Karai (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

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Karai
Karai TMNT IDW.png
The IDW Publishing comic series version of Karai (art by Tyler Walpole)
Publication information
Publisher Mirage Studios
IDW Publishing
First appearance Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Studios) Issue #53 "City at War" (Mirage comics)
"City at War, Part 1" (2003 series)
"New Girl In Town" (2012 series)
"City Falls, Part Two" (IDW comics)
Created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
In-story information
Alter ego Oroku Karai/The New Shredder (2003 cartoon)
Hamato Miwa (2012 cartoon)
Notable aliases The New Shredder/Lady Shredder (Mirage comics)
The New Shredder/Mistress Karai (2003 cartoon)
Princess /Snake Girl/Snake Lady (2012 cartoon)

Karai[Note 1] is a fictional character in various installments of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) comics and related media, where she is usually a high-rank member of the Foot Clan outlaw ninja organization. She was originally introduced in Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's comic book series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 1992. Since then, she has appeared in several different TMNT comics, cartoons and films, as well as in about a dozen video games (including as a playable character in Tournament Fighters, Battle Nexus and Smash-Up).

In some incarnations of the character (including the 2003 cartoon, the 2012 cartoon, and the 2010s comics), she is closely related to the villain Shredder as his adopted daughter or biological granddaughter. However, in her original comic incarnation, Karai was completely unrelated to the Shredder and was actually higher in the Foot Clan's global hierarchy. In the animated and game adaptations, Karai is primarily voiced by Karen Neil, Zhang Ziyi and Kelly Hu, while Minae Noji and Brittany Ishibashi portray the character in live-action films.

In comic series[edit]

Mirage Comics[edit]

Karai in the Volume One comics (art by Jim Lawson and Keith David)

In Mirage Studios' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume One comics by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Jim Lawson, she is introduced as one of the leaders of the mainstream Foot Clan in Japan (a member of its Council of Five) who came to New York City to restore order in the 1993 "City at War" story arc.[5][6][7] Ever since Leonardo killed the Shredder (Oroku Saki), the Foot faction in NYC has been in chaos, with different groups warring with one another for ultimate control, save for Shredder's Elite, who have been carrying out seemingly motiveless attacks on the other factions. Shortly after arriving in New York, Karai captures Leonardo and offers the TMNT a deal: if the Turtles destroy the Elite, she will offer them a truce with the Foot Clan. After debate, the Turtles finally agree to seek Karai's assistance in dealing with the Elite.[8][9] As they reach her skyscraper headquarters, they find dead Foot guards and the Foot's leader cradling a girl's corpse. It is revealed that the girl was Karai's daughter, and in despair, she makes Leonardo swear he will help her kill all of the Elite.[10] During a final confrontation, five Elite face off against the Turtles, Karai, and her Foot Soldiers. The disguised Karai, wearing the Shredder's armor, orders the Elite to commit seppuku, but only one does. After an ensuing hard fight, the Turtles and Karai are the only ones left standing. Karai thanks the Turtles for their help, but they answer she owes them nothing but her word, to which she agree, saying that "no longer will the Foot Clan bother you", and returns to Japan.[11][12][13] [Note 2]

Karai never properly appears in Image Comics' Volume Three TMNT series, despite Laird previously having considering an idea for Karai to return with "different types of ninja gear for her"[16] as well as introducing a concept that "every new Foot soldier has a third eye ('the Eye of Karai') which is a video transceiver device that constantly relays data back to Karai's central processing computer."[17] It is, however, revealed that she has been deposed as the leader of the Foot in Japan and is presumed to be dead.[18] Had this series continued, Karai would have been revealed as the person behind the mask of Lady Shredder, a character introduced in the series' final issues as a third contestant vying for leadership of the Foot.[19][20]

Karai on the cover of Volume Four #4 (art by Jim Lawson and Michael Dooney)

In the more recent, also abortive, Volume Four comics by Peter Laird and Jim Lawson (without Eastman's involvement), Karai has returned to settle in New York and is using a high-tech armor.[21][22][23] She asks Leonardo to help capture alive one of the mysterious warriors that are giving much trouble for the Foot everywhere.[24][25][26][27][28] When Leonardo sees right through her lie about certain mystic books, even as she is usually a good liar, he suspects that something is either greatly troubling her or something is controlling her.[29] A few weeks later, Karai visits a local high-profile nightclub, meeting Casey Jones, still longing for his wife April O'Neil who has gone on a soul-searching pilgrimage.[30] Karai brings Jones to her private condo, where he awakens naked and remembering nothing of the previous night. He later discovers a noticeably light-hearted Karai knows something of the night before, but is hesitant to tell him.[31] (According to Peter Laird, who shared this issue of the comic online,[32] "what's happening with Mike, and with Karai and Casey, will have significant consequences. And I can say no more than that."[33] Laird also noted: "It's possible that at some point we may know more about Karai's origin and her daughter. I'm not sure exactly how old Karai is, but it might just be that her daughter was adopted. In general, I consider the time span between Volume 2 and Volume 4 to be about fifteen years."[34])

Karai also appears in at least three stand-alone stories in the non-canon Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, including the stories of her youth and possible future,[35][36][37] as well as in the comic book adaptation of the 2007 animated film.[38] According to Complex, "since her comic book debut, Karai has become an extremely popular character, serving as the sometimes villain, sometimes uneasy ally of our fearsome foursome."[39]

IDW Publishing[edit]

