Okay, so I’ve been talking about doing this for a while, but after screaming at ilusionada for a while yesterday, it kind of inspired me to actually get this done. Maybe because it bullet-pointed all the things I want to hit. Of course, this is all personal interpretation, but I’m using what’s actually seen in canon as my sole base for this.
But I really, really want to talk about Sora’s development through the course of Kingdom Hearts. Because he absolutely is not a static, one-note, happy-go-lucky character. His characterization isn’t defined solely by those traits, and I really, truly feel that his actions in every game make sense for the context. I’m going to leave KH1 out of this, because I feel like it’s straightforward, and I’m only going to touch on Chain of Memories because I’ve touched on it a little in the past. That said, this may get pretty lengthy, since I have a lot to say.
I don’t really find anything inherently wrong with how he was portrayed in CoM, but I hardly think it’s the apex or climax of his development. He does show a range of emotions—defeat, loss, frustration, anger that’s almost irrational. But all the same, those weren’t the most natural or organic of his reactions. They were born from being toyed with, from Naminé pulling his memories apart and replacing them, along with some really blatant goading by way of Repliku. And that’s fine. It’s great that we got to see it, but I can’t help but disagree when I see people say that it’s the only time he really develops, or that his portrayal in KH2 was “out of character” or that his portrayal in DDD was “regressive.” I have a difficult time seeing things that way, and here’s why.
When Sora wakes up in KH2, the surface memories of everything that happened in Castle Oblivion are gone. Sure, they’re somewhere deep in his heart, deep enough that meeting Axel again and seeing the coats of the Organization members didn’t trigger anything. All the same, Roxas has been forcibly brought back to him, and up until their face-off at Sora’s Station of Awakening, there’s definitely some dissonance and unrest. Right from the start, Sora is in kind of a precarious situation; they wake up in an unfamiliar place with no idea how much time has passed (presumably enough, considering Sora has all but outgrown his clothes, which I’m sure he felt quickly enough, even if it wasn’t pointed out til later). He’s quickly faced with enemies unlike what he’s seen before, and tires out until Mickey gives them help.
But during all of this, that sense of familiarity thanks to Roxas’ memories and influence are there. We see this when he leaves Twilight Town, with this melancholic thoughts about how he feels like he’ll never see the place again, or the tear he sheds when leaving Hayner/Pence/Olette. Even the way Sora gazes out the window of the train as it moves along the tracks is vaguely reminiscent of Roxas.
And as the story goes on, we see a lot of different things happen. We see Sora start largely okay. We see the little things start to get under his skin. We see his emotional stability waver on more than one occasion. We see him try hard to keep his promises to his friends and a happy face whenever possible.