Waifu Wednesday: Ikaruga

Since we’re about to kick off a veritable estival (sic) of Senran Kagura funtimes here on MoeGamer, I thought we may as well start with a relevant Waifu Wednesday.

At this point, even if you just take the console and handheld games into account and discount the two mobile games, Senran Kagura has an absolutely massive ensemble cast so it is, of course, tricky to pick a favourite from among them.

Ikaruga has been there since the beginning, however, and captured my heart and attention immediately. So it’s her under the spotlight today.

Ikaruga hails from a longstanding and wealthy noble shinobi family that conceals its shadowy business under the company name Phoenix Conglomerate (sometimes referred to as Houou, depending on media, after the Japanese phoenix). The clan had, in recent years, been in something of a tricky situation, as its heir apparent Murasame was showing insufficient talent in the shinobi ways to be able to wield the heirloom sword Hien.

Ikaruga was actually originally a distant relative to the main branch of the clan and grew up in the slums, but she was adopted after she demonstrated some talent in the ninja arts. So great were her abilities — particularly when compared to her adoptive older brother — that she was given the honour of being the heir to Hien.

This, naturally, put her in something of an awkward personal situation, since Murasame resented Ikaruga for showing up and taking away what, he believed, should be rightfully his. Rather than being defiant about this, Ikaruga was wracked with guilt, and became extremely withdrawn and aloof, particularly once she enrolled in the Hanzou academy to train her shinobi skills.

Her guilt made her incredibly lonely and she frequently clashed with her classmates — particularly the very forward Katsuragi, who seemed to take delight in provoking her — but over time, she came to understand the value of developing bonds of trust with the people closest to her. She began to open up and express herself more, and eventually came to realise that she was not alone; she had people who cared about her, and did not judge her for a situation that was, after all, somewhat beyond her control.

In the original Senran Kagura Burst, the Hanzou girls are typically paired up with a girl from the rival Hebijo academy who contrasts with them somehow. In Ikaruga’s case, she typically finds herself squaring off against Yomi, which makes for an interesting contrast.

Ikaruga hails from an affluent background, but despite speaking and behaving in an understatedly polite manner, tends not to show off her “princess” aspect all that much; she more resembles the seemingly cool but easily flustered “student council president”-type, helped along by her delightful portrayal by veteran voice actress Asami Imai. Yomi, by contrast, comes from an extremely poor background, but deliberately plays up stereotypically “hime-sama” tropes such as ending her sentences with “desu wa” — somewhat ironic, considering her hurling accusations of being a “princess” at Ikaruga during the early stages of their relationship.

Opposites attract, as they say, and over time Ikaruga and Yomi develop a fairly close relationship with one another, since both of them are able to learn things from one another. Ikaruga learns to open up a bit and express herself — often participating in impromptu masked “superhero shows” for local kids alongside Yomi — while Yomi learns that bitterness about past events never solves anything; it’s better to try and make a positive difference to people in the present using the things you learned from more difficult times.

Ikaruga’s design blends elements of both Eastern and Western influences. Upon their first meeting, Yomi comments on Ikaruga’s distinctly Western-looking outfit, which resembles a military uniform, but Hien is obviously a traditional Japanese nodachi. The combination of the two gives Ikaruga a look of considerable grace and elegance during battle, but also puts across the irrefutable sense that she is not someone to be trifled with.

Given her background, it’s unsurprising that Ikaruga’s guardian spirit is a phoenix, but besides being the name of her clan, a phoenix is also a good symbol for Ikaruga’s life up until this point; she’s had several opportunities for “rebirth” as she’s grown up, beginning with her adoption out of a life of poverty into the wealthy arm of the clan, and continuing with her realisation that she stands alongside friends she can trust with her life.

Ikaruga’s musical themes have something of a flair for the dramatic. Her original transformation theme from Senran Kagura Burst outright quotes the opening to the theme song to The Phantom of the Opera, for one thing. And throughout the rest of the series, her compositions typically blend Japanese instrumentation with distinctly Western classical-style harmonies, melodic patterns and ornaments. Her Bon Appetit theme emphasises her “traditional” upbringing even further by making use of harmonic and melodic structures typical of Western Renaissance music coupled with Japanese instrumentation.

They depict her blend between power and grace; her acknowledgement of her past but her embracing of her present; the deadly elegance that is so core to her being. They’re some of the most “serious” compositions among the soundtrack, reflecting that she is usually the voice of reason when things start to get chaotic. But they also reflect her enthusiasm for theatrical play alongside Yomi; she gets very into their little shows!

Ikaruga has been a fixture in the series since the start with good reason: she’s a well-realised, interesting character with an immediately recognisable, distinctive design. There’s a strong sense that she’s been composed not just as a combination of audio-visual assets and text, but as a very complete-feeling person; in other words, she’s a fine example of the care and attention series creator Kenichiro Takaki, character designer Nan Yaegashi and the rest of the team behind this series have put into each and every character since the very first episode.

Long may Ikaruga continue to show us her dance cloaked in shadow!

More about Senran Kagura

The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.

If you’d like to support the site and my work on it, please consider becoming a Patron — click here or on the button below to find out more about how to do so. From just $1 a month, you can get access to daily personal blog updates and exclusive members’ wallpapers featuring the MoeGamer mascots.

If you want to show one-off support, you can also buy me a coffee using Ko-Fi. Click here or on the button below to find out more.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

6 thoughts on “Waifu Wednesday: Ikaruga”

  1. I can’t pick a favorite character, either, but damn it if Ikaruga isn’t a top contender.

    It should be mentioned that her contrast with Yomi also extends fittingly into the game mechanics, with Ikaruga adopting a swift and precise fighting style, whereas Yomi is more of a lumbering tank.

    And this is why I need to revisit SK2 on 3DS. Can’t remember what their tag-team special attack is anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, absolutely. There’s so much going on with these games that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. I shall attempt to do what I can to rectify that in the coming weeks! 🙂


  2. I actually enjoyed Senran Kagura II on the 3DS. There was surprisingly more depth to the characters than softcore cartoon stuff the box, and online coverage would have one believe. Still, with the over-the-top fan service, I shouldn’t be surprised that’s where the focal point becomes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.