A completely different and much younger Karai appears in IDW Publishing's ongoing, re-imagined Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot series by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan (later also Andy Kuhn and Mateus Santolouco). Duncan posted a character design sketch of her on his deviantART account, writing that he prefers to "refer to her as Shredder's girlfriend."[40] IDW's Karai was introduced in the series' tenth main issue, published in May 2012. In 2014, Waltz said Karai is one of his favorites: "Such a cool character – tough, smart, mysterious… you just never know what she’ll do next."[41]

The comic's Oroku Karai is a descendant of Oroku Saki (the Shredder) about 300 years[42] after his supposed death in feudal Japan. Her backstory is told in Villain Mini-series #5: as a young girl, Karai found the Ashi no Himitsu, a book detailing the secret history of the Foot Clan, in the library of her father, Oroku Yori. From there, she began to learn about the history of her ancestors in the Foot Clan and used the detailed martial arts instructions to train in the clan's unique style of ninjutsu. One night, she had a vision where Oroku Saki appeared and guided her to rebuild the Foot Clan. Having killed her own father, Karai reverted the Foot from a business enterprise to a clan of ninja warriors, training and recruiting new soldiers. Karai assisted in Oroku Saki's resurrection and remained as Chunin (second-in-command) of the clan, until Saki convinced Leonardo to join him, displacing Karai. Karai, in her jealousy, begins to secretly recruit for the Foot, including the creation of Bebop and Rocksteady to earn Saki's trust. After the Turtles recover Leonardo, Shredder praises her for her actions and loyalty and reinstates her as Chunin.[43] Later, Shredder sends her to steal more resources from Krang and uses that to create Koya and Bludgeon: a mutant hawk and hammerhead shark.

After Splinter kills Shredder in issue #50, Karai offers him her sword and the role of jonin (leader) of the Foot. He accepts and gives Karai permission to travel to Japan with select soldiers to study history in order to attain honor for the Foot.

In television[edit]

2003 animated series[edit]

Also, while it's kind of a neat twist to make Karai a pawn of the Utrom known as the Shredder, I thinks it's also a mistake. I think Karai should be much like she is in the comics, a powerful character who brings unity (and the potential for conflict with the Turtles down the road) to the Foot. This is key because that also means that she can/should come into conflict later on with the Shredder, if we bring him back as I suspect we might. I think she could become a strong adversary for the Turtles in her own right.

Peter Laird in 2003[44]

Karai (voiced by Karen Neil), inspired by the Mirage comics' version of her, is a major character in the 2003-2009 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series by 4Kids Entertainment and Mirage. The supervising producer Lloyd Goldfine envisioned the cartoon Karai as "sleek, no-nonsense, commanding, Japanese accent."[45] The original comics' (and Karai's) original co-creator and the show's consultant Peter Laird agreed, but emphasised that she is also "a powerful and dynamic individual."[46] Laird opposed having "all kinds of goofy, ludicrous weapons systems built into Karai's new Shredder armor"[47] and to the proposal that the Heart of Tengu would give her an ability to teleport, as he thought it would be cheating.[48] Regarding Karai being regarded by fans as "Leo[nardo]'s girlfriend" by the time of the show's third season, Laird noted that "contrary to what some TMNT fans might fantasize, Turtles don't mate/have love affairs with humans."[49]

Storyline[edit]

Karai as seen in the 2003 animated series' seasons 2-5

Abandoned by her parents at a young age in Japan, Karai was taken in and adopted by Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder, (in the original comics, the Shredder's only daughter was a biological offspring named Pimiko and Karai had no relation to him whatsoever[50]). Trained in ninjutsu and an aspiring practitioner of bushido, Karai first appears as one of the highest-ranking members of the Foot Clan, similar in status to the Shredder's adopted son Hun (who holds a grudge against her); eventually, she becomes the clan's leader. Throughout the series, she appears both as an ally and enemy to the Turtles, sharing a complicated love-hate relationship with Leonardo. Karai was the only Foot member who knew that the Shredder was really an Utrom.[51] After Ch'rell's exile at the end of Season 3, Karai spent all of Season 4 and Season 5 trying to make the Turtles pay for this; especially Leonardo. When she appeared as a guest of April and Casey's wedding, her vendetta with the Turtles was confirmed to be finally over; though it is unknown when.

Karai made her animated debut in Season 2, in the loose adaption of the City at War saga. Karai arrives in NYC after hearing the news of the gang war taking place after the Shredder's reported demise, briefly capturing Leonardo [Note 3] and enlisting the aid of the Turtles to stop the war, with a promise an end to the Foot's feud against them in exchange for their assistance. Leonardo, believing that her Karai is honorable despite her legacy, convinces Donatello and Michelangelo to aid her (Raphael initially refuses). Together, Karai and the Turtles eventually retake control of the New York Foot and consequently its underworld. However, the end of the story reveals that Karai has been manipulating the Turtles and working with the not-dead Shredder all along.[52][53][54]

