In video games
As a member of the Edenian race in the fictional other dimension called Outworld, the character is over ten thousand years old, although she appears to be a young woman. Throughout the years, Kitana has risen to great importance, first as the loyal stepdaughter of Outworld's evil emperor Shao Kahn; then his enemy, tearing herself away from his grasp and freeing her home realm of Edenia; and then leading an army into Outworld to combat any chance of Kahn rising to power again. Kitana shared a subtle love interest with Earthrealm champion Liu Kang until his death, though they were briefly reunited prior to his resurrection. Despite her loyalty to Shao Kahn for most of her life, she has aligned herself on the good side after learning the truth about her past and her real family. A disfigured clone of Kitana, given the name Mileena, was introduced as Kitana's twin sister to become a prominent archrival in the original game series' timeline.[note 1]
Kitana first appears in Mortal Kombat II (1993) as Shao Kahn's personal assassin, working alongside her supposed twin sister Mileena. After centuries of loyally serving Kahn, Kitana uncovers the truth about her past, discovering that she is actually the daughter of Edenia's former rulers King Jerrod and Queen Sindel, and was taken as Shao Kahn's own when he conquered their realm. She also learns that Mileena was never her real sister, but a grotesque clone of her created at her adopted father's behest by his sorcerer Shang Tsung. Originally intended to replace Kitana should she ever learn of her true birthright, Mileena emerged flawed and Kahn instead decided to make her monitor Kitana's loyalty to him. According to the semi-canonical spin-off game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks (2005), after Kitana was found no longer loyal to Kahn, she is put into a spell-induced trance and forced to fight the Earthrealm heroes (along with Mileena and Jade), before being freed from this state by the Shaolin warrior monks Liu Kang and Kung Lao. Eventually, the sisters clash and Kitana slays Mileena.
During the events of Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Kitana is put on trial for treason after killing Mileena. Before a verdict and sentence could be reached, however, Kitana escapes (as retconned in MK3 update releases Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat Trilogy) and joins the warriors of Earthrealm to free her mother Sindel, who has been resurrected and used by Kahn to invade Earth. After convincing her close friend Jade to join her, Kitana locates and frees Sindel from Shao Kahn's mental control, leading to his defeat at the hands of Liu Kang. Kitana, Sindel, and Jade then liberate Edenia from Outworld.
Their jubilation is short-lived, as during Mortal Kombat Gold (1999), Shinnok and his grand vizier Quan Chi escapes imprisonment in the Netherrealm and invades Edenia. Betrayed by the traitorous Edenian Tanya, Kitana, Sindel, and Jade are taken prisoner, but Kitana manages to escape and rejoin her Earthrealm allies. Shinnok's forces are eventually defeated by the joint efforts of Kitana and her allies. With Edenia freed once again, Kitana proposes to Liu Kang, offering him the chance to rule Edenia at her side as King and Queen, but he reluctantly rejects her offer, seeing his true duty as champion of Earth. After Shinnok's defeat, Kitana captures Mileena but learns that Shao Kahn has survived his defeat in Earthrealm and is regaining power. Knowing that Kahn would attempt to reclaim Edenia once he was strong enough, she forges an alliance with Goro, prince of the Outworld race Shokan, against Kahn's forces.
In Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002), Kitana, leading a preemptive strike against Shao Kahn's forces, learns that he has been slain by unknown assassins. Thinking her fight is at an end, she begins the journey back to Edenia, hoping to finally live in peace. However, on the way she encounters Kung Lao, who tells her of the plans of the Deadly Alliance of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, who are responsible for Liu Kang and Shao Kahn's demise and are attempting to revive the undead army of the legendary Onaga the Dragon King. Despite Kitana's grief, she rejoins the Earthrealm warriors and leads them into battle. During the assault on Shang Tsung's palace, she faces Quan Chi one-on-one but despite her improved fighting skills, gained from training with Bo' Rai Cho, Kitana is outmatched and killed alongside her allies. Shortly after, they are resurrected and magically enslaved by Onaga, who then sends Mileena to impersonate Kitana as the princess of Edenia.
