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Kairi is the literal heart of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. While she may not be as flashy as Sora or as famous and brooding as Riku, she is an invaluable part of the series.
I aim to show you just why this is the case in our Kairi Kingdom Hearts guide. This is going to be all about the young lady who is the best friend of Sora and Riku, and a brilliant Keyblade wielder herself.
This Kairi Kingdom Hearts guide is also going to dive deep into the main character and reveal everything that you need to know about her.
I’ll be upfront that she is one of my favorites so I am partial to her heartwarming personality. Also the fact that she is a Disney princess (at least in my mind). Without a doubt, she is also one of the most underused characters in the series in my mind.
Despite being part of the main trio, Square Enix does an injustice to her character by giving her only tiny bits of story development here and there, with most of it being most recently in the series.
I hope to make up for Square Enix’s misgivings by shedding some light on this underappreciated cornerstone of the franchise. As such, I will be sure to include fun facts that you might not have known, details about her abilities, and an entire history of her throughout the games.
Bottom Line Up Front
Kairi is one of the three main characters of the Kingdom Hearts series and the most underused of the three. Many know her as the best friend of Sora and Riku. In many ways, she also plays the damsel in distress and stereotypical princess in the first game.
Over time, though, her role grows beyond this as she unlocks the ability to wield a Keyblade herself. She is featured in almost all of the mainline games in one way or another, playing a significant role in everything.
Kairi is even playable in a couple of recent titles. As the Princess of Heart, she is a vital part of the story. Through this power, she is the literal heart of the series binding everyone together.
As a huge Disney fan, I am astonished by Kairi and the fact that she is basically an unofficial Disney princess. This instantly made her one of my favorites.
The only gripe I have with her is the fact that Square Enix does not seem to appreciate and give her the attention that she deserves, taking far too long to develop her into the protagonist she deserves to be.
Kairi Overview and Description
Kairi is one of the three lead characters in the Kingdom Hearts series. I would even argue that she is the second-best of the three main characters, beating out the sometimes too obnoxious Sora. At the same time, she falls just short of passing Riku due to her lack of development for much of the series.
Kairi is from the Destiny Islands but was born in Radiant Garden. She grows up on the islands alongside her best friends, Sora and Riku. Kairi and her friends were stranded on the island, wishing for nothing more than to visit other lands.
Eventually, the trio get the opportunity to visit other worlds, and Kairi plays a significant role in the series through this, unfortunately, as the damsel in distress trope that is far too overused in Disney-related media.
Before long, she is at the center of the fight against the darkness and Organization XIII. This is due to her dual, perhaps even triple, nature that amplifies her role in the series.
She is, first and foremost, the invaluable third member of the trio of best friends and protagonists.
As such, the group is without their heart and soul if she is not there. She acts as the catalyst for many of the events in Kingdom Hearts because of this.
Furthermore, she is a Princess of Heart. Her role is vital to stopping the Heartless and freeing worlds from their control. At the same time, though, she also gets a more hands-on spot in the later games as a Keyblade wielder herself.
Over time, Kairi’s fan base has grown considerably, and for a good reason. Her kind and loving personality make her one of my favorite characters in the series, stoking the flame of my love for Disney.
Despite being a character that did not exist before Kingdom Hearts, Kairi is by far the most traditional Disney-like new character introduced.
The Kingdom Hearts games typically show some physical growth and change over the course of them in their characters. I think that this is the best part about the Kingdom Hearts games as the characters are the defining factor.
Kairi is no different, with the lead female character featuring several different looks over the course of the series, each of which I find fascinating and telling about her nature.
Chronologically, the first in-game lore appearance of Kairi is in the PSP Birth by Sleep games. Here, she is four years old.
For starters, she is wearing a mostly plain white dress. The only accent on it is a purple hem at the bottom with strange darker purple X’s going around the border. There is also a single thin purple line near the top of the dress.
She wears classic Kingdom Hearts massive clown shoes on the bottom that are white, dark purple, and pink.
Her hair is similar to her style in Kingdom Hearts, with a bob cut that does not go all the way down to her shoulders and reddish-brown hair. Her eyes are a deep, ocean blue color.