Karai and the Foot reappear as a fully healed Ch'rell retakes control of the Foot. Realizing that their agreement with the Foot had been retracted, the Turtles decide to face the Foot again. When forced to fight Leonardo, and despite his lack of resistance, Karai proves unwilling to kill him. Karai's internal conflict—loyalty to the Turtles vs. loyalty to her father—is the main thrust of her storyline in Season 3, as she is pulled from both directions to take a side during their various encounters, even working together with the Turtles at times.[55][56][57][58][59] She also appears in a cameo in Japan.[60] Karai manages to stay in the graces of both sides until the Turtles face the Shredder again in the season's finale, where she stabs Leonardo in the shoulder, although she later prevents the Utrom Shredder from killing the Turtles while they are unconscious. In the end, the Shredder is taken prisoner and exiled, while Karai and the young head of the Foot's scientific division Dr. Chaplin are also captured and taken back to Earth.[61][62]

With her father gone and dead in the eyes of the world, Karai takes over the Foot as well as the name of The Shredder (in a deleted scene she even says that Karai "no longer exists", completely replaced by The Shredder[63]). This new Shredder "would retain the traditional iconic elements, but have a different treatment"[64] Furious at what she saw as a betrayal by the Turtles, Karai spends the season plotting her revenge against them, first attacking them on the psychic plane via Foot Mystics, and later coordinating and leading an assault against them at their lair.[65][66][67] She later once again duels Leonardo, who defeats her but then departs with the warning to leave his family alone, giving her one last chance for redemption.[68] Karai next faces the Turtles during their attempt to retrieve a Foot amulet called the Heart of Tengu, but failing to stop them despite her efforts.[69][70]

Unknown to the Turtles and Agent Bishop, who initially charged them with retrieving it, Heart of Tengu was a mystical artifact that allowed the Foot to control its Elemental Mystics, who are in reality the heralds for a man-demon that had centuries ago terrorized Japan as the Shredder. The destruction of the artifact unleash a chain of events that results in the resurrection of the demon, whose first target is Karai for "usurping" the Shredder's name. Despite her efforts and those of the Turtles (who believe her the key to stopping him), the True Shredder bests Karai in battle, seriously injuring her.[71][72] Rescued by the Turtles, Karai heals and, recognizing the threat the demon Shredder poses, agrees to a "temporary" alliance with her enemies.[73][74] It is soon learned that because she shares the Shredder's mantle, Karai has the latent psychic ability to lower the Shredder's defenses through a shared link. This allows the Turtles an advantage in their final conflict with the demon, in which Karai helps pave the way for her namesake's destruction, while Dr. Chaplin helped to co-ordinate the battle. After the victory, Karai and Dr. Chaplin depart hand-in-hand, with her promising him to worry more about their immediate future.[75][76]

Karai is not involved in any main storylines in the Season 6 in which the Turtles and Splinter travel a hundred years into the future, which indicates that she had grown old and died. However, she is seen during the events that would have occurred after the Turtles' return from the year 2105, as Karai has abandoned her grudge against the Turtles and is eager to become a student of the Ninja Tribunal, but Leonardo is obsessively distrustful of her, almost ruining Karai's burial ritual of the Shredder and accusing her of being a traitor, in effect leading to his own banishment from the Tribunal. As the events in this book were written by Splinter and Cody to discourage the Turtles from knowing too much of their future, it is unlikely anything of the sort occurred (or will occur).[77] Karai makes her appearance in the Season 7 storyline in the episode "Something Wicked". Here, she is seen as cameos in a brief flashback with Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder, both in her original and new design. In the series last season's finale,[78] having been invited to attend the wedding of April O'Neil and Casey Jones, and arriving at the ceremony with Dr. Chaplin by her side. She and Chaplin later assist the Turtles in fending off the sudden onslaught of the Cyber Shredder. [Note 4]

Karai returns in the 2009 special Turtles Forever, in which she frees Ch'rell from the clutches of the 1987 series' Shredder, Krang, and Bebop & Rocksteady. She then aids the Shredder in modifying the Technodrome with Utrom technology.[80] The Utrom Shredder, consumed with rage for revenge on the Turtles, wants to destroy every dimension where the Ninja Turtles exist even though it will most likely destroy himself, but Karai intervenes, rescuing the classic Turtles, the 1987 Shredder, Krang, and the 2003 Splinter. In the end, at the Turtles Prime dimension (Mirage Turtles), Karai fights alongside the Turtles, Splinter, as well as the 1987 series' Shredder and Krang, to stop the Utrom Shredder's insane plot.[81] Even though Ch'rell is eventually destroyed, seemingly for good, Karai suggests that he may return again.

An alternate future version of Karai, in her thirties, appears as a villain in an alternate-future Season 3 episode "Same As It Never Was", in which she is serving the Shredder following his successful conquest of the Earth. She and her robots kill Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael, but she is then herself killed by the missiles fired by April.[82] [Note 5]

2012 animated series[edit]

Another iteration of the character appears in Nickelodeon's 2012 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, where she is voiced by Kelly Hu.[85] Nickelodeon published early character design sketches of their interpretation of Karai on the Internet.[86] In the series, Karai is a 16-year-old teenager and rebellious member of The Foot and a master kunoichi with strong ties to the Shredder.[87] According to the company's official description, "as lethal as she is beautiful, Karai brings a whole new level of chaos and complication for the Turtles."[88] Executive producer Ciro Nieli said: "I really like what we’re doing with Karai the most. I mean, I know she’s been part of the universe before but I think the twists and turns we’re doing with her and just watching her evolve as a very key player in a series is really exciting. We’re not really interested in the old Karai canon so much."[89] The Shredder's voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson said: "The daughter thing in my opinion to me that is Shredder's sense of humanity for Shredder. And it's the closest thing to a soft spot. But he doesn't treat her like your average daddy's little girl. He's pretty tough. But at the same time, Shredder with his attachment to her that is the only thing he really has that of course we've never really seen."[90]

Fans are going to hate me when they find out that I was not familiar with the character when I auditioned [laughs]. I did do a lot of research online though. There are a bunch of great fan sites for her and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. From what I understand this Karai is written slightly different than past Karais have, which is great so then it is not so predictable and audiences who grew up with her can still enjoy it.

