Kairi Week April 10th (Day 3) :
‘Here, you’ll understand. Close your eyes.’
Other competitors for this spot were definitely Kairi talking to Sora on the docks during the first Kingdom Hearts, Kairi attempting to leave TWTNW with Naminé, and her and Riku talking in during scene 2.9. But, this one, where she reunites with Sora and Riku towards the end of Kingdom Hearts II, still remains my favorite.
In this moment, it’s Kairi that brings all three of them together again. Without her, Sora would have never known that Xehanort’s Heartless was actually Riku in another form. And, it speaks wonders about how much Sora and Riku trust Kairi.
Riku doesn’t leave when Kairi holds on to him. He’s much taller and stronger than she is, he could have easily gotten her to let go, but he doesn’t. He spends the entirety of the game running from Sora, and stays when Kairi wants him to.
Then there’s Sora, who, in his eyes, Kairi essentially says ‘hey I know this guy took my heart, possessed our friend and tried to kill you, but come hold his hand’ to. And he does. It really is such a nice moment for the three of them, and that’s why it ranks so hi on my list.
ALLLRIGHTY. Here is the plan. Going to get Sora and Riku as far as they individually can go in The World That Never Was, but then stop and try to get some of the best Spirits that I can. I really want the Rex and the Aura Lion going in to the final bosses, at least. But that means I might have to go scouring and item-hunting for dream pieces. We’ll see how far I can get here!
I feel like I should have better Spirits now, but ehh will make do
…Damn how is the reality shift going to work here and now
AHH okay that’s how that works
I gotta say I think I like this version of TWTNW better than the KH2 version
I like the battle music more anyway
…Okay wait how TF do you shoot off this laser-shooting thing again
I WANT THE SKELEREX
O H THIS IS THE DEATH WALL
Isn’t there a good challenge thing in this area where you can get some parts for the real good Dream Eaters??
ARRGH I got this far and then I died?!!
Okay never mind, I don’t know if Riku is ready for this yet. I’m gonna go item-hunting where I can to make some really good Spirits
Okay screw it I’m not finding the ingredients I want so I’m making stuff from scratch
I made a Cera Terror! Her name is TERRUMBLE
Oooh and a Beatalike! That thing is new!
OH N O IT’S GOT REAPER WINGS IT’S ADORABLE
Of course his name is Daisukenojo
Awesome so now Riku has two giant Dream Eaters that are gonna push him off all the ledges
SO FINE. WE ARE TRYING. TWTNW AGAIN.
Even though I don’t have my rexes or lions yet
Haha Riku literally arriving back at The World That Never Was like this
OKAY UH we’ll tackle the death wall later. Get back to Sora’s turn in weirdo land over here.
DOODLEY DOODLEY DOODLEY we’re back with Sora’s weird flashbacks
OH LOOK AT ALL THESE FEMALE CHARACTERS WE KEEP FORGETTING
I feel like there were a bunch of treasure chests up on the skyscrapers that I’m forgetting here?? IDK
Sora: Who are you?!
Roxas: I’m you but more depressed. By the way here’s the entirety of my depressing life. Byyyeee!
I don’t blame Sora for being upset here I mean jeeez and hell
I do not like the breathing architecture
HO geez almost didn’t get through that triple dino challenge
OH thank goodness finally a save point
Only this might be boss battle time anyway
LOOK RARE KAIRI APPEARANCE
Hello sad Wayfinder family I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of you soon enough!
Hey flashback to when Aqua showed up on DI!
Xigbar: I’m here to explain the plot of Inception!
This thing of them regrowing hearts totally threw me for a loop the first time
I was like WOW I SPENT A LOT OF TIME ARGUING OTHERWISE ON KHFFR ahhh fandom memories
Thank you Sora for calling Xemnas out on being a huge liar tho
I am always fascinated by this scene because Xigbar is just SO CONVINCED that this is going to totally break Sora and he’s just like WHO CARES I’M NOT THE HERO, I’m FRIENDS WITH THEM SO HA
Xigbar you little chickenshit
OH DANG the boss battle is friggin now
OKAY I failed hard the first couple of tries but finally got him down with Chaos Snake
Also the friggin Recuscant’s Sigil thing blew my mind
Xehanort: I KNOW ALL OF THE FUTURE…except for the future that’s happening after this part
But yeah when I first got to this point I was like WHAAAAA
VEN TO THE RESCUE
Ven: Here man you can borrow my armor I know I owe you back rent for the heart hotel anyway
AND BACK TO RIKU…Hey I’m still capable of going back to Sora’s last save point right?? Or is it just Riku from here on out? I can’t remember
Will Riku be able to survive the DEATH WALL this time??
