Kairi, supposedly the “leading lady” of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, is a tease. “We made it this far by sticking together. You can’t go alone.” Give me a break. You’re not going. You’re not going to do anything. You might even get captured again.
I am sick and tired of waiting on Square Enix to make Kairi the heroine we’ve been promised.
Kingdom Hearts I
Since the very beginning, Kairi has been the embodiment of everything wrong with the female representation in Kingdom Hearts; her biggest problem has always been objectification. First, she’s used to fuel the rivalry between Sora and Riku and then she loses her heart, becoming an inert MacGuffin for Sora to chase all over the worlds. She has no agency. She has no independence.
She and the rest of the Princesses of Heart could be replaced with magical sweet potatoes, and the story would be almost unchanged: Sora and Riku fight over their magical sweet potato. Maleficent collects the magical sweet potatoes. Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, uses the seven magical sweet potatoes to create the Keyblade of Sweet Potato Hearts.
And then finally she gets this amazing moment where she saves Sora! She recognizes him immediately in his Shadow form, runs through a bunch of Heartless, and saves him. Finally, we get to see Kairi do something. It’s loving. It’s bold. It’s . . . brief. Because shortly afterward, Kairi tries to join Sora in saving the worlds and is immediately shot down.
Why? It’s too dangerous for her.
It’s not like Sora and Riku literally just started this adventuring stuff. Granted, she didn’t get to level grind like they did, but it would have been cool if she could have whipped out some of those Princess of Heart powers we keep hearing so much about. Even if this would just put her in a supporting role, at least she’d be part of the action with Sora.
To add insult to injury, the game ends with them being torn apart, again. Sora (somehow) saves all of the worlds taken by the Heartless and, while the Destiny Islands are reforming, Kairi appears on a segment of the beach. As she’s pulled back to her own world, Sora and Kairi cling to one another for as long as they can, Sora promising to come back for her before they are finally pulled apart by the mystical world reforming magic that the creators never bothered explaining in-game.
Kingdom Hearts II
Several side games later, we’re chronologically up to Kingdom Hearts II. Kairi’s still stuck on the Destiny Islands while Sora and Riku traipse their separate ways all over the Realm of Light. She feeds us lines like “Maybe waiting isn’t good enough,” and makes us think that this is it.
Kairi’s about to get her moment in the spotlight. She’s even taking the search for her loved ones into her own hands. Right when it seems like she’s on the right track . . . she gets captured by Axel. And then she’s captured by Saïx. That’s a lot of hostage situations for one princess.
But hope is not lost. In one of the most talked about moments in the game, Riku hands Kairi her own freakin’ Keyblade while in the (for lack of a better term) heart of the Organization’s stronghold. This was a big deal back then. Kingdom Hearts II was released during a simpler time, before every ‘Nort and his mother were Keybearers’. So yeah, we were kind of freaking out as she hacked away at a bunch of Shadows with Riku. Could it be? Will Kairi finally be given an active role in her own story arc? Will she actually have a story arc?
Before the final battle with Xemnas, Kairi talks to Sora about continuously being separated from him and Riku. “I’m tired of waiting, so don’t tell me to stay behind! From now on, wherever one of us goes, the other follows, got it?” Obviously the writers didn’t, because a few minutes later, Kairi’s back on Destiny Islands while Sora and Riku are kicking incredibly firm Xemnas butt. Dang, this girl can’t catch a break!
Would it have really been the end of the worlds if Kairi had gotten to go with them to the final showdown?
Dream Drop Distance
By the time Kairi shows back up for secret ending in Dream Drop Distance, we’ve had more than enough of this crap.
Where was she for the rest of the game?! While the relationship between Sora and Riku is very special and engaging, it’s meant to be shared with Kairi. If the developers didn’t want to overcomplicate the drop-in/drop-out gameplay, she could have served a Dream Eater-like role, hopping in and out of Sora and Riku’s sides as a party member. For crying out loud, she could have at least gotten to come see the Mark of Mastery exam. I mean she is a Keybearer and a Princess of Heart. Kind of a big deal. You’d think they’d want to keep her up to date on Xehanort news.
So when Yen Sid announced Kairi’s impending training, I remained unconvinced. We’ve endured so many promises to bring Kairi to the forefront and Square Enix hasn’t once delivered. Of course, I want Kingdom Hearts III to prove me wrong. Until then, however, I’ll keep my hopes high and expectations low.
Kingdom Hearts III
If and when Kairi becomes a major, active, combative participant in the Kingdom Hearts series, I don’t want to settle for a stereotypical magical girl healer role. Some fans, like Tumblr’s “solfeggioninja,” have noticed how, especially in Dream Drop Distance, Sora’s fighting style naturally resemble’s Ven’s, while Riku’s has begun to look more and more like Aqua’s. Instead of keeping Kairi on the sidelines, casting Cure and yelling “Sora!” every time he gets hit, I want her to be a heavy-hitter, like Terra.
She was always prone to rushing headfirst into danger and that time we got to see her use her Keyblade, she was one-hit KO’ing those Heartless. Let Kairi take up that flowery little Destiny’s Embrace and just WRECK all the bad guys on the battlefield.
Don’t give me that “She doesn’t have any experience!” or “It’s too dangerous!”
Shut. Up. Sora and Riku didn’t have experience in the first game. Why do you have a problem with Kairi jumping into the action? Plus, Dream Drop Distance has set up the perfect opportunity for Kairi and Lea to be trained together, maybe even as playable characters.
The fans have continuously voiced their support for Kairi, demonstrating their wishes for KH3 with fanart and even setting up an event to bring her attention during E3. If you want to see what Kairi might look like in action, you don’t have to look any further than the late Monty Oum’s Dead Fantasy series. She kicks some serious butt in the fandom. So why isn’t it already a canon reality?
It’s time for Kairi to be an actual hero. We won’t settle for anything less.