In Mortal Kombat: Deception (2004), Onaga uses Kitana to defeat and imprison her mother, Sindel, knowing that the queen would not fight her daughter. Sindel is freed from her own dungeon by Jade, and together they flee to Outworld where they attempt to find a way to defeat Onaga and free Kitana from his influence. Unknown to anyone at the time, Liu Kang's spirit was able to remain amongst the living due to the bond he shared with Kitana. He found himself a new ally and friend in Ermac, as the two embark on a mission to save their allies as well. Ermac and Liu Kang are successful in freeing Kitana and the other Earthrealm heroes.
Afterward, as Kitana travels back to Edenia, she encounters Blaze, who warns her of a coming new danger that will threaten all the realms and advises her to assemble the forces of light into battle. Weary of constant battle, Kitana is disheartened, but Blaze assures her that the wars will soon be over. Following this warning, Kitana returns in Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (2006), accompanied by Liu Kang's spirit in order to keep him whole until there was a way to reunite him with his body. They later meet with Nightwolf, who offers to relieve Kitana of her burden to take Liu Kang's soul into himself, allowing her to fight against the coming evil. Kitana ultimately perishes with the rest of her allies during the battle.
In the uncanonical crossover game Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (2008), Kitana is transported to Metropolis, where she encounters her counterpart from the DC Universe, Wonder Woman. Due to the "kombat rage", Kitana hallucinates, believing Wonder Woman to be an assassin sent from Outworld and challenged her. After being defeated, Kitana flees to elsewhere in Metropolis, where she is found and defeated by Scorpion and brought to Raiden's temple, where she tells about seeing the fusion of Shao Kahn and Darkseid: Dark Kahn. Kitana then joins the rest of the Kombatants in traveling to the fused realms of Outworld and Apokolips. She fights alongside them against the DC heroes and villains, and is one of the many knocked unconscious while Raiden and Superman battle and destroy Dark Kahn.
Kitana re-appears in Mortal Kombat, the 2011 re-imagining of the earliest three Mortal Kombat games. In the game's story mode, she and Jade are sent by Shao Kahn to compete in Mortal Kombat. Kitana battles Liu Kang in an attempt to ensure that he will not reach the final stages of the first tournament, but is defeated; expecting to die, she is surprised by his decision to spare her. Later, during the second tournament, Kitana is approached by Raiden, who informs her that her supposed past as Shao Kahn's daughter is a lie, and discovers a newly created Mileena. Before Kahn, she accuses Shang Tsung of attempting to replace her, and is shocked to learn that the Emperor himself ordered Mileena's creation, as he imprisons Kitana in the palace and commands his "true daughter" to be brought to him. Kitana is soon freed by Jade and the two escape to Earthrealm to join their new allies against the forces of Outworld. They assist in the battle for Earthrealm, but are killed alongside several others by Kitana's corrupted mother, Sindel. In the end, she is shown to be one of the warriors that are resurrected by Quan Chi in the Netherrealm to battle Raiden.
Kitana returns in Mortal Kombat X (2015). In the story mode she is one of Quan Chi's revenants and fights alongside the corrupted Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sindel, and Smoke. She fights Jax and Cassie Cage in story mode, and after Quan Chi's death and Shinnok's defeat, she and Liu Kang become the new rulers of the Netherrealm.
Design history and derived characters
In 2011, Kitana's origins were revealed by her creator, John Tobias, who disclosed that she started out as an unplayable herald-type character called "Kitsune" during the early development of the original Mortal Kombat game in 1991; his inspiration at the time was the character of Princess Mariko from Jordan Mechner's 1984 video game Karateka.[note 2] In Tobias' design sketch, Kitsune wielded a single ornamental fan and "was going to fit into the story as Shang Lao's [early Shang Tsung] princess daughter—the spoil of victory for winning the tournament" who would betray her father after she fell for Liu Kang. Shang instead became a minion of Shao Kahn when the story was expanded for Mortal Kombat II, for which Kitsune was renamed "Kitana" and made Kahn's stepdaughter. According to Tobias, her original name was rejected for being Japanese and thus not compatible with "Shang and Shao who were both Chinese in origin" (before the games "ultimately became a hodgepodge of nonsensical Asian mythological hooha anyway"), and the name Kitana was created as "a combo of Kitsune & Katana" that would sound "generically Asian enough."