NOPE. NO HE WILL NOT
Getting bitten by twice by skelerexes will certainly do you in
FINALLY got past those friggin Rexes
And yes the death wall is worth it to get DARK SPLICER
…Oh I just realized that Riku’s drop menu is gone, so. Don’t gotta worry about that none then!
Just surF UP THE WALL RIKU
Man I think this is my last point before Riku’s first series of boss battles
Mmmm OKAY let’s go on! We’ll probably need to go back and get all the good stuff later
Sora got dream bubble’d
Sora: Gee Riku, how come your mom lets you have FIVE final boss battles?!
WOW I died a lot but uh. Got the Anti Black Coat Guy at least
Apparently I really do not remember how to fight any of these bosses
Xehanort all like “well now I get to fancifully exposit at YOU”
Now we’ll see if I can manage to get through these next two battles…
Now time for EVERY RIKU IS A DREAM EATER JOKE EVER
Give him Spirit candies give him pets play water balloon with him it’s all good I love every Riku Dream Eater joke
Aaand Riku mentions Terra from long ago!
…Okay yanno what? I’m dying too frequently in these here.
Gonna come back and face the bosses when I’ve got some real good abilities like Second Chance, Once More, and everything else I’m used to having
SO that might take awhile. When I’m ready, I’ll tackle Riku’s bosses again!
First off, I wanted to say that I too really love reading your analysis!!! Second,I'd like to know what's your view on Axel's character growth during the course of KH2 (from his attempts to get Roxas back leading to his sacrifice). You can expand it by including his actions from Days if you want. Thank you in advance! :)
The phrase I used in a post the other day for Axel at the end of Days was “about to slide down a rather steep slide into basically suicide.” So uh. Before I continue, this is the trigger warning for suicidal thoughts and actions for those of you who would like to stop reading. Not to mention the, um, general trigger warnings that go along with Axel…
I don’t see Axel as a particularly mentally stable character. I don’t mean for that to sound insulting to anyone - it’s a matter of empathy for me and my long list of DSM conditions. It’s hard, if not impossible to put names of conditions to fictional characters, especially when different metaphysics like hearts are involved, and I don’t plan on doing so in this post.
Axel is a character so driven by passion. Saix says of Axel, after his death “Axel couldn’t stand living without a heart, and was destroyed by getting close to one.” This is more or less a perfect reading of what happened - fitting, coming from his once best friend.
Lea is such a character of the heart - about connecting it to as many people as possible, about living by his ambitions and fiery passions and wills, that the loss of his heart really throws him. In CoM, he is the character who talks constantly about what it means to be a Nobody and how messed up that makes them.
Even then, in his first appearance, we see him as throwing himself at feeling. It’s actually really creepy in this game. It seems like, due to his interaction with Sora (and possibly Sora’s connection with Ven and Lea’s connection with Ven, who knows) along with his interactions with Roxas in the first 20 or so days of Days, he has really started to regrow his heart. The first emotion he seems to really feel in a long time? Enjoyment at the manipulation and downfall of the C.O. crew.
In his secret reports, he spends a lot of the early game commenting on how everything seemingly human Roxas and Xion do not only confuses him, but gets to him on a deeper level. Again, I do not want to venture into more clinical terms here. But compare Axel’s entries like this:
Talking to Roxas and Xion always brings back memories of my human life, back when I was a kid. It’s a weird sensation.
Watching them, it’s like they’re human. It’s messing with my head.
I find myself envying the children. Perhaps some fundamental difference exists between those who become Nobodies as adults and otherwise. The longer you have lived, the more you are positioned to lose with such a gamble. But a child can look forward, unafraid even in the face of immeasurable odds. I doubt they even see life as a gamble the way we do.
There is the same sort of longing in the latter, but it is resigned, distant, and despite the mention of a feeling, it is somehow less visceral. By the end of the game, Axel’s entries are pretty frantic and mention emotion all over the place.
But my point is, is that these interactions with humanity are really intense and important and psychologically powerful for Axel. And, in effect, we learn that they have made him no longer a true Nobody. When he says as he dies “he made me feel like I had a heart”, he is speaking more truth then he knows - Axel by the end of Days indeed had a heart, or part of one, that was hurt and broken and torn.
I have said several times on this blog that Axel/Lea is characterized by fire and passion and drive. And that in its pure form in will run wild and just burn everything in it’s path. What we are seeing in KH2 is basically that. It is the last shred of control, of reign Axel has over his wildfire, over his fury and passion and pain slipping.