Kelly Hu[91]

Karai's voice actress Kelly Hu has only learned later "about her and the different versions" from reading the TMNT wiki.[92] She said that she "was pleasantly surprised at how edgy and cool she was -- and skinny!"[93] and added: "I love the way she looks. I do not recall if I had a picture before I started. You know, it is really just my own voice though. I try pitching it up a bit to sound younger like more around 20."[91] Hu also said that since she has never seen any other version of Karai, she has nothing to compare her to "which is kind of a good thing, because then I just get to play her as I see her myself. But she's sort of feisty, badass and kicks butt. She gets to have a little going on with Leonardo. What I like about playing this character is she's not all bad. She has a conscience that she has to wrestle with...But see, I don't know about the other Karais or storylines in other series, so I don't know how it matches up, if it's the same or different or what."[93] Asked about what she thinks "makes Karai such a popular and unique character," Hu answered: "I think people love these little tough girls. She's got lots of attitude and she's sarcastic at times. You just never know what she's going to do. She's always surprising you – you think she's going to turn one way and she goes the other."[92] [Note 6]

History[edit]

This 3D CG version of Karai was introduced in the first season episode "New Girl in Town", aired on February 1, 2013. In the season's finale ("Booyaka-Showdown, Part 2"), it was revealed that Karai is actually Miwa, the only child and long-lost daughter of Hamato Yoshi and his late wife Tang Shen, who was abducted by Shredder as an infant after the battle that resulted in Tang Shen's unfortunate and tragic death, and Shredder's scarring fifteen years ago. The Shredder has since raised her as his own, telling her that Splinter is responsible for her mother's death. In the two-part episode "the Manhattan Project", Leo tells Karai the truth that Splinter is her biological father, but she dismisses it as a lie. In "The Wrath of Tiger Claw", she begins to have doubts towards whether or not Shredder is telling the truth. She "lies" to Leonardo, saying that she believed she is Splinter's daughter and initially allows herself into the turtles' lair in order to lead Tiger Claw there, but when she found out that she really was Splinter's child, she began to regret her actions, and tried to make up for them by helping the Turtles fight Tiger Claw. She is overpowered and taken back to Shredder, who imprisoned her now that she knows the truth about her parentage.

Karai's mutant-snake form in Season 2

In "Vengeance is Mine", Karai is rescued by the turtles and brought back to the lair. However, after hearing the story of their rivalry and her mother's death, she got so angry that she returns to Shredder's lair to defeat him once and for all, only to be captured once more. Shredder's real plan was to use her as bait to mutate the Turtles into snakes- reasoning that, as the natural enemy of the rat, the mutated turtle-snakes would then eat Splinter, who would be unable to fight his sons- but he accidentally causes Karai to fall into the mutagen, turning her into a mutant snake that goes on a rampage before escaping as she regains control of herself when about to kill Splinter. Although Donatello hopes to create a retro-mutagen to cure Karai, it is revealed that she is a special kind of mutant and can almost completely change back to her human self, retaining only her snake eyes, fangs and prehensile tongue. In the second season's two-part finale, "The Invasion", Karai had two non-speaking cameos; where she appeared near an alley way to hide from the Kraang, and at the end when she had rescued her biological father from drowning to the death in the sewer. She checked his vital organs and warmly nudged him before taking off in the sewers.

In the third season's "Serpent Hunt" Karai is chased by Anton Zeck, Ivan Steranko, Rahzar, and Fishface to be given to Shredder. Donatello observes that her mind is becoming more snake-like as time goes on, as she can hardly even speak, but she still acknowledged her former enemies as friends and said goodbye to them before departing into the city. She is captured and given to Shredder, who has Baxter begin to work on a mind control serum to get Karai back on his side. In "The Deadly Venom," not only has Baxter successfully helped Karai control her mutation (allowing her to remain in human form but shape-shift her arms into snakes, as well as infect her enemies with various toxins, poisons and acidic venom), but he also brainwashes her into working for and obeying the Shredder once again, forcing her to call him "Father" against her will. She is forced to hunt down the Turtles, and their trusted human allies (April O'Neil and Casey Jones) to ultimately get to Splinter. After infecting April, Casey, Mikey and Raphael with her incurably lethal snake's venom, she faced Leonardo; one-on-one who managed to counteract her poison by utilizing his own healing manta. Although defeated, she managed to escape while Leonardo was distracted. Many nights later, Karai is seen connected to a Kraang-like contraction that injects her brain with multiple brain-worms. She again staged a plan to capture the Turtles' and place in four separate traps. This would then force Splinter to fight her to the bitter end for his sons' lives. Fortunately, Splinter later used his "healing hand" mantra, which weakened the brain-worm inside her head, causing her to spit it out, therefore restoring her free will. Although the Turtles' searched long and hard, she had fled from the city of New York; presumably to Tokyo, Japan.

