Recently, there’ve been many trailers for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and we got a glimpse of another character, this time a villain(ess): Karai, portrayed by Minae Noji. In the movie, she’ll obviously be part of the Foot Clan, but it’s still uncertain what kind of a role she’ll have in the story. In the trailer, she appears during the fight in the subway, and we can see the Ninja Turtles kicking her ass and sending her flying against a wall of the train station. Well, it seems that the movie heroes don’t care much of chivalry. Anyway, waiting to see if Karai will be a major character or will just appear as a random underling, let’s see who she is in the comics.
Born in Japan, real name unknown, Karai (a word that can be roughly translated with “extremely severe”) started as a simple soldier in the Foot Clan, but she soon rose to the higher ranks thanks to her incredible skills in martial arts and her sharp intellect. Now one of the leaders, Karai watched with growing concern as the situation for the Foot in the United States was getting more and more complicated, with a group of mutant turtles declaring war to the Clan and in particular to the leader of New York City‘s branch, The Shredder. Eventually, the turtles’ leader, Leonardo, ended up killing The Shredder, leaving the American Foot Clan without a commander. The situation soon became even worse than when The Shredder tried to assume total control over his branch cutting out the Japanese leaders, with the central Foot divided in many factions fighting each other for supremacy. From Japan, they decided to send in the States a capable and strong leader, able to reunite under an iron grip the rebels: Karai was chosen as the fittest candidate, and she immediately left her home and reached NYC. She took her only daughter along, a girl whose very existence she kept as a secret even from the other leaders of the Foot, her only weakness unknown to enemies and allies alike. In New York, Karai soon realized that, among the many small groups fighting for power, there was one who was attacking all the others, usually slaughtering anybody in their way: the Elite Guard, a restricted group of Shredder’s loyalists, who kept fighting for their deceased master. Seeing no alternative, as her own soldiers were inferior to the Elite in combat prowess, Karai abducted Leonardo, and offered him a truce: the Foot would have left the Turtles be, in exchange for their help in killing the Elite. The Turtles agreed to help her, but as soon as the deal was made, the Elite stroke: they eliminated many of Karai’s soldiers, murdering the one they were protecting, the woman’s daughter. Distrupt over her child’s death, Karai resolved to erase from existence her enemies. Along with the Turtles, she attacked the Elite dressed in Shredder’s armor, and convinced one of them to commit seppuku making him believe she was his master; the others didn’t fall for it, and engaged her, her men and the Turtles in a furious battle. At the end of the day, only Karai and the Turtles still breathed. Following her deal, she came back to Japan.
At a certain point, Karai came back to New York, recreating the Foot Clan from zero. She kept her word, and didn’t fight the Turtles for more than ten years. In the meanwhile, many other changes occurred in the Foot Clan. An alien race, the Utroms, chose the Foot as their main allies on Earth, and entrusted the ancient ninja clan with their protection. Unfortunately, this also meant they now shared also the Utroms’ enemies. Strange warriors, clearly not human, dressed in Mayan-like armors and armed with big swords made of an unknown material started attacking the Foot, wiping away many cells in Japan. Eventually, the only Foot cell standing was Karai’s one. Knowing the aliens would have come for her and her men, Karai sought Leonardo’s help once again. She asked him to help her capture one of those warriors alive, but she hid from him the reasons behind their attacks, and the role a very special book she wanted to retrieve held. Leonardo, however, chose to help her, and the two eventually formed a strange bond of mutual respect; once the trouble with the “Mayans” was over, they even started training together, becoming sparring partners. One night, Karai also met Casey Jones, one of the Turtles’ friends and allies, who was wandering from a nightclub to the other trying to distract himself from the thought of his wife, April O’Neil, who had abandoned him to start a “soul pilgrimage”. Fascinated by Casey, Karai stayed with him all night, and when he got really drunk, she brought him in her apartment. Only Karai knew what happened that night, since Casey didn’t remember anything about it, but she knew how to keep her secrets. There’s also another version of Karai: this one was the daughter of Oroku Yori, granddaughter of Oroku Saki aka The Shredder; she followed the instructions of her grandfather’s ghost and revived him, then she became his second in command in the Foot Clan after having been granted immortal life by sorceress Kitsune. She soon realized Shredder wanted Leonardo rather then her as his successor, something than only strengthened her hatred towards the Turtles, and renewed her resolve in vanquishing them…
Karai is a cold-hearted and determined ninja warrior, blindly loyal to the Foot Clan and harshly severe towards her subordinates. As one of the Foot’s leaders, Karai is extremely skilled in the art of ninjutsu, and can be considered one of the greatest martial artists of our time, with her skills surpassing even Shredder’s. She is also a master in the use of the katana, the traditional Japanese sword, one of the few able to match Leonardo. Karai is also a master tactician and a brilliant strategist, able to accurately plan any action, but also to improvise in unexpected situations. Despite not possessing any superhuman ability (apart from immortality in her most recent incarnation), Karai possesses a high-tech armor that improves her physical attributes, making her even more lethal in combat. Wise but loyal to her path, Karai can be an invaluable ally or the deadliest of enemies, depending on the Foot’s interests.