Some people would argue that the plot of Kingdom Hearts has become rather convoluted over the years. However, with every installment, I’m seeing a concise, overarching narrative coming together. The more I revisit the games, it’s only plain to see that the series has been planned from the very beginning. The best way to prove it is to discuss important yet controversial aspects of the series and how they come together to complete the story.
This is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the game. This weapon has huge effects on the story and is hyped up as a special weapon with one “chosen” wielder. At a glance, it would appear that the later contradict this notion, but it wasn’t until I looked more closely at the dialogue in Kingdom Hearts and realized it wasn’t a contradiction.
Kingdom Hearts, while perhaps not concise in its story telling, does make one thing clear: there can’t only be one “wielder”. It’s true that the first game revolves around the rivalry between Sora and Riku becoming a Keyblade Master, which is correct. There can only be one “master”, but there’s never a moment when there can only be one “wielder”. Riku is the chosen wielder, but after giving himself up to darkness, it instead chooses Sora, but one is not anymore the master than the other and both are equally capable of wielding it.
Kingdom Hearts II was released, reinforcing the opinion among most fans that Keyblades weren’t special and passed out like candy. The Keyblade is said to be a rather picky weapon about who it chooses, and though it’s wielded by various people, fans should keep in mind that some of these characters (Roxas and Xion) are connected to Sora. As a result of their ties to him, whether they’re his Nobody or they’re an imperfect clone, the only reason they can wield the Keyblade in the first place is because of these connections to him.
Secondly, besides Sora and the people connected to him, there are only ten different other wielders besides him (Master Xehanort, Master Eraqus, Yen Sid, Terra, Aqua, Ven, Mickey, Lea, Riku, and Kairi). Considering the huge cast of characters in the series, not to mention the fates of most of these other characters, this isn’t a huge majority, also keeping in mind that there were once hundreds of thousands of Keyblade Wielders before the first Keyblade War. Having ten pop up after that event is not a huge number.
Furthermore, most of these characters were introduced later on in the series, but nonetheless were still alluded to in Kingdom Hearts II. More specifically, in Sora’s fight with Xigbar, Xigbar taunts him by wondering why the Keyblade picked a “wimp” like him since he isn’t “half the heroes the others were”. This is clearly a reference to Terra, Aqua, and Ven from Birth by Sleep, long before the game was released.
Birth by Sleep is responsible for establishing the foundation of the series’ story as a whole, including important details in regards to the Keyblade. The Keyblade Inheritance Ceremony is the means of choosing new wielders of the Keyblade, but it can only be wielded by them should they be worthy of it and possess strength of heart. Not only that, but the Keyblade War is also proof that there were always intended to be multiple Keyblade wielders, but the art died out and is only reborn later in the series’ chronology.
The games have never been wrong about having one true “master”. That plot thread has always held true, but the prospect of wielding it led to more controversy among fans. But here’s the thing: the Keyblade was never intended to be special. It’s not a sacred weapon that only one person can wield. Anyone can wield it so long as they have a strong heart, but becoming a master requires more training and discipline. As seen in Dream Drop Distance, both Sora and Riku undergo a test to become the master, but Riku is the one who passes, not Sora.
In the first game, the game alludes to a war where light was vied over, a plot point that is becoming more of a focal point as the series progresses. It was a massive conflict that almost let the darkness consume all of the light, but luckily the worlds were spared thanks to the pure hearts of children. Pure light is embodied in the seven Princesses of Heart, and the darkness is kept at bay thanks to the efforts of Keyblade masters. Master Xehanort has been attempting to trigger the second Keyblade War so that light and darkness may be equals. I actually find this aspect of the series to be fairly straight forward. Master Xehanort’s goal, all along, has been to start the second Keyblade War, and has taken various measures to achieve this goal. With the Keyblade War coming full circle in Kingdom Hearts III, it’s hard to find fault with this major plot point.
The Many Ansems and Xehanorts
Another controversial aspect of the series is the many Ansems and Xehanorts seen in the series. A lot of fans find this to be confusing and convoluted, but it’s actually not difficult to grasp. To illustrate this, it’s only fair to discuss each iteration of Ansem and Xehanort, and why they’re each different and distinguishable entities.
Ansem the Wise: The ruler of Radiant Garden and the man responsible for the research in the darkness of a person’s heart. He tried to put an end to his research but was ultimately betrayed by his apprentices, and for years after this works to get his ultimate revenge.
Master Xehanort: The first, original “Xehanort” in the series, the master is responsible for the events of Birth by Sleep. His first plan was to split Ventus’ darkness from himself and create the X-blade that way, but since it failed he has since been working to fragment his heart into thirteen vessels of darkness.
Apprentice Xehanort: Apprentice Xehanort is actually Xehanort possessing Terra’s body after the finale Birth by Sleep. He becomes one of the six apprentices under Ansem the Wise’s tutelage. Xehanort may have possessed Terra’s body as he intended, but he has no recollection of who he is, only remnants of the desire to seek out the darkness. As a result, he ultimately loses his heart to darkness, triggering the creation of his Heartless and Nobody.
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness: The adversary in Kingdom Hearts, Ansem seeks the Door to Darkness and is the Heartless of Apprentice Xehanort.