Karai is later used by Splinter and April as a motivation for the Shredder to aid in fending off the Triceraton invasion in the two-part, third season's finale "Annihilation: Earth! Part 2", but Shredder ultimately betrays and kills Splinter anyway in clod blood. Karai is then killed off-screen with the Earth's destruction, but she is saved when the Turtles create a new timeline in "Earth's Last Stand".

Finally free of the vile brain-worm that had controlled her mind, Karai furiously focuses all her efforts on taking down the Shredder and his entire criminal empire with the help of her old friend, Shinigami; a Shinto witch who possesses extraordinarily powerful dark magic. To give more thought to her new drive, new Foot soldiers are recruited for her own army which she herself commands. Unfortunately, she is later captured by the Shredder (who has now become a powerful mutant) and used as a leverage to force Splinter into another duel to the death. Suspended in chains, Karai is forced to watch as her one true father is constantly pulverized by the Super Shredder's immense strength. She manages to use her mutant-snake abilities to break free of her restraints and joins up with April and the Turtles but are blocked by several Chrome Domes. Later, Karai runs off with April and the Turtles to the Undercity and is horrified to see her father, Splinter, barely holding his own against Super Shredder. Before she can rush to her father's aid, more Chrome Domes attack and she watches in horror as Splinter and Oroku Saki fall 1,000 feet; presumably to their deaths. Karai then joins with Leonardo and April, to attract Oroku Saki to the surface. Ambushed by Tiger Claw, she defends April and comes to assist Leonardo, who is begin torn apart by Super Shredder. She brutally attacks him with her tanto. She is almost crushed to death by a truck but is saved by April's strong telekinesis. She distracts Saki by "offering him the chance of redemption" without the need for vengeance, which was merely a ruse for a badly injured Leonardo to escape. She then took advantage of the Super Shredder's distraction to attack him directly by punching his pulsating mutated heart. She abandoned the chase to help April get Leonardo back for medical attention.

Some weeks later, Karai is shown to be working with the Mighty Mutanimals to plan her next move. She is shocked when they are interrupted by the sudden arrival of Super Shredder himself. She furiously attempts to attack him with her tanto sword but is blasted backward by his spiked mutated arm, is seriously hurt and knocked unconsciousness by the burning debris. She is saved by Leonardo (who desperately performed CPR to save her from more smoke inhalation) and is taken to the hospital by Shinigami. She eventually regains consciousness in a hospital bed, and is shown to be wearing a neck brace; attached to a life-support machine. The Turtles' sadly inform her of the death of her father at the spiked hands of Super Shredder. She weakly tells Leonardo to put an end to all of this, and that she will always believe in him. She is later shown next to Leonardo on the building of Stockman Industries with a broken arm. She Leonardo that there is nothing for him to apologize for, and thanks him for doing what no one else could: Finish off the Shredder. She looks on at the skies, where the spirit of Splinter watches over her and the others with pride.

In the fifth and final season's second episode, :The Forgotten Swordsman" Karai and her good friend Shinigami were traveling in the dead of night in pursuit of Foot soldiers who had double-crossed her, as they accused her of not being worthy to rule the Foot clan. She was suddenly attacked by a mysterious, masked warrior. She was shocked her to discover that it was, in fact, her old teacher and mentor- Hattori Tatsu. After escaping (thanks to Shinigami's dark arts) she came to the Lair to warn the Turtles of Tatsu's desire to rule as the new Shredder, with the mutated, legendary Kuro Kabuto itself in his possession. She is angered and horrified when told that Tiger Claw and his Foot cult is seeking the Kabuto to return Oroku Saki to life. She resolved for them all to find Tatsu and take him down while recovering the Kuro Kabuto, as it is the key that gives its wearer full control over the entire Foot clan. With Leonardo to back her up, Karai appeared at the warehouse where the Kabuto laid and sneaked up behind Tatsu, ready to strike the swordsman down. However, her gambit proved foolish, as her old teacher sensed her presence and beat her again with little effort. In a fury, she knocked off his silver mask, revealing him to be blind. With Leonardo's aid, she was capable of putting him off guard and severely bite him with her snake fangs; thus infecting him with her lethal venom as well. She then turned to the Foot soldiers, stating that Tatsu had been merely using them and tarnishing the name of the Foot clan for his own glory, just as the Shredder had; that the Foot clan deserves a new destiny; one with honor and morality.

Some nights later ("End Times"), Karai aided her April and the Turtles in recovering the fragments of Shredder's heart. She road with April on a motorcycle in pursuit of Bebop. When they were seen, she was saved from falling hard by April's incredibly strong telekinesis. Despite her best efforts, she was not able to stop the heart of her adopted "father" from falling into the hands of Tiger Claw and Kavaxas. She eventually shows up at the Lair riding on Leatherhead's back. She then went with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Leatherhead to stop Kavaxas and the revived, zombie-like Super Shredder. She watched as the two were dragged into the Netherworld via a mystic portal. As the sunset, she bed a final farewell to her father's spirit in the form a warm and loving hug. She wanted to appreciate the beautiful sunset with Leonardo and the others before going home.

