- "Don't ever forget. Wherever you go, I'm always with you."
- —Kairi to Sora
Kairi is one of the main characters in the Kingdom Hearts series. She is the original persona of Naminé. Kairi was born in Radiant Garden and currently lives on Destiny Islands along with her two best friends, Sora and Riku. She is four during Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, fourteen at the start of Kingdom Hearts, and fifteen during Kingdom Hearts II. Kairi's name is derived from the Japanese word for "Sea".
Kairi is caring, kindhearted and not afraid to speak her mind. However, she is determined and courageous when someone she cares about is in danger, often risking her own safety to help that person. She's also become slightly more withdrawn because of Sora's absence, having obtained wisdom usually beyond someone of her age. She's not as brash and bold as she was in the first game, but she's still pretty sociable.
Kairi is also very charismatic, quickly befriending Hayner, Pence, and Olette in Twilight Town before being kidnapped by Axel. She's usually always very cheerful and upbeat and seems to be bit of a tomboy as well. In contrast to Sora and Riku, who were both bothered by not knowing about Kairi's hometown, she took it in stride and was able to look at the positives about living in the Destiny Islands. She is loyal and headstrong, and she can be rather stubborn sometimes. While the bond of friendship between Sora, Riku, and Kairi is very strong, Sora seems to be particularly important to Kairi, and vice versa.
Kairi's appearance shows the most growth with aging of the trio of main characters. Typically Kairi has auburn hair, crystal blue/indigo eyes, a pale complexion, and a necklace with a silver bead that is only absent when she wears her school uniform.
At age 14, during the events of Kingdom Hearts, she wears a white top with a black one underneath (the black one shows at her collarbone and at the hem) which slightly exposes her navel, purple biker shorts underneath a purple skirt with a blue belt, and white slip-on shoes with purple caps. She also features a black choker, a yellow wristband as well as a purple arm band on her left arm and a pair of bracelets on her right arm.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Kairi is taller, her hair is longer and has become a darker shade of auburn, her bangs part to the opposite side, and her body has developed into that of a young woman.
She dons two outfits in Kingdom Hearts II: her school uniform which features a white shirt of which she has rolled up the sleeves, a sky blue striped tie which she has slightly loosen up, a matching skirt with navy knee-high stockings and black shoes; and then her main outfit which mainly contains a pink strapless mini-dress made up of three zippers (two appear to be just decorative) as well as a white halter top underneath her mini-dress with a black hood. She also sports three bracelets on her left wrist, a black belt reminiscent of suspenders with a note book shaped bag attachment, and lilac sneakers.
As a child, as seen during Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and scenes from Kingdom Hearts, her hair is a little longer than it is when she's 14; she wears a white apron-like shirt with blue flowers and a blue line across the chest, a pink skirt with a white line on it and large, white shoes with pink and purple lines on them.
Kairi was born on Radiant Garden, where she lives with her grandmother. One day, she is chased by a group of Unversed and encounters Aqua, who senses a pure light in her heart, since she is a Princess of Heart. Frightened, Kairi touches Aqua's Keyblade, unintentionally performing a Keyblade Inheritance Ceremony. As she and Aqua are about to be attacked, King Mickey arrives and Aqua evacuates Kairi before returning to fight alongside Mickey. After the Unversed are defeated, King Mickey and Aqua talk about the light they sense in Kairi's heart, and Mickey suggests that they team up, but is called away immediately afterwards. Kairi then gives Aqua the flowers she picked before the Unversed appeared as thanks for helping her (which becomes the Destiny's Embrace keychain). In return, Aqua puts a protective charm on Kairi's necklace, and tells her, "One day when you're in trouble, the light within you will lead you to the light of another, someone to keep you safe." Kairi thanks Aqua and then returns to her grandmother, who begins to tell her the story of the light and the darkness, while Aqua believes their meeting may not have been a coincidence.
After Terra-Xehanort's defeat, Kairi is seen picking flowers in a large garden. She looks up to the bright sky, looking as if she sensed something. As she does, her necklace emits a weak glow.