Mortal Kombat co-creator and producer Ed Boon said Kitana's iconic "Kiss of Death" (or "Kiss of Doom") Fatality was inspired by the demise of the villain Mr. Big (Dr. Kananga) in the 1973 James Bond film Live and Let Die, adding that it was his favorite finishing move of MKII and one of the best examples of their attempt to combine violent and humorous elements in the game. Her Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 / Trilogy Animality transformation animal is a small rabbit, a reference to the 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and her non-canonical ending in the Mortal Kombat 2011, in which she forms an alliance with Jade and Mileena, is a reference to Charlie's Angels. Besides the "Kiss of Death", Kitana's other most commonly recurring Fatality is an execution through decapitation with a bladed fan, which has been featured in almost all of her game appearances (except of Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe) and is expanded in Mortal Kombat 2011 where she cuts off the defeated opponents' arms before beheading them. During the early 1990s, there has been a popular yet completely false rumor regarding the supposed Nudality (or Sexuality), a unique finishing move to use either by or against Kitana and Mileena.
Boon described Kitana and Mileena as the female equivalents of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the series' two most iconic male characters with a fierce rivalry of their own. Speaking in 2009, Boon said Kitana had become of the most recognizable Mortal Kombat characters, alongside Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and the series' official protagonist Liu Kang. Prior to the release of Mortal Kombat X, the game's lead designer John Edwards said Kitana had remained his favorite character.
Kitana was originally portrayed by karate and taekwondo practitioner Katalin Zamiar. She was hired for the role after Boon and Tobias, who have been members of her fitness center, were contacted by her brother, a Mortal Kombat fan who proposed that she would take a role in the sequel. Zamiar said she was introduced to them through Johnny Cage's actor, Daniel Pesina, "when they decided they wanted to cast a female martial artist for the ninja roles." She trained in kung fu for the first time in preparation for the role. Though Kitana returned for UMK3, Zamiar did not reprise the role due to legal issues with Midway Games and was replaced by Becky Gable. Karen Strassman, who voiced Kitana in the 2011 reboot, reprised the role for the story mode of Mortal Kombat X, with Grey DeLisle performing in-gameplay voice work for the character.
Up until Mortal Kombat Gold, Kitana, Mileena and Jade all wore a common costume design in each game, differing from each other through palette swapping (purple for Mileena and green for Jade) to create their digitized sprite graphics.[note 3] Katalin Zamiar's outfit used for all three female ninja characters of MKII was Kitana's blue. It was a tailor-made, swimsuit-based simple costume that however presented some challenges for the crew during filming.[note 4] For UMK3, Becky Gable was videotaped in a more revealing outfit, which this time was red to stand out from the blue screen more. Both of these "classics" returned as optional costumes in MK2011.[note 5] Kitana first appeared unmasked in her 3D graphics model in Gold. In Deception, Kitana appears in the endings for Sindel and Ermac, resembling an unmasked and blue-clad version of Mileena from this game. Kitana's main costume in MKX, notably less skimpy than usual, was created to be different than it has been in the previous games.[note 6] Her alternative costume in MKX is more in the style of her previous outfits.
Besides Mileena and Jade in Mortal Kombat II and Khameleon in Mortal Kombat Trilogy, another character, Tanya, who was introduced in Mortal Kombat 4, also began as a recolored version of Kitana with altered moves. Another character derived from Kitana is the crimson code-colored female ninja Skarlet, who was first rumored to be an Ermac-style glitch character and debuted as a playable in MK2011. The moveset of Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat 3 is very similar to Kitana's in MKII.