A few days later, Karai seems to remain with the Turtles and her good friend April O"Neil in the Lair, where she frequently spars with Leonardo, whom she expressed her mutual romantic feelings for during their "playful" training sessions. She waited on the rooftops as the two Salamandrians arrived, and was obviously repulsed that Raphael had a thing for "a big newt." She agreed to work together with them to stop the Newtralizer from wiping out the Utroms. When the extraterrestrial bug Lord Dregg invaded, Karai was shocked at Leonardo's capture. She tried to hold off the hordes of Vreen, but was eventually taken to Dregg's spaceship as well. Once released, she fought alongside Leonardo, Donatello and April against Lord Dregg, but was easily beaten. Upon the destruction of the Newtralizer via electrocution, she expressed sadness when Michelangelo offered to use his temporarily acquired electric-generating abilities to buy her and the Turtles enough time to abandon ship; seemingly sacrificing his own life in the process. When Michelangelo reappeared unscathed, Karai assured him that today was a win and that they should celebrate. She appeared to be exasperated and slightly embarrassed when Raphael and Mona Lisa shared a loving hug.

Personality[edit]

2003 animated Show[edit]

Karai is serious, quick-witted and somewhat cold, as she was raised by the ruthless and merciless Utrom Shredder. However, regardless of her unfeeling and slightly negative attitude, she does have a sense of mortality and honor, and believes in taking less aggressive measures toward the Turtles and other certain threats. She expressed guilt in taking advantage of the Turtles' trust (especially Leonardo's) and controlling them for the benefit of her adopted father who was gradually recuperating. Her feelings of guilt and regret sometimes showed when she dueled Leonardo, which seems to imply that she does harbor somewhat more-than-friendly feelings for the Turtle leader.

Karai believes in staying in the heat of battle until seeing things through and does not fear death. She cares about the human race, as she was against the destruction of the millions of innocence that would have occurred had the floating city of Beijing came crashing down on Earth.

2012 Animated Show[edit]

Skills and Abilities[edit]

2003 animated Series[edit]

In this 2D hand-drawn animated show, Karai was trained during her adolescence in ninjitsu and high-level forms of hand-to-hand combat under the tutelage of her adopted father, "Oroku Saki." Her weapons include a katana, a tanto knife, several shuriken, and a long chain-like weapon. At one point, in her youth, she had demonstrated proficient use of the shortbow and arrow.

Having raised by the ruthless and vicious Utrom Shredder, Karai has natural leadership skills and was capable of taking full charge of the Foot clan after the exile of her adopted father and master once she donned his mantle to carry on his destructive and murderous legacy, which seemed to have further multiplied her natural fighting skills.

2012 animated Series[edit]

In this 3D computer-generated version, Karai is still highly trained in high leveled moves in ninjitsu and hand-to-hand combat ever since she was a girl. Her weapons are a tanto knife (which symbolizes her higher rank as a full-fledged kunoichi of the Foot clan) and several shuriken. Her natural fighting skills make her incredibly agile in battle, even equal to Leonardo's.

Unlike her 2D animated counterpart, Karai eventually gets mutated into a mindless purple-and-white snake by falling into a vat of mutagen containing snake DNA. However, due to a small addition of retro-mutagen included, she is able to transform back to her human form for short periods, retaining snake fangs, prehensile tongue and extended serpentine arms. Her face even had scaly parts and her eyes had remained a greenish color instead of their normal brown. Her snake form grants her several superhuman abilities; such as further increasing her hearing, speed, agility, endurance, stealth and flexibility to even greater levels, even giving her perfect night vision. In addition, Karai can inject her victims with extremely strong and poisons and highly toxic venom that is quite fatal. They have no antidote but can be counteracted with "the healing hands" mantras. When she recaptured, Stockman Fly had used his scientific intellect to give her complete control over snake form, allowing her to become human without any noticeable snake traits whatsoever and go full snake at will. When used in conjunction with her extensive ninjitsu skills makes her quite a formidable opponent. Some time later, she learned how to use her mutant-snake abilities to heal severe injuries she has sustained (such as burns) by simply shedding her damaged skin and replacing it with brand-new skin.

Movies[edit]

TMNT[edit]

Unmasked Karai in the film TMNT

In the 2007 animated film TMNT, Karai is a new character[94][95] inspired by the original Karai from the 1990s comics,[96] designed by Jose Lopez[97] and voiced by Zhang Ziyi. Shown wearing a red Noh[98] mask and a full-body black armor with a hood on her head and a cape, Karai is the Japanese Foot Clan boss and has come to take over the New York Foot after the Shredder's death.[99] Karai was one of favorite comics characters of the writer and director Kevin Munroe and he "was the one who really pushed for Karai" to appear in the film.[100] This version of Karai may or may be not related to the Shredder.[101] [Note 7] While making TMNT, Munroe wrote: "again, we’ll only see her sans-mask for one shot at the end. Up until that point, we’ll make her body a bit less curvy and less feminine to not raise unnecessary questions."[103] Talking about a possible sequel to the film, as well as about comics, Munroe said he would "love to see us explore the Karai and Foot Ninja thing a little more."[96][104]

Karai is the new leader of the Foot, hired by the mysterious billionaire Max Winters to help him and his Stone Generals hunt down the thirteen ancient immortal monsters.[105] She fights with Leonardo (whom she clearly recognizes) and rejects his offer to help them, also engaging in battle with April O'Neil while the Foot battles the Turtles and their allies. During the tide of the battle, both the Foot Clan and the Turtles realized that Winters, revealing himself to be an immortal warlord named Yaotl, only wanted the monsters to be returned to their world to undo the immortality curse he and his Stone Generals had endured. Unfortunately, the Stone Generals have betrayed Winters by deliberately missing the final monster and intend to use the portal to finalize their conquest of Earth. When the Stone Generals offer the Foot a chance to join them in world conquest, Karai refuses, saying that they would honor their contract to Winters. Aided by April and Casey, she then leads her ninja in retrieving the last of the monsters. In the end, Karai parts ways with the Turtles peacefully, but gives a cryptic last word that Turtles "have passed" something (she refuses to elaborate) and "soon we will have further business together; the kind that involves familiar faces from your past", indicating on the Shredder's inevitable return to life.

