A Review By: Amelia
When I first started playing Kingdom Hearts, I thought there was going to be no way that they would combine Final Fantasy and Disney (two of my favourite things) into something that didn’t offend me in one or another. I was SO wrong! Kingdom Hearts combines Final Fantasy characters with Disney worlds and leaves me squeeing in pleasure! Since its introduction to the world in 2002 it’s spanned nine original games and two HD remakes. It’s a huge franchise with tonnes of merchandise and even a manga series, which is why we’re here today!
Kingdom Hearts is the story of Sora, Kairi, and Riku, three teenagers bored with their existence on a small island. Believing there to be bigger and better worlds out there, the three build a raft to sail the seas. The day before they set sail, a world-crushing darkness invades and separates the three: Kairi and Sora are innocent bystanders swallowed by the darkness, but Riku willing goes. Now, this is where the story really begins. Sora is found by Donald Duck and Goofy (that’s right, the Disney characters) and becomes the Keyblade welder. The Keyblade has the ability to restore worlds and ‘lock’ them so further attacks can’t happen, so Sora becomes a hero of all worlds (all the worlds are Disney worlds, by the way) all the while searching for his messing friends and hoping to return home. Mixed in with that storyline is not only the Heartless’ story: the heartless mindlessly steal hearts and leave people as empty shells and they’re led by Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty), and the Nobodies story: their led by a secret organization called Organization 13 whose hope is to build ‘Kingdom Hearts’ so that they might have hearts themselves (Nobodies are created when a strong willed person has their heart stolen by a Heartless). Still with me? I know it’s pretty complicated, but bear with me–it’s worth it!
The author (or should I say adaptor?) of Kingdom Hearts into a manga series is Shiro Amano. He’s a Japanese manga artist who’s worked on several manga projects, the most popular of which being Kingdom Hearts. He’s also worked on several Dragon Quest games as a character developer.
The characters in Kingdom Hearts is a large and varied cast of characters. There’s Disney characters with Donald and Goofy being Sora’s allies, Disney princesses being the cosmic keys, and Disney villains being the combined force of evil you battle against. Then there’s the Heartless and Nobodies that are nameless foot soldiers (so to speak) and although they’re what the good guys fight so hard against, they hold little important to the story other than being part of this massive fighting force that just keeps coming no matter what! Then there’s neutral to good characters that belong to the Disney worlds that Sora visits like Tarzan (from Tarzan), or Genie (from Aladdin), or Aerith (from Final Fantasy VII–yeah, Kingdom Hearts doesn’t go by Final Fantasy canon so she’s not dead!) The most important characters of the whole piece are Sora, Kairi, and Riku. They are completely original characters but they do draw some of their personalities, physical forms, and motivations from a mix of what Disney and Final Fantasy have done in the past. Or at least how that seemed to me–it’ll probably seem completely different to someone else! All in all the characters are great and very well rounded. Take Riku for example. He cares for his friends well being but he’s also jealous of a relationship he thinks he sees between Kairi and Sora. He wants adventure and power and he’s not afraid to reach into the darkness to get it. Then there’s Sora–the hero of the piece. While Riku finds solace in the dark side, Sora struggles against the odds to save his friends hearts and put everything back to the way it was. He’s scared of change–especially change that happens between him and his friends–and yet, to save the day, he has to travel to places he never even dreamed existed. He sacrifices bits of himself to help everyone else. Needless to say, the characters are an interesting blend and never fail to please.
The art style in this series is adorable. Just adorable. The whole damn premise of is adorable but Shiro Amano found just the right style to make this go from a six on the ‘aww’ scale to a full ten on the ‘squee-look-at-them-they’re-so-cute-I-just-want-to-squeeze-them-til-they-explode!’ scale. The faces are very minimal with small noses and mouths and big, big eyes. Character clothing and weapons are very detailed however and it’s a stark contrast to their faces. Exterior landscapes are detailed to the extent that they need to be but I found a painful lack of any interior shots that were detailed. Most of what happened indoors was just a blank white background with whatever characters were there doing whatever it was they were doing!
There’s a great many things going on in the Kingdom Hearts manga series that make it a very compelling and interesting. There’s great artwork, an amazing (although sometimes hard to follow storyline), themes of love and lost, friendship and betrayal, which, if you ask me, are pretty in-depth and intuitive of something most people will write off as childish.
My final thoughts on the Kingdom Hearts manga series are that it is wonderful! Do you have to be a fan of Disney or Final Fantasy in order to jump right in a enjoy it all? I certainly don’t think so (although it would help). Beyond what originally sold this game franchise for me (namely Beauty & the Beast!) is a great story of adventure and friendship and never giving up despite the odds! It’s got great artwork that will appeal to any manga fan and it’s just plain fun! I mean, Donald Duck and Goofy are in it–all other arguments should be invalid!