Anyway, this week, we bring you our review of the second half of the last Kingdom Hearts II omnibus. At least, I think that's what this review covers. I think even if I were to pull out our comp copies, I wouldn't be sure. But to give you an idea of how long this book was in the making, we wrote our review for the final (regular) volume of the series over a year ago. Our review of the volume before that was written another year before that. So this review is going to be a major surprise for us, too! Spoiler level: It's the last volume.
Oh my goodness, this volume of Kingdom Hearts. Have I mentioned how much I love Shiro Amano's adaptation? He's brilliant! Sometimes it's like, "Whoa! This is even better than the game!" "You watch your mouth!"
But it's great, because he pokes fun at the game like we do, but in a loving way. For example, for people who haven't played the game, allow me to draw your attention to the wall preventing Sora from helping his friends fight Luxord. Those happen in the game, all the time. You walk into a room, and this invisible wall appears (you see it appear because it glows or something and then goes back to being invisible), so Sora's on one side of it, and Donald and Goofy (and sometimes Kairi and Riku) are on the other.
Sometimes they make it look like, for example, Dark Riku made the wall appear because he wanted to fight Sora one-on-one. Usually they just appear. So Luxord's comment about the wall being created by a higher power was pretty awesome. And then Sora just breaks it down with the Keyblade, because that's what the Keyblade does--it opens doors. (That would never happen in the game, by the way.)
Speaking of Luxord. In the game, most of his stuff happens in Port Royal, so Sora and friends are already acquainted with him by the time they get to the World that Never Was. But for whatever reason, they took all the Pirates of the Caribbean stuff out of the manga (which is fine, because it didn't really fit anyway, and Sora knows better than to want to be a pirate after all his dealing with Captain Hook anyway). So there Luxord is in the castle, with his hood still up, and I was thinking it seemed like he was going to be this super extra powerful guy, only I knew that he wasn't. So when he started yelling at Saix about being the star, oh man, that was great.
Now as for the stuff that happens in this volume! Oh my goodness! It's so different from the game, but so much in keeping with the spirit of the game and so...let's just say Demyx. Oh, Demyx! You don't really have time to get to know him in the game. In fact, Sora beats him way back during the showdown at Hollow Bastion (which doesn't seem like that long ago in the manga, but in the game after meeting Xemnas at Hollow Bastion, Sora has to go around and revisit all the Disney worlds again, some of which, as already stated, were not included in the manga). So all the stuff with Demyx really added some depth of character and made us so sad for him. It's okay, though! Because we've played re:coded, which explains that it's actually good for Demyx that he was defeated.
And! Riku! Oh my goodness, the reunion with Riku! There's no way they could have done it that way in the game, because it would only have complicated the battle with Xigbar. Oh, but it was so good. I only sort of had an inkling of what Xigbar was up to when he jumped down off the balcony, but I figured it out when he grabbed Kairi and gagged her, and it took me so much by surprise that I actually gasped while we were working. And then the way the fight unfolded, and the way Riku used the same strategy that he did for getting Roxas to feel Sora...oh man, so great.
Oh, and Ansem! Let's go back to when Kairi first ran into Riku. In the game, when she took his hood off, we were both appalled. Riku was our favorite character, and now look what's happened to him! The sad thing was, we actually thought Ansem was pretty handsome in Kingdom Hearts One, but for some reason he wasn't now, and that made us even more unhappy (we can be shallow like that). So I was pretty happy that there are a lot of really nice drawings of Ansem-Riku in this volume. And Kairi's frustration at the stupid boys not recognizing each other was great, too. Especially her reaction when Riku agreed to fight Sora. Ah, I love it.
Finally, there's the way this volume ended. That did not happen in the game. We're pretty sure everyone's going to be okay, because there's going to be a Kingdom Hearts III, and come on, it's a Disney manga. But we're a little eager to see how they fix everything. And I admit, despite him being a jerk and doing horrible things, I really love Saix as a character.
This review might turn out to be interesting in a different way, because we translated the book a week ago, and in the interim we took a vacation to travel to Fresno and visit family, so it sure is a good thing I wrote a quick list of the things I wanted to address. I wanted to say, "Of course I could never forget the last volume of Kingdom Hearts!", but I also have a backache and a sinus infection, so this might be a little tough.