Live-Action Films[edit]

I’ve been a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since I was a kid, so I was already familiar with Karai from back in the 90s. And without giving away too much, I will say she is a very complex character that was a blast to play. Since Karai is with the Foot Clan, many would say she’s mean or evil… but I like to think of her as just… misunderstood.

Minae Noji[106]

Minae Noji portrayed Karai in the 2014 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.[107] Noji, who said she "knew the character backwards and forwards"[108] and described it as her "dream come true," also said she enjoyed the role because she has "always been magnetized to women who are strong women warriors — not necessarily physically, but as a spirit, as a soul, with inner strength."[109][110] Noji said the casting was "unique in that, because the project was so confidential, none of the actors were given the name of character or the sides ahead of time. However, since I'm a fan of the franchise, I was able to piece things together and quickly knew it was for the role of Karai. I was elated."[111]

Karai plays only a minor role in the film, [Note 8] which came as a disappointment for some reviewers and commentators. [Note 9] There was a filmed but unused scene of a fight between April O'Neil, Vernon Fenwick, Karai, and The Foot in downtown Manhattan that was cut from the finished film. Will Arnett, who played Vernon, said that in this scene his character "comes out just at the right moment [and] hits Karai with the gurney and knocks her off balance a little bit. Then April kind of finishes her off."[117][118]

I'm playing Karai, and in some iterations, she is Shredder's daughter, natural or adopted. In this one, it's not referenced, but I do consider him like family. My version of Karai is definitely like a soldier first. She is fierce and a deadly warrior and she's incredibly loyal and will do whatever it takes to carry out Master Shredder's plan to take over the world.

Brittany Ishibashi[119]

Karai reappears in the 2016 follow-up film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, with Brittany Ishibashi replacing Minae Noji in the role.[120] Ishibashi, a self-proclaimed "fangirl" of Karai,[121] auditioned for the role code-named "Female Soldier", correctly predicting it would be Karai.[122] Ishibashi said, "My version of Karai is a soldier first. She is Shredder’s right hand and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. She's fiercely loyal, smart, and a warrior when it comes to honoring the task at hand. Her Foot Clan is her family and she has the utmost respect for Master Shredder —although she does question his decision to recruit Bebop and Rocksteady!" Preparing for the role, she trained with the stunt team 87Eleven, in addition to her black belt in taekwondo, and also had two stunt doubles, Natalie Padilla and Ming Qiu.[123]

In the first film Karai is depicted as Shredder's assistant who leads many of the Foot Clan's field missions. Karai is seen many times accompanying Eric Sacks and Shredder. Karai is last seen in a car chase with the Turtles where Raphael causes her jeep to crash into a tree. In the sequel she is still Shredder's right hand woman, acting as both a bodyguard and assistant. She also works closely with Baxter Stockman. Karai is last seen in a fight with April, which ends with April knocking Karai out.

In video games[edit]

Action Video Games[edit]

  • Karai, voiced by Karen Neil (her 2003 cartoon voice actress), is a boss character and an unlockable player character in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus (2004),[124] in an encounter loosely based on the 2003 cartoon's episode "Rogue in the House Part 2". Her appearance is that from the cartoon series and she is armed with dual swords and also has a special move of unleashing multiple kunais in every direction. According to Prima Games, Karai is one of the toughest opponents in the game's Foot Fight tournament mode.[125]
In the game's story mode, the Turtles meet Karai after she very uneasily decided to obey the Shredder's order to put them to death. After defeating Karai in combat, Leonardo pleads for her to choose honor over the loyalty to the Shredder, even going as far as allowing her to strike him down if she chooses so, but she finds unable to do so and asks him to kill her instead. Leonardo refuses in turn and leaves, telling her that he believes they will one day understand each other.

Fighting games[edit]