- "Say, Kairi. What was your hometown like?"
- —Sora to Kairi
One year after the events of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, the Radiant Garden became shrouded by darkness and everyone was scattered across the universe. Kairi appears off the coast of the Destiny Islands during a meteor shower; though it is initially believed that Xehanort's Heartless had sent Kairi to the islands as an experiment to test any possible connection between the Keyblade wielders and the Princesses of Heart, her arrival was actually due to the protection spell Aqua had cast on her one year earlier. Sora, then five years old as well, carefully approaches her and asks, "Who are you? Where did you come from?", and took her to get helped afterwards.
Sometime later, Sora and Riku were in the Secret Place and talking about "the new girl at the mayor's house". This provides the player a kind of insight into her origins: Kairi is not a native of the Destiny Islands, and is the adoptive daughter of their mayor.
- "So, suppose you get to another world. What would you do there?"
- —Kairi to Riku
Kairi later becomes very close friends with Sora and Riku who playfully compete for her attention. She often supports these competitions, although she does not know they were contests for her affection and not just innocent rivalry. She bears no memory of her life before the Islands, and her mysterious past sparks curiosity in Sora and Riku, who are anxious to leave Destiny Islands and see other worlds. This leads the trio to build a raft in the hopes of traveling to other worlds. However, before they can leave, their islands are attacked by the Heartless, and Sora finds Kairi in their Secret Place. She turns towards him, looking sad and a little ill, and then a huge gust of wind sweeps through a door in the back of the cave and Kairi flies towards him. Sora opens his arms to catch her, but she vanishes right as she is about to be swept into his embrace.
During this time, it is speculated that Kairi's heart chose Sora as a vessel and when she passed through him, her heart was left behind in him while her body vanished to some distant world.
She then becomes the game's driving force, as much of the game's story centers around Sora's and Riku's attempts at finding Kairi. However, Riku is hostile to Sora (having been manipulated by Maleficent into believing that Sora no longer cared for either Kairi or himself).
Throughout Sora's journey, he encounters multiple images of Kairi without knowing about Kairi's heart being a part of his. First, when he wakes up in a motel room after his fight with Leon, and sees Yuffie in Kairi's form and mistakes her to be Kairi until she tells him who she is. Later when he visits the Magician's Study behind the door of the Third District, Kairi appears to him and tells him how much the study reminds her of their Secret Place, but she disappears when Goofy calls to him. When Sora crash lands into Deep Jungle, she reappears again for a short moment, right behind Tarzan, then disappears again. Finally, before setting off to Hollow Bastion, Goofy and Donald encourage Sora to believe in himself, then Kairi says from within "I believe in you." before pulling him into one of her lost memories about her grandmother telling her younger self a story about the light. These encounters speculate that Kairi was experiencing Sora's journey from within his heart, including befriending Donald and Goofy.
Riku finds her first, but she is in a comatose state, with a vacant, lifeless expression and a limp body. She'd lost her heart and because of her Princess status, her body remained untouched by the darkness that usually produced a Heartless. With empty promises by Maleficent, Riku was convinced that he alone could locate Kairi's heart and restore her to health. When inside Monstro, Riku attempts to kidnap Pinocchio in hopes to use his heart to restore Kairi's. This act confuses Sora as he hasn't learned of her fate. His attempt fails and he is forced to retreat.
In Neverland, Sora finally encounters her body, along with a painful reunion with Riku; who is very defensive about her and ends up locking her in a room with Wendy so that Sora can't get to her. When Sora reaches the room below her cell, he extends his hand towards her, desperately hoping for a reaction as he is just now discovering the full lengths of Kairi's condition. Unconsciously, her hand twitches before going still again, much to Sora's relief. Riku then takes her away yet again, having new knowledge of where Kairi's heart might be. After the defeat of Captain Hook, Goofy ponders aloud whether or not Kairi had indeed lost her heart, but Donald, not wanting to upset Sora, promptly shushes him. Sora, however, appears to be in denial, pondering over his disbelief that he could fly and whether or not Kairi would believe him.
