Kayako Saeki (in Japannese: 佐伯 伽椰子 Saeki Kayako, née Kawamata) is the cursed soul of a dead woman and the titular primary antagonist of Ju-On franchise as well as its American adaptation The Grudge series.
In all films up to The Grudge 2, she is portrayed by actress Takako Fuji. Fuji did not reprise her role after The Grudge 2, and was replaced by Aiko Horiuchi in The Grudge 3, while Anna Moon took the role in the web series Tales from the Grudge. Actress Misaki Saisho played Kayako in Ju-on: Beginning of the End and its sequel Ju-on: The Final Curse while Runa Endo played Kayako in Sadako vs. Kayako.
In both original Ju On film series as well as its American adaptation The Grudge series, Kayako is primarily portrayed as a housewife who was murdered by her husband after he discovered she had feelings for her son's teacher by reading her diary and thinking they had an affair. He later murdered their son Toshio Saeki because he had witnessed his mother's murder as well as his now-uncertain paternity. After her death, she and her son became vengeful spirits as their violent death triggered a horrifying curse revive them as Onryos. She killed her husband in revenge, causing him to become an evil spirit as well. This led to them killing anybody that set foot in the house they lived in. The curse would spread after more people were killed and became evil spirits.
Japanese Series Timeline (Ju-On Series)
In Ju-on franchise, as revealed in the official novel written by Kei Ohishi, both of Kayako's parents were present albeit highly neglectful, causing Kayako to often feel depressed and lonely. Kayako spent most of her free time with her cat Kuro and was highly anti-social. In the first installment of the Ju-on franchise, Ju-on: The Curse, Kobayashi's wife Manami remarks that she remembers Kayako from high school and that she found her "creepy". Kayako became highly jealous of Manami and even tried to curse her but failed and eventually gave up. When she attends university, she meets Shunsuke Kobayashi, with whom she falls deeply in love. After the accidental deaths of her parents which didn't seem to faze her, Kayako marries Takeo Saeki, the only person who understands and cares for her, and together, they have a son named Toshio (佐伯俊雄). By now, Kobayashi is Toshio's school teacher, and she falls in love with him again.
She writes of her feelings for him in the journal she kept all her life, in both franchises this ultimately leads to Takeo finding and reading her diary. He becomes obsessed with the idea that Kayako is cheating on him with his son's teacher - or worse, Toshio could not be his son, but Kobayashi's. When she gets home that day, he violently attacks her upstairs, pushing her against the wall. Toshio is in his bedroom drawing and hears the noise and, coming outside, watches the violence which is occurring below through the banisters. Kayako tries to run away while Takeo chases her, but he pushes her down. She sprains her ankle, stumbles and falls, and has to go down their house stairs by crawling. After much effort she makes it to the front door, only to find Takeo was slowly walking behind her, watching her pain. He then snaps her neck to a 90 degree angle and crushes her throat, takes her to their bedroom and puts her in a trash bag. Kayako is still alive, but paralyzed, capable only of her characteristic croaking noise. Takeo stares at her just sitting in a trash bag in the bedroom, then stabs her multiple times (an event that does not occur yet implied in The Grudge). Then, he puts her body in the far corner of the attic, through an attic door in the ceiling of their bedroom closet.
After her death, she becomes an Onryō because of the painful and torturous nature of her death. After that, Takeo kills Toshio (a witness to the murder) by drowning him and his pet cat Mar in the bathtub. He then runs to Kobayashi's house, killing Manami Kobayashi, Kobayashi's pregnant wife, and putting her fetus in a sack. As he flies into a fit of rage on the street, Kayako appears as an Onryō coming out from the garbage dumped nearby, and kills Takeo. Some time later, Kayako's body is found in the attic; Takeo's on the nearby street (his cause of death unknown to the police, they assume he committed suicide) and Toshio's in a closet.
Since that day, the ghosts of Kayako, Toshio and Takeo kill everyone who steps into the Saeki House (and anywhere the curse is transmitted). The cat, Mar, usually appears to forewarn any intruders of their impending doom. The curse is meant to repeat itself as an unending cycle, so the films feature Kayako crawling down the stairs emitting her famous death rattle, cracking her neck around and covered with blood. Although she is usually heard emitting a croaking sound, Kayako is occasionally heard making a strange, eerie moaning instead - she is even heard speaking to Toshio (off-screen) after her death, albeit briefly, and her appearance to Kobayashi during the first Ju-on movie.
Crossover Timeline (Sadako vs Kayako)
American Adaptation Timeline (The Grudge trilogy)
In Kayako Kawamata was born to Nakagawa Kawamata, an exorcist (or Itako like they call it in Japan). Kayako's mother was specialized in removing evil spirits from people. But she had to leave the spirits somewhere, so she let Kayako 'eat' them, marking her for the rest of her life. Worse, she also lacked fatherly figure in her childhood. Contrary to her Ju-On counterpart, the very curse that ultimately revive her and her son as Onryos also caused by accumulation of evil spirits that she forced to feed upon by her mother aside simply later murder by Takeo.
Later Kayako attended university where she fell in love with a man named Peter Kirk. Later she married Takeo Saeki, the only friend she ever had and she gave birth to a son named Toshio Saeki. A few years later Peter Kirk, the man Kayako fell in love with in university was revealed to be Toshio's teacher. Kayako falls in love with him again. But this time she became obsessed with him and followed him everywhere.
