Karai in the 2003 TV series.
|First appearance||Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|Created by||Kevin Eastman
|Alter ego||Karai Saki|
|Team affiliations||Foot Clan|
|Notable aliases||The Shredder|
|Abilities||Skilled master of Ninjutsu
Excellent physical abilities
Experienced in hand-to-hand combat
Karai (辛い) is a Japanese word commonly used to describe the flavor spicy/hot. However, karai can also mean extremely severe, harsh, strict or storm.
Karai shares the same kanji (辛) as the word tsurai which means difficult, painful, or cruel.
In the Mirage Comics' City at War series by Jim Lawson, Karai is the leader of the Foot Clan in Japan who came to New York City to restore order. Ever since Leonardo killed the Shredder, 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. Karai offers the TMNT a deal: if the Turtles kill 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. As they reach the rooftop of her skyscraper headquarters, they find dead Foot guards. The Turtles scramble through an open door and find the Foot's leader cradling the body of a dead girl, surrounded by more dead Foot Soldiers. It is revealed that the girl was Karai's daughter. In despair, Karai makes Leo swear he will help her kill all of the Elite.
While Karai leads a troop of her Foot Soldiers on patrol, an Elite spies Karai and her band and is shocked, because she is wearing Shredder's armor and therefore is mistaken for him. During a final confrontation, five Elite Guard face off against the Turtles, Karai, and her Foot Soldiers. Seizing the opportunity to confuse and deceive, the disguised Karai orders the Elite to commit seppuku, of which only one does. Others are not so easily deceived and demand to see the "Shredder's" face; Karai removes the helmet and throws it at the Guard, saying: "I will show you my face! Look well, fools... gaze upon the face of vengeance... and see your doom!" After a 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. "I will keep my word, Turtles. No longer will the Foot Clan bother you. We have our world... and you will have yours," Karai answers. Once the reorganization of the Foot in New York is complete, Karai will return to Japan: "There... I will spread the ashes of my daughter on Asana Bay and perhaps... begin the healing of my ravaged heart."
In the more recent volume 4 comics, Karai now resides in New York. The Foot has had much trouble involving mysterious warriors who have wiped out the Foot everywhere else in the world except New York. Karai asks Leonardo to help capture one of the warriors alive. Later she lies to Leonardo about the Foot containing certain books on the mystic arts. Leo notes to himself that he could see right through her lie, and remarks that she is usually a good liar. Leo even suspects that something is either greatly troubling her, or that something is controlling her.
A few weeks later, Karai visits a local high profile nightclub with an entourage of Foot bodyguards and mingles, eventually meeting Casey Jones. Still longing for his wife April (presently on a soul-searching pilgrimage), Jones begins dousing one too many drinks and is soon injured in a bar altercation. Karai brings him back to her private condo, where he awakens in nothing but his underwear...remembering nothing of the previous night. He later discovers a humble and noticeably light-hearted Karai knows something of the night before, but is hesitant to tell him.
The story is ongoing.
A series of storylines in Tales of the TMNT that focuses on the Turtles lives in the future reveal Karai as an elderly woman, still residing in New York, and very much still in control of a Ninja faction. Lonely and longing for "the old days", Karai uses her new baby granddaughter to manipulate one of the Turtles, Raphael, into facing a gauntlet of enemies, whom he slays in self-defense. Raphael is appalled that the once great Foot leader has been reduced to a sadistic and shallow individual and leaves her to her bitterness.
While Karai never properly appears in volume 3 of the TMNT Image Comics series, it was confirmed by the series' writer that, had the comic book continued, she would have been revealed as the person behind the mask of Lady Shredder, a character introduced in the series' final issues as a third person vying for leadership of the Foot.
Karai is the final boss in the 1993 Genesis and Super Nintendo versions of TMNT: Tournament Fighters (also a playable secret character in the latter version). Since the 1987 cartoon, and Archie comics and the three first films were the most popular TMNT versions back then, many didn't recognize Karai.
