I’ve had at least one specific request to show Mirai some love while we’re in Senran Kagura season — and I know at least one other person who will appreciate her inclusion, too — so here you are: Mirai gets her turn in the spotlight this week.
As it happens, I was going to bring up Mirai anyway, as she is one of the more interesting members of the original Senran Kagura cast to me, and a character who has been popular among fans since the beginning.
Plus, y’know, I don’t want to get shot. Have you seen how much heat she’s packing underneath that big poofy dress?
Mirai first appeared in the original Senran Kagura games on 3DS, where she was introduced as an angry young woman with a much more youthful appearance than many of her peers, and a severe dislike of being ignored. Her Gothic Lolita-inspired fashion and Western-style umbrella certainly makes quite the impression… even more so when she reveals said umbrella to actually be concealing a firearm, which is her main means of attack.
Mirai grew up as someone who suffered greatly at the hands of bullies, which left her with severe self-esteem issues. She found it difficult to trust others and was extremely insecure about all aspects of herself — both mentally and physically.
Her greatest desire is to be taken seriously as a “proper lady”. In this regard, she looks up to her Crimson Squad comrade Haruka as something to aspire to — despite Haruka not exactly being the greatest role model an impressionable young girl could have. Well, actually, that’s not quite true; outside of the whole “sadistic mad scientist” side of her personality, Haruka is otherwise a refined, polite and confident young woman, and this side of things is certainly something worth looking up to. One should probably not pay too much attention to her tendency to drug her friends for her own amusement, however.
There are several factors contributing to Mirai’s belief that she is not yet a lady, chief among which is her physical stature. In contrast to most of the rest of the Senran Kagura cast, she is short, skinny and flat-chested, and this makes her feel like she’s still a little girl. This also makes people treat her like a little girl, and in turn this causes her to get angry and behave like a little girl, so the cycle tends to perpetuate itself.
Her anger is a defence mechanism she uses to push people away when she feels uncomfortable in a situation, but it doesn’t help her deal with her core problems. Similarly, her choice of weaponry in gameplay terms is a direct, metaphorical reflection of this; it’s quite literally very difficult to get close to Mirai!
Over time, she has come to understand that she can trust her close comrades in Homura’s Crimson Squad, and this allows her to feel somewhat more at ease with her existence. She still strives to better herself — and in Bon Appétit in particular she is shown to be doing whatever she can to achieve “womanhood” — but she knows that whatever happens, she has a group that she can rely on and a place that she can call home. Even if that place is a hideout in a cave.
Mirai also learns how to channel her emotions into something creative, much as Gessen’s Murakumo deals with her social anxiety through drawing manga. In Mirai’s case, she is a talented and popular online writer, whose works of fiction command a large and devoted audience. Some of the other cast members are aware of her “secret identity” (the one besides her being a shinobi, obviously, which they’re all aware of) but others are oblivious. In a reflection of the anonymous aspect of Japanese doujinshi culture, those who do know about Mirai’s writing tend not to reveal her identity themselves; it’s only through her coming forward herself that they discover the truth.
Mirai’s presentation in the series is extremely distinctive for a variety of reasons. We’ve already mentioned her large, elaborately ornamented Gothic Lolita-inspired dress — which is clearly designed to obscure her real figure as much as possible — but there are more subtle details that reveal things about her character too.
The fact she complements her already elaborate outfit with cat ears and a tail speaks to a somewhat whimsical side to her personality — perhaps a reflection of her creativity, or her “secret identity” on top of her shinobi status — and the fact that her default lingerie is a set of rather childish panties sporting a teddy bear on the butt demonstrates that there are certain parts of “childhood” she’s not quite willing to give up. This latter aspect is even addressed directly in Bon Appétit; when called out on this aspect of her fashion sense, she proudly proclaims that she wants to be the “first Super Lady in bear panties”.
Gothic Lolita fashion in Japan is regarded by some as an expression of counterculture and rebellion against the heteronormativity of Japanese gender and family roles. Others see it as a rejection of adulthood, since much of it is inspired by Victorian and Edwardian children’s dress. Others still see it as an attempt to escape from reality into a fantasy world, as Alice in Wonderland is often specifically cited as a source of inspiration for the fashion style.
All of these are certainly relevant to Mirai. In Bon Appétit, she discovers that her pursuit of “Super Lady” status would ultimately lead her to becoming the “mother” of the group, thereby reinforcing traditional gender roles, much to her chagrin. We’ve already talked about how she wishes to reject certain aspects of adulthood — such as grown-up underpants. And what is a writer if not someone who deliberately immerses themselves in fantasy worlds whenever possible?
There’s a “Lolita” connection in Mirai’s music, too; much of it is very obviously Russian-inspired — most apparent in her Bon Appétit track Classic Romance -A Woman in Her Prime- — and the original novel Lolita was written by a Russian-American author. While Gothic Lolita fashion may not appear to have a lot to directly do with Nabokov’s controversial work — aside from the associations with childhood — it is noteworthy that Nabokov was a fan of Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, and had translated that classic into Russian. A tenuous link, perhaps, but if nothing else, the Russian-inspired instrumentation and driving rhythms are very fitting for Mirai’s personality.
It’s hopefully apparent by now that, like most other characters in Senran Kagura, Mirai is much more than she might initially appear to be. In fact, while she might initially appear to be an angry loli with a small-chest complex — a well-worn trope in Japanese popular media, for sure — spend a bit of time with her and you’ll find a complex, interesting and rather likeable character, around whom you’ll certainly never have to endure a dull moment!
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