Their friendship severed for the time being, Sora continues his journey, destined to clash with Riku in the near future once again over Kairi.
Eventually, Sora follows Riku and Maleficent to the world of Hollow Bastion where he too learns of Kairi's fate. However, Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, while possessing Riku, reveals that Kairi's heart has been resting within Sora all along, which explains all the visions he has had of her during his journey. Furthermore, Kairi is one of the Princesses of Heart, a maiden whose heart holds no darkness, and is needed to open the Final Keyhole. He then attempts to take her heart from Sora, but he defends himself to protect it. After winning a fight and driving Ansem from Hollow Bastion, Sora sacrifices himself using the Keyblade of People's Hearts to free Kairi's heart, and is turned into a Shadow Heartless. Awakened as her heart is finally restored, Kairi runs towards him, but as soon as her fingers touch him, he vanishes. Refusing to believe that Sora is gone, Kairi prepares to fight the Shadow Heartless that surround her, along with Donald and Goofy.
- "This time, I'll protect you!"
- —Kairi to Sora's Heartless (whilst shielding him from the Heartless attack)
However, once Ansem reappears and Riku's spirit stops him from attacking Kairi, she flees. Devastated, she, along with Donald and Goofy, attempt to escape from Hollow Bastion. But just as they are cornered by the Heartless, she recognizes Sora's Heartless from the crowd and manages to bring Sora back from the darkness by embracing him and promising to protect him. The group escapes Hollow Bastion, revealed to be Kairi's home world, and find shelter in Traverse Town where she could be protected by Leon and the others.
Sora finds Kairi in the underground water tunnel after talking with Leon. She states absentmindedly how much this place reminds her of their Secret Place. While lost in darkness, Sora witnessed one of Kairi's memories of her as a little girl wandering around the Hollow Bastion library with her grandmother. Sora mentions this and it is revealed that after her heart was restored, Kairi could remember certain things from her past. Though Kairi wants to help rescue Riku and stop the darkness from emanating, Sora convinces her to stay put, not wanting her to get hurt and also joking that she would be in his way; he also acknowledges that, since their hearts were one, they will always be together. During this conversation, it was revealed that Kairi's voice brought him back from the darkness. Kairi gives in and gives Sora her lucky charm, which doubles as the Oathkeeper.
- "Remember what you said before? I'm always with you too! I'll come back to you—I promise!"
- —Sora to Kairi
In the game's final cutscene, she appears on a section of Destiny Islands after Sora's final battle with Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, likely confused. Sora runs up to her, a little too late as the world is breaking apart, restoring all the previously destroyed worlds. Just before she is sent back, Sora promises that he will come back to her as soon as he finds Riku and King Mickey. She is then transported back to Destiny Islands without him, wistfully watching the island regenerate around her with Sora's goodbye still fresh in her mind.
After the worlds are restored, Kairi visits the Secret Place, looking at the pictures that she and Sora had drawn over the years. Once she sees the picture that Sora had drawn of him giving her a Paopu Fruit, she is moved to tears and adds to it; the picture now depicting herself and Sora exchanging two halves of a Paopu fruit. This could be interpreted as a sign that Kairi loves Sora, or simply that she truly does want to remain an eternal part of his life.
Although Kairi did not directly appear in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, she did play a very important role. She served as a constant figure of light for both Sora and Riku and fervently awaited their return on Destiny Islands.
In Sora's journey, Marluxia ordered Naminé to take Kairi's place in Sora's heart. However, she says that she could never really replace Kairi and that she was only Kairi's shadow. Kairi's image shows up at Destiny Islands when Sora remembers that the one he holds dear to his heart is Kairi, not Naminé. When Sora is about to go to sleep, she tells him that if he remembers "the one most important to him" his memories will restore faster, so Sora looks deep into his heart and finds Kairi.
In Riku's journey, Zexion uses Naminé to torment Riku with an illusion of Kairi, as well as with illusions of Tidus, Selphie, Wakka, and Sora. Naminé also takes Kairi's form to help Riku control the light and darkness in his heart before the final face-off with the devious Nobody.
