The Sav||This is another one I have never heard anyone use seriously, but it basically means "to have a fair go", and the "sav" refers to a sausage, which is a little gross. We also call sausages sandwiches "sangas". They are our national food--a staple at hardware stores, school fetes, and at polling places during government elections.|
|What happens when you cut a snake? It gets angry. "Cut snake means "angry". Don't cut a snake.|
|FIGJAM||This is incorrectly written out in lower case letters in Mortal Kombat 11, but it's actually an acronym for "F*** I'm Good, Just Ask Me", as immortalised in the hip-hop track of the same name by the Australian group, Butterfingers.|
|Penal Colony||Australia was originally founded as a penal colony. Makes sense.|
|Face Like A Dropped Pie||Another kind of obvious turn of phrase--what happens when you drop a pie? It gets pretty ugly. Personal-sized meat pies are another iconic Australian food thing. Most people in the world think the idea of meat in a pie is gross. Those people are wrong.|
KANO'S GEAR NAMES: A CRASH COURSE IN CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN ROCK
A number of Kano's equippable eye masks are actually classic Australia rock music references, and I was honestly giddy when I saw some of these mentioned. Not familiar with one of Australia's golden eras of music? Mortal Kombat 11 is a great place to start. Follow those YouTube links for a good time.
Hunters & Collectors, more affectionately known as the "Hunnas", were an 80s pub rock band. Holy Grail is a karaoke classic I remember GameSpot's editor-in-chief belting out on the regular back in the day.
|Mental and Everything||Mental As Anything were a laid-back 80s pop-rock band. They're great, I love them. The Nips Are Getting Bigger is one of their best songs, but it's definitely not the biggest. That accolade goes to...|
|Live It Up||Live It Up, which is Mental As Anything's biggest hit. This is an absolute classic. Listen to it now. I think it was in Crocodile Dundee? I haven't actually seen that movie, so I wouldn't know.|
|Midnight Oil Marauder||Another 80s group, Midnight Oil remain one of Australia's most successful political rock bands. Their frontman, Peter Garrett had a long stint as a government minister. He's also well known for his uh, unique dance moves.|
|Bed Burner||Beds Are Burning is Midnight Oil's most famous track, and probably one of the most iconic Australian rock songs of all time. It's a protest song that deals with the ever-present issues of indigenous land rights.|
|Cold Chiseled||Cold Chisel are yet another beloved 70s/80s Australian pub rock band fronted by Jimmy Barnes, who Americans might know better as the screaming cowboy in the sky in that one video. Their best song, another karaoke classic, is Khe Sanh, which tells the story of a returning Vietnam veteran.|
|Mister Dirty Deeds||Everyone knows AC/DC, right? Right. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap is what this is a reference to. Good band, good song. Bon Scott was gone too soon.|
|Cruel Sensation||I want to say that this one is a reference to New Sensation, a song from Aussie 80s rock band INXS. But it could also be a reference to another 80's rock band, The Cruel Sea.|
|Kill.u.tonight||Similarly, I reckon this one is a reference to Need You Tonight by INXS. Another great song. That guitar riff! These are ALL great songs.|
|Eye Hooks||This gross reference is likely related to 70s glam-rock band Skyhooks. They had a bunch of hits, but Horror Movie is probably the one that skyrocketed them to success. They're basically Rocky Horror Picture Show, the band.|
I've left out a bunch of things, and there are certainly a few Kano references in Mortal Kombat 11 that don't quite hit the mark. But man, going through all these Kano details makes me so proud to be an Australian, and so happy to see and play as a genuine Australian character. I'm so damn impressed by the effort, commitment, and execution of dad Kano. It definitely feels like there were some bonafide Australians (maybe Queenslanders? There are a higher amount of maroon [state colour] outfits and QLD location references) who worked hard to turn Kano into the lovable bogan (unrefined person) he is in Mortal Kombat 11. That, or some really dedicated Americans did a lot of in-depth research and managed to pull it off with measured grace.
Either way, good onya. Kano is the best Australian to ever appear in a video game, and everyone at NetherRealm who had a hand in his redesign or even so much as looked at Kano during development deserves a promotion. That would be bonza (good).
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