Machiko Predator

Machiko Memories: How a Human Woman Became the Greatest Predator Ever

I grew up in an amazing era in which franchises like Alien and Predator were marketed to children. This was years before either franchise went PG-13 with the release of the first Alien vs. Predator movie. The first two Predator flicks were insanely gory and violent, especially, and yet you would find dozens of action figures depicting their likeness in the bargain bins at KB Toys. There was an Alien vs. Predator arcade game, even a game for Super Nintendo—Alien 3 and Predator 2 also got the console treatment—and I ate up every last bit of it. It was a privileged, interesting time, growing up living and breathing both of these franchises, always considering them two great tastes that taste even better together. I had Aliens vs. Predator toys, games, books, and comics, years before we ever even got a movie. Even after all this time, it’s those novels and comics that I remember most fondly, because those crossovers introduced me to my favorite character in either franchise: Machiko Noguchi, the greatest Predator there ever was.

The Predators—or Yautja, if you’re scoring points in the useless knowledge olympics—are cool as hell by themselves, don’t get me wrong. The original design by Stan Winston is so incredibly striking, even more impressive knowing that it was created partway through the production, when the original lizard monster design just wasn’t working out. Nor was Jean Claude Van Damme, who had been infamously cast as the creature before being replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. The concept by itself is so, so good. An alien targeting the most dangerous prey, a silent and invisible killer who only hunts creatures that offer a challenge. It’s basically inverting the classic slasher premise by featuring a masked killer preying on the toughest, most capable, most prepared people, rather than vulnerable youth. But, just given the basic concept, it’s also no surprise that the Predators are the biggest alpha males in the galaxy, too. 

Enter Machiko. When we’re introduced to her in the original Aliens vs. Predator comic book miniseries—adapted into the novel Aliens vs. Predator: Prey—Machiko is very much like Ripley. She’s an ordinary officer, a company woman, just trying to get through the day. Ryushi is a desert planet in the middle of nowhere, a wasteland with a kind of western vibe. Especially in that it is literally a ranching planet. This is an outpost with not much going on, and everyone needs to get along to keep things running smoothly. And yet, even in that microcosm of an environment, people hate her. She has a reputation for being a bitch, for being difficult. All the guys make crude jokes about her, they don’t even care if she’s in the room or not. Her only friend is an android, and even she wonders what that says about her humanity. It’s incredibly un-subtle to say she feels like an alien, but that’s clearly the truth. 

When the siege begins, as the Xenomorphs hatch, find hosts, and start to take over the compound, and then the Predators show up to hunt them with no regard or priority for human life, Machiko’s is the level head. Because she is, above all else, a survivor. She even makes an unlikely alliance with a Predator she nicknames Broken Tusk, and as they fight their way through the compound side by side, gains his respect. He gives her a mark, the same one he has on his own forehead, to signify to others that she is a warrior, and then he dies. 

After that is where Machiko’s story gets really interesting, as the mark Broken Tusk gave her means that the Predators have to take her in as one of their own, because she has proven herself in combat and earned the mark of a warrior. But they make it clear right out of the gate that it is the last thing they want to do. All of a sudden, Machiko is adopted into the life of a hunter. She never connected with people, so seeing the stars, interacting with alien life, it’s sad because that’s probably all she ever wanted, and yet they hate her. They have to take her in, but they don’t want her there. She’s female, she’s human, that’s two strikes against her. Machiko becomes the first human Predator ever, the first female Predator we had ever seen, and the fact that the other Predators absolutely hate her for it are only a couple of the reasons why she is truly the best to ever do it. 

Right out of the gate, she has nothing in her favor, except that she’s alive. Being the lone survivor of the siege on Ryushi is enough for the other Predators to acknowledge her bravery, but it only highlights what an anomaly Broken Tusk was for even helping her and fighting by her side in the first place. He was the only one of them who was ever on her side and, if she was going to be adopted into the clan, a friend she desperately needed. None of these Predators who take her in saw her fight, and even seeing it now, they dismiss it. The mark she was given only highlights their hypocrisy, because no matter what the scar on her forehead says, there is nothing that she could ever do to be seen as worthy in their eyes. They will never not hate her, they will never see her as a warrior, or anything more than an animal. There is not a single thing that she could ever do to make them see her as worthy, simply because she’s human and female, and while she lives among them, she has to live with that every single day. Whether it was intentional or not, it’s a pretty fitting parallel to just about any woman working in a male dominated space. And the Predators, in their uber-masculinity, are the perfect creatures to embody that metaphor. No matter what she does or how hard she works, they are simply never going to see her as if she belongs.

Given that, Machiko does fight to prove herself, but not to them. Anything she could do would only fall on deaf ears. But handling crappy dudes is something she’d been doing long before she became a part of the Predator clan, so while they occasionally can knock her down, they can’t knock her out. Her life becomes a fight to prove to herself that she can do this, and she does. From the get-go, she has every disadvantage. She’s the only Predator who didn’t grow up with any of this technology, who has to learn it all on the fly because there’s obviously no one willing to take the time to teach her. When they’re not ignoring her, they tend to literally pray pranks to humiliate her, like frat boys. Or they outright set her up and try to get her killed, attempting to leave her for dead, so they can get her out of their lives without technically dishonoring themselves. The name they give her translates as Little Knife, and it’s given as an insult, but she forges it into a badge of honor. Yes, that’s who she is. A small knife that you don’t see coming and still cuts deep. 

Even in peak physical condition, Machiko is way weaker than the rest of the Predator clan, obviously. They’re eight foot tall movie monsters; she’s human. These creatures are, without a doubt, tough. But is Machiko tougher? I honestly think so, yeah. As fierce as the Predator lifestyle is, they all have advantages—every last one of them—that she doesn’t have. Machiko has to be way more tactical, way more strategic in her fighting because she can’t rely on brute strength. She has to use her environment in a way that other Predators don’t always have to do. And that’s on top of having to learn to use all of their gadgets and weapons on the fly, which includes having to learn a language that she cannot even physically speak. 

Machiko’s time as a Predator was short-lived, but it’s amazing that she even survived it. Her overall story arc in the original comics was largely limited to the first Aliens vs. Predator miniseries and its sequel, Aliens vs. Predator: War. When those were adapted into novels, which is admittedly where I first discovered them, Machiko also starred in Aliens vs. Predator: Hunter’s Planet, making for a nice trilogy. That novel, which sees a Xenomorph infestation at a planet that’s basically one huge big game preserve, is highly recommended. It’s worth it alone just for a sequence in which Predators hunt a cloned T-Rex. Machiko also returned in the 2010 comic series Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War. 

While Machiko has never made it to the big screen, her original arc of teaming up with a Predator, getting her mark, being Blooded and earning the respect of the Predator clan, all inspired the 2004 Alien vs. Predator movie. Still, I would love to see this character brought to life. She has so much cinematic potential. Having said that, I can’t imagine there’s another Alien vs. Predator movie in the cards anytime soon. Even with Disney, they of the cinematic universe, in charge. I think it’s probably best to make Predator films that are a little more scaled-back, similar to the first two. It shouldn’t be a hard franchise to figure out, because those two flicks prove that the Predator can simply be dropped into any situation and make it more interesting. Could Machiko sustain her own project? Absolutely. Give her a Hulu series called Little Knife and I would watch that over and over again for the rest of time. I don’t see that happening, but in the meantime, there are some great stories featuring this character if you do a bit of digging. I think you’ll be glad you did. But with the amount of deep cut Star Wars characters coming back into play in things like The Mandalorian, if future Alien or Predator movies ever do decide to cull from the comics, make mine Machiko.

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