Anyway, it was bittersweet working on this volume, because man I love working on Kingdom Hearts. I think it's the most effective series for making me feel like our work isn't laborious. It's just so much fun, and we love all the characters so much, it's a joy spending time with them. There was actually a bit of a lag between finding out that the Kingdom Hearts II manga was ending and there wouldn't be any other Kingdom Hearts manga, so I wonder if Disney took a few days to decide whether or not to let it go on. I think they decided wrong, but I'm not really in a position to do anything about it. Tetsuya Nomura (the main creative force behind the games) and Shiro Amano both seemed like they wanted it to go on, so it's really easy to blame Disney, since I blame them for everything these days anyway. But that's not really important. The important thing is that it's over, which is very very sad, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted and I hope that Shiro Amano comes up with another fun project in the future.
The other weird thing about this is that we got the book like eight months before they finally asked us to translate it. Once again, I want to blame Disney, but here I think the fans might have something to do with it. We went to a Kingdom Hearts fan event a while back, and one fellow fan told us how excited he was that the novelized version of the game was coming out on his birthday, so of course we asked him if he liked the manga, and he was all who cares about the manga and we were sad. Don't you people understand how good Amano-sensei is at adapting the Kingdom Hearts story!? Ugh.
Anyway, let's talk about Amano-sensei and his great adaptation skills. One thing that really stood out in this volume was Jiminy Cricket. His showdown with Luxord didn't happen in the game--in the game you just fight Luxord and there are cards moving around and hitting Sora and stuff. Sometimes you get trapped inside the cards, sometimes you get trapped inside a die, most of the time you just hit stuff. So this fight where Jiminy Cricket gets to come out and be the star was really cool. It was a little scary, though, because Jiminy Cricket is the main character that pointed out to us how distinct the character voice is for each Disney character. Soon before he passed away, the actor who played Mr. Cricket in most of the Kingdom Hearts games did an interview where he talked about how any time he'd get a script for Jiminy, he would go over it with a pencil first, and tweak all his lines to make sure they were a turn of phrase the cricket would use. So it was a little intimidating. We did what we normally do, and pulled up the script to Pinocchio, skimming it to remind ourselves of how Jiminy Cricket talks...and I realized he's a lot more casual than his dapper image tends to lead me to believe. That being the case, I felt like his lines ended up being a little casual, but in a way I hope is consistent with the character. He actually has a lot of fun lines in Pinocchio.
As for Luxord, one comment Athena made when we realized that he was dying (because they talked about how Xemnas was the only member of Organization XIII left) was, "If we'd known that winning the game would kill you, maybe we wouldn't have been so upset about you cheating!" Athena points out that it was probably Riku that killed him after he was freed from his card prison. In the game it makes more sense, because Sora's beating him up the whole time. But I still like how it was done in the manga. I also liked that Amano-sensei had that going on at the same time as Sora's battle with Saix. It was kind of neat reading the script during our edit and seeing how there were two different battles and two different conversations going on at the same time, but you could take them apart and look at each one all by itself and see that it stayed consistent and continuous throughout. My first thought is to say that's a sign of good storytelling ability, but I'm not sure if it really is or not.
Anyway, I think I've mentioned before that Saix has always intrigued me as a character. I don't know if I've mentioned my theory that he was the first test experiment when "Ansem" was seeing what would happen if you increase the darkness in someone's heart (which, if you've read the Ansem Reports in the first Kingdom Hearts game, you know caused the subject's heart to collapse and the subject himself to turn into a Heartless). He just seemed so very sad that he died before he could get a heart from Kingdom Hearts. But maybe I was just reading too much into it because I find his character so fascinating. We do know that he was the first member of Organization XIII that was not already affiliated with Ansem the Wise, other than being a subject in his kingdom. Xigbar was more associated with Xehanort, but Vexen and Zexion were scientists working with Ansem and Xehanort, and Lexaeus and Xaldin were castle guards. We also know from Birth by Sleep that Lea and Isa went to the castle at Radiant Garden with some sort of big goal in mind, but we don't know what it was. And then there's what happens in Dream Drop Distance...but I won't go into that, because that gets even more spoilery. Now I'm excited to play II.8! ...As if we'd ever have the time.
