I’ve typed and deleted this a few times over the past few months, I wasn’t sure if I should spend time on it and on occasion worried that it sounded too much like a Tumblr post (my gosh I hope that’s just my imagination), but you know what I’m feeling needy right now so here. Probably not well-organized and contains spoilers for lots of Kingdom Hearts games, you’ve been warned.
You probably already know that Kingdom Hearts fans love Roxas. The thing is, Roxas was created from Sora and, in the same game he was introduced, had to return to Sora, and so many fans want him to become his own separate entity once again. I disagree.
Quick explanation of some KH mechanics: a person is made up of a Heart, a Body, and a Soul. When the Heart is removed, it is consumed by the darkness within and becomes an instinct-driven creature known as a Heartless, while the Body and Soul are transported to a different location and reborn as a Nobody. Nobodies retain their original consciousness and memories, but possess no emotions and are consumed by a desire to find their Heart and become a complete being once again.
Roxas is Sora’s Nobody, but due to a myriad of reasons (and they might add more as the series goes on), Roxas doesn’t have any memories of being Sora. None of the Nobodies can feel anything, but they can remember what it was like and fake it. Roxas? He can’t even remember who he used to be. People keep showing up and claiming they knew who he used to be, and he is pushed into returning to Sora—becoming who he used to be once again, but even then it doesn’t quite feel right. Sora’s emotions are a little more subdued, and he keeps seeing things that make him sad without knowing why. Eventually, Roxas and Sora have a duel within their shared Heart/mind/metaphysical battlefield or whatever, where Roxas demands to know why everyone valued Sora so much more than him.
And he’s right. The prologue of Kingdom Hearts II is a week of Riku and DiZ pushing Roxas back towards Sora, doing whatever they can to reawaken Sora no matter the expense to Roxas. They care about Sora, but Roxas? We need him gone to get Sora back. That’s all there is to it. They care more about who he used to be, making him into that person again no matter what, than about who he is now or what effects that might have on who he is now. And Roxas? He can’t remember who he used to be. They keep saying that person was better, but how can he know for sure? And what’s so wrong about who he is now?
The thing is, lately I’ve started looking at this like it’s a metaphor for depression. Square probably didn’t intend that, and maybe I’m just reading too deep, but it occurred to me and I feel like I need to get it off my chest and see what others think or something. Roxas (and Nobodies in general) can’t feel emotions like a normal person, no matter how hard they try. Roxas can’t remember what he used to be like, much less how to make himself act or feel that way again. Everyone around him just wants him to go back to being who he used to be, and ultimately, he’s forced to become that person again in a flawed, unhealthy way that causes lingering damage that still needs to be properly healed, all because DiZ had plans that he needed Sora for.
Through all that, Roxas finds out that there’s at least one emotion he can feel: anger. Anger at everyone who cares more about who he used to be than who he is. Anger at Sora, for somehow being inherently more important than him. What is it that makes who he used to be so much better than who he is now? Why was he forced into being that person again? “Why did he pick you?”
So the way KHII ends Roxas’s arc is really important to me. After confronting Sora, the two of them are able to understand each other and truly become one. They’re whole again—they’ve healed in a better way—and Roxas finally knows peace
. The emptiness and anger and pain and inferiority are all gone. He’s seen for himself that who he was (and is again) is someone he might actually like to be, and more than that, who he was (and is again) has met him, tried to understand him, and validated him. Sora didn’t think any less of Roxas for being his Nobody, and expresses regret and not being able to meet him properly. When Roxas and Namine (Kairi’s Nobody) say that they still want to be together even now that they’ve returned to their original selves, their original selves take their desires seriously and set out to fulfill them. That’s more consideration than Roxas can remember ever being given, and now he has emotions again and can actually enjoy it.
This post is probably terribly written, TL;DR
I just really empathize with Roxas in KHII and love that he gets to be at peace in the end and feel like taking that away from him would undercut his arc and be really unfair to him.