Homura, leader of the Crimson Squad and former elite shinobi of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy, has stood out throughout the whole Senran Kagura series, and she’s also a character that has undergone some of the most interesting and significant development over the course of the various games’ narrative arcs.
Whether it’s her early appearances as a strong and seemingly deadly rival to Asuka or her later incarnations as a comedic “genius” trying her best to keep her ragtag “family” of the Crimson Squad together and safe, Homura is a widely beloved character with good reason.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes her… her.
Although initially set up as the face of the “evil” shinobi in Hebijo, Homura actually originally hailed from a respected clan of good shinobi. She was under a lot of pressure from both her parents and her own expectations, and she was determined to follow in her family’s footsteps.
Although dedicated to her own personal Path of the Shinobi, Homura found existence exhausting at times, and came to think of her time with her personal tutor Komichi as something of an oasis of calm away from the chaos of the rest of her life. Over time, she grew to trust this outsider, even to love him.
“My parents expected nothing short of perfection from me,” she recalls. “My day-to-day life was heavily regimented, and I lived in a constant stress-induced haze. My time with Komichi was like an oasis from all that. He’d listen patiently to all my complaining and took me out to relax when I’d start to get frustrated. It might sound corny now, but in all honesty, he was my rock back then.”
You know what they say about things that seem too good to be true, though. Homura eventually grew to trust Komichi enough to reveal her family’s secret “business” of being shinobi to him, and, having finally fulfilled his purpose, Komichi revealed himself to be an evil shinobi that had been hunting Homura’s family for a long time.
“Torture hurts, but betrayal hurts more,” he told her when she asked why he hadn’t just tortured the information out of her.
“His face had twisted into an ugly snarl,” Homura recalls. “There was no sign of the person I’d trusted. It hurt so much, I couldn’t help but cry. He clapped in what must have been pure joy.”
Homura still doesn’t recall exactly what happened next, other than the fact that it ended with the man she had trusted for so many years — and who had just betrayed her — lying bloodied and near death on the floor.
“He may have been an evil shinobi,” she explains, “but I wasn’t a shinobi at all yet. Just a regular middle school student. Good shinobi schools don’t accept criminals, regardless of the circumstances. I would never be a good shinobi. That path closed to me that day.”
Homura was disowned by her parents after her preemptive attack on Komichi, so she took to the streets. It was there that she came to understand the nature of “evil” as it exists in Senran Kagura’s world — and it’s not what you might think.
“My mentor betrayed me,” Homura remembers. “My parents abandoned me. I thought I was worthless, better off dead. Yet Hebijo still took me in. And so I was reborn as Homura, the evil shinobi. Most don’t bother to recognise the truth. The truth that good discards some people. That evil saves some people.”
The Homura we meet at the start of Senran Kagura Burst and its subsequent remake Burst Re:Newal is still an angry young woman, embittered by her past experiences, but much like her compatriots — all of whom came from equally difficult, albeit very different, circumstances — she comes to learn a great deal about herself and about life, both through her interactions with her peers, and through her cohort’s rivalry with the girls from Hanzou.
Although the events of Burst and Burst Re:Newal eventually result in Homura being expelled from Hebijo and placed firmly on the “renegade” path — where both good and evil shinobi alike are supposed to hate you — by this point, the bonds that Homura has formed with the people important to her have become strong, even unbreakable. She accepts her fate and enters into exile — but is still surprised when her friends follow her willingly, without having to.
This event is a turning point for Homura. Although thrown into a very difficult life situation, she feels like she is surrounded by “family” for the first time since her own parents discarded her. And so we see a Homura who starts to loosen up somewhat; she’s still determined and heated in battle, and one doesn’t doubt that she’d be willing to kill if provided with a good reason to do so, but she’s also willing to let her guard down and relax with her friends.
This is perhaps most apparent in her dreadful attempts at “comedy”, whereby she attempts to do impressions of various pieces of seafood by posing with her swords. Her friends are brutally honest with her about this, but it’s clear that she enjoys it regardless of whatever they say — and they recognise this too, so despite their mockery, they never actually try to stop her indulging this particular aspect of her personality when she feels the need to let it out.
Likewise, as time progresses, her relationship with her main rival Asuka develops and deepens until it’s clearly something far more than two people who want to fight one another. Asuka describes Homura as her “strongest friend”, and Homura is unwilling to accept the possibility of anyone else but her defeating Asuka once and for all when the time comes.
Over the course of various events, Homura comes to realise that her own “humanisation” is a result of her relationship with Asuka; she comes to believe that if she had never met Asuka, she would probably have ended up a renegade by herself, since she would never have experienced Asuka’s relentless and infectious enthusiasm and utter devotion to her friends, and that, in turn, would never have drawn her to become closer to her comrades and classmates when they were all at Hebijo together.
Homura is a troubled young woman with a bleak past that it will probably be difficult for her to ever get away from completely, but it’s hard not to like her. Her growth into a strong young woman who gradually becomes more and more confident in herself — her true self, not the facade of exaggerated bravado she puts up early in Burst — is inspirational, and one can only hope that if and when the Senran Kagura series ever comes to an end, that she is able to once and for all find true happiness.
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