In the first Kingdom Hearts, she is 14 years old. Her appearance here is relatively similar to how she looked in Birth by Sleep but older and slightly changed. One of the central swaps is her dress for a tank top and skirt.
The tank top is white with a simple dark border at the top of it. The skirt is all purple with a darker purple belt and not much else going on.
Her shoes are, oddly enough, almost exactly the same as ten years prior with the white, purple, and pink aesthetic. But the design is slightly different.
She has a few accessories that she wears, like a yellow wristband, purple armband, and a black choker.
Her hair is the same reddish-brown color but cut more sharply and neatly. She now has bangs that are parted and go over her left eye.
In Kingdom Hearts II, this is where Kairi’s appearance enters the more iconic stage that I, personally, imagine when I think of her.
She looks a little bit older here, swapping out the simple clothes for a vibrant hot pink dress. The dress is pretty short, and she wears a white tank top underneath it.
She wears purple shoes on the bottom. These particular clown shoes are a lavender purple and white mix with black laces.
Her hair is much longer now, going all the way down to her shoulders, and the color looks to me to be a slightly darker brown color.
Overall, I think this gives her a much more mature appearance while still having elements of her previous childish looks thrown in the mix.
Kingdom Hearts III is by far where I think Kairi has her most drastic change. For one, she looks much older in this game, despite only being around a year older than in Kingdom Hearts II.
She has another pink dress here, but it is far more detailed and exciting.
The zip on the dress is undone only the tiniest bit to show the tank top that she, once more, wears underneath.
Oddly enough, the bottom of the dress features all black on one side, pink in the middle, and a pink, black, and white pattern on the other side.
She still wears comically large shoes for her feet this time around, but at least they are fashionable. They are black boots that go past her ankles.
Her hair is cut a little bit shorter than in Kingdom Hearts II, more similar to her style as a kid in Birth by Sleep. I think her face looks older and hardened by the events leading up to that game, giving her best look, in my opinion.
Kairi has a memorable personality that is warm and welcoming. She is a kind and gentle person who is loving. She is friendly to anyone and everyone that she meets until they give her a reason not to.
There is a lot to love about her personality, including that she knows when it is time to get serious.
Kairi is reflective and emotional, being serious at times as well. While she is a kind person, she can get quite angry and passionate when facing off against foes or defending the ones that she loves.
This multi-faceted nature to her personality is another reason why I like her so much. It’s just a shame that she does not always get the attention she deserves. She is in a great position to break many of the so-called Disney tropes that exist.
Being that she is a fighter, she could have a more defining personality unlike some of the archetypal princesses out there. So, I have to wonder, why is it taking so long for her to be a more significant playable character, Disney and Square?
The key moments and history of Kairi within the Kingdom Hearts series will significantly spoil many of the major story events for all of the games. Beware of this if you have not played all of the games yet.
In fact, just skip this section entirely if you haven’t played all of the games. Or maybe don’t since it might have been too convoluted to fully understand anyways?
Also, I will go in chronological order for this section, which means that I will not go in the order of release. For example, despite Birth by Sleep coming out long after Kingdom Hearts I and II, it comes first in the lore order.
This might be sacrilege to some fans, but I stand by this order. It helps to shed some light on the brilliant Kairi in the most sensible way possible (if that is even possible).
Birth by Sleep
In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, this is the first time that Kairi lore-wise appears in the series’ events. She doesn’t have much to do here, honestly, but the events are crucial nonetheless. She is four years old at this time and living in her hometown of Radiant Garden.
When Aqua visits this area, Kairi runs into her and touches her Keyblade, inadvertently opening the door for Kairi to become a Keyblade wielder someday.
As thanks for being saved, Kairi gives Aqua some flowers and receives a protective necklace in return. This necklace is there to keep Kairi safe and hints at what’s to come for the young girl.
Prior to the events of the first Kingdom Hearts, Radiant Garden is lost, and Xehanort sends Kairi out where she lands on the Destiny Islands.