In the credits for Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, Kairi is shown to still be waiting for Sora and Riku's return.
Kairi makes a brief appearance in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days; after Roxas wakes from his coma on day 49, Xion gives him a seashell. When Roxas puts it up to his ear, a flashback from Kingdom Hearts is shown, depicting Sora and Kairi on a beach looking at the sunset. Later, during Xion's nightmare, another flashback of Kairi is shown as she is waking up Sora. Kairi is also mentioned by Riku and Xion when they were in a conversation on Destiny Islands.
During this time, Kairi is assumed to be living a normal life on Destiny Islands where she waits for Riku and Sora's return, though her memories of Sora are probably vague because of Naminé's interference with her memories. With the two of them away, her only company becomes Selphie, Tidus, and Wakka. Roxas saw a memory of Kairi during a mission in Destiny Islands and remarks that she looks like Xion.
Kairi, now fifteen years old, lives her life normally on Destiny Islands. She attends school regularly along with her friend Selphie and has noticeably aged, having longer hair and more defined features. It can be assumed that she has spent most of her time focusing on her studies, thinking about the boy she's forgotten, and hanging out with Selphie, Wakka, and Tidus - all of whom have returned to Destiny Islands safely. She's also become slightly more withdrawn because of Sora's absence, with wisdom beyond her years. She's not as brash and bold as she was in the first game, but she's still pretty sociable. She understands that both Riku and Sora have great destinies and duties to fulfill, but that still doesn't keep her from pondering taking action and searching for them on her own.
She misses Sora, but most of her memories of him have faded away because of Naminé's interfering with his own memories. One day, while walking home from school with Selphie, her heart is put into contact with a young boy named Roxas, later revealed to be Sora's Nobody. It appeared that Roxas was trying to contact Naminé, Kairi's Nobody, and ended up reaching her instead. During this conversation, Roxas brings up Sora, and, when Kairi inquires about his name, Sora himself, despite being in stasis, somehow uses Roxas as a conduit to talk to her, chastises her for forgetting his name, and jokingly gives her a hint ("Starts with an 'S'!"). Soon afterwards, Kairi sends a letter in a bottle out to sea in hopes that it would reach Sora one day, and immediately remembers his name and possibly everything else about him. ("Starts with an 'S'... Right, Sora?")
It is worth noting that this was the only conversation Kairi and Roxas had throughout the whole game.
- "Maybe... waiting isn't good enough."
One day, Axel comes to Destiny Islands and tells Kairi to come with him. She refuses until Axel summons a group of Nobodies. A bark behind her gives her another option. She then runs off into a nearby portal with King Mickey's dog, Pluto, into Twilight Town and meets Hayner, Pence and Olette. She hits it off with them, immediately fitting in with the three and going as far as to explain for whom she is searching. To her joy, Hayner, Pence, and Olette know Sora, assuring her that she could stay in Twilight Town until his next visit.
Unfortunately, she is found again by Axel and forcibly taken by him, Olette, Hayner, and Pence's attempts doing nothing to prolong it. However Saïx finds Axel with Kairi and takes her to the World That Never Was as a prisoner, stating that she is the "fire that feeds Sora's anger." Kairi is devastated, thinking all hope is lost until she is freed by her Nobody, Naminé. Naminé uses a Corridor of Darkness to allow them to escape the cell, telling Kairi to trust herself.
- "This is real."
- —Kairi to Sora as she embraces him
The two's attempt to escape is stopped by Saïx and two Berserker Nobodies who offer to take Kairi to Sora. Once she refuses, Saïx gets ready to send the Nobodies to attack the two girls only to be saved by a cloaked figure. Naminé hints at who the cloaked figure is, causing him to pause as Kairi strides towards him to remove the hood. Her guess is correct and it is indeed Riku even though his appearance has changed to that of Xehanort's Heartless, though she takes this in stride and is just happy to be reunited with Riku. Riku leads her to Sora and is attacked by a group of Heartless. He hands Kairi a Keyblade, and they successfully fend off the remaining Heartless. She is then reunited with Sora with a touching hug between these two. She stops Ansem (Riku) from leaving and shows Sora that Ansem is really Riku.
