An Explanation of the Overarching Narrative in Kingdom Hearts

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 here because it looks cool. Leave me alone.
This is here because it looks cool. Leave me alone.

The Keyblade

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.

The Ultimate Weapon that can kill everything in one hit is also one of the most delicate and fragile Keyblades in existence.
The Ultimate Weapon that can kill everything in one hit is also one of the most delicate and fragile Keyblades in existence.

Keyblade War

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.

This is probably what goes through Sora’s head every time the Xehanort-Ansem discussion comes up.
This is probably what goes through Sora’s head every time the Xehanort-Ansem discussion comes up.

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.

Kingdom Hearts DTD and Moon

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!

Please hurry Square Enix. I need this game in my life soon.
Please hurry Square Enix. I need this game in my life soon.

 

12 thoughts on “An Explanation of the Overarching Narrative in Kingdom Hearts

    1. Thank you, I’m glad it was helpful! Yeah, Birth By Sleep really is important to understanding the plot in so many ways, so I’d definitely recommend it for what it contributes to the story as a whole! 🙂

  1. I get the plan, but what I find nonsensical is why both xemnas and “ansem” were trying to create a kingdom hearts. You allude to it just being for power, but I dont think these acts during kh1 and kh2 jive with what is now being laid out. Can you explain what the reasons for this were?

    I mean in the first game, “ansem” seemed clear in his mindset that darkness was superior to light. He was going to use kingdom hearts to plunge the realm of light into darkness and overrun the universe with heartless. How does destroying the universe accomplish mxs plan? Or was it simply to maximize the power of the 13 dark, when the time came? But in that case, with two kingdom hearts, wouldnt they just crush the forces of light? Hardly an equal fight to make the x blade. Or is kingdom hearts essential to the act of fragmenting the heart? But by then, most of the org was already dead and he didnt have his 12 vessals. He wouldve had to kill the protaganists anyway to fully absorb the power which would have meant no 7 light warriors left fight.

    I suppose all the time travel could have just been a backup, but then I dont like how “ansem” was the one who initially went back in time or into the sleeping world or whatever version it really was. It means they were in fact acting under mx plan along.

    To me, it wouldve made more sense for him and xemnas to be acting independently, still amnesic of mxs plan, and their deaths just to trigger this backup plan into action when mx returns. Have him travel for his past selved.

    Instead, we have a master plan within a master plan within a master plan one after the other with odd decisions all over. Like why didnt xemnas use a keyblade? It undermines the events of each game and just makes it over bloated. It requires too much thinking.

    1. Lots of good questions here, and I’ll do the best I can to answer every one of them! 😀

      Okay, so firstly, the reasoning behind Ansem, Seeker of Darkness goals. Ansem is the heartless of Apprentice Xehanort, but doesn’t have any memory of who he was. It’s because of this that he spawns a Nobody and Heartless after ultimately losing his heart to the darkness. So, Ansem vies for the door to Kingdom Hearts, which led to the original world, so it could be argued that his desire to reach the Door to Darkness could have been a remnant memory of the desire Master Xehanort had all along. Of course, it could be that Ansem Seeker of Darkness is acting on the desire to have the darkness tip the scale and be in full control – after all, Master Xehanort, while acknowledging the need for a balance between light and darkness, also felt that it was time for the forces of darkness to once again be in control.

      The reason above is okay if we look at his actions independently from the main plot Master Xehanort is hatching. If we look at it as being part of the larger picture, than we could see it as Ansem gauging the power of light and gaining potential candidates for Xehanort to split his heart into. Ansem possessed Riku after making him succumb to the darkness in his heart. However, thanks to Sora and Riku’s efforts, he lost the power struggle and a potential candidate in Riku, but he himself is still a candidate.

      As for Xemnas, if looked at from the larger picture, Xemnas puts together the Organization to find members worthy of candidacy, with Roxas being considered at one point. In addition to this, he creates the fake Kingdom Hearts for power to eliminate the heroes of light and still loses, but now he has candidates for Master Xehanort from the Organization – Xigbar, Saix, and himself, which is realized in Dream Drop Distance.

      I don’t think you’re necessarily wrong in thinking that they were acting independently, but to me it makes more sense that the actions of both would lead to the master plan. To me, it’s not a master plan within a master plan, but rather steps towards the greater picture, with their actions contributing to the whole. This ultimate master plan of thirteen vessels begins directly after Birth by Sleep as the result of Master Xehanort’s failures with Ventus and Vanitas, and as a result it has underlying effects on the plots of the later games.

      As for the two Kingdom Hearts moons, they could crush the forces of light if used together perhaps, but because they aren’t – one being fake while the other is a world no longer accessible without the X-blade – they don’t come into the question.

      Master Xehanort doesn’t seem to need Kingdom Hearts in order to split his heart. It’s not entirely sure how he does it – whether it’s just with his skill as a Keyblade master or some other reason – but he seems to be able to do it at will, like when he tried to make Sora a vessel. Come to think of it, the fact that he can do that at will is rather terrifying. I also don’t think Master Xehanort has any care for who the seven lights will be in the final clash – he simply cares about assembling his thirteen darknesses to trigger the Keyblade War and reach the world of Kingdom Hearts with a newly forged X-blade. He doesn’t care who they fight, just so long as it happens as he desires.

      Finally – Xemnas not using the Keyblade. I can only assume this is due to the fact that Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, can’t use it either. Since they’re both the result of Apprentice Xehanort losing his heart to darkness since he had no memory, it’s not unreasonable to assume that he wouldn’t be able to use a Keyblade at that point. The only time Apprentice Xehanort does use the Keyblade is when he calls himself “Ansem” before releasing Braig’s heart, which could mark the point in which he splits into his Heartless and Nobody.

