The first thing to know about Mako is that to me she represents the elements of the typical (male) hero’s journey flipped on its head:* Miraculous birth? When she is a small child, Mako’s parents are killed in a kaiju attack in Tokyo. (While not explained in the movie, the official novelization states that Mako and her family were just visiting Tokyo when the kaiju appeared.) Call to adventure? Raleigh’s arrival to the Jaeger Program HQ is the catalyst to Mako challenging her adopted father — the commanding officer of the Jaeger Program — to let her become a Jaeger pilot. The Belly of the Whale? Having persuaded her father to let her try piloting, Mako’s first test drive in a Jaeger doesn’t go very well. Road of Trials? With her failed attempt at piloting a Jaeger, Mako’s father is reluctant to send her out on a real mission. Fight Against the Big Bad? Let’s just say Mako is very instrumental in bringing about the end of the Kaiju War.
Mako, who is Japanese, and is played by a Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) further subverts stereotypes because as a character she is effectively the opposite of several tropes related to Asian women. As PolicyMic’s Marjorie Romeyn-Sanabria puts it:
"Was Mako fetishized as the hot Asian chick? No. Was she portrayed as deferential and eager to please? No. She respects her adopted father and military leader Stacker Pentecost, but pleads that he changes his mind about letting her operate a Jaeger. She politely, but honestly conveys her doubts about Raleigh. At no point in the film are any decisions made based on Mako’s appearance. These are all very good things for a film that is released from the Hollywood trick box. When the best audiences can hope for from a summer blockbuster is tired clichés slapped together with action sequences, this is a breath of fresh air.""