Karai is unlockable in the console version of TMNT2: Battle Nexus.
Karai is one of the selectable characters in TMNT: Smash-Up.
Abandoned by her parents at a young age, Karai was taken in and adopted by Oroku Saki, the Shredder. 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 Hun; eventually, she becomes its leader.
Debuting in the show's second season, Karai eventually became one of the series' main non-turtle characters. Throughout the series, she appears both as an ally and enemy to the turtles; a dichotomy that plays a part in most of her appearances.
Karai made her animated debut in a manner similar to the comic book, during the series’ adaptation of the City at War story. Arriving in New York City after hearing the news of the gang war taking place after the Shredder’s reported demise, she quickly enlists the aid of the Turtles to stop it, promising an end to the Foot’s vendetta against them in exchange for their assistance.
Leonardo, convinced that Karai is honorable despite her legacy, convinces Donatello and Michelangelo to aid Karai. Raphael refuses, although he later recants. 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 had been manipulating the Turtles, and had been working with the not-dead Shredder all along. She shows sadness when Shredder (Chrell) vows to get revenge on the Turtles after she had made a truce with them.
Karai and the Foot reappear in Rogue in the House, Part 1, where a fully-healed Oroku Saki retakes control of the Foot. As his first order of business, he deploys a killer robot (disguised as Splinter) to eliminate the turtles. Realizing that their agreement with the Foot had been retracted, the turtles decide to face the Foot again in their temporary HQ—a ship stationed at the docks. Leonardo, Raphael, and Splinter are taken hostage during their encounter, and Karai is forced to fight Leonardo. Despite Leonardo’s lack of resistance, she proves unwilling to kill him.
Karai’s internal conflict—loyalty to fellow bushido-practitioners the turtles vs. loyalty to her father—is the main thrust of her Season 3 storyline, as she is pulled from both directions to take a side. She 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, damaging his carapace, although she later prevents the Utrom Shredder from killing the Turtles while they are unconscious. Despite her efforts, however, the Shredder is taken prisoner and exiled, Karai and Foot Tech Division Head Dr. Chaplin are sent back to Earth.
With her father gone and dead in the eyes of the world, Karai takes over the Foot, as well as the guise of the Shredder. 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, which she believes successful. She later on faces Leo (who was not at the lair at the time of the assault), who defeats her but then departs with the warning to leave his family alone and giving her one last chance for redemption.
Karai next faces the turtles during their attempt to retrieve a Foot artifact, an amulet called the Heart of Tengu. Despite her efforts, she is unsuccessful in stopping them.
Unbeknownst to the Turtles or Agent Bishop who initially charged them with retrieving the artifact, the 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 unleashed a chain of events that resulted in the demon Shredder’s resurrection. His first target is Karai, who “usurped” the Shredder’s name. The Shredder and his heralds make their way to Foot HQ. Despite her efforts and those of the Turtles, who believe her the key to stopping him, he bests Karai in battle, seriously injuring her.
Rescued by the turtles, Karai heals and, recognizing the threat the demon Shredder poses and her inability to stop it by herself, agrees to a "temporary" alliance with her enemies.
It is soon learned that because she shares The Shredder's mantle, Karai has the latent psychic ability to lower Shredder's defenses through a shared link. This allows the Turtles an advantage in their final conflict with the demon. By being instrumental in this way, Karai helps pave the way for her namesake's destruction. Doctor Chaplin, the young head of the Foot's scientific division, helped the Turtles co-ordinate their battles against the demon. After the battle Karai promises Chaplin that she is going to worry more about the immediate future, as they depart the battlefield, hand in hand.
