It would probably be remiss of me to ignore one of the most consistently popular characters in the Senran Kagura series while we’re smack dab in the middle of a detailed exploration of it, huh?
Yes, it is absolutely time to acknowledge Yumi’s popularity among fans of the series worldwide — and also to address a few common matters that tend to come up in discussion any time she’s mentioned.
It is also time to remember that cuteneth ith juthtithe. Puri.
Yumi was first introduced in Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus on PlayStation Vita. She’s the leader of the Gessen Girls Academy group of “good” shinobi, and is strongly associated with the ice element. She has an extremely distinctive voice, courtesy of actress Yumi Hara, and, over time, her initially presented stern-faced seriousness has given way to a playful, occasionally obsessive interest in being “cute” — though she tends to know when are the best and worst times to break out this particular part of her personality.
Yumi and the Gessen girls in particular are something of a contrast with their “good” counterparts in the Hanzou academy in terms of how they handle the concept of “justice”.
Some describe the Hanzou girls — particularly Asuka — as embodying the concept of “sun justice”, or the kind of justice you typically see the protagonist of a shounen manga or anime personifying. You know the stuff: power of friendship, understanding one another through punching each other in the face, that sort of thing. Ideally, everything should be resolved nicely without anyone getting permanently hurt or, worst of all, killed.
By contrast, Yumi in particular embodies the idea of “moon justice” whereby “good” is done through any means necessary, regardless of any obstacles that might be in the way. Yumi, appropriately enough for her association with the ice element, is capable of being stony cold when absolutely necessary, and in her early days in the series’ narrative in particular, puts across the impression that she would have absolutely no hesitation putting down someone who stands in her way.
Like most of the rest of the cast, however, she softens over time as she develops friendships with the other groups of shinobi students — even the ones supposedly on “the other side”. Once the group as a whole has determined that the conflict between “good” and “evil” shinobi is a construct that ties in with the battle against the otherworldly youma, they realise once and for all that there’s really no need for them to dislike one another despite the fact they’re supposed to be rivals and opponents.
Yumi’s cute side was first explored in her Shinobi Girl’s Heart side story in Shinovi Versus, where she wished to understand the very concept of being cute, and eventually determined that it was best expressed through speaking in a cute way. In the original Japanese script, this makes use of a vocal tic that doesn’t really have a direct translation — she adds “puri” to the end of all her sentences.
The exact origin of “puri” is not entirely clear and these cutesy sentence-ending particles aren’t always intended to make actual sense, but at a guess “puri” stems from the Japanese onomatopoeia puri puri, which describes the extremely specific feeling you get when you bite into a shrimp and there’s a bit of resistance but also some pleasingly bouncy squishiness to it all. That would certainly be in keeping with Senran Kagura’s love of ladies’ wibbly-wobbly squishy bits, after all — though please don’t go around biting anyone’s life or hometown without getting explicit permission first.
Obviously there’s not really a way of incorporating the unique mouthfeel of biting into a piece of cooked shrimp in the English language, and so the localisers were presented with an important and difficult decision to make: how to get across Yumi’s exaggerated cuteness in a way that would make sense? They eventually settled on baby-talk and lisping; whenever Yumi is twying to be cute in the Englith thcwipt, she dwopth hew R’th and babbleth on like a baby.
Much of the humour in these sequences comes from Yumi proudly talking about things that don’t really work in this exaggerated vernacular such as having a stwong senthe of juthtithe, and several of her side stories also feature humorous depictions of other characters attempting to out-cute her. Daidouji’s attempts in Bon Appétit are particularly memorable.
So at this point let’s address a common criticism of Yumi: that she’s stolen the spotlight from the series’ supposed original protagonist Asuka.
The first thing to be aware of with regard to this is that Yumi has come consistently top in character popularity polls of the Senran Kagura fanbase (as reported by Kagurapedia) ever since she first appeared in Shinovi Versus. As such, it’s not altogether surprising that when promotional materials or crossovers with other franchises happen to come along, Yumi is the one most likely to be picked for them.
The second (and much more important) thing to be aware of is that where it actually counts — in the case of the actual games’ narratives — Yumi is no more or less important than any of the other cast members. In fact, post-Shinovi Versus, the series has made a point of putting characters other than the faction leaders in the limelight — Estival Versus was very much Ryoubi’s story, for example; Bon Appétit gives every individual character their own story; and Peach Beach Splash spotlights a variety of different characters in its discrete arcs: Ikaruga for Hanzou, Murasaki for Hebijo, Shiki for Gessen and the whole crew for Homura’s Crimson Squad.
In other words, the concept of Yumi “stealing” Asuka’s role is mostly a fan thing rather than an actual issue with the series itself. One of the most consistently admirable things about the Senran Kagura series as a whole is how it manages to sustain such an enormous ensemble cast without anyone really feeling “left out” of important development, and without any of the characters feeling like they’re “filler”.
It’s abundantly clear that the whole team behind Senran Kagura adores these characters; that much is clear from the stories they’ve been a part of since their creation. Yumi, it seems, just happens to be the one that a lot of fans adore too!
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