The three along with Donald and Goofy face off with Luxord and Saïx to get to Xemnas. Kairi is a pillar of support during these battles more than an actual participant - as Luxord's battle leaves them caged by cards and Saïx uses a shockwave to force both her and Riku (using his body to shield her) behind a barrier so he can battle alone with Sora, Donald, and Goofy.
After Sora and Riku defeat Xemnas, Naminé appears and creates a portal, where Donald, Goofy and Mickey go through leaving Sora, Kairi and Riku. Kairi walks towards her and Sora follows Kairi. Kairi thanks her as Naminé tries to make Sora remember her, but Sora gets confused. Roxas comes out of him. Naminé and Roxas accept their fate together to live inside Sora and Kairi as they fuse with their original selves. Kairi walks into the portal, but when Sora and Riku follow the portal disappears and they fight Xemnas again.
- "You're home."
- —Kairi to Sora after he returns to Destiny Islands with Riku
After they defeat Xemnas, they arrive at the shore of Dark Meridian. Kairi's letter washes up on shore and Sora reads it. The Door To Light appears and the two boys go through it and arrive at Destiny Islands shores as Kairi shouts for them. Sora excitedly swims towards her but Donald and Goofy jump at Sora first and Mickey jumps at Riku. They hug Sora, then Sora shows her the lucky charm and replies to Kairi "We-We're back!" while Kairi corrects him, saying "You're home" and extends her hand. As Sora takes her hand, he simultaneously returns the lucky charm to her. For a brief moment, Roxas and Naminé are shown smiling back at each other, just as Sora and Kairi are.
Shortly after King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Jiminy, Uncle Scrooge,Huey, Dewey, and Louie return to Disney Castle, Sora and Riku talk about the Door to Light until Kairi appears running to them, shouting their names. Sora turns to her and asks "Hey, What's up?" and Kairi hands him a letter in a bottle that displays King Mickey's seal. The trio immediately open the letter and read it, though its contents are hidden from the player.
The then-fourteen-year-old Kairi appears in a cutscene in Neverland alongside the then-fifteen-year-old Riku on top of the Clock Tower.
During the end of Kingdom Hearts coded, the real Kairi, along with the real Sora and Riku, reads Mickey's Letter, corresponding to the final scene of Kingdom Hearts II.
Sora sits on the Paopu tree while holding the message from King Mickey, staring off into the sunset. After Sora tells Riku that he has made a decision, Kairi walks up to them. Sora tells her that everyone needs him, and that he has to go because he is who he is because of them. She then hands him her lucky charm and tells him that she'll see him soon.
In The World That Never Was, Young Xehanort forces Sora into a second sleep, during which he dreams of the various people connected in his heart. One of these figments takes the form of Kairi, who is walking side by side with Riku, away from Sora. She then takes the appearance of Aqua, while the figment of Riku turns into Terra, and Sora takes on Ventus's appearance. Sora is incredibly confused, especially when Aqua and Terra turn around and walk away from him again, morphing back into Kairi and Riku. Ignoring the voice of Riku in the back of his head telling him to wake up and choosing instead to follow the pain in his heart, Sora chases after them as they flicker back and forth between his friends and Aqua and Terra. A long-forgotten memory of meeting Aqua on the islands nearly twelve years prior is recalled before Sora is ejected from his dream, landing in front of Xigbar.
As Xigbar and Xemnas reveal the true nature of the Organization to Sora, he is outraged by their disregard for the value of people's hearts. When Xigbar brings into question the strength of Sora's own heart, he pauses momentarily before saying with conviction that the Keyblade may not have chosen him, but that he was proud to be connected to those who it did choose. Kairi momentarily appears behind him, Keyblade in hand, alongside all the other friends connected in Sora's heart. The immense power of all the intertwined hearts unnerves Xigbar, who flees, leaving Xemnas to battle with Sora.