In the beginning of the game, he is trying to scheme, still. Trying to use tactics, to hide, to be sarcastic. In the end of Roxas’s section, he breaks for a moment. The Novels, which I am on record as having mixed feelings about, state that when Axel sets fire to the entire room when he is fighting Roxas, it is because he is content to die there with Roxas, if only to have that final moment. While you don’t have to read it at that extreme, there is only one other time Axel sets fire to everything, and that is his death. Axel’s fire is a metaphor - when it is targeted, controlled, so is he. When it is wild and everywhere, so is he. Think of how precise it had to be when he burned Vexen from the inside.
When we see Axel on Destiny Islands, he seems tired. Someone can actually compare the frames, and this could just be Mr. Flynn’s fantastic voice acting, but it seems to me that Axel is… off. Like he is trying hard to keep himself composed. There is a kind of mad desperation in the way he confronts Kairi. If you watch, the Camera doesn’t film much of that scene straight - there are a lot of strange tilted angles. This is, by the way, masterful scene work.
And it’s a stupid, stupid idea. I mean, think about it. Axel plans on kidnapping Kairi while on the run from the Organization, through dark corridors. He then plans on what? confronting Sora and demanding that he let the heartless take his heart or Axel will kill Kairi? I mean, he is forgetting about Riku, he is forgetting about the Organization, about Sora’s hundreds of allies… It’s not a very good plan. I mean, Sora would probably go along with it - he did in KHone. But still. From the level of schemer we saw in CoM this is a seriously concerning idea.
And if you were not convinced, the game shows you Kairi getting away with Riku’s help. Then it takes Axel a while to find her. By the time he gets to Twilight Town, she’s made friends with Hayner, Pence and Olette. And by that point, Saix has caught up to him. It’s a big mess.
And intentionally so. This was the last ditch effort. This was Axel, an Axel with some of a heart, going “I will kill this girl, and whoever else I have to, to get the hero of the worlds - the one who is going to save everyone, to let himself die because all i care about is seeing my friend and feeling again.” And he failed.
By the time he confronts Sora, his body language is almost drunk tired. He’s trying to put back up his mask, but Sora gets to him with all that humanity, with his pleas. It’s at this point that it seems that Axel is just running, striking where he can. Why is he telling Sora this? What does he have to gain from Sora knowing this? Nothing - this is him not wanting Sora, and by extension Roxas to be used as a tool of the Organization. This is him trying to undermine them now. His plan has failed. All he can do now is make amends. That exasperated sigh when he says “look, about Kairi, I’m sorry.” He means that. He is sorry. He even makes time to say it again as he’s dying.
I think at his point, Axel has given up. He knows he is going to die one way or another and he isn’t fighting it. Hell, part of him wants to. What’s left for him? I have a lot of feelings about Axel as the poisonous friend. Everyone he befriends gets hurt. I don’t think this is something lost on Axel. I think that he realizes this. Some of this is probably more headcanon than analysis, but I think at this point he’s pretty disgusted with himself.
He’s on the run from his first best friend, trying to save the last shread of his other best friend, watching everything go to shit, and he’s failing again, and he’s just kidnapped a girl for, it turns out no reason, and he’s exhausted and what does he have to show for himself but pain and death and fire?
So when we see him again, where is he? He is between the fake Twilight Town and The World that Never Was. At this point, he is so exhausted that a single dusk catches him off guard and knocks him over, leaving him struggling to get up. He has no reason to be here other than to help Sora make it to the other side. It’s outright suicide to get this close to the Organization at this point, but you need someone to open the portal on both ends. If the Dusks hadn’t swarmed him here, Axel would have done the same thing somewhere else in TWTNW. I mean, we don’t even know how necessary the attack was - can a portal not be opened while there are dusks in the in between? No - I think he was just so tired of running and the next stop was TWTNW. If he did go through there, he’d be taken to the Castle. Maybe “the maximum punishment” isn’t death, but worse. Maybe he didn’t want to die while Saix looked on. Maybe he just wanted to die on his own terms. Maybe he just was tired of holding in all the fire and passion and rage and hurt inside.
