Kanon - Mai Kawasumi Route & Character Discussion

Discussion topic for Mai’s arc and character in Kanon. Feel free to discuss anything from her route and if you have to talk about the events outside her story arc, do mark it with a [spoiler] tag. Her arc refers to episodes 11-15 of the 2006 anime. For all intents and purposes, Mai’s route commences from the 18th of January onwards, but feel free to refer to earlier events relating to her character as well. Her birthday is the 29th of January.

This topic also hosted Kanon Bookclub discussion from this post onward, and was referenced in our Mai Route Podcast.

What would you rate this route?

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Oh wow. I forgot Mai didn’t have a thread. We already had the Mai Fanart thread, so it’s easy to get confused.

Mai’s route is my favorite part of Kanon. I’ve read it so much that Mai, Sayuri and Yuichi are like childhood friends to me. I grew up waiting to go to grown-up school to live a Kanon-ey life. I don’t even like meat, but I WILL eat Gyudon every time I read that route.


Finally, Mai gets her own thread. I’ve been meaning to talk about her route for a while.

Mai as a character is a combination of a kuudere and a Yamato Nadeshiko: soft and silent, yet sharp. She is friendly, but only to people she knows. Although she seems mean-natured and strange to most, she has a kind heart and only intends the best. I like Mai very much, but unlike the rest of the cast, she doesn’t have much charm. There are no running jokes attached to her beside a light chop on the head, and it’s not even really funny.

She does have a good storyline though. She is a self-proclaimed hunter of evil spirits, which intrigues Yuuichi. He decides to get acquainted with her and Sayuri when the latter invites him for lunch. In between daily lunches near the rooftop and nightly hunts in the hallways, Yuuichi and Mai become closer. Everything convenes at the school ball, where an evil spirit attacks Sayuri, forcing Mai to act. Thinking her response to be vandalism, the student council uses this event to expel Mai. Yuuichi and Sayuri try to bring her back, seemingly in vain. But Sayuri uses her popularity to bring Mai back to school, to Yuuichi’s relief. Mai and Yuuichi finish off the rest of the demons, but Sayuri is gravely injured again due to a spirit they missed. Depressed and coming to the conclusion that the last spirit is that of her own past guilt, she fatally stabs herself in front of Yuuichi. Yuuichi then remembers his memories with Mai as a child. Key Magic happens, and Mai and Sayuri make it to graduation. They are then greeted by Yuuichi, who seems glad to see them again. That’s the Cliffnotes version. If you stretch that out over about twenty-something in-game days, you’ve got the longest character route in the game. And it’s really long. It didn’t take long for me to get bored of the whole thing. The anime paces the story a lot better in my opinion, so I would recommend that over the slogfest the visual novel has.

Mai is a good character. She really is. But there’s quite a few things that keep her from being my absolute favorite.

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2006 anime made me fall in love with her. It was magic… and the dance scene… <3

The scene where she breaks after Sayuri was attacked made me almost cry ;-;

VN, on the other hand… but I’ll talk about that when the time comes… in a few days when a certain ice cream lover appears…

The choppy thing is cute =w=
Shiritori, food>life, Yuichi-izing. They are running jokes~

You don’t have to spoiler Mai-route stuff here :stuck_out_tongue:
That is only one interpretation of the route ending. All Key magic in Kanon is written in a way that allows you to follow it or just hope for it. This was back when Key magic didn’t exist unless you wanted it to.
Mai kills herself. Yuichi remembers the past. He sees Hope. He dreams of a future. We get the graduation scene.
Or… Mai kills herself. Yuichi remembers the past. He dreams of Hope. He hopes for a future he’ll never have. He dreams of a graduation that will never come.

The '06 adaption takes away a lot of the hidden meanings behind Kanon because it turned everything into a single canon storyline.

It’s not that long. I don’t think it’s long enough to get bored of either. The moments with Mai and Sayuri are fun, and the after school stuff is info-dump zone. You only get about half an hour of that before drama kicks in.
Maybe it’s because it’s almost always set at nighttime on that route? :stuck_out_tongue:

Thank you so much for taking care of this while I was away! I tweeted it out on the Kazamatsuri.org Twitter account.

I like Mai’s route a bit less every time I go though Kanon. It used to be my second favorite behind Ayu.
But it’s basically just not well written and depends entirely on emotional punches to do it’s work, that and it’s pretty good at dragging on, Anime did a better job of pacing and visualizing it, but also cuts a few key moments.

Mai is about as good as you get with the emotionless girl type character, but the route has flaws I can’t help but notice these days.

