Hey there everyone, name’s Sharjo, and I have a problem.
Specifically her design and lore. I wanted to talk about it because it’s been eating away at me slowly for the last 2 years, but I also wanted to talk about things I feel could help remedy these issues.
Before I start, I do want to say that this is based purely on my own thoughts and feelings about Kai’Sa and the lore as a whole. I’m not calling out Kai’Sa fans or people who like this particular lore direction. If anything I’m jealous; I really want to enjoy her, but these problems get in the way of it for me.
So what is that problem? I’m glad you asked.
**Kai’Sa completely invalidates the threat of the Void in the narrative.**
Now, why do I feel this way? There are three things in particular which do this.
#**First off, the elephant in the room: too sexy, not Shuriman enough**#
Just to clarify something before we continue: There’s nothing wrong with sexy designs or sexy characters. Absolutely nothing.
Being sexy is great, but there’s times when sex appeal and sexualized designs begin to go against the themes you wanna present in a narrative. In some cases, like Evelynn for instance, it works extremely well, in others, it doesn’t. Kai’Sa is in that latter example.
Kai’Sa’s themes are about being a survivalist, being forced to live in one of the harshest environments Runeterra has to offer, fighting things that shouldn’t exist that want to erase her from existence just because she exists. She survives because she’s got a Voidborn grafted to her skin, which she can use as a weapon to fight back, and also serves as her means of protection and sustenance. She’s also been at this since she was maybe 10 years old.
So obviously she’ll come out of this with a perfect hourglass figure, pristine hair, well kept makeup and not a scratch on her.
Realistically I’d have expected a character like this to be far more athletic and muscled. Of course that doesn’t mean Kai’Sa would need to be on Illaoi’s level, but take a look at women competing in the olypmics in any given year and you’ll see what I mean. They have toned abs, sturdy muscles on their arms and legs, the works. Kai’Sa’s got a super model body, not an athlete’s body, and I feel it hurts her theme to not be portayed this way. Kai’Sa was the first lass (barring Xayah) that we’d seen with such a physique in a long time, as it had been 5 years between her release and Quinn/Lissandra, who themselves have similar body shapes but also have elements that contrast them so they’re not the focus.
There’s also the issue that Kai’Sa’s kinda whitewashed? Now that’ll probably sound weird because yeah she’ll be pale from living in caves for a decade, which is absolutely fair, but consider the fact that she comes from the same part of Runeterra as Taliyah, and Kai’Sa’s mum is presumably native to this region given a certain someone’s bio description of her. So even barring her father not being like Taliyah, given where Kai’Sa comes from you’d expect her to have similar features; a wider nose, thicker eyebrows, a different face shape, things like that. But where Taliyah clearly takes some inspiration from arabic and african ethnicities, Kai’Sa’s definitely a white lass, which feels very weird coming from one of the most far south places in the entire known world.
#**Second: Her backstory is a bit too lucky for her own good**#
The long and short of Kai’Sa’s bio is that she got trapped in the underground of southern Shurima when she was a kid, barely managed to kill a Voidborn about her size, and its flesh grafted to her own, which eventually became her bio-suit as she continued to live down there. She remained down there ever since.
That last part, the remaining down there part, is the thing that I find issue with.
Her killing the initial Voidborn is lucky as all hell, but not unwarranted. Luck isn’t something unreasonable to expect in a fictional character’s backstory, or in anyone’s life really. And even then I’m not one to discount what a kid can do when full of adrenaline and with their life on the line. That’s not a problem for me.
The problem is, how does she then keep surviving for what amounts to a decade after this? That part seems far, far more unlikely than the lucky Voidborn kill, and it feels like it cheapens the threat of the Voidborn themselves that a child could consistently kill them and survive. Now these might’ve been immensely difficult fights with tons of damage on both sides, but drawing back to the above point, Kai’Sa lacks the physical qualities to showcase a life of struggle and conflict against such an abominable threat. It makes the Voidborn seem more incompetent in my eyes, rather than Kai’Sa being that much better, which definetly sucks.
#**Third: She’s too overtly paragon for her backstory**#
Kai’Sa is effectively a paragon as far as her in game voice over goes; she’s fairly quiet all things considered; she’s not loud or bombastic, but she has multiple moments where she has inspiring words and ideas, where she feels like she could work as a leader or a hero.
The problem I have here is that I don’t think a life of isolation would lead to such a personality. Her bio makes it clear she’s been down there for a long time, and while she’s returned to the surface before, we’ve seen as much in her comic “The Breach”, but living alone in those caverns feels like it would make you far more quiet and laser focused, not one for idle chit chat. She doesn’t interact with people often enough to really warrant having such an openly inspiring and thoughtful way of speaking.
