What happens when you combine a popular video game franchise from Japan with an iconic American franchise? You get Kingdom Hearts. This collaboration between Square Enix’s Final Fantasy video game series and Disney’s flagship characters has produced not only several successful video games, including a new one out this year, but several manga adaptations of the series. Originally released by Tokyopop in 2005, the series has been rescued by Yen Press and has been released in two omnibus volumes.
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix Volume 1-2
By Shiro Amano
Yen Press, May 2013, ISBN: 978-0-316-25420-5, 978-0-316-25421-2
272-304 pgs., $12.00
Kingdom Hearts begins with the introduction of Sora and his two friends, Riku and Kairi, who live alone together on a tropical island, One night, a storm wipes out the island and separates the three. Meanwhile, in Disney Castle, King Mickey has disappeared and tasks his two right hand men, Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy, with finding “the one who holds the key.” The three meet in Traverse Town, a sort of central location that connects to other worlds. Sora turns out to be the holder of the Keyblade, a weapon that allows him to fight the Heartless, creatures of darkness that are trying to take over the Disney worlds. The trio band together and travel to the different worlds to stop several Disney villains and the Heartless from taking over and ultimately destroying everything.
The story of Kingdom Hearts sounds like a basic action/adventure, but there is more to it than that. Even though Sora is helping Donald and Goofy, he is also searching for his friends, Riku and Kairi, who he believes are lost in the realms too. The theme of friendship is strong throughout the story, as Riku is turned toward the Heartless when Maleficent convinces him that Sora has replaced him with Donald and Goofy. Riku turns on Sora to try to separate him from his new friends. But it’s the strength of the bonds of friendship, old and new, that makes the final defeat of the big boss possible.
The video game origins of this title are very obvious as you read these two volumes. Sora, Donald, and Goofy appear in a realm, meet the hero, and help stop the Heartless and rescue the princess. They will often have to do tasks like solving a puzzle before they can move on, and when they defeat a Heartless boss or lock a keyhole, they can receive a piece of parchment or new weapon and power to “level up.” Being an adaptation, it’s difficult to get away from this aspect, but Amano does his best to keep these scenes to a minimum and make them fit into the overall story.
If you are a Disney and/or Final Fantasy fan, you will love this series. Each adventure takes place in a realm that is based on a Disney movie. These films include Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, and even Winnie the Pooh. The adventures follow the plot of the movies fairly closely, with only the changes necessary to make it fit in the Kingdom Hearts Universe. Final Fantasy fans will get to see Yuffie and Leon in Traverse Town where they act as support to Sora and his friends.
While Kingdom Hearts is rated as an all ages title, it may not be for everyone. It is accessible to readers 8 and up and would do well in any tween-to-teen collection. The repetitive nature of chapters and seemingly meaningless tasks may bore readers not familiar with gaming conventions, but the interaction of the characters and the changes to the familiar Disney stories may override that. These books are thick, but they move fast with a lot of action. This title might be a good option for reluctant readers who prefer their entertainment from a gaming console.