Kingdom Hearts is where Kairi’s tale truly begins. For most of Kairi’s life, she grows up on the Destiny Islands with no memories of her past life in Radiant Garden. She lives alongside her two best friends, Sora and Riku.
Over time, the group wishes to see the rest of the world and other places but is eventually interrupted when the Heartless arrive on the island.
With the Heartless attack, Kairi disappears from the island right in front of Sora, and he makes it his mission to find her. Before leaving, Kairi imparts her heart to Sora as part of her ability as a Princess of Heart.
Through their connection, Kairi appears to Sora and speaks with him many times in his journey.
Riku finds Kairi first, who is now just a lifeless husk due to her heart being with Sora. Sora later finds her body as well, with the two now on a mission to find her heart but at odds with one another.
They eventually arrive at Hollow Bastion, and Sora sacrifices himself to bring her back, turning him into a Heartless in the process.
Now alive and well again, Kairi finds Sora’s Heartless and brings him back in return before escaping the place. After the defeat of Ansem, Sora says goodbye to Kairi, and she is sent back to the Destiny Islands alone.
Chain of Memories
Kairi’s role in Chain of Memories is diminished, which is a huge shame. She mostly lives out her time on the Destiny Islands, awaiting her best friends’ return. She appears to both of them at different times in the game.
At the same time, Namine appears for the first time in Chain of Memories and attempts to take the place of Kairi in Sora’s heart.
In 358/2 Days, Kairi becomes friends with Selphie, Tidus, and Wakka from the Final Fantasy series. Her memories begin to waver about Sora due to Namine’s actions.
Once again, Kairi plays a minor role in this game, so no surprises here. But, hey, at least she is being totally replaced in the mind of Sora by Xion so there’s that.
Kingdom Hearts II
At the point of Kingdom Hearts II, her memories are even worse regarding Sora and Riku as she continues living an everyday life. Kairi gets a bigger role in this game, finally starting to come into her own.
She eventually encounters Roxas and, in turn, Sora, remembering him in the process. She sends out a message in a bottle for Sora.
She attempts to escape and almost fails but is saved by Riku under the guise of Ansem.
Together, the two find Sora, and the group is finally reunited once more. Kairi gets a Keyblade in this process and helps the group the best she can to fight off Organization XIII.
At the end of the game, Kairi is seen greeting Sora and Riku as they finally return to the Destiny Islands. The very end sees the three taking a look at a letter from King Mickey.
Dream Drop Distance
Once more, Kairi plays a tiny role in favor of focusing on the two heroes who have already led several games before. For most of the game, her primary role is waiting for her friends, and Sora sees her at one point in a vision, but that’s about it.
However, Kairi’s story ramps up with the secret ending to Dream Drop Distance, where she is seen interacting with Yen Sid, who wishes to see her train in the art of wielding a Keyblade.
0.2 Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
In this short experimental demo for tech surrounding Kingdom Hearts III, there is a cutscene that features Kairi.
Picking up right after the secret ending of Dream Drop Distance, Kairi is tasked by Yen Sid with training under Merlin to become a Keyblade wielder.
She is to train alongside Lea, the restored Axel so that she can defend herself in the final fight against Organization XIII. She is surprised that her fellow trainee is the man who once captured her but agreed nonetheless.
Kingdom Hearts III
At the start of Kingdom Hearts III, there is not much at all that happens with Kairi since her part is, unfortunately, set for the final act of the game. Kairi is hard work alongside Lea, trying to master the Keyblade. Much of her early story in this game is centered on her connection to Lea and resolving the lingering issues with him.
Though she has long since moved on from the times in which Lea tried to kidnap her as Axel, he has not yet let go of it. While eating the classic sea salt ice cream, they are able to finally move past, with Lea now wanting to be called Axel by her.
Soon after this, Kairi appears with her new Kingdom Hearts III outfit and hairstyle, preparing for the fight ahead.
They share more of their feelings with one another, including how Kairi wishes to give Namine a chance to live on her own.
This is something that is very similar to what Axel wants. He also would like to free Roxas and even meet Ventus if the latter is still alive and remembers him. Soon after this, they finally complete their training.