She wrote her feelings for him in a journal she has been writing in since her childhood. Her husband Takeo Saeki was an extremely jealous man and already becomes mad when Kayako says something good about a man she saw on TV. One day he found her journal when Kayako wasn't home and thought Kayako is cheating on him and might leave him for Peter (who was already married). And he got the idea that Toshio might not be his son but Peter's. When Kayako came home Takeo attacked her and sprained her ankle. Kayako tried to escape the house by crawling down the stair to the door. But Takeo grabbed her by her long hair, snapped her neck and crushed her throat, so the only sound she could make is a croaking noise. Toshio was watching the whole murder from the stairs so Takeo killed him to by drowning him and eventually killed Toshio's cat 'Mar'. And if that wasn't enough Kayako became an Onryo (Japanese ghost) because of the evil spirits her mother 'fed' her as a child. She then killed Takeo by hanging him with her hair, and after that incident Kayako, Takeo, Toshio and Mar haunted the house they lived in and Takeo and Kayako killed everyone who entered; Toshio and Mar, both being victims of the Grudge, tried to warn Takeo and Kayako's victims - usually just before it was too late.
Powers and AbilitiesAs an Onryö Kayako has a lot of abilities:
- Reality-Control: In The Grudge she drags Susan into her own bed, she pulls her into the Underworld and thus Susan totally disappears. In The Grudge 2 she drags Miyuki into a mirror. Other feats that Kayako can perform through this power are:
- Suffocation: Kayako can supernaturally asphixiated her victims to death.
- Ripping of jaw: Cursed individuals can also have their jaw forcibly ripped.
- Rebirth: Kayako was able to live once again through the pregnancy of Kyoko. The ghost of Toshio Yamada also found his second chance through Kayako, following her strong desire of becoming a mother.
- Technology Manipulation: In the house she sometimes make the lights switch. In The Grudge 2 she turns off the TV when Eason sees her on the TV. She also blacked out the card reader in The Grudge 3 so Dr. Sullivan couldn't escape her.
- Shapeshifting: Kayako possesses the ability to shapeshift into other forms, be it a human disguise or shadow wraith-like form. Her human disguise usually those of her recent victims: i.e. she assumes the form of Matthew Williams whom at that time already dead. just before killing his sister Susan.
- Teleportation: Seen in every movie when she haunts the people who entered the house. She is capable of appearing out of every place possible, like in The Grudge she appears in a bus window, she also appears at the foot of a stairwell to Susan Williams and then moments after appears at the top of the stairwell trying to get through a door; and in The Grudge 2 she appears in a photograph, which turns into a reality portal, with Kayako climbing out of the photograph.
- Telepathy: Kayako can also perform telepathy, which may also used to psychologicaly confuse her victims further.
- Illusions: Kayako can make others hear sounds that aren't there like Matthews' voice on the intercom of Susan's apartment to lure her. In The Grudge 2 she also makes every photograph in his darkroom resemble her face. She makes more illusions throughout the series (most of them are from her past). This power works by psychologically confuse her intended targets.
- Possession: Kayako can possesses someone, usually to recreate the murders that gathered Ju On curse that turned Kayako into vengeful ghost herself in the first place. (ex. Trish Kimble in The Grudge 2.).
- Super-speed: Being an Onryo, Kayako is inhumanly speed as there's no way her victims can outrun her.
- Supernatural Strength: Kayako is inhumanely strong as a ghost. The limit of her strength is unknown, but it's unmistakable that she can break the bones of her victim like a twig.
- Hair: Kayako's primary weapon is her hair. She used it to kill her husband after he killed her and she uses it to strangle, blind or bind others. In the game she is also revealed to stab her victims with her hair.
- Paralysis: Most victims are paralyzed of fear when they see Kayako, making them unable to defend themselves. She can also induce paralysis through her death rattle.
- Regeneration: In Sadako vs. Kayako, Kayako revealed to possessed this as she can reform her body in an instant after Sadako tear her body into bloody mess.
- Her powers and behavior are similar to Pennywise, aka IT:
- They both drive most of their victims insane by haunting them before they kill them.
- They can both teleport and appear out of nowhere at any place.
- They can create illusions for others and take on any form they want.
- They kill their victims in ways that are so cruel, most of their kills are off screen.
- They are also known fir killing anyone who gets in their way, including random bystanders and children.
- Featuring a strikingly similar resemblance, Kayako makes a "cameo" appearance in an episode of Ghost Whisperer ("Horror Show") in which the the infamous scene where the ghost appears under Hitomi/Susan's sheets is recriated. The character is spoofed in a 2013 episode of Saturday Night Live in which Kristen Wiig portrays a mother who is drowned to death and becomes a "Korean water ghost". The Supernatural episode "Party On, Garth" also references the ghost in the Shōjo (the major difference betweeen Shōjo and Kayako is the former is onryo-like invisible beast that can only destroyed with blessed katana and can only be spotted by those whom get drunked.
- In The Grudge 2, Kayako's voice tells her mother "You shall die here", indicating she knows how to speak English.
- Takako Fuji stated in an interview while filming The Grudge 2 (the sixth time she played the character) that, at that time, she already felt "difficult sometimes to keep up the motivation, because I've played her so many times". Fuji-san eventually passed on the role to Aiko Horiuchi in The Grudge 3, and Misaki Saisho portrayed the ghost in Beginning of the End. An unknown actress portrayed the ghost in a promo for the Korean release of Beginning of the End.