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Kingdom Hearts FAQ #04: Sora

Hearts just know, ya know?Q. Why does Sora get to wield two keyblades?

A. Sora is some kind of bizarre heart hotel, and literally has been since birth.

Remember how I mentioned that in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Ventus gets tortured by Xehanort until he splits into Ventus and Vanitas? Well turns out that splitting one heart into two kind of messes a boy up, and Ventus was nearly a comatose vegetable that Xehanort was going to just dump on a random palm tree. BUT! Sora was just born, and apparently hearts are all-knowing at birth, so Sora’s heart was all like, “Hey, Ventus, looks like you’re going through a tough time, here, borrow some of my heart while you recover.” And Ventus got better! Vanitas had his own problems, and he supplemented them with the Unversed, but that’s an entirely different can of brain-damaged worms.

A few years later, Ventus, in an effort to foil Xehanort’s nefarious plan to make a keyblade that is, like, a double keyblade, kind of tore his own heart to shreds. This left Vanitas pretty much dead, and Ventus, once again, comatose. BUT! What was left of Ventus’s heart (which is akin to saying “what’s left of the Titanic”) decided to squirrel away in Sora’s heart. This will be important later, but this means Sora, at five years old, has 1.3 hearts.

This jerkOh, and Ventus’s body got ditched in some crazy castle by his best friend. Err… his best friend that didn’t become an unspeakable evil.

About a decade or so later, in Kingdom Hearts I, Sora is super best friends with Riku and Kairi. Kairi is secretly (even to her) a “Princess of Heart” from Radiant Garden (aka Hollow Bastion) (aka Square World), and Riku was once chosen by Terra to be a keyblade wielder, though everyone involved in that event seems to have forgotten. At this point, Ventus’s heart has probably recovered a little, so Sora has 1.5 hearts.

Everything is idyllic and grand on the Destiny Islands, until it isn’t, and THE DARKNESS invades. A lot of things happen at once here: First, Riku awakens to his keyblade. The physicality of this is kind of confusing, but just imagine if one day a sword was sticking out of your heart, and it wasn’t because you pissed off the wrong Spaniard. But Riku is kind of a jackass, so he momentarily looks away from the light and toward the darkness, and Sora is all, “yoink!” And, thus, Sora gets a keyblade, even though it was really the possession of his best friend. Kairi, meanwhile, as a Princess of Heart, has a heart that is completely incompatible with being consumed by darkness. As a result, Kairi’s heart takes a page from The Book of Ventus and jumps ship over to Sora’s heart. As a result, for the majority of Kingdom Hearts I, Sora has 2.5 hearts.

Sora The Cardio King stomps around various Disney Worlds until arriving at Hollow Bastion. There, he encounters a Riku that has mostly been possessed by Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (the dark half of a guy who already has a name that is one letter away from spelling “No Heart”), and Kairi, who is just a limp body. Riku plays the bad guy card way too hard until Sora just has enough of it and turns the keyblade on himself.

Creepy lil' fellowHere’s where the magic happens.

  1. Sora’s consciousness becomes a heartless. Given Sora is just about as evil as Mother Theresa, he transforms into the weakest heartless available.
  2. Sora’s… main heart? Prime heart? The part of Sora that was always Sora goes and hangs out with Kairi. Also: Kairi’s heart. So, for a few shining moments, Kairi has her own heart AND the heart of Sora. D’aww.
  3. Sora’s discarded body zaps over to Twilight Town, along with the Ventus heart. This whole jumble becomes the nobody named Roxas, who inherits the general body of Sora, and the hair color and voice actor of Ventus.

Shortly thereafter, Heartless Sora gets a magic hug from Kairi, Sora’s heart is like, “Oh, this is my stop, smell ya later.” And Sora is back to being one human boy with one heart.

Somewhere in this process is where Kairi’s nobody, Naminé is created. Given Kairi never actually loses her body (she appears to just be comatose for most of Kingdom Hearts I), Naminé raises a number of questions. Canonically, DiZ (Diligently Imbibing Zombie), who is supposed to know everything about everybody, basically just throws up his hands at her existence in KH2. Presumably, the universe just wanted a blonde, magical version of Kairi, and called it a day.

Man, poor kidI should follow the chronological through-line on Sora’s many hearts, so… Roxas.

Roxas has the worst life. At birth, Roxas is discovered by head evil nobody Xemnas, who gives him a stupid name and an even stupider hoodie, and then sends him off on increasingly stupid missions. Roxas is basically 358/2 days a slave. Then, Roxas makes a friend! Xion is a keyblade wielder/Xemnas slave, and looks suspiciously like a brunette version of Kairi. Roxas makes another friend in the form of Axel, who God, just Axel, ya know? Anyway Xion turns out to be a magical clone of Sora, because of course she is, and she’s having a bad time because her magic DNA is degrading or something. Xion breaks down so completely she is erased from existence, but not before Roxas absorbs her. Also, Roxas has been such a good little nobody, he’s started to grow his own heart. So Roxas has his own kinda-heart, Xion’s kinda-heart, and Ventus’s recovering heart. That’s probably like… 1.7 hearts there.