The other big thing that happened in this, y'know, aside from the end of the whole thing, was Riku's transformation! Mickey and Ansem the Wise were messing with the device, and Ansem was all, "Oh no, it's going to explode!" and we were like, "Yaaaaaaay!!!" Because we remembered from the game what happened when it explodes. And it was so nice to see Riku back to himself, and I really like how Amano-sensei draws him, and it's great because the game version is a little bit polygon-ish, so his bangs are all in his face and extra jagged, and I can tell the design is pretty nice, but it's a little hard to tell. I must say, though, that the little bit of exposed skin right over his belly button makes me want to poke him. There's a button right there and everything!
Amano-sensei also explained the blindfold a little differently than the game did. The game said something about how Riku couldn't fool his eyes, and I'm still not sure what exactly that was referring to. Maybe it was a story element that got changed in the course of actually developing 358/2 Days, and since the manga was written after that, the dialogue was changed so as not to refer to it. Either way, it just seems to make a little bit more sense in the manga.
We were a little tiny bit annoyed, though, after Sora and Riku beat Xemnas, because there were still so many pages left! And we were in a bit of a hurry. But then the pages started, and I was like, "Oh, how neat. They're checking in with all the people that Sora visited on his journeys! They didn't do that in the game!" And then I remembered that they did, so I was like, "Oh, of course! He's doing the ending credits!" Because most of the scenes were straight out of the ending credits, except that in the game, there was no dialogue. So all of the dialogue was added, and we stole most of the lines from the Beauty and the Beast scene from the movie instead. (We ended up googling the scripts for almost every movie represented in this sequence, for character voice purposes.) But that was fun, because, since the lines were so similar to the movie ones, I was imagining the scene where Mrs. Potts sings "Beauty and the Beast" and I totally forgot that in the game credits he was human again! Awwwwwwww! And he was so cute, too! It was a nice surprise that maybe shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was and it was nice. Also, the scene with Genie was pretty hilarious.
When we got to the extra bonus chapter at the end, I was like, "What!? There's MORE!?" I like Kingdom Hearts so much, but as I mentioned before, we were a little rushed. And then it was the scene that it was, and I was like, "How could I be upset about this!?" It's Tetsuya Nomura's favorite scene from the game, and it wasn't in the manga until now. They can't not include Tetsuya Nomura's favorite scene; that would be criminal. And it was sweet. Sora and Kairi are so cute.
What else? We wondered if Maleficent fans might be offended by her portrayal here, but there's not a whole lot we can do about that, mostly because we already turned in the script. If we wanted to do something about it...well, we don't is the main thing. It's a lot easier to translate what somebody else wrote than to rewrite it, for one thing, but for another thing...I don't know. I just didn't think it was a huge problem. I think she was being out of character, but it was sort of an extra thing, not a "this is the new canon" kind of thing.
Other than that, I guess I'm just sad that we don't get to see a Shiro Amano version of more Xemnas. Not that Xemnas is in the series much after Kingdom Hearts II...yet? He is in Dream Drop Distance (spoiler alert: most of Organization XIII is in 3D). I just loved it so much in the Days manga when Roxas was unconscious and Xemnas was standing outside his door with a very meaningful look on his face, so I kind of wanted more of that. And more Saix. Ah well.
Anyway, like I said above, this was a great manga version of a great video game, and it was a lot of fun to work on. We'll miss it, but we'll always be grateful that we were given the chance to work on it.
My two main thoughts are that man, I want to read this series again, and even worse, we still have yet to get a PS4 and play Kingdom Hearts II.8. This means we've only played through Dream Drop Distance once, and it has some super amazing plot twists and I don't even remember what they are! Just that I was all, "!!!!" But we're still annoyed that they didn't call the Pinocchio world "Pleasure Island." On the other hand, I can imagine kids googling that and coming up with some very non-Disney things, so I guess they have a good reason. Anyway, maybe someday we'll have enough money for a PS4 and enough time to play through an entire Kingdom Hearts game. Oh man, how cool would it be to just marathon them all? ...But maybe without getting 100%.
Today I'm thankful for being pretty much on schedule as far as our readjusted work schedule, a trip down Kingdom Hearts memory lane, at least Kingdom Hearts Union Cross not needing a big time investment (but sometimes you want to invest a lot of time in a favorite video game world!), having leftover Cheesy Bites pizza for dinner, and the hope of one day being able to play a major Kingdom Hearts game again.
ETA: I almost forgot! This week, we had a very exciting new release--Noragami 18! Oh my goodness, you guys, this volume. But tune in next week, for our review of Missions of Love 14!