Kitana's official measurements in Deadly Alliance are 128 lb. weight and 5'9" height. Her weapon of choice is a pair of razor-edged steel fans, inspired by Japanese war fans and originally being fully metal. Kitana's fans during the production of MKII were not actually steel but made of a reflective paper material, and were Zamiar's own training fans. Following her MKII debut, Kitana was repeatedly removed from further sequels due to various circumstances, only to always return in a port or an update, as it was the case with UMK3/Trilogy after her absence in MK3, Gold after her absence in MK4, and Mortal Kombat: Unchained after her absence in Deception.[note 7] In Gold, Kitana uses a throwing weapon, the "Flying Blade," which is similar to Tanya's sharp boomerang due to the two characters' linked development history in the original version of MK4.[note 8] In MKX, Kitana can use either her own weapons or those of Jade from previous games: a telescoping staff, and a glaive throwing blade that is guidable in midflight.
Most of Kitana's traditional special moves utilize her twin fan weapons, used as a melee weapon, as a thrown projectile, and to lift her enemies in the air.[note 9] In later games, Kitana received some special moves that have been typically associated with Mileena, such as a ground-roll attack in vs. DC Universe and teleportation-based moves since Shaolin Monks. Like all playable characters in Mortal Kombat X, Kitana has three different style variations to choose from in this game, including her "Mournful" variation using Jade's special attacks such as "Shadow Kick" and weapons. Her other MKX styles are the aggressive, fast and acrobatic Assassin, and the defensively-oriented Royal Storm, which expands on her fan-lifting abilities.
Kitana was chosen as the best Mortal Kombat II fighter by the editors of Sega Power and Super Play for being "good all around" and due to her quick attacks and perceived similarities to Chun-Li. Amiga Power too called her "a really good character to pick" and Cinema Blend stated Kitana "could absolutely dominate" the game. However, GamePro's strategy guide ranked Kitana as only the seventh best of the 12 fighters in MKII (citing her devastating combos, powerful "Fan Throw" move, and good sweep and reach hindered by slow release of the fan-based special moves and limited attack patterns); it was her clone Mileena who landed on the top of their chart. According to a retrospective by Complex, Kitana "had the most powerful projectile attack, and along with Mileena, the fastest throws and sweeps." "Kitana's big combos in the corner" were among Ed Boon's own personal favourite things in the game: "When I saw people do Kitana's combos I knew there was something special, because people were taking the game to a new direction." EGM described Kitana as "a force to be reckoned with" and predicted she would "make a big impact as her Fan Wave leaves foes open to combos." In the Game Gear version of MKII, however, Kitana's fan lifts the opponent too low and too far away for an easy combo.
Kitana's combo abilities were severely downgraded for Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (and, by extension, Mortal Kombat Trilogy), for which she received no new special moves unlike most of the other characters. According to Nintendo Power, "with such a small repertoire, Princess Kitana will be sorely challenged by experienced warriors," even as her fan toss is faster than many other projectile attacks. Sega Saturn Magazine opined that "Kitana's lack of enhancements doesn't make her as exciting to play as some of the other characters, though her excellent juggle combos still work - and they can do loads of damage," According to Total 64, "her moves are a little unfriendly and her combos are a touch difficult." EGM Strategy Guide for UMK3 stated: "She had deadly corner traps with damage in up to 90 percent [in MKII]. Now, her fan-raise combos have been severely crippled to almost not being worth it." Nevertheless, X360 called the CPU Kitana "the worst possible character to come up against" in the single-player Tower mode of UMK3, as she is "fast, impossible to sweep, and capable of rendering any opponent incapable with a waft of her fan." According to Dreamcast Magazine, Mortal Kombat Gold's returning "old favourites like Sub-Zero, Kitana and Baraka" too had by then "dated moves and fatalities." Her combos improved in the later games, and according to BradyGames' official guide for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, "Kitana stays at the top of the heap as far as kombatants go. In any stance, she can pump out over 30% with relative ease, making her one of the deadliest in the hands of a beginner or a master." Kitana was also later found to be capable of infinite-loop corner combos in her "Mournful" variation in Mortal Kombat X.
In Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, Kitana is fought as a boss character twice in the game's main story mode and is also one of unlockable player characters for the versus mode. Prima Games' guide to Shaolin Monks states she is "quick enough for moderate damage, and has some of the most potent special moves in the game," but her limitation is she needs to be fighting at close range to make an use of it. Regarding Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, however, Prima declared Kitana "a tough character to win with" and "like many of the other low tier character types, she's lacking in almost every aspect" (even as she "is a little better on defense than she is on offense"). She was rated overall only 4/10 for this game. Their official guide for Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, on the other hand, called her "one of the more dangerous characters in the game due to her speed and extremely effective move-set." Prima's official guide for 2011's Mortal Kombat deemed Kitana a capable fighter who once again "is at her deadliest in the corner" and is also especially good if played against Baraka and Cyber Sub-Zero. Prima observed Kitana in MK2011 as her "cheapest" (unduly overpowered) incarnation so far, stating "Kitana is not only one of the most damaging characters in the game, but in addition to the Fan Lift and Square Wave Punch, she can combo her Air Fan almost any time an opponent is airborne." According to Prima's guide to MKX, "Kitana is one of the more unique characters in the game" due to her inheriting many of Jade's special moves, and she "is a zoning character at heart, but she can play offensively or defensively" depending of a variation chosen. The guide recommended the "Mournful" variant for former Jade players, and the "Assassin" variant, which "tries to take the generally defensive style Kitana has in MKX and add some offensive firepower to it," for veteran Kitana players.
Live-action and animation
Kitana was among several characters featured in the 1995 stage show Mortal Kombat: Live Tour, where she was played by Lexi Alexander (credited as Lexi Mirai) and Jennifer DeCosta.
Despite being a major character in the video games' storyline, Princess Kitana was only a supporting character in both Mortal Kombat live-action films. In the movies, Kitana was portrayed by Talisa Soto, who was unmasked and wore less revealing, all-black costumes. In the 1995 first film, Kitana is introduced as a companion of Shang Tsung, who is aware that she is a dangerous adversary due to her being the rightful heir of Outworld and may attempt to ally herself with the Earth fighters, and he therefore sends Reptile to spy on Kitana. She eventually joins Liu Kang and the Earthrealm warriors to help them defeat the sorcerer. Kitana spends most of the 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in Kahn's captivity after being captured by Scorpion, before she faces Sindel during the final battle. Kitana's steel folding fans (redesigned into several individual blades instead of solid all-metal) appear once as her weapon, though she fights with them closed. While Annihilation teases a romantic relationship between Kitana and Liu Kang, her background in both films consists only of her being the rightful heir to the Outworld throne.
Kitana is a main character in the 1996 television animated series Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, loosely based on MK3 and the first film, and was voiced by Cree Summer. She was again unmasked while her costume bore similarities to her MKII outfit. but like in the first film, no reference is made to any past loyalty to Kahn. In the episode "Skin Deep", Rain is introduced as her former love interest turned enemy, though neither have ever shared any relationship in the series canon other than their Edenian heritage. The final episode involved Kitana leading an unsuccessful rebellion against Shao Kahn's Outworld rule.
Kitana is a recurring character in the 1998 noncanonical prequel live-action television series Mortal Kombat: Conquest, played by Audie England in two episodes ("Vengeance" and "Shadow of a Doubt") and once by Dara Tomanovich ("The Essence"), with Christine Rodriguez serving as their stunt double. In this series, she is fully aware of her Edenian past and the deaths of her parents at Kahn's hands, clandestinely working with Kung Lao to prevent the Emperor from conquering realms while at the same time feigning her allegiance to him. Her outfit and weapon are resembling these she has in the films, but she uses her native Edenian fighting style which she had mastered already before Shao Kahn's invasion and which was supplemented with various moves that she learnt from prisoners of her stepfather. The Konquest version of Mileena is neither her clone nor a sister, and Rain appears as her former best friend. In the series finale, which ended in a cliffhanger due to the show's abrupt cancellation after two seasons, Kitana appears to die after she is reluctantly ordered by Shao Kahn to be killed for plotting against him. She is promptly attacked by Shadow Priests and one of them uses Kitana's own fan against her.