What I love about Dream Drop Distance: -The concept arts -The graphics -THAT FUCKING OPENING OMG -THAT VERSION OF DEARLY BELOVED OMG -Flowmotion! -TWTNW Reality shift! -THE MUSIC -15-years old Riku -15-years old Riku’s ass -Symphony of Sorcery - hands down my favorite world in the series along with Halloween Town -GOTTA CATHEM'ALL -Beating Fashion Police Frollo -Badass bosses -THE MUSIC -The keyblades -Riku.exe -EVERY SINGLE MAIN CHARACTER IN ONE GAME FTW -LEA -XION -“You deserve to be your own person” -Nobodies could grow hearts I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG -MYSTERIOUS FIGURE UNVEILED, CUE L'IMPETO OSCURO -Master Riku -Ansem the Wise’s long speech about Sora and hearts -Sexy end-screen Kairi -DID I MENTION THE MUSIC
What I dislike about it: -Dumbed down Sora -Sora’s filler stories which have pretty much zero development both towards the character and towards the main story -A bit too easy a gameplay -Not the original voice actors for Namine, Xion, and Ansem the Wise
What I hate about DDD: -Time travel -Riku’s haircut with his older body -A lot of the script, especially in Sora’s story -“All for one and one for all!”
How do you interpret Xion having her hood up in the scene where Axel takes her back to TWTNW after defeating her for the last time in 358/2 Days?I've seen the postulation that it's because Axel lost it & ceased to see her as a girl & not a puppet b/c he stopped her from going off & doing what she thought was right (i.e. getting herself killed). She doesn't have the hood up in the manga version of that scene, though. You think it's maybe an animation flub or b/c Xemmy was observing the scene too?
Axel collapses at the end of that scene, so I always assumed we were seeing it from the perspective of someone else - Xemnas, as he is the other shown actor on screen (as much as I want to think Xemnas would see someone else when looking at her.)
But I never think the camera in KH cutscenes is an accident and I think the other reading is something we are meant to see and think about - or at least be scared of - as the scene open with just the close frame on the two of them.
But it quickly resolves the tension for me, anyway. Because Axel speaks to her, even as she is unconscious, as his friend. He still cares about her, even at the end of his rope like this, and it’s still Xion to him.
But there is always supposed to be tension with Axel. His loyalties are constantly in question, his motives, his desires. To me, it’s pretty clear that the words he said to Xion in the clearing were in anger, an anger he himself wasn’t really fully aware of nor well versed in handling, and that despite following orders to take her back, he deeply and truly cares about her. His arc from here through the start of KH2 through his death is that of the instinct towards self preservation that drives him to follow orders here slowly giving way to his reforming heart.
I think this is further backed up by the contrast in the following two shots:
This shot is absolutely brilliant. I know I’ve said several time that the scene work in this game is excellent, but I really don’t think that the cinematography in these video games gets enough credit. I can’t speak for video games as a whole, but the cinematography in these games is top notch.
The whole game, there has been this unraveling story about how Xion was designed as a doll, a tool rather than a conscious being, and that she became a person, despite her origins to be merely an object. And then on the other hand, we have this undercurrent where we catch snippits of Axel’s story, of where he came from, of what he used to be. That he used to be a human named Lea with a best friend named Isa who loved Summer vacation. And how he has turned from that person into a Nobody, into an assassin, into Saix’s weapon and Xemnas’s weapon. How a person has turned into a tool.
And there they are, both of them, unconscious on the floor, as inanimate figures discarded like toys having been played with as the camera zooms out making them smaller and smaller.
And of course, that is when Xemnas, their mutual creator/destroyer and puppet master walks on screen.
And then we get this shot (which I have lightened so you can actually see what is happening in it) where Xemnas picks Xion up not like a human shaped figure so much as a sack. Compare that with how Axel was carrying her above. Note where Xion’s arm’s are, where Axel and Xemnas’s gaze’s lie.
Astutely, the camera obscures Xion’s face entirely from the moment she falls from Axel’s hands. If she is hooded to make us worried about Axel’s loyalties, then the scene reassures us by reminding us what real dehumanization looks like, culminating in his carry.
But now that I am taking an in dept h look at this scene, I think I am unsatisfied with my initial answer that her hood is merely a matter of it being Xemnas’s perspective. I think the real answer doesn’t come until Day 357:
Xion’s hood is up because her own appearance is unstable, even to herself. She describes in her secret report that she knows things are coming to a head, that she knows there isn’t much time left for Roxas, at the rate she is absorbing memories. I don’t know how much of how she appeared to the people who saw her for who she really was was under her actual control at this or any point, but we know a day later she appears as Sora to Roxas. it’s possible that, so close to this breaking point, having just given in to her fate in that meeting with DiZ and Namine, her appearance became too unstable when she passed out.
I think, because these scenes are back to back, this is the likely solution we are meant to come to.