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Mai is definitely one of the better parts of Kanon
Hers and Makoto’s are really the only arcs that get me back to replaying teh game

I will always remember that flashback in the anime (I watched the anime before playing the VN) where Mai and her greatly weakened mother were outside of the hospital, taking a break on the way to the zoo. That moment when Mai called out to her mother, surrounded by countless self-made snow bunnies was just so powerful. It almost made me cry.
So much love, so much consideration at her age was quite admirable. Mai has always had a wonderful personality.

Another part of Mai that struck me quite a bit was just how much knowing Yuichi had influenced Mai. All that ghost fighting occured only because Mai wanted to protect the place where she was waiting for Yuichi to return to. For years!

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That’s one of the sketchy CGs in the VN. I think those types of CGs are really pretty. I think most of the CGs are pretty, but I can understand the people who dislike them. The sketchy CGs are the exception. I can’t understand anyone who calls them ugly.

It continues as soon as they reunite too. Obvious things like the chopping and wearing a dress, but also little things like the way she speaks. My favorite line in the VN is Mai’s “Yo… Yuichi.” It happens just after Mai swoops in and saves Yuichi, and she collapses just after saying it… but the great thing about it is that Yuichi usually greets people in the same way. In a time of danger, when they both were near-death, Mai picked up Yuichi’s casual way of greeting people.

There’s something nice about that~

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I love everything about Mai and Yuuichi’s relationship
And it’s even better when you add in Sayuri to that friendship

And the sketchy CGs are so beautiful
I really like that one with Young Mai and the snow bunnies becuase there’s some background happening
Some of the ones with just white background (like Nayuki holding up the snow bunny) leave something to be desired

Many Happy returns of the day Mai Kawasumi. I don’t know about you guys but I really liked Mai’s route from what I remembered. It was very intriguing and I wanted to see what happened next cause I was invested with what was going on. There were a lot of memorable moments in the arc, with my favorite being the dance scene. Mai as a character was pretty likable and I love the bond that she shares with Sayuri. Plus her backstory was well done and I liked the ending (from what I’ve heard it was left ambiguous in the Visual Novel).

Bookclub discussion begins from this post onward!

I really enjoyed this route. I just love when you first meet Mai and then Sayuri the next day. Something about it is so charming to me. The interactions between Yuuichi, Mai, and Sayuri really made this route a lot of fun to go through. The pacing is a real bother though and going to the school each night felt way too short. It also felt like there were a few places that could have really benefitted from a CG or two, largest being the accident with Sayuri on Mai’s birthday. It is still fantastic though, even if there aren’t any CG’s to hammer the scenes home. Besides for those minor complaints, I loved the route.

I feel bad for Sayuri, she got beat up twice just to advance the plot for Mai but each time signifies just how strongly Mai feels about Sayuri. Not to mention when Mai flat out threatens the student council to protect Sayuri after Mai is able to return to school. Their bond really carries this route and is enjoyable to see Yuuichi grow and become their friends during their time together. If I had to pick a theme for her route, it would have to be acceptance.

Also once again I gotta say it, snowbunnies have no luck in Kanon. Kanon is cruel to snowbunnies. How about we talk about the elephant in the room for a bit, shall we? What do you take of the ending? How did you interpret it? This one they really left open to interpretation. Did Mai die? What about Sayuri? What is even going on for the final half hour? It’s so strangely put together that it’s kind of annoying to think about and try to break apart. I was able to come up with two different interpretations for what I believe the ending could be interpreted as.

Interpretation 1: Yuuichi dreams out the future he could have had with Mai and Sayuri with the assistance of Mai’s powers. With this interpretation, Mai succumbs to the wound she had given herself and Yuuichi has Mai’s powers show him the future he could have had with her and Sayuri if she would have survived. After Yuuichi revealed to Mai’s powers how he truly felt about her, it plays out the future he wanted them to have together starting on the day they first met. Sayuri’s condition is left as unknown in this interpretation.

Interpretation 2: Mai is healed by her powers and Yuuichi, Mai, and Sayuri live happily ever after. In this interpretation, Mai’s powers decide to heal Mai after hearing Yuuichi confess his feelings about her and she is rescued from certain death. After recovering, she visits Sayuri in the hospital and her powers heal Sayuri as well. With them both alive and healthy, the three friends begin spending time together again and live happily ever after.

These are the two interpretations I had come up with. Personally, I feel that the first, while being a lot more heavy hearted and depressing, is what I truly feel the ending signifies. This is Key though, so the second interpretation is probably more of what is intended. I still have a question after all of this that I haven’t been able to really answer myself. Why did Mai stab herself? Was it to free herself of the burden of her powers? Did she feel guilty for Sayuri’s injuries and wanted to atone for her mistake?