Ugh, now Axel is on my websiteRoxas is then kidnapped by DiZ (Deliberately Irritating Zebra), who erases his memories and sticks the poor kid into the Matrix. Roxas has a whole six days of being a happy teenager playing with his (completely manufactured) friends, and is then informed it’s time for Kingdom Hearts 2 to actually get going, so he has to be reabsorbed by Sora. And thus ends the sad existence of Roxas. This means that Sora has his own heart, Roxas’s heart (which let’s go ahead and call that one full heart now, having had such a happy time in the Matrix), Xion’s kinda-heart which Roxas absorbed, and still Ventus’s recovering heart. As of Kingdom Hearts 2 and onward, Sora has, by my calculations, 3.4 hearts. As a result, Sora is entitled to two (2) keyblades at one time. Whoopdeedoo.

Q. Sora has saved the universe on multiple occasions, why isn’t he a “keyblade master”?

A. Imagine you designed a laptop that was indestructible, had unlimited battery life, and could pull an internet connection anywhere on Earth. Then, you discovered a group of people cut off from society, and stuck in a time period approximately equivalent to the European Dark Ages. You observed these “backwards” people, and detected a king that you believed governed justly and, in this place of war and death, could rule the whole area and bring prosperity to his people. You decide to give your amazing, invincible laptop to this king, explain the basics of how it works, and then decide that you will return in a year to see how everything is going.

Lord ClobbersalotIn your absence, you imagine what this king may be doing with this laptop: discovering cures for diseases, researching efficient ways to end wars quickly, or even initiating governmental reform based on the millennia of experience now available at his fingertips. As the year grows to a close, you envision returning to a reformed utopia ruled by a philosopher emperor.

You return to find that, while the king you chose has apparently conquered the land, there is no change in quality of life for his subjects: they are all still wallowing, diseased in a feudal, filthy society. You approach the king, and inquire as to what he has actually done with the laptop.

He stuck the laptop on a stick, and, exploiting its “invincible” properties, used to it to clobber all of his rivals.

Would you call that king a computer genius?

Kingdom Hearts FAQ #01: Ansem

A man to be laughed atQ. Who is Ansem?
A. That’s a very simple question! Here’s a succinct, 1,200 or so word answer on “Ansem”, in chronological, Kingdom Hearts history order.

In the beginning, “Ansem” started out as Xehanort, a terribly named young man who became a keyblade master. Fun fact: Xehanort is from Destiny Islands, the same home planet/island as the KH protagonist, Sora, and I’m sure the series will never use this fact as a last minute plot “twist”. Anyway, Xehanort was granted time travel powers by his future self, in a lovely predestination paradox that seems to be the only crossover with Gargoyles that KH is going to commit to. More about Young Man Xehanort will be covered later, but suffice it to say he somehow fails (despite having time travel powers and seeming control over, basically, the universe), and grows up into…

Portrait of a keyblade master as an old manOld Man Xehanort, as voiced by Leonard Nimoy. Since the entirely of Birth by Sleep is basically the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (obviously foreshadowing Disney’s eventual acquisition of the Star Wars Universe) Old Man X is basically Emperor Palpatine. OMX spends the entire game as a “kindly old keyblade master” who is so dripping with evil he is literally followed by unimaginable monsters, though the heroes of the tale kind of don’t notice. Over the course of the game, the mysterious Mr. X first tried to pull Keyblade Apprentice Ventus (the original Sora) over to the darkside, but failed, and simply created a bizarro clone of Ventus named Vanitas (the first clone of Sora). Vanitas was a bust for some reason, so then Darth Xehanort moved on to tempting Keyblade Apprentice Terra over to the world of evil. This actually succeeded because Terra loved his friends so much he just had to kill Obi-Wan (as played by Mark Hamill).

Why don't you cry about it?Now this is where it gets complicated: Old Man Xehanort was using Terra the entire time so the old man could gain a young man’s body. Wait, phrasing, Xehanort wanted to literally possess the body of Terra, and did so. So Terra’s soul got suppressed, and Old Man Xehanort became Terra-Xehanort for a hot minute. This led to Keyblade Apprentice Aqua beating Terra-Xehanort so hard he literally could not remember who he was. Amnesiac-Terra-Xehanort is then discovered by Ansem the Wise, who immediately disproves his own name and hires Amnesiac-Terra-Xehanort as his assistant, thus transforming the villain into Lab Coat Xehanort.

