A Layman’s Explanation of Kingdom Hearts

A Layman’s Explanation of Kingdom Hearts

Have you ever wanted to see Donald Duck/Octopus hybrid monstrosity? I really didn’t. And yet I have.

Oh, don’t worry–it gets weirder.

Not only did I have to witness this horrific perversion, but I also had to watch it–and turtle Goofy–dance underwater to a song that included the lyric “finny fun.”

Apparently this is Kingdom Hearts.

My friend, Leah, has been playing through the entire franchise since finals week last semester (she’s really responsible). This has served as my first exposure to the franchise.

Prior to this, I had always looked at Kingdom Hearts as something of a curiosity–a neat concept that seemed a little damaged by the presence of Donald Duck as your sidekick.

My opinion hasn’t changed much, but I’m a lot more confused now.

Anyone who would be invested enough to care about spoilers would probably know them all already by now, but just in case: spoilers abound for the entire franchise.

“God dammit, Donald!” Leah seethes, furiously mashing her controller in an effort to not get killed by a giant, invisible lizard (we’re jumping around time a little bit, bear with me here).

These words have been Leah’s most common refrain throughout, because Donald Duck is, apparently, the worst.

Correction: Chip and Dale are the worst. Donald is just terrible. Could I tell you why? Nope. But Leah says these things with such venom that you just kind of learn to accept it.

Leah has tried to explain the plot of this series to me a solid dozen times now, and I think I’m actually starting to get it. Here’s my understanding so far:


  • Sora, Riku, and Kairi are an OT3 that is constantly separated by plot.
  • Sora goes on a quest to find Riku and Kairi after they disappear.
  • Leah’s explanation of the start of KH1: “Sora’s walking along, going ‘Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do-do. Oh no! Then everything goes to hell and Riku and Kairi disappear.”
  • Part of this quest involves fighting a guy named Ansem, who is a really evil king.
  • Except Ansem is not actually Ansem, and there’s actually a second Ansem? Yeah, I don’t get this part, but it’s a thing apparently.
  • At any rate.
  • The main enemy is a group called the Organization, which is composed of what are called Nobodies.
  • Nobodies are a variant of Heartless, and are produced when someone stabs themself, but they have such a strong heart that it creates a sort of incomplete shadow copy.
  • The Nobodies of the Organization seek out the Kingdom Hearts, which they can use to make themselves whole.
  • This would be bad…?
  • Sora has two Heartless (kinda)–Roxas and Namine, the latter of whom is actually a combined Heartless of Sora and Kairi.
  • No, I don’t know what that means.
  • Also, Sora has some guy from the past named Ventas locked in his heart, which is why Roxas looks like Ventas, and they both look a bit like Vanitas (who is Ventas’s Nobody?) who looks like Sora.
  • There’s a guy named Xehanort who is pulling the strings in the background.
  • The universe is a Disney/Final Fantasy mashup.
  • Mickey is a badass (a point upon which Leah is VERY insistent).
  • Final “key” point: Some Nobody named Axl has a weird obsession with Roxas. Go figure as to why.


With this in mind, I have tried valiantly to follow along with the story whenever I catch Leah playing.

It actually goes worse than the above, if you can believe it. That mangled summary is the accumulation of several conversations that end with Leah struggling to explain that yes, the plot really does make sense–somehow.

The thing that perhaps annoys Leah the most is my attempts at shipping Sora and Kairi (I’m hoping some readers just went nuclear at reading that sentence).

To me, it seems perfectly obvious that Kairi is Sora’s love interest. He seems to constantly be searching for her (throughout the entirety of the first game, for example), and the opening of Kingdom Hearts II shows Sora repeatedly running at Kairi, holding her gently, and touching her hand. Heck, her Wiki page even explicitly lists Sora as her love interest.

Of course, I don’t actually believe this for a minute, but Leah’s utter fury at the suggestion is far too amusing to ignore.

Yes, I swear we’re friends.

Don’t worry; she treats me the same way.

We jump to another scene–Sora soloing a guy with lightsabers for hands. Amazingly, the fight doesn’t end there. The battlefield expands, and soon–huzzah!–Riku jumps into the fray, battling alongside his friend, Sora.

In response, the enemy turns into a massive spaceship.

I stare at the screen in perfect, stunned silence. Cause, really, how else am I going to respond to something like that?

I turn to Leah and wordlessly gesture at the gigantic ship that her foe has suddenly become.

She glances at me as best she can. She is fighting a massive spaceship, after all, so she can’t really focus on me. “What?” she asks defensively.

“What is happening?” I ask, pouring every ounce of confusion I can muster into those five syllables.

“Don’t worry; this happens every time!”

Kingdom Hearts, everybody.

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