I really want to believe the second interpretation, but its just too convienant. Key loves using Deus ex Machinas, but this is too much even by their standards. I feel like “magic lol” makes the final scenes lose some impact. Yuuichi’s tear-filled confession doesn’t mean much if Mai lives. But interpretation one almost feels like a bad end, so I’m almost certain Key meant for Mai to survive.

Why did Mai stab herself?

I would also like to know this. My first thought was that she didn’t feel like she was worthy to live a happy life with Yuuichi because of how she had focused on the demons that she realizes she was the source of and caused everybody a lot of problems, but I really don’t know.

If anyone has a better idea to why she stabbed herself or a better interpretation of the ending I’d love to hear it.

In the anime they straight-up save her, but the ending is much less emotional. There is no confession, no vision of Mai and Yuuichi together, just “stab!”,“friendship!”,“the wound’s closing!”

I feel like Mai’s route establishes certain impressions of its characters, only to overturn them later on. Yuuichi’s initial impression of Mai was that of a strong, uncaring and emotionless girl, while Sayuri seemed like a perfect, sociable girl with an everlasting smile. But you’ll realize you couldn’t have been more wrong once you get through their respective routes.
Sayuri always keeps males on a distance, only using polite speech, her smile only equals happiness if Yuuichi and Mai are around - you could tell she was nearing her limit when Yuuichi risked getting expelled as well - and most of all, she is deeply scarred both physically and mentally. She hates herself.
We get to see Mai’s kindness rather soon, and while Yuuichi is a dense blockhead, you can tell she likes him a lot. She’s blocking and hiding her emotions precisely because they can literally make her self-destruct if left unchecked. If anything, Mai is actually more emotional than any other character in the game. Finally, her strength is completely reliant on two pillars of support: Sayuri and the demon hunting. Seeing Sayuri hurt makes her go berserk, while ending the demon hunt reduces Mai to what the constant persecution has made out of her: a broken, frail and unstable crybaby, as seen in the future vision. If both happens, she even becomes suicidal on top of it. And even though Mai’s power declared that Yuuichi will forever be the only one for her, he cannot support her emotionally by himself when worse comes to worst.

While our impressions of Mai and Sayuri kept changing over time, Yuuichi kept changing as a person. I like that part of the route a lot. He started out as a spectator who was hanging out with Mai and Sayuri because it was interesting, then became invested in them and evolved into a true friend and comrade over time.

You could call this route the story of two (slight Sayuri route spoiler) broken girls who managed to live a normal school life because they had each-other.

Remember how Mai was facing Yuuichi and the last part of her power with sword in hand? By that time, she already knew the “demons” were actually an embodiment of her power, linked to her own life. But she still wanted to fight on. That’s because fighting the demons gives her life a purpose. Without it, she would be unable to face the harsh world that broke her so badly. She hated her own power and wished to destroy it. Lastly, there was also the crushing feeling of guilt for indirectly injuring Sayuri, whom she had sworn to protect, twice.

Taking a closer look at Mai’s character, you can tell that Konohana Lucia from Rewrite was inspired by Mai in many more ways than just her looks and her choice of weapon (Rewrite - Lucia route spoilers):

[spoiler]- strong on the outside, incredibly frail on the inside

  • hated and feared by others due to her power, which scarred her for life
  • hates herself due to her power
  • needs a task, a duty, in order to keep herself going. Taking away that duty from her is tantamount to robbing her of a reason to live on
  • only the protagonist is capable of getting her to like herself again
  • a personal crisis is triggered when her best friend is hurt by her power [/spoiler]

Some of you may have noticed that Mai and Nayuki are similar in that they, after falling in love with Yuuichi, have waited for him for many years, without letting their feelings fade. But while Nayuki passively waited for him to return and all problems to resolve themselves, Mai took action. She dedicated herself to defending the place Yuuichi would return to. Unfortunately, in her despair and loneliness, she herself created the very threat she had to defend it against…


…Man, I’m not sure what to say after all this, save that this is still my least favorite route of Kanon.

Now, the issue doesn’t lie in the characters so much as it does in the plot. The pacing is all over the place. It starts off with a fine introduction to Mai’s character, which is well-built and develops naturally, while quickly escalating through personal and social issues that grow beyond what Yuuichi has faced thus far. But at a certain point (specifically, when Mai returns to the school after her expulsion) the story begins to decline in pacing to a tolerable yet formulaic slice-of-life that lasts longer than it should. Only when the fight gets personal does the story pick up again, and just when it feels like it could end beautifully, BAM! Exposition dump.