      I hope I answered all of your questions! If I missed something or didn’t explain something as well as I could have, let me know!

      1. Yeah you answered them thanks. I think it all makes sense, but the big thing for me…how did ansem know to wait for riku and sora at the di to follow them to the realm of sleep. Everything works if he indeed didnt have mx memory (or only fragments)…but then how did he know to travel back in timr to yx and the di in his present point?

        1. No problem! 😀

          As for this one…I think it’s because the Heartless version of Apprentice Xehanort did retain his memories, if we consider his actions in Kingdom Hearts and apply them to the larger picture. In most cases, Heartless don’t have memories or feelings – the only two who are the exception to the rule are Sora and Ansem.

          With that in mind, I think it’s because of this that Ansem is able to send Young Xehanort on the desired path and get more recruits for the thirteen darknesses Master Xehanort wants. It’s also possible that all of these iterations of Master Xehanort act on his desires in some shape or form and are fueled by his goals.

          But if in fact Ansem did have his memories, he would have known to wait at Destiny Islands because it’s part of their plan – it’s implied that Ansem went back to recruit Young Xehanort before going to Destiny Islands and waiting for Sora and Riku, meaning he was already aware of the plan in its entirety.

          Hopefully this answers everything!

          1. But what I mean is how would he even know what sora and riku were going to do? How could his plan include knowledge of future events? He couldnt have known they were coming back in time from the future, because he was already defeated and gone in the present time when yen sid decided to send them to the realm of sleep.

            Unless he was there just to infect riku like what happened in kh1 (to begin prepping him as a vessel) and just happened to see the future versions of them arrive and follow them..would that be accurate?

            Another thing that confuses me is how xemnas and yx went in the future without giving up theit bodies. Sora ansem and riku did it to go backwards, but yx and xemnas still have their bodies in 3d. Could you explain this to me?

        2. Well…I don’t think the Realm of Sleep was necessarily set in the past itself. The Realm of Sleep housed many worlds that fell to darkness and needed to awaken, some of which happened to be set in the past (such as Mickey before he became King as a Musketeer).

          While both Ansem and Xemnas were defeated before Dream Drop Distance, Master Xehanort has already been revived at this point, which is the reason why he gives Sora and Riku the Mark of Mastery. Master Xehanort also knows that, if he recruits thirteen darknesses, that they in response will have to have seven lights ready for their Keyblade War. In this respect, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Master Xehanort to be aware of what they were going to do.

          I recall Master Xehanort saying, near the end of Dream Drop Distance, that the future was beyond his sight, implying however that he was the master mind behind everything up to this point.

          In Dream Drop, they discuss the time travel pretty extensively. A past version of themselves has to exist in order for them to travel in time, which is how Young Xehanort was recruited, but also how he travels through time to get his recruits for the thirteen vessels of darknesses.

  2. I get that 🙂 What I mean is how did ansem, seeker of darkness/ xehanorts heartless know to wait at the di for sora and riku to come from the future.

    The realm of sleep is not in the past (instead al the worlds being in a loop until awoken), but sora and riku did go to di in the past. They had to piggyback a world falling into darkness to leap into the realm of sleep. Bc no worlds were falling into darkness anymore after kh1, yen sid sent them backwards to di where they previously existed. Then ansem of that time followed them to the realm of sleep as di went into darkness.

    Ansem sod was not a time traveller in 3d to my understanding. He was the “present” version at di during kh1 who followed sora and riku to the realm of sleep. Then xemnas and yx came from the past to join him. Of course, all three forget what happened during 3d because they are returned to their own time, so they cant use whatever knowledge they gained to change things.

    Thats why I thought maybe its just that ansem at di for riku like previously established in kh1 and to start taking him over…. and just realized a future version of riku and sora had arrived there too and decided to pursue them. Thoughts?

    1. You’re right about the Sleeping Worlds, that was my fault, hah hah. I remembered that some of them had events that would have taken place in the “past” for the characters, but are just in a never-ending loop.

      Valid points for sure. 🙂 While Ansem may have not been the primary time traveler, he must have gone back in order to give Young Xehanort the means to do so as well and set him on the right path. I think he pursued them in order to make them vessels but to also eventually get access to the Door to Darkness, which he believes is the path to the world of Kingdom Hearts. It’s possible he could have realized that a past version of them was sent as well. I think it’s safe to go with your assessment. 🙂

      Although I thought that, while they disappeared after Master Xehanort failed to transfer his heart to Sora, that they would still assemble the thirteen darknesses because it was “destined” that they would all return even though they would go back and forget; the groundwork laid would still be effective. So if it’s possible for them to return to the “fated place” and commence the Keyblade War, then I’m sure there’s a way for Ansem to exist at the time Destiny Islands falls to darkness and set his plan(s) in motion.

      I hope this helps! 😀

  3. Yep it did. And my thought is a lot of these mechanics will be fleshed out in kh3. We dont know how mx will actually summon all these versions for the final clash since they dont keep memories of what happened during the time travel (sans isa and braig since i figure they are the present “somebodies” like lea).

    On the surface it also seemed like a rule violation for the xehanorts to gather in the world that never was to witness mx return. After all if he hadnt yet reformed = no present version waiting for them = no ability to go forward yet!

    But then I read an interview where nomura said both these are an as yet revealed mystery…having something to do with the mechanics of the world that never was. Probably why xemnas made it their hq!

    1. True! As much as KH3 will probably answer many of these questions, I’m sure it will also raise just as many mysteries to be solved in future games after the Dark Seeker saga ends with 3! 🙂

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