Kingdom Hearts Girls IV (Kairi)
Finally, here is the last installment of the Kingdom Hearts Girls segment!
6. Kairi (KH, KHII, BBS, special cameo in DDD, mentioned in CoM, coded, Days)
Okay, so a lot of people accuse me of being a Kairi hater. I'm not. I don't hate her because there is nothing to hate, or love, what have you. As you can tell by the length of this list, females are horribly underrepresented in KH, with each trio consisting of at least two males and an entire society consisting of 13 (14) members with only 1 (2) women; it's a sad sight. But it really makes me cry that the main female character, the ORIGINAL version of two characters, falls so short of her carbon copies. If Square Enix could create Xion, who took her life into her own hands and sought self-actualization; Namine, who was hurt and healed and sought to prevent hurting through knowledge and free will; and Aqua, or even Olette, who had reached the apex of growth and served as the voice of reason among her friends, supporting them with everything they did, why oh why did they neglect Kairi's character so egregiously?
Replacing the Character
I go back to divineduckling's meta to answer this question. If you aren't willing to click the link, the basic gist of her meta is that Kairi can effectively be replaced by anyone and the story doesn't change. In her example, she used Selphie, another girl from the Destiny Islands, to prove her point. I am about to attempt to prove that she can be replaced with anything. To highlight how little she does in the first game, as well as the second, let's replace her with cake and use a bit of suspension of disbelief.
Kairi is a lovely red velvet cake. The mayor's cake, whose recipe washed up on shore about ten years ago. Riku reasons that Kairi didn't come from the islands, proving that there are other worlds, leading to his desire to explore - check. Kairi is a very delicious cake, and Sora and Riku both enjoy it, to the point where their friendship becomes a rivalry and they fight over it - check. When darkness falls, Sora runs to find Kairi, only for it to be flung at him with a gust of wind, but it passes through him. He, through Riku's weakness, gains the Keyblade, but can't stop the destruction of Destiny Islands - check. While Sora fights Heartless and looks for his friend and cake, Riku finds Kairi, an empty husk of a cake, lacking a Heart, the very thing that makes a cake a cake (here is where you all will have to roll with me on this) - check. Sora meets Riku again, and Riku perceives Donald's and Goofy's presence to mean that Sora has abandoned him, resulting in his turning to Maleficent for guidance - check. Sora finds Kairi, and that Riku is in league with villains; Riku believes he can restore Kairi to its former glory - check. Sora catches up to Riku, who takes away his Keyblade, revealing that Riku is the true Keyblade Wielder - check. Riku becomes possessed by Ansem - check. Sora sacrifices his heart for Kairi when he learns that it is a Cake of Heart whose heart took refuge in Sora when the islands fell to darkness - check. After becoming Heartless, Sora finds Kairi, and the bond he has made with it allows him to reach his human side and become human again - check. He leaves Kairi to go back to the islands while he goes to save the worlds and rescue his friend - check.
Kingdom Hearts II: Thanks to Riku, Namine, Xion, and Roxas, Sora is back and kicking - check. He learns of Organization XIII and works to undermine their evil plan - check. Axel attempts to kidnap Kairi to manipulate Sora, but Pluto takes it instead - check. Axel succeeds in kidnapping Kairi, but then manages to lose her to the Organization - check. Saix succeeds in manipulating Sora, but Sora is still reluctant to do the Organization's bidding - check. Namine saves Kairi and takes it to The World That Never Was to reunite with Sora and Riku - check. Sora reunites with Riku and Kairi - check. Sora and Riku defeat Xemnas and get sent to The World of Darkness - check. Something heartwarming triggers the nuclear reactor that is Sora's heart, opening the Door to Light and along them to reunite with their favorite cake.
Was that a ridiculous analogy? Of course it was. But what is more ridiculous is that I can replace her with a cake without too much logical difficulty. Now, yes, Kairi is attributed with allowing Sora to become human again and with writing the letter to get Sora and Riku out of The World of Darkness, but the problem is that it's all Sora. Sora's feelings for Kairi causes him to remember himself and become a Somebody again; Sora's feelings for Kairi allows his heart to open the Door to Light. Giving him anything to make him remember something he loves is most likely going to pull him out of both of these situations; Kairi is merely a fixation of his feelings. Also notice that every action was performed by someone who isn't Kairi - meaning that she virtually did nothing to further the plot, but is rather used by the plot.
What Happened to "Show, Not Tell"?
Kairi is the one character we are told about. If you noticed, she only really shows up in two games (and another as a small child), is a bonus sneak peek in a third, and is mentioned in the rest. Characters spend a lot of time talking about her... But about what exactly? Besides her role as a Princess of Heart and as Sora's Designated Love Interest, what do they talk about? Because in the first game, she is only seen as a Princess of Heart or Sora and Riku's friend, and when anyone talks about her it's generally about one of those aspects (one of which she must be unconscious for). Then in all other games, she literally doesn't exist other than to be Sora's love interest. And time and time again, she saves the day with her love, or Sora's feelings for her are so strong that they shape Xion, or what have you, but what about her? To make matters worse, recent interaction between Sora and Kairi have been stilted and awkward - which shouldn't even happen because this is animation - to the point where they point out that he has a fixation on her without knowing how she has changed, as seen in Halloween Town, and where the hug scene was so weird it seemed like he had to think about hugging her back and he looked so weirded out instead of happy or pleasantly surprised or relieved. Which would be fine, and I welcome the subversion of their relationship in which they were in love with an idea of each other and now see that that isn't who the other is, and I would love that... if Kairi had a sense of self that could stand alone from Sora. But she hasn't been allowed to. Do you see what a tragedy her character is?
I'm excited to see what Square Enix decides to do with Kairi now that she's a Keyblade Wielder, despite my issues with them making everyone being a Keyblade Wielder: We never see how Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Mickey, Yen Sid, Eraqus, or Xehanort got their Keyblades, but looking at Sora, Riku, and Lea/Axel (Roxas and Xion not included since they are "born" able to use it thanks to Sora) and the journey they went through, it's so obvious why the Keyblade chose them. Kairi has not yet shown us her inner strength. I want Squeenix to give her a voice and make her as awesome as Xion, as beautiful as Namine, as strong as Aqua, and give her an identity outside of her role as a plot device and Sora.
Fanfiction makes her such a beautiful character with her own spirit and sass, and you don't understand how much I need the female character to blossom into her own person.