Later on, with the knowledge that Master Xehanort is organizing a new Organization XIII, one made from thirteen different incarnations of himself, Master Yen Sid orders Riku to retrieve the seventh Keyblade wielder, Kairi, in order to train her for the battles ahead.
Powers as a Princess of Heart
Because Kairi is a Princess of Heart, her heart possesses no darkness within it, leading to the unique birth of Naminé when she accidentally gives it to Sora, who later sacrificed himself to restore her heart. Should her heart be lost, her body will remain in a dormant state until it returns, as revealed in the first game when her heart was lost.
- Like the other princesses, she has the power to open the Final Keyhole to Kingdom Hearts in Hollow Bastion once she is gathered with the rest of the princesses. This could be considered as the princesses' main power.
- Kairi also appears to have some kind of latent magical ability, as seen when she manages to restore Sora's humanity after he becomes a Heartless. However, it could imply that she is only able to restore him because they share the strongest connection.
- Since the other Princesses of Heart possess the abilities to hold back darkness and upgrade other people's powers, it is no doubt that Kairi can do so as well.
- Aqua cast a charm on Kairi in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep so that if she was ever captured by darkness, her light would lead her to the light of another. In an interview, Tetsuya Nomura stated it was this charm that led Kairi to Destiny Islands.
- She additionally has the ability to sense darkness, as the other Princesses of Heart are able to tell Sora of a great darkness nearby. It may also imply to why she was looking ill when Destiny Islands was devoured by the darkness before she disappeared.
- In the manga, according to Axel, Kairi is able to travel through the Corridor of Darkness without any negative effects because she is a Princess of Heart.
Kairi's abilities in combat are limited. Kairi can't to do much when she is in danger, she has to depend on Sora or Riku to come to her aid; this is why she is sometimes captured, which is seen when Axel merely grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her along without any problems. During the events that take place in The World That Never Was, Riku hands her a Keyblade, allowing her to protect herself without any help. She is shown to be fairly competent with it, and was shown to take out two Heartless on her own in one cutscene, and presumably more between others. This potential is recognized by Yen Sid, who has Riku bring her to him to begin training with the keyblade to be much stronger.
Kairi is able to wield the Keyblade due to her having touched Aqua's Keyblade many years earlier.
- Though Kairi and all other original Kingdom Hearts characters are Disney characters, she was featured in Dead Fantasy, a fan-made crossover between popular video game franchises Dead or Alive and Final Fantasy, likely because she was designed by Tetsyua Nomura, who designed most of the Final Fantasy series characters. This makes her the only Disney character in the fan-series.
- Kairi is considered by many as the first Disney Princess to originate from a video game, though she is an unofficial member of the Disney Princess franchise.
- In the manga, Kairi kisses Sora somewhat off-screen after he seals the keyhole in Hollow Bastion (as evidenced by the position of their shadows and Sora's feet being slightly raised in a cartoonish fashion usually found when a cartoon is kissed, and one of Kairi's legs being raised in a way when a girl kisses a boy). The kiss is never shown in the game as Kairi simply gives Sora her good luck charm, and the manga being non-canon to the franchise.
- There are some theories that Kairi's father is Ansem, considering he is the "King" of Radiant Garden and she is a Princess of Heart - however this is false. Ansem is the Ruler of Radiant Garden, not the King, and even if he was "Princess of Heart" is nothing but a title and not a true declaration of royalty (they are also referenced as Maiden's of Light). Adding to this, Alice for example is a Princess of Heart and is neither a true Princess in her film nor in the official Disney Princess line.
- The secret ending of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance hints that Kairi will be a Guardian of Light (and with her doubling as a GoL and a PoH, that would make 13 beings of light in total (the other 6 PoH and the other 6 GoL) which would be an even match against Master Xehanort's 13 darknesses) however Nomura has already stated that players will be surprised by who the lights are meaning the revelation could be a double bluff.
- Kairi's english voice actress Hayden Panettiere has joked that she wishes she had Kairi's body.
- She has been considered an unofficial Disney Princess.
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