Kitana was featured in a two-part episode in the 2011 prequel live-action webisode series Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Kitana was played by martial artist and stuntwoman Samantha Jo (credited as Sam Tjhia) in her acting debut. Her origin is told in part-live and part-animated episode "Kitana & Mileena", which is an altered adaptation of their backstory from the original game series' canon. In a notable difference, her mother Sindel uses a ritual so her soul fuses with Kitana's in hopes to avoid Shao Kahn's corruption before committing suicide. Kitana appears both masked (only in the animated scenes) and unmasked, and bests Mileena in a fierce sparring match. When the young sisters are sent by Shao Kahn to assassinate the man who is really King Jerrod, Kitana's biological father who is killed by Mileena, Kitana eventually learns the truth after her past and decides to turn against Shao Kahn in the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament. Kitana returned for the second season of Legacy in 2013, still played by Sam Jo but in a new costume.[note 10] In the second season, Kitana comes to rescue of Johnny Cage by fighting and defeating Mileena, whom she decapitates.
The 1990s film series actress Talisa Soto said she was while first preparing for her role she was "educated" about it by her nieces and nephews, and then underwent five weeks of martial arts training in kung fu, tai chi chuan and wing chun. Her further role in Annihilation required her to learn Brazilian stick fighting for the use of fans. Legacy's Samantha Jo, a self-professed Kitana fan since her childhood, did research "to get on the same page" with fans to see how they perceive Kitana while preparing for the role. She also said: "The biggest hurdle for me was to understand the sibling rivalry and betrayal that Kitana faced in her past, and how it deeply affected the character she is now."
In the 1995 novelization of the first Mortal Kombat film by Martin Delrio, Shang Tsung informs Goro that Kitana "alone keeps alive the memory" of the Outworld throne before Kahn's conquest and "uses her age and her position as a shield to cover her rebellion."
Kitana appears in Malibu Comics's 1994-1995 Mortal Kombat comic book series. She first appears during the 1994 three-issue miniseries "Goro: Prince of Pain", joining Mileena, Baraka and Reptile in searching for Goro in Outworld. During the "Battlewave" miniseries, she attempts to rebel against Kahn with the assistance of Kung Lao, Baraka and Sub-Zero. She is the subject of a one-shot issue titled "Kitana and Mileena: Sister Act", in which her royal background from the games is intact, only she is already an adult when Shao Kahn kills Jerrod and seizes the realm, before putting her under a spell that makes her forget her past life and instead believe she is Kahn's daughter. Unlike in the game series' continuity, in the comic series Kitana has no interactions with neither Liu Kang nor Jade; instead, she has a closer relation with Kung Lao (Shang Tsung even attempts to exploit this while taking Kitana's form). Kitana has a small part in Midway's Mortal Kombat 4 prologue comic book published in 1997 and released with the PC version of the game, in which she arranges peace between the warring Shokan and Centaurian races, and appears in the 2008 tie-in comic Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe: Beginnings, illustrated John Tobias and published by DC Comics in 2008.
Promotion and merchandise
Model Rachelle Glover dressed as Kitana, along with others dressed as Sonya and Mileena, was featured in her a 2011 live-action trailer "Kitana Kasting" and an official photo session; all three of them later also attended The Gadget Show: World Tour for a MK game tournament. Glover also portrayed Kitana in 2012's "Play Anywhere", a live-action trailer for the PlayStation Vita version of Mortal Kombat, first in two teaser trailers and then in the full version with both of them mixed together. Also to promote MK2011, UFC's Octagon Girl Brittney Palmer dressed up in a blue costume and played as Kitana in the game in a Playboy vlog.
A figurine of Kitana came in the MKII set with the Argentinian magazine Top Kids in 1995. An action figure of Kitana was released in the UK by Toy Island as part of their 1996 Mortal Kombat Trilogy series. Another action figure of Kitana, this time in her MKX "Royal Storm" variation, was released by Mezco Toyz in 2015 and a Funko Pop! figure was released in 2017. A 1/6-scale limited-edition statue of Kitana from MK2011 was released by Syco Collectibles in the Enchanted Warriors series in 2012. A 1/4 scale statue by Pop Culture Shock Collectibles was released in 2013, including an unmasked limited edition. A 1/3 scale statue of Kitana from MKX was released by Pop Culture Shock in 2018. Besides figures, some of them unreleased,[note 11] there have been also a number of other Kitana-themed merchandise items.[note 12]