At this point, the seven Guardians of Light meet up together at Yen Sid’s Tower, including the reunion of Kairi and Aqua since she was a young girl.
While Aqua remembers saving Kairi, she has no memories still of her time living in Radiant Garden.
Kairi returns to the Destiny Islands with Sora and Riku and enjoys a nice quiet moment together as family and friends once more before embarking on the final battle against Organization XIII and Xehanort.
They arrive at the Keyblade Graveyard, the location of the resting place of the Keyblade War from long in the past. Here, they fight against Terra-Xehanort, and everyone ultimately loses.
Kairi is taken away by the Heartless, along with everyone but Sora.
Thankfully, Sora fights on his own to bring Kairi and the others back. With the special powers that Kairi has, she is able to turn back time to just before they were defeated by Terra-Xehanort.
They succeed this time, and Kairi and the rest are able to confront Organization XIII once and for all. Everyone is divided up into groups to take on their respective Organization targets.
Before they win, Xemnas takes Kairi away. In the final battle, Xehanort kills Kairi by splitting her heart into pieces, but Sora from the future arrives and resurrects her.
It is at this point in the ReMind DLC that Sora and Kairi travel together before coming together to rest at the Destiny Islands at the end of the game, where Sora disappears.
Kairi falls into a deep sleep with Ansem, the Wise’s help to find Sora.
Melody of Memory
Melody of Memory is finally where Kairi gets the starring role that she deserves, and of course it is in a forgettable spin-off title. In her sleep in this game, Kairi regains the memories that she lost from Radiant Garden, defeats images of Xehanort, and even controls Sora. She remembers that there is another world out there where he likely is.
Once Kairi awakens, she and Riku meet the Nameless Star and learn of its homeworld known as Quadratum, where Sora likely is now.
As everyone prepares to find Sora in this world, the game ends with Kairi’s most recent development, which is training under Aqua. As of right now, she is training under the one who gave her the power to wield a Keyblade.
It is likely that Kairi will play a massive role in the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 4. Or, at least, I sure hope that she does because sidelining her once again would show me that Square Enix is losing sight of its fan base.
There are a couple of special abilities and powers that Kairi has. Be sure to note that there will be some spoilers in this section.
Princess of Heart
Kairi is born as one of the seven legendary Princesses of Heart. With this power, she has the ability to open up the keyhole to Kingdom Hearts alongside her fellow princesses. It is also because of this that she is cemented in my mind as a Disney princess, even if she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves.
With this princess status, she also has the ability to repel the darkness from someone’s heart and even save them.
She can detect the darkness and protect those she loves from it. Being one of the few Princesses of Heart gives her a status that many wish to take advantage of, as seen in the cases of Organization XIII and even Maleficent.
At first, she is not that strong with it, but she grows into a solid wielder by the events of Kingdom Hearts III.
Kairi is fully capable of standing toe-to-toe alongside her more experienced friends, like Riku and Sora, while also taking on some of the foes from Organization XIII.
She may still be relatively inexperienced, but she has impressive potential. Hopefully, Kingdom Hearts 4 will let her shine as one of the lead playable protagonists there.
Kairi is playable in two games at this time: Kingdom Hearts III’s ReMind DLC and Melody of Memory. In the former, her abilities mix with everyone that she has encountered.
Her base attacking is similar to Sora’s, but her dodge and dash are like Riku and Terra.
She is a swift but graceful fighter who moves with an elegance that is quite unique and fitting for her. She is a solid fighter and one of my favorites to use in the games thus far due to her speed on the battlefield.
She is able to use some devastating quick attacks up close on enemies.
Overall, she is one of my top favorite characters to use, and I vastly prefer playing as her over even someone like Sora. Surprisingly, I feel like she takes the ideas learned from Sora’s playstyle and enhances them while adding her own touch. She’s far more fun to play as, only harshening the fact that she is so rarely playable.
There are many vital relationships that Kairi has as the center of the main characters in Kingdom Hearts. She is the best friend of Sora, growing up together.
They will do anything literally for one another, including traveling across worlds to save the other. It’s not confirmed but let’s be real with one another: these two kids love each other romantically and that is all you need to know. There is no getting around it at this point.