Karai is not involved in any main storylines in the Fast Forward season in which the Turtles and Splinter travel a hundred years into the future. However she is seen in one episode, "The Journal". The episode, which explains events that would occur after the Turtles' return from 2105, shows that Karai has abandoned her grudge against the Turtles and is eager to become a student of the Ninja Tribunal. Leonardo is heavily distrustful of her, due to a "prophecy" that the Tribunal would be betrayed. Believing Karai to be the traitor, and seeing what he perceived as sufficient evidence of that fact, Leo attacks her. They battle until the Tribunal restores order. It is revealed that the so-called proof Leonardo had found was not what he thought it was, and that by attacking another acolyte of the Tribunal, Leo had himself proved to be the traitor of the prophecy and ends up banished from the Ninja Tribunal's temple. They mentioned that she had the Shredder armor as part of a burial ritual that was to occur. However, this scenario was soon revealed to be a complete fabrication conjured by Master Splinter to teach the Turtles a lesson in knowing too much about their future (Leo had learned of this "event" from reading a forged version of a journal written by Casey Jones and April O'Neil); however, the fact that Leonardo found the story plausible offers some insight in what Karai's future might hold.
Karai made her first appearance in the Back to the Sewers storyline in the episode Something Wicked. Here, she was seen in a brief flashback with Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder. Karai next appeared in the season finale, "Wedding Bells and Bytes", having been invited to attend the wedding of April O'Neil and Casey Jones. It appeared as if she and The Turtles had resolved their difficulties off-camera, and she arrived at the ceremony with Doctor Chaplin by her side. She and Chaplin later assisted the Turtles in fending off the onslaught of Cyber-Shredder and The Foot Clan. Though she had no lines, it was apparent that she had moved on with her life and was no longer involved with the Foot.
Karai made an appearance in Turtles Forever as she freed Ch'rell from the clutches of the 1987 Shredder, Krang, and Bebop and Rocksteady. She aids the Shredder in modifying the Technodrome with Utrom technology. The Shredder, consumed with rage for revenge on the Turtles, wants to destroy every dimension where Ninja Turtles exist even though it will most likely destroy himself. The Shredder was prepared to destroy both the 1987 and 2003 Turtles but Karai intervenes. In the end, at the Turtles Prime dimension, (Mirage Turtles) Karai fights alongside the Mirage, 1987, and 2003 Turtles as well as 1987 Shredder and Krang and 2003 Splinter to stop the Shredder from destroying Turtles Prime. A major plot arc that started with her character during Season 3 of the show was that she was loyal to her father, despite his dishonorable ways. After Ch'rell's exile at the end of Season 3, Karai spent all of Season 4 and Season 5 hating the Turtles. When she appeared in 'Wedding Bells & Bytes' as a guest of April & Casey's wedding, it was assumed that her vendetta with the Turtles was over but Turtles Forever (if it's believed to take place after the wedding) led us to believe that with Ch'rell's return, her loyalty to him exceeds her truce with the Turtles. In the end after Ch'rell is defeated, she comments that the Shredder always returns. This leaves us to believe that she is finally done with serving the dishonorable ways of the Shredder.
Karai is voiced by Karen Neill.
In the film, Karai leads the Foot Clan after the Shredder's defeat, acting as mercenaries. Actress Zhang Ziyi voiced her for the film.
She was hired by Winters to be "the eyes and ears" of the city, though she showed anger later when she found the truth of his unexpected order to hunt down monsters. She briefly fought with Leonardo, rejecting his offer to help them, implying that she is aware of his role in the past. This is supported by her line to the Turtles, 'you are every bit as warriors I was informed you were' after the defeat of the Stone Generals. Karai also seemed to have had prior knowledge about Leonardo; before their brief confrontation Karai proclaimed 'You!' as she faced him. Karai also engages in battle with April O'Neil while the Foot battles the Turtles and their allies.
When the Stone Generals offered the Foot a chance to join them in world conquest, Karai refused, saying that they will honor their contract to Winters. She led her ninja in retrieving the last of the monsters (aided by April and Casey). Karai parted ways with the Turtles peacefully, after giving a cryptic last word that "savor your victory tonight, for soon we will have further business together; the kind that involves familiar faces from your past", perhaps hinting the Shredder's return.
She was described in her toy bio as being 'the Shredder's daughter', recalling her character of the 2003 series. However, no indication of this was given in the actual film other than her attacking Leonardo.