Xemnas: The Nobody of Apprentice Xehanort, he steals the name of Ansem the Wise for his own and, like the rest of Organization XIII, adds an X to his name. It’s implied that he has memories of both Aqua and Ven, and the reason he searches Castle Oblivion is to find Ven. By destroying him, it leads to the return of Master Xehanort.
Young Xehanort: The younger version of Master Xehanort, he travels through various stages of time to help recruit thirteen vessels of darkness, one of whom was intended to be Sora.
In Dream Drop Distance, it’s confirmed that if Ansem the Seeker of Darkness and Xemnas are destroyed, it leads to the return of Master Xehanort. While this plot point isn’t really built towards in the rest of the series, it’s still exemplified through Sora and Roxas. They are able to coexist (remember that Sora still had to fight through Castle Oblivion while Roxas was recruited into the Organization before being put to sleep), but without Roxas, Sora isn’t whole. By Roxas ceasing to exist and returning to Sora, Sora can return a complete person.
Dream Drop Distance implies that Sora will save the people connected to him, alluding to the possibility that Roxas can become his own person, much like Master Xehanort’s Heartless and Nobody as two of the thirteen vessels of darkness. The same principle holds true for the Master Xehanort and his Heartless and Nobody, despite the lack of exposition until later in the series.
The Heartless and Nobodies
Nobodies are created when a strong-hearted person loses their heart and creates a Heartless. Both of these are created simultaneously. In Kingdom Hearts II, the fans were led to believe that Nobodies didn’t have hearts and were devoid of emotion. However, it’s clear to see that in cases of Axel’s friendship with Roxas and Roxas’ own array of emotions that this simply isn’t true. It’s safe to say that the lesser Nobodies fought as enemies in the series are indeed devoid of hearts, but as for the Nobodies in the organization, that’s a different story.
In Dream Drop Distance, it’s confirmed that Nobodies do in fact have hearts and that the separation of the heart from the body is only temporary before it finds a replacement. The Nobodies were lied to in order for Master Xehanort to have his thirteen vessels of darkness replace their hearts with his. However, this also causes confusion in that it makes the distinction between the Nobodies and the original people themselves to be blurred, but it can be assumed that the heart they get after the temporary separation is not their original heart. Therefore, this would make the Nobody an incomplete entity. Unlike the real person with their heart intact and their Nobody nonexistent, Nobodies have the memories of their past lives, but not the original heart or wholeness to live by. The Nobody is simply a husk of the original person, incomplete because they don’t have their true heart.
Kingdom Hearts (World and Moon)
The Kingdom Hearts world and moon are two separate yet important pieces to the plot of the series. The Kingdom Hearts world, in the appearance of the blue heart-shaped moon from Birth by Sleep, is where the first Keyblade War was based around since it is the source of the light of all worlds. It is also the same world that Master Xehanort wishes to unlock with the recreated X-blade during the second Keyblade War.
There are two moons seen throughout the series – the first in Birth by Sleep and the second in Kingdom Hearts II and 358/2 Days, and both are significantly different from each other. The “moon” in Birth by Sleep is actually the “heart of all worlds” and vied for in the first Keyblade War. The world’s power can only be unlocked by the X-blade, an item that was attempted to be created during the first Keyblade War, but this failed attempt led to the remains of the Keyblade Graveyard. In turn, this led to the creation of the Realm of Darkness because the world became out of reach as soon as the X-Blade was destroyed and this realm could only be accessed by the Door to Darkness.
The second moon is an artificial creation of Organization XIII over the course of 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts II in their efforts to collect hearts to make them whole, despite this ultimately being a lie. And if you’ll recall, the moon was on the box art for the first Kingdom Hearts game despite not making an appearance in that game (unless you want to count the secret ending).
Since the ultimate goal of the Organization is to create thirteen vessels of darkness with the heart of Master Xehanort, it begs the question of why this was created in the first place, since making them whole was far from the truth. The moon would give Xemnas vast amount of power, and it can even be argued that the creation of the moon was an alternative means of accessing the heart of the worlds as well, much like how the Door to Darkness was believed by Xehanort Seeker of Darkness to be a pathway leading to the Kingdom Hearts world.
TIME TRAVEL SQUEE
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the series to grasp is the time travel discussed in Dream Drop Distance. However, to its credit, it doesn’t shy away from explaining the mechanics of this form of time travel and it actually solves the many mysteries throughout the series.
Master Xehanort’s plans to use Ventus and Vanitas as the pure light and darkness to create the X-blade and open the Door to Darkness may have been thwarted, but his failsafe plan was enacted early on, allowing for another chance to trigger the second Keyblade War.
Remember the mysterious hooded figure in Kingdom Hearts? It’s clearly Ansem the Seeker of Darkness, but the interesting thing about him was the fact that he targeted Riku in order to possess him. This was a very deliberate, calculated move because Riku was originally targeted as one of the thirteen vessels of darkness. But after Riku developed a strong resistance to the darkness, the Organization moved down the list to target Sora as the thirteenth vessel.
The Kingdom Hearts universe is complex and deep, but I think that’s what I enjoy about it the most. It defied expectations with its compelling story, and I can’t wait to see how the Seeker of Darkness saga ends in Kingdom Hearts III. If you have any additional questions about the Kingdom Hearts series, let me know in the comments!