The other best friend that Kairi has is Riku. Their relationship is intriguing since it is not as warm at times as she is with Sora.
They love each other and will do anything for one another, but it does seem like there is the slightest bit of tough love between the two sometimes. And, sorry, friends, but no matter how much you ship them, there is no romance between Kairi and Riku, at least on her side.
Namine is the complicated Nobody of Kairi, reflecting much of her personality. Though they do not engage with one another much, they are both parts of the same person.
In the same vein, Xion is a reflection of Kairi as well, representing a darker and more serious version of her.
Axel, or Lea, is another primary relationship that Kairi has in the series. They train together as prospective Keyblade Masters under the guidance of Merlin, who is a mentor for the lead female character.
The voice for Kairi in Japanese is Risa Uchida. Oddly enough, the 33-year-old voice actor has few roles outside of Kingdom Hearts. Her only other notable role is Emilka in the Lupin III: Goodbye Partner movie.
Meanwhile, the young voice for Kairi in Japanese is Sumire Morohoshi.
On the English side, the young Kairi voice is Ariel Winter. Hayden Panettiere is the most iconic voice for the main character, playing her in the original Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep.
Unfortunately, the famous Heroes and Nashville star was switched for Alyson Stoner in recent games.
Stoner herself was a well-known child actor and dancer, with roles in Cheaper by the Dozen, the Step Up movies, and Phineas & Ferb.
She is also the voice for Xion in the Kingdom Hearts games, which I think is a fantastic fit for her.
Overall, I adore both of the English voice actors for Kairi. They give such life and personality to the character that perfectly encapsulates what I imagine her to be like. But I’ll admit, I’m still partial to Panettiere’s rendition.
Fun Facts about Kairi
Here are some fun facts about Kairi that you may not have known about before:
- The name Kairi comes from the Japanese kanji for the sea, which can be pronounced as “Kai.” This makes her the sea part of the land, sea, and air trio of Riku, Kairi, and Sora, respectively.
- These days, Kairi has the same voice actor as Xion. This is both the case in English and Japanese. However, that is not the case for Namine, interestingly enough, despite them being connected to one another.
- Despite being a Princess of Heart alongside the likes of Snow White and Cinderella, Kairi is currently an unofficial Disney princess in a way. That said, the House of Mouse owns her character but has yet to do anything with her in this way.
- Speaking of princesses, Ariel Winter is the voice of Kairi in her four-year-old form. Winter would go on to voice Sofia the First, who you could argue is another unofficial Disney princess.
Question: Why is Kairi so Special?
Answer: Kairi is exceptional and one of my favorites due to a couple of factors. For one, she is born as one of the Princesses of Heart, growing up in Radiant Garden.
That alone made her unique, but her encounter with Aqua and interacting with her Keyblade awakens her extraordinary potential to be a Keyblade wielder.
Question: Who is Kairi in Love with?
Answer: Kairi is likely in love with Sora, though this is, technically, unconfirmed.
However, there are plenty of hints throughout the games, especially in Kingdom Hearts III, that make her feelings for him abundantly clear.
Question: How Old is Kairi?
Answer: Kairi is currently around 17 years old. She is four years old in Birth by Sleep, 14 in Kingdom Hearts, 15 in Kingdom Hearts II, and around 16 at the start of Kingdom Hearts III. I presume that she is likely around 17 in Melody of Memory.
Kairi is a remarkable fixture of the group of Keyblade fighters in the Kingdom Hearts series. Being the person who binds everyone together and a Disney princess in my book cemented her as one of my favorites in the series.
Her warmth and incredible love for everyone make her the emotional core, too. Without a doubt, she is one of the best characters in the Kingdom Hearts series. She has the potential for so much, too, if Disney and Square Enix would get their act together for Kingdom Hearts 4.
For Kairi’s story, one of the focal points is her training in wielding the Keyblade. Someone who is integral in that process is Aqua, who is currently helping Kairi to grow as a fighter so that she can find Sora.
You can find out more about Kairi’s mentor, Aqua, and her rather depressing history in the series here.
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