I may have been exaggerating when I called the route a slogfest in the past, but I’m still of the opinion that this route could have used a good deal of trimming and perhaps some editing to make the ride smoother and more involving. For example, it would have helped a great deal if the danger behind the demons Mai fights were greater. There’s not enough at stake in the demon fights, despite there being a good reason for Mai to stay by the school and fight against them. If there’s any positive to these demon fights, though, I will say they got Persona Q’s battle theme stuck in my head. :stuck_out_tongue:

Not to say there aren’t good points about the story. Like I said before, Mai, Sayuri and Yuuichi make a great pair of friends. The chemistry between each other is believable, although many of the scenarios make me root more for Sayuri-oriented pairings (yes, even Maiyuri, ironically). The daytime scenes in general are much more enjoyable than the nighttime demon battles, which is kind of sad since that’s a major focus of the route. Makes me a bit glad they kept Maeda out of Rewrite… ._.

It’s also during this route that I’ve come to realize how different Maeda’s writing style is from Hisaya’s. Hisaya’s writing is rather light in substance, yet it hold so much more emotion and character. Not to say that Maeda’s writing doesn’t contain emotion or character, but there’s the occasional feeling of forced emotion and abstract thinking that makes it harder to read. Think of it as the difference between a painting of a building and a blueprint of one. You can adore a painting for being easy to look at and artistically vibrant, but a blueprint places a greater focus on technicals and what it takes to get to the point of looking like what’s in the picture. Not quite as fun to look at, unless you’re an architect, I guess. ;-.-

Nevertheless, I feel that Maeda wanted to focus on the atmosphere of a particular place in this story, fleshing out Yuuichi’s emotions (and therefore our own) through how a place feels in comparison to his mundane reality. This is perhaps the biggest reason the story is able to keep itself from falling flat on its face, and keep its reader invested in what is going on. We are attracted to the mysterious, awe-inspiring feel of a place different from our own, and if I were to think in the perspective of a first-time reader, I would want to know what is going on.

Now…about the ending…

It turns out that Mai has a confusing and vaguely-explained power, which I could describe in two different ways:

  1. the ability to manifest her own desires into the world through her own emotions and feelings, defying the laws of nature and manipulating the strings of fate to her will, either knowingly or subconsciously; or

  2. Key Magic.

The route calls it ‘hope’, but I think it’s safe to say that Mai’s power is a form of magic realism akin to many other abilities and realms later explored in other Key works, such as (CLANNAD After Story and Little Busters! Refrain spoilers) Ushio’s ability to send Tomoya back to the past in the Illusionary World or the secret of the world. Now that I think of it, it seems to contain elements of both, sending Yuuichi back to the point where he first met Mai in order to remedy the events of the route, and Mai’s subconscious wish for Yuuichi to return manifesting as demons. It’s also explicitly stated that Mai’s power was also responsible for bringing Yuuichi to Mai the first time they met, and may have factored into his return to the snow-covered town ten (Ten? Not seven?) years later.

In a direct quotation from her route, “What did I actually make of her in the end?” Mai’s route, in my opinion, falls into a similar category as Lucia’s route from Rewrite. Her character is complex and certainly likeable in hindsight, and there are legit good moments in it, like the ballroom scene. But at a certain point its narrative grows less interesting and/or sensical as it progresses, making for a less than satisfying experience. So far, this is the low point of Kanon for me, and I hope it will stay that way.

At least Shiori won’t let me down, right? …Right? :worried:


Mai route is now check (and the Sayuri mini route)

This route had some pacing problems, but all in all it was the most interesting Kanon route so far. The dynamic between Mai, Sayuri, and Yuuichi was great. Mai worked well as an interesting heroine because they gave her her figurative demons to fight in the day (student council, and public opinion), and literal demons to fight at night. For a while it seems like Mai is better at fighting the “real” demons rather than navigating daily school life, but it becomes clear that the fights are tied.

I would have to read through it again and take better notes, but it seemed like the night-demons only showed up when Mai began to let her emotional guard down around Yuuichi. This makes me think that perhaps rather than just the demons being parts of her powers, they were supposed to be her “demons” (i.e. sad memories and insecurities) manifest. A few instances that come to mind where the timing seemed directly attached to her letting her emotional barrier down was when Yuuichi first gives Mai food, also as she starts to open up at the ball, and then during the final fight after they play Shiritori together.

The sword and Mai’s cold exterior are tied, and she knows she cannot let go of the sword without also losing the cold attitude that had kept her going for the last 10 years. The cold attitude was as much a “sword” she used to protect herself as the european one she used to ward off the demons.