Here’s the thing too: I like that she’s a paragon. It feels good to have some more heroic and inspiring characters, and in Kai’Sa’s case being heroic vs the Void and the threat it poses is a space that’s been open for a long time, so I’m glad she has this personality, but given how she lives, and what the threat of the Void entails, it feels unearned in a way, like she wouldn’t come to have this personality directly without the Void being far less of a threat than it’s supposed to be.
#**And finally: Nothing written about Kai’Sa indicates she has any trouble dealing with her situation**#
The reason it matters is because, in a way, it feels to me that Kai’Sa spits in the face of all that the Void is supposed to bring to the narrative, as well as all the champions who it’s negatively affected.
When staring down the threat of the Watchers, Lissandra had to sacrifice thousands of lives, ruin the yeti’s civilization, and kill her own sisters in order to stop them, and she didn’t even do it permanently; she’s been keeping them lulled to sleep for millennia and the ice is starting to melt now. Lissandra, WIllump, and to an extent Ivern suffered because of this. In the former two’s cases, for around 9,000 years.
The Ascended of Shurima had to fight the Void in such a way as to kill anything that lived around them, so as to starve it out and win the war through long, painful attrition. It traumatized them, and was a contributing factor in them becoming the Darkin 500 years later.
Icathia was completely destroyed by the Void. It’s people erased, it’s lands ruined. Jax almost commited suicide over it, and Zilean’s seeing futures of the end of everything because of it.
The Marai tribe of vastaya face extinction from the Void all the time; it’s only kept at bay because of Targonian intervention, but that light’s fading and if Nami’s away for too long, her entire tribe, everyone she knows and loves, will be erased.
Kassadin lost everything to the Void. Taric was exiled because of the Void. Malzahar is lost because of the Void. Targon feared the Void so much they called Aurelion Sol to get rid of it when it cropped up over 5,000 years ago.
And here’s Kai’Sa, sexy as all hell, refined, confident, quietly optimistic and totally taking care of the Void like it’s nothing. Where gods among men fell, where entire civilizations and species were lost, where families were destroyed and hope died, Kai’Sa seemingly has no issues. She does have a few lines pertaining to the feeling of wearing the suit all the time, but she expresses no sentiments about how hard it is to survive, about her personal struggles, and none of her stories really convey that her life is in any way stressful or difficult. Her comic and story “The Girl Who Came Back” are both compelling reads, but neither address this core issue, which I feel is the most damning one I can lay at Kai’Sa’s feet.
#**So that's the jist of it. So what now?**#
Well going through all that to just say “Sucks right?” wouldn’t be in any way good, so I wanted to discuss one thing in particular that I think could help out with these issues I have.
She won’t be redesigned visually because, as Riot’s clearly shown, their skins department doesn’t give a shit for her survivalist, bio-suit theme. All she is from that stand point is raw sex appeal. Plus there’s also the time where this entire community went rabid at Riot because they gave Fiora sharper cheekbones, which suddenly transformed her in to a “40 year old transvestite” as some boards users lovingly put it. So her dissonant character design won’t be changed. Fine, moving on.
I wouldn’t want Riot to revise her backstory and retcon it. We’ve been through this reboot of the canon since 2014 and it’s still ongoing, albeit we’re almost at the finish line with only a handful of champions without any content at all. I really wouldn’t want Riot to have to retcon Kai’Sa’s backstory. They clearly believe it’s workable in universe, so I wanna see them execute that.
I don’t want her personality to change. I do absoluetly like her being a paragon. We don’t have enough paragons imo. It’s good to have, especially in the marksman role, which is full of cocky twats everywhere you look.
What I DO want to see, which isn’t really a change but more of a development, is I want to see her struggle.
I want to see how hard it is for her to keep up her paragon nature, and how it hurts her to do so when everyone treats her like a monster. I want to see her in some rough, really hard and nasty fights vs Voidborn, where she can get beaten down but rise back up and destroy them viscerally, so every victory feels wholly earned but the Voidborn also come across as the world-ending abominations they’re supposed to be. I wanna see her have doubts, I wanna see her worried, I wanna see her stressed. Give this girl more stressful situations that make her heroism and optimism far more earned; that she can face these threats, that she can struggle and suffer, but then survive and keep her ideals and will strong.
I want the Void to really test Kai’Sa to the fullest extent of her character, so that the Kai’Sa I see in game feels like a more grounded and inspiring figure comparatively to what I see now, which feels unfaithful and unearned.
#**This was long, got a tl;dr?**#
Yeah, tl;dr, put Kai’Sa through the meat grinder narratively but then have her come out still heroic and hopeful, if a little worse for wear. She should feel like a survivor with hope enduring in a hopeless situation, not as a lvl 100 character soloing lvl 5 mobs in an mmo.
And that’s everything. Thanks for taking the time to read my Kai’Sa spiel. It’s like 2 years overdue but I’ve been busy with way too much shit so my apologies.
Anyway, I hope you have a great day!