Looking scienceyLab Coat Xehanort basically becomes the magical Dr. Mengele of the Square universe. In an act that can only occur in backstory and must never be seriously analyzed, Lab Coat Xehanort turns Ansem the Wise’s entire staff into a bunch of crazy monsters, tosses Ansem the Wise into the Realm of Darkness, steals Ansem’s name despite the fact that he is surrounded by people who knew the original Ansem, and then “unlocks the darkness in his own heart” or whatever and splits himself into two separate beings, Heartless Ansem and Nobody Xemnas. Then he went out for smokes for a decade.

By the era of Kingdom Hearts 1, Heartless Ansem, calling himself Ansem, orchestrates the entirety of Kingdom Hearts I, attempting to swallow the total KH universe into darkness, because that’s what you do when you’re the pure darkside of an already bad guy. Heartless Ansem clashes with the newest keyblade wielder, Sora, who has the sleeping soul of Ventus in there for whatever reason. Sora’s rival is another keyblade wielder, Riku, who once received the key-blessing of Terra. Riku is eventually totally possessed by Heartless Ansem, because Ansem-Xehanort can’t seem to get enough of this whole You recognize this one“possessing random teenagers” bit. At around that point, Sora is transformed into a Heartless by Heartless Ansem-Riku, but Sora recovers; however this random bit leads to the creation of Nobody Roxas, which will be important (sorta) later. Anyway, Sora beats Heartless Ansem senseless with his keyblade, Riku is freed of Ansem’s control, and Heartless Ansem is evaporated by the light that is Kingdom Hearts. Heartless Ansem is dead and gone forever.

Meanwhile, toward the end of KHI, Nobody Xemnas (the seventh “Ansem”) grabs Nobody Roxas (the fourth Sora) for his own nefarious purposes. Xemnas has this whole group of Ansem the Wise’s former trainees, called Organization XIII, and they’re all interested in turning the moon into a heart or something, because they’re Nobodies without emotions, and that makes them sad and angry. Sad lil dudeSo Sora is led into Castle Oblivion, where he must fight another Sora clone, about half of Organization 13, and then have his memory erased, because amnesia is the grease that keeps the Kingdom Hearts wheels rolling. Riku is thrust into the basement of the castle, and finds that he now has the ability to transform into Heartless Ansem. So, to be clear, Riku is another Ansem. Riku also meets DiZ, which stands for… seriously? Okay… Darkness in Zero. DiZ is secretly Ansem the Wise, now cosplaying as Batman’s lesser (least) nemesis, Hush.

But while this is all happening, Xemnas has inducted Roxas into Organization 13. Roxas is, ya know, doing whatever, chilling, eating ice cream, hanging with his buddy Xion, that kind of thing, for about a year. Then all heck breaks loose when it turns out that Xion was secretly a failed clone of Roxas (so, Sora #5, #6 if you count that other clone). Because you can only photocopy a photocopy so many times, Xion kind of breaks down into nonexistence so hard no one even remembers she was ever alive, and Roxas has a giant freak-out that leads to Riku going full Dark Ansem just in time to make the opening of Kingdom Hearts 2 really confusing.

Air Boat?Roxas is now trapped in The Matrix by DiZ and Dark Ansem-Riku. Roxas realizes he’s The One after a very exciting essay on “what I did on my Summer vacation”, and then pretty much ceases to exist just in time for Sora to come back to be the hero. The remaining members of Organization XIII go stomping around the universe, generally stirring up trouble, and Sora beats them down in turn. Finally, Nobody Xemnas reveals himself as being behind everything, and it’s all another ploy to create Kingdom Hearts, or find Kingdom Hearts, or something or other. What’s important is that DiZ, aka Ansem the Wise, sacrifices himself to transform Dark Ansem-Riku back into Shadow the Hedgehog Regular-Riku, and then Riku and Sora just straight up murder Nobody Xemnas, because he didn’t have a heart anyway, so it’s okay. This means that, finally, the last Ansem is dead, and the galaxy is at peace.

You're gonna be eternal, all rightExcept not so much. Death in the Kingdom Hearts universe is kind of confused: If someone is split into a heartless and a nobody, and then the heartless and nobody are killed, it becomes some kind of double negative thing, so the original “person” comes back to life. In Xehanort’s case the whole of the universe had a compile error or something, and it spat out another twelve or so Xehanorts. Seriously, Old Man Xehanort came back to life, and then used previously-never-mentioned time travel abilities to stock his all-new, all-better Organization 13 with at least four other versions of himself (“himself” now being a word that has absolutely no meaning). Two other Org XIII members are hangers on from the last Org, and the other six are mysteries because we’ve gotta have something to speculate on before the release of Kingdom Hearts 3. Xehanort (the young one, I think) tried to possess Sora and make him member #13, thus joining the great line of Too Many Soras with The Ansems All The Way Down, but he failed, as Xehanorts are want to do.

And now we’re all gearing up for the final KH chapter as the forces of light (Soras) battle the forces of darkness (Ansems) for the final fate of… wait… there are Disney characters in this franchise?

Roar!