  • Karai is the final boss in the 1993 Sega Genesis[126] and Super Nintendo Entertainment System[127] versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters, where she is fighting without the use of any weapon. Karai was notorious as an extremely[128] difficult boss to defeat (especially on Genesis) and is a secret player character in the SNES version (in the Genesis version she is only unlockable with the use of a cheat device) where she can be unlocked by the use of a cheat code.[129] Her appearance in the Super NES version is roughly based on this from the Mirage comics but her in-game design is androgynous and confusingly masculine, leading some players at that time to assume it was a new male character.[130] [Note 11] The Genesis game's Karai looks much more feminine than in the Super NES game (one magazine compared her to Chun-Li[134]), she is brown-haired and clad in skimpy samurai-style armor.[135] Both versions wear a red bandana.
In the story mode of the SNES version, "Master Karai" (who is not known to the Turtles[127][136]) arrives in New York with "the forces of the Shredder Elite" in order to avenge the Shredder, and kidnaps Splinter and April to lure the Turtles into fighting her minions (apparently including the Shredder); before her boss fight, Splinter says Karai "possesses super human powers." In the Tournament mode, "a very strong fighter by the name of 'Karai'" is announced by April to be "still alive" and challenges the winner of the titular fighting tournament to fight her (the final fight takes place on a moving train).
In the Genesis version, Karai has a different backstory, in which she in league with Krang has sent the Turtles' clones to kidnap Master Splinter into Dimension X.[137] She suddenly reveals herself to be the true mastermind behind this at the end of the game, following the player's defeat of Krang (in addition, the regular ending has Karai saying that it was only her clone that has been destroyed, as she can be truly killed only in the alternative ending after finishing the game at the hardest difficulty setting).
  • Karai (once again voiced by Karen Neil) is one of the selectable characters in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up (2009).[138] Her appearance is that of the 2007 film and she is described as being the Shredder's daughter. Karai's alternative costume resembles the Amazonian Blade Bots. An illustration created for the play's "Girls of Gaming 8" shows her with a longer hair and wearing the Shredder's armor.[139] Karai is wielding a single sword and, while not the most powerful, she is the fastest and most agile character in the game.[140] According to Prima Games' official guide, Karai (rated 10/10) is the best overall character in the game, thanks to her fastest speed and one of the top jumping abilities, as well as unique combo opportunities, but she is less adventagous against other agile characters.[141]
In the game's story mode, featuring a motion comic with an original plot co-written by Peter Laird, Karai looks more like in Mirage comics and is the Shredder's daughter who appears to ally with the Turtles. But after they defeat the Shredder, Karai reveals that she used the Turtles to get rid of him so she could usurp the Foot Clan as a next in line. Unexpectedly, the Shredder rises up, but Leonardo kicks him into Karai, landing them into the alien Transmat device that then teleports them away and "that problem is solved."

Toys[edit]

  • Playmates released an action figure of Karai from the 2003 cartoon in her Shredder armor (with a removable helmet) in 2005, packed with bonus DVD.[142]
  • Playmates also released a larger action figure based on as she has appeared in the film TMNT (featuring a changeable head, with or without the face mask and hood) in 2007.[143]
  • In 2014, the TMNT Lego set included two versions of Karai: from the ongoing TV show,[144] and from the new movie.[145]
  • Karai from the Mirage comic series was included in the first wave of TMNT Blind Box miniature Funko Mystery Minis action figures.[146]
  • A "Karai Snake" action figure from the 2012 cartoon was released by Playmates in 2015.[147]
  • A "Human Karai" action figure from the 2012 cartoon was released by Playmates in 2016.[148]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Karai's name is the same as the Japanese adjective karai (辛い)[1] that generally translates into "spicy" (for describing foods), but also covers less common meanings like "severe" or "harsh". It also resembles words like kurai (暗い),[2] meaning "dark", and kerai (家来)'[3] a word for retainers who serve under a lord or clan. In Japanese localizations of TMNT media, Karai's name is written with the phonetic katakana script as karai (カライ), rending any connections to actual Japanese vocabulary ambiguous. Her name's pronunciation was changed to "Karrai" in Brazil, to avoid confusion with a local pronunciation of the word "caralho" (dick), also used as a slang.[4]
  2. ^ In 2014, Eastman referred to the Shredder as "her father",[14] but no such connection was ever made in the actual comic. He also commented that Keith David's inking of the "dangerous/sexy" Karai in the arc reminded him of Michael Dooney's work on female characters in the series.[15]
  3. ^ In a homage scene, the way Karai held Leonardo hostage is exactly how the Shredder held him in the first live-action film to force the other three to surrender.
  4. ^ Laird wrote he was "disappointed" to see Karai at April and Casey's wedding and fighting on the side of the "good guys" in the end.[79]
  5. ^ In an early draft of this episode, her title was Princess Karai[83] and April would get into Karai's "Dark Princess outfit" to defeat the Shredder and take control of the Foot in guise of her.[84]
  6. ^ Speaking of the character played by her in the film X2, Hu added: "You know, Lady Deathstrike is iconic and so tough. I think Karai would really give her a run for her money, though. That would be a good one – I'd be interested to see that!"[92]
  7. ^ In the bio text of her action figure in the film's merchandise she is described as being the Shredder's daughter and journalist Wesley Morris described her as "Shredder's niece"[102] but no clear indication of this was given in the actual film.
  8. ^ According to Comic Vine's review, "Karai is apparently just there for fans to say, 'look, there's Karai!' Her role really is limited to shouting orders and failing miserably."[112]
  9. ^ For example, Zimbio opined it is "disappointing that in the new movie Karai is so underused. With a story that focuses on Shredder and William Fichtner's villain, Karai is relegated to third-string status, and she just sort of blends into the background" and, unlike in other TMNT stories, does not "show signs of being something more than the one-dimensional villain we got onscreen."[113] Heavy.com also stated that "not getting to see much of Karai in action is a disappointment,"[114] and Douglas Walker called her cool-looking but ultimately "entirely pointless."[115] MovieWeb included "A Bigger Role for Karai" among the nine things they would like to see in the film's sequel, stating that "watching the new movie, it feels as though some of her scenes were cut out. We like Minae Noji, let's hope they give her something more to do next time. The character deserves it."[116]
  10. ^ The robots were created by Dr. Chaplin in the episode "New Blood" and also featured in "Same As It Never Was" (as Karai Legion).
  11. ^ Due to the relative obscurity of the TMNT Mirage comics (as compared to the 1980s cartoon and the films), many players and even game journalists who did not recognize Karai in Tournament Fighters assumed her to be an original character created by Konami for the game.[131][132][133]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]