This also makes me wonder if the unseen attack on Sayuri happens because Sayuri shows up with the anteater plush and Mai becomes emotionally venerable as a result.

Which kind of leads to the question - is Mai facing her demons or running away from them?
I think her carrying the sword was more her refusing to face her demons, making them more and more insurmountable, and even more tied to who she is. Happiness for Mai, it is clear, is not something she will gain by simply by fighting the demons or the world around her, but is something she has to face more head on and accept.

I feel like the implication of her impairing herself with her sword, and how physically tied she was to the demons was kind of like the game saying that the 10 years of pain was just too much for the current Mai - if she was going to survive she needed a miracle in the form of her past 10 years being redone.

As far as the writing itself really goes…I feel like they were maybe a draft or two away from what could have been something really amazing. I don’t feel like Mai and Yuuichi’s past relationship was foreshadowed enough - it mostly felt like it came out of nowhere. Mai’s memories of her mother could have been broken up throughout the end of her route more, and the pacing of the ending needed to be reworked in general for more clarity. Unlike with Makoto’s route Where I felt like she didn’t come back to life, because the miracle was more framed as something that would be cool if it was what happenedI felt like I was supposed to take Mai’s ending as saying she got her miracle and her, Sayuri, and Yuuichi go on to graduation. I don’t like thinking this though because I really think they should have just left it at with the older Mai playing shiritori, and at most a vague epilogue - again more like Makoto’s?


Well I’ve gone and finished Mai’s route, bad ending and all. Still haven’t gotten to Sayuri’s mini-route so I should do that while I still have time before the podcast.

Now then, what surprises me the most is that we have so few people talking about this route! This route brought up so many questions and so many points that we can discuss, and it’s sad to not see more people discussing it. Well, here’s hoping I can push this discussion a bit further~

Now, while it was a very interesting route, I can’t quite say that I found it well-written. There is a sort of duality in this route, where, in the first part, Yuuichi makes faulty assumptions about Mai and her relationship with Sayuri and slowly learns that they have it pretty good and he doesn’t need to interfere with what they already have; but he sure as hell should join them in doing it!

But as we reach the climax of the story, we are suddenly put through an infodump of Yuuichi and his past with Mai, giving an explanation to those “demons” that we have been trying to figure out ever since the common route. Thus I agree with what was said in that

It very much did so. The only foreshadowing we have is that of the demons being more restless after Yuuichi appeared, but that was barely anything. Anyway, because of this lack of foreshadowing, the impact of many of the scenes by the end fell flat, and thus I feel there was a lot of wasted potential in the qualities of this route.

Now then, let’s head to the question and answer portion of this route. One question brought up is:

which, honestly, I thought to be a more physical problem than an emotional one. I always thought that she did this because she realized that she was indeed the source of the demons around the school, but no longer had the ability to control them consciously, probably because she willed them to be that way. She willed for there to be demons she had to fight, and those demons wouldn’t be all that convincing if she could just will them away in a heartbeat.

So what do you do when you have just one more demon left, one that you can’t just let roaming around the school lest it hurt somebody else again, and one that you are too injured to be strong enough to destroy? Well of course, cut it out from the roots. I believe that Mai sacrificed herself not because of her lack of willingness to continue living and not because of her own guilt at realizing she was hurting other people, but because she probably thought that that was literally the only way to destroy the demons once and for all. Did it do that? Perhaps, but at this point, we will never know. It actually ties into her very caring personality, now that I think about it, and shows her willingness to sacrifice her own comfort and well-being for the sake of others (mostly animals, but hey, people are animals too).

So yeah, I honestly thought that answer came pretty obviously to me, but I guess I could still be wrong! A much, much bigger question is, of course:

The vagueness of the answer increases when you look at one dialog in the epilogue clearly stating "“If at the end of the dream, there is something that would make me feel brave enough to return to reality, it would be a new beginning for that innocent young girl […]”. That kind of implies that what Yuuichi is seeing at that moment in time is actually a dream. A continuation of the dream he had while holding Mai in his arms… But is it, really?

I’ll leave you guys to post your own thoughts, and save my own for the podcast (and for when I give that ending scene a good re-read over).

Now then, one last question I would like you guys to answer is : What do you think is the theme of the latter half of the route? Specifically, everything after Sayuri gets into her little accident. While I think the themes before that are pretty apparent, I feel everything after it is a bit more complicated; is it about hope? Sacrifice? Acceptance? If you can connect both parts of the story, that’d be great too, as I haven’t even managed to do that myself :stuck_out_tongue: