Roxas (from Kingdom Hearts)

This is a character study to the importance of the Roxas character, a character that is tarnished and plagued by fangirls who obsess over the quasi-yaoi implications he brings to the Kingdom Hearts series.  The Roxas character is in fact one of the most tragic in the entire series, and quite possibly if our primary exposure to him wasn’t in a Stage One, Little Rascals styled introduction similar to the first game with quirks and references and in-jokes to distract us from the primary plot elements, Roxas might be too dark for a Disney game, who knows, the project might not even have been greenlit.  Not to say that Disney and Square have ever heard a “Ka-Ching” they didn’t slobber over.

Roxas symbolizes several things important to recognize.  First, and primarily, as a function of the game medium of storytelling, he is our primary example of a Nobody.  While other Nobodies play more predominantly (such as Axel or Xemnas), or are more familiar characters (take the supposed Riku-Nobody theory, but that’s another essay entirely), Roxas gives us the only clear cut example of a Nobody and his Other (being Sora).  We have a before and after picture, how each character is so similar and yet jarringly different.  Thus far this is the only example of a Nobody’s difference from their original personality (we have recently gained some insight into Xemnas through Terra, but the influence of Xehanort shouldn’t be underestimated, it’s an unknown variable, along with varying degrees of change through the original six apprentices).  So in this regard Roxas serves an indispensable function with the now-primary focus of the Kingdom Hearts metaphysical world, that of the relationship between the Heart and Body and Soul and Memory.

But Roxas has a second function, and this is within his own character arc and influence on the Kingdom Hearts world.  While the previous function was mostly related to game mechanics and essentially fourth-wall breaking, the personal, inner-story Roxas is a facet oft-overlooked in favor of his boyish good looks and quasi-gay feelings.

One Nobody against the world, rebel without a cause...

Roxas is the whipping boy for all negative connotations of the existence of Nobodies.  While Larxene, Demyx, Xemnas, and Saix all served various functions regarding the cruel, unfeeling aspects of the Nobodies and how the realms of Light and Dark react to them, Roxas is the only personal example we have of prejudice towards Nobodies.  The other Nobodies are despised, this is true, but -mostly- this is by DiZ, and the attitudes he teaches Riku.  Although, even here, Riku is primarily motivated by his desire to save Sora, and even while operating as if Roxas isn’t “real”, still shows compassion for him, you get more of the feeling that he’s looking for justification for all these heartless things he’s doing to Roxas.  DiZ is different, he is motivated by his desire for revenge and this clouds his words, really.  We are tempted to dismiss his actions as tainted, understandably so, by being betrayed by his six apprentices.  But because he is so scarred, and eventually does accept Roxas as a creature before his death, we pass his early comments off as ramblings of a bitter old man.  This is a mistake.  It devalues the Roxas character by making our prime authority on Nobodies seem biased.

DiZ is seen making many comments in regard to Nobodies, and Roxas in particular, commonly referring to him as “it” and things such as “a Nobody doesn’t have a right to know. A Nobody doesn’t even have the right to BE”.  This is a common attitude, but it’s brushed away as we get caught up in the action of the opening story arc.  Namine expresses similar sentiments in regard to Roxas.  She would rather coax and compliment Roxas into joining with Sora, but the fact remains, she still desires his death.  This is written off later in that Nobodies want to join their Others if at all feasible.  But this is not what we see in Roxas.  Roxas’ entire story arc is driven by his desire to remain an individual in the face of so many others, nay, everyone else he encounters demanding he conform, either by servitude to the Organization or by joining with Sora and losing his personality, his experiences, his memories, forever.  There shouldn’t be any whitewashing of the point in a game that was suspiciously dark the first time around, Roxas’ destiny is to die.

Let’s just go with what we know about Roxas from Kingdom Hearts 2 and before.  We have learned even more about Roxas’ complicated past with Xion, and I’ll make a few mentions to fill in gaps, but, this is about Kingdom Hearts 2, and how it failed us, not Days, which was a competently executed and narrated game.  "Where's Sora?"We are introduced, chronologically, that Roxas has fled the Organization after becoming a Nobody.  We can infer several things from the very brief one liners we are given in regard to his stay there.  For one, he is always seen as Sora.  The very first time we are introduced to Roxas (though we do not know it at the time) is Another Side, Another Story.  We are given only one quote, “Where’s Sora”.  In Deep Dive, when we see a little bit more about him, he is seen with a glowing eye (a now mostly-non-canon feature) and told “He looks just like you”. Again, Sora is the determinant factor of Roxas’ existence.  He is even shown in conflict with Riku, as if carrying over the grudge.  These were probably marketing reasons as well as storytelling ones, motivations as if to say “Don’t worry! Sora’s not being replaced by this badass!” But even in this, subtle messages they carried over into the story, and this was probably part of the problem.  Many fans, yes, myself included, would have been unbelievably pissed if Sora had been upstaged by anyone.  It’s Kingdom Hearts, it’s HIS game, it’s HIS universe.  And as far as naive, spirit-of-youth heroes go, Sora’s a fairly sympathetic and competently executed one, there isn’t a good reason to upstage him.  I believe it was the effort to make Roxas a compelling character balanced with the need to not let him upstage our hero that leads to his devalued existence.  And, for whatever reason, not finding this balance, the writers and designers erred on the side of long, drawn out, unnecessary shadow of Sora, which is a shame, but I certainly sympathize with why it happened.  Instead we must look to our own devices and the faint remnants of a compelling story that survived into the final narrative.  The second thing we learn about Roxas’ stay in the Organization, is that he left to discover about himself, his connection to the Keyblade, and all that metaphysical stuff even the audience was left in the dark on.  So, most of his existence, we gather, has been one of a tool, not appreciated by his colleagues, and it seems the feeling was mutual, with the exception of Axel, who says he will miss him.
So we are introduced to Roxas in Twilight Town, a world name that practically screams “Symbolism!” at us.  Now we, as the audience, know what is happening to Sora after Roxas’ first dream sequence, even if we don’t know how he is involved.  We know that from Chain of Memories, Sora’s memories are in shambles and Namine is restoring him to full power.  The fact that a full year has passed since the events of that game, and we open with a computerized voice telling us that we have a restoration of 12%, we clearly see things aren’t going well. At this rate Sora will be in stasis another 7 years.  So, from the get go, we know Roxas is involved with Sora’s restoration.  We also find out he’s here in this town with three friends and is being targeted by the Dusks.  The Dusks only tell him one, very ambiguous, thing: “We have come for you, My Liege.”

A brief sidetrack.  This is a very interesting insight into the structure of Nobodies as a society and species.  That the Organization Nobodies rule over the lesser ones is clear, but this quote brings about a unique nature to the relationship.  I mentioned this was ambiguous, and that can influence how we see this world of Nobodies that Nomura has presented to us.  By “we have come for you”, are the Dusks saying we have come to take you home, or we have come to eliminate you, my liege?  It’s a fascinating question, one that the game doesn’t entirely bother to answer.  Like the Raiders in the New Battlestar Galactica, who refused to fire on the Final Five Cylons, would the Dusks attack Roxas on orders from another member of the Organization? Whose orders ARE they following? Or did they come of their own volition? We know the answer to the first question at least, Axel leaves the Organization and the Dusks have no problem attacking him, although! It’s an important distinction that Axel is rescuing Sora, and therefore is hitting them first, the Dusks are only defending themselves.  The fact that the Dusks can speak and refer to Roxas as their sort of lord also implies that even the common Nobodies are somewhat intelligent, seemingly more so than the Shadows from the last game, even if their reasoning skills are compromised.

We then see DiZ, telling us how the Dusks cannot differentiate between any image of Roxas in his overbudget version of Second Life.  Riku, currently in the guise of Ansem, sounds genuinely intrigued by the phenomenon, but DiZ’s voice is full of contempt, as if even he cannot tell the difference between artificially created computer code and a Nobody. But one thing’s for certain, Roxas has been found by the Organization, and DiZ and Riku will not allow him to be taken back before Sora is restored.

The second day is most intriguing. Roxas is denied a day at the beach.  It’s rather unimportant but the aftermath is, as Riku seems to empathize with the boy.  DiZ callously disregards the theft of Roxas’ money and defends his actions with the reasonable course that adding areas to Second Life gives Axel more places to log in, and become much harder to track. He then orders Riku to destroy the purse.  While not really important at the moment, we’ll discuss this in more detail later.

Roxas lives his life as normally as he can, competing in the Struggle.  This is probably the most revealing day in terms of seeing Roxas’ emotions.  He battles Axel, and his mind starts to degrade, as it floods with the effects of Sora’s restoration.  But thankfully, it’s Kairi with a quick save, as Sora’s personality starts to exert itself through Roxas.

Just because I stamped out Sora's childhood because I was jealous of Kairi doesn't make my motivation suspicious at all!

And that brings us to the next day, when Naimine begins to help Roxas, who tries to convince him of the nobility of his death.  And yes, it IS death. When someone ceases to exist, they die.  This is why things feel so mushy between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, because Riku and Mickey did ultimately condemn themselves to die, but were hastily deus ex machina’d out of that position.  In fact the next time we see Riku, he’s asleep in some other realm.  No mention is made of epic battle that laid before him on the other side of the Door to Darkness. Namine plants the seeds of hope in Roxas.  This scene is actually…kind of disturbing.  It’s like the hot teenage girl recruited by suicide cults to draw in more members.  And really that’s literally what she’s doing here, she’s trying to get Roxas to commit suicide, saying that once he does his existence will be complete.  “No, it’s okay, life will be better once you die.  You’ll be happy, and all this hopelessness and emptiness will vanish”.  And Roxas, though he doesn’t understand why, IS tormented, he’s a deeply troubled boy and probably very open to manipulation as we see from the other scenes here.  When you seek answers, you are willing to find them anywhere.  Now, I’m not belittling Roxas’ choice, and not just because the story was stacked for us to see it that way.  In fact it is a perfectly honorable thing to do, but remember, we are seeing this from the perspective of people who know Sora and have the fourth wall breaking information from Chain of Memories and the after effects of Roxas’ choice (and now, the information from Days and Birth by Sleep).  It’s important to recognize what the story was at the time and what Roxas himself would be weighing as his options, he didn’t even KNOW Sora existed until a few days ago, Sora is a what to him, not a who.
Then Roxas regains his memories on the final day, and loses it.  He understands finally what has happened to him, how he was abducted and given exactly what he wanted.  The irony is too much, he wanted to live a full life, and DiZ gave it to him before the end of his life, and he unleashes his anger at everything in his path.  At this point he starts to dual wield the Oblivion and Oathkeeper, so I think a detour must be made down retcon lane.

Axel, Roxas, Xion. I'm sure nothing tragic will ever come between you three!

Well, Xion is less of a retcon and more of filling in gaps that were purposefully left ambiguous and canon-free.  To take the Kingdom Hearts series in its entirety, the reason Roxas dual wields is because he has two hearts, or rather the essence of two hearts.  Ventus’ heart, along with Sora’s essence, resides in Roxas, and it was this heart used to create Xion, Number 14,  in case Roxas failed, similar to how the Riku Replica was created.  But Ventus himself was an artificial existence, and this is a problem when Xion is created.  Her appearance changes depending whose heart has the strongest connection with the observer.  Certainly Xigbar, and presumably anyone else who meets Ventus in Birth by Sleep, saw his face on Xion.  Roxas sees Kairi, as does Axel eventually, and the three become close friends, sharing ice cream and watching sunsets together (after Xion’s existence was erased from the characters memories, these cutscenes “no longer featured her” in Kingdom Hearts 2, if that sounds familiar).  Xion, wanting answers about her purpose in life, leaves the Organization, inspiring Roxas to do the same, for the same reasons. Xion eventually discovers the truth about her existence, that stretching Sora’s heart in so many directions is ripping “existence” from all three of the Sora entities.

Oh, is THAT what the kids are calling it these days?

Because Sora has his heart, and Xion has Ventus’, the inevitable conclusion the characters come to is that Roxas will be the first to die.  Rather than see this happen, Xion seeks out her own destruction, but she can’t reach Sora, and Axel refuses to kill his friend, so she goes to Roxas. She creates a story about how she was designed to absorb Roxas and take over the world, in an effort to coerce him into destroying her, and the ploy works.  Roxas kills Xion, and takes her Keyblade, and for the first time, we see a Nobody weep with sorrow.  This central relationship is focal to the Roxas character, even if the narrative is structured in such a way as to make these characters fusing with each other, and with Sora, a happy ending.

While on the subject of Roxas’ relationships, we need to talk about Axel.  Yes, Axel. Axel/Roxas slashing dominates any fanfiction site in the Kingdom Hearts section.  But quite frankly, why?  We know in Kingdom Hearts 2 that Axel is attempting to get Sora turned into a Heartless again with the idea that Roxas would be reborn.  It’s a nice grey area; Axel is motivated by his desire to save the life of his friend to perform evil acts.  Retcons indicate that Axel and Saix had a plan to take over the Organization after they were turned into Nobodies, but Axel has abandoned that friendship before the end of Days, a friendship, it should be added, that was so strong it inspired Ventus to examine his own relationships to determine if they really meant anything.

"But you're too late!"- Yep, you really are selfless

But this is fluff since it was added after the fact, but really it enforces something about Axel.  Axel states in the digital Twilight Town that he refuses to be turned into a Dusk on Roxas’ account.  He’s mentally preparing himself to destroy Roxas if that’s what it takes, as his orders dictate, even though he pushes this deadline to its furthest limit.  But when he finally does abandon the plan (with Axel we’re never really sure if he throws the fights or outright gives up) the next time we see him he’s on the run, trying to bring Roxas back.  The Organization steps in when they realize they have the ability to control Sora better than Roxas (that being Kairi) and they can’t allow Axel to screw up their plans.  So why would Axel run such a risk?  Part of it is probably out of guilt, but mostly, he says he wanted to see Roxas.  Roxas made his existence as a Nobody worth living, something he also attributes to Sora, and Axel wants to feel that way again, for himself, and he doesn’t care how many people he has to hurt to get there.  After all, in the Final Mix of Kingdom Hearts 2, there’s a cut scene, just before Roxas fades away, where he talks with the remnants of Axel in The World that Never Was.  Axel remarks that “Come clean, you have a heart after all, don’t you?”  So we must avoid the temptation to super-impose attributes we see in Roxas, who is in possession of Ventus’ heart and, as per the canon, capable of experiencing true emotion, and Axel, who as far as can be told is a Nobody like any other, more like Demyx than Roxas.

The Nobodies loyal to Xemnas want their hearts, because they want to feel again, and feel complete.  The Nobodies who didn’t believe that were wiped out at Castle Oblivion.  They desire this, and they don’t care who gets hurt along the way.  Axel is acting like any other Nobody, except he has found a much more direct way to get what he wants, and it causes far less suffering, to boot.  If you just have to step on a few teenagers to feel good about yourself, who wouldn’t do that instead of launching armies of Heartless at entire worlds, in the vaugue hope that YOUR heart will be among them?  While this line of reasoning seems illogical, consider Xemnas’ statement before the second battle in Kingdom Hearts 2; “So, it seems your Hearts have led you to obliteration.  Perhaps it doesn’t always pay to follow one’s Heart.  I will have to be sure and remember that.”  Xemnas has cited the weakness in his Holy Grail, but despite its flaws still intends to claim it as his own.  Observing Saix’s dying words (“Kingdom Hearts…where is my Heart?”) it’s probably safe to assume that the Nobodies in Xemnas’ camp all feel the same way, Axel included.  This whole long diversion from the study of Roxas is merely to illustrate a belief I hold: That Axel is a selfish jerk who wants Roxas for himself.  He’s like that boyfriend you have that thinks he loves you, but only actually loves what you can do for him (or girlfriend, I’m an equal opportunity pessimist).  Not to say I dislike the character, on the contrary, his Chain of Memories incarnation was a breath of fresh air, and in Days he’s brilliantly written as the responsible, reluctant  big brother.  But his Kingdom Hearts 2 incarnation was lazy, so I feel my attacks are justified in this regard, and it’s this incarnation those insufferable slashers like most, so more reason to rail on him, says I.

Riku: Secret Ally?

But this brings us to another relationship: the one with Riku.  As mentioned before, when DiZ orders Riku to delete the items that are removed from the digital Twilight Town, we later learn the truth, that Riku actually did save all these items he swiped from DiZ’s Second Life instead of deleting them like DiZ asked. And from what can be gathered, even though Riku wants Sora back more than he wishes to preserve Roxas, he is determined to make sure Sora knows about the struggle Roxas faced in his brief existence as an individual.  It’s a rather touching sentiment, and personally I think more yaoi-riffic than Axel, who is trying to help Roxas purely out of selfish reasons that he doesn’t want to deal with the pain of being alone.  In Riku we see someone who truly empathizes with someone he has sworn to destroy (by uniting him with Sora) no matter the cost.  We are even lead to believe in Final Mix and Days that Riku has been avoiding tracking down Roxas the past year, partly because of how well guarded The World that Never Was is, but I think it’s more that Riku did not want to destroy Roxas because of the shared experience they have, just look at his timing. He doesn’t attack Roxas as soon as he’s alone, nor does he attack him when he leaves the protection of the Organization, but when Roxas returns to -rejoin- them, Riku makes his move.  Here you have two boys who find themselves hated and out of step with the rest of the world by their natures.  Riku lives with his existence by reasoning that he chose to be dark.  He played with fire and got burned, his mixed existence as Light and Darkness is punishment for his hubris. In Reverse/Rebirth we saw Riku fight against all odds to conquer the Darkness in his heart, to refuse to give into it, before finding the path that works for him. And now he sees Roxas, someone in a similar position, except unlike Riku, his existence as a Nobody was not his choice.  He even has a limited existence because his Other, Sora, was restored and deprived him of even the memories of life as a being of Light. Axel, Xemnas, Xaldin, all of them possess memories of their life before turning, and they desire to get it back.  Roxas is thrust into the world totally naked and helpless, without even the benefit of knowing how he came to be.  And, like Riku, he fights to remain independent, to not do the RIGHT thing for a Nobody to do simply because he IS, just as Riku would not do the Dark thing simply because he is.  And in these final six days, we see Riku forced to sit and watch as Namine restores him to Sora, killing him bit by bit.  He is watching what could have been his fate but for the flip of a coin, had he lost and not triumphed.  And even though Riku will follow DiZ’s orders, he carries out these little acts of insubordination to preserve Roxas’ memory, even if he’s the only one who will care. It’s a touching sentiment, and personally, like I said, makes a lot more yaoi-tastic sense to me than Axel/Roxas.

Roxas has already left the Organization to find answers about his existence, but he is no longer satisfied with that.  He returns to the World That Never Was, determined to have Xemnas recreate Xion with either another replica, or by completing Kingdom Hearts and returning her that way.  This is where Deep Dive takes place.  Prior to this Riku was able turn a blind eye and argue with DiZ that it would all work out for the best. After Roxas kills Xion, that’s no longer an option, he intends to help Xemnas now, to speed up the creation of Kingdom Hearts(which, if we do some quick math, is like, two weeks away as it is), and to top it all off, he possesses more of Sora than Sora does. There’s no sugar coating this fact, what Roxas is planning IS evil, at least if you want to accept that Xemnas was evil. It’s an unusual role reversal compared to what we see in most of Kingdom Hearts.  Roxas is searching for his closest friend, someone he shared an unbreakable bond with, a position that, in this instance, can be attributed to a villain character.   Riku, though not necessarily by desire, is here to sentence Roxas to death.  To take him away from his friends and rip him apart memory by memory, an action akin to Marluxia in Chain of Memories, and yet here he is the hero.  I think this was a missed opportunity for a real, meaningful plot like the first game.  I assume Nomura avoided it because it would have looked too much like the first game, would have been the same story, and drawn attention from Sora (god knows they barely gave Sora lip service in his own freaking game).  Instead, we got next to NO story, Kingdom Hearts 2 is a rather bland tale.  It brushes up against compelling, maybe exchanges coy eye contact, but ultimately slumps down into a very mediocre story, more about fanservice and cramming all the story into the rear when the writers realized they only had two hours of a 30 hour game left to start resolving the plot.  But Roxas’ turn shows, in a far more gritty and dark way than Riku’s did, how a good person becomes a bad person.  And what’s more, it’s so much more believable and sympathetic.  In the first game, Riku was our tragic character, but our perception of his storyline was skewed the instant we saw him with Maleficent after that second trip to Traverse Town.  We all knew the general curve of the story from there: Riku was going to be fed lies by the supervillain, like some Disney Iago (that is, Shakespeare’s Iago, not Godfrey’s, who does appear in this game).  He would turn against our good hero but at the last moment realize the power of friendship, it’s only been done a billion times.  Similarly, Riku’s pull out of the darkness was similarly predictable in that we knew he’d fight his way up, we even got a “no one’s ever wielded the Darkness like him!” courtesy of Zexion, and then he’d have a climactic battle with the evil that threatens to possess him.  I don’t say this to disparage Riku, he is still my favorite character, always will be, but he follows a tried and true hero path that we almost objectify, distance ourselves from, because it’s cliche.  It’s entertaining to see, but it isn’t as personal.

Roxas follows a unique path.  It starts out cliche, bright eyed newbie fighting for the shadowy organization, told not to go into the west wing or ask questions about why the Federation starship is shooting at them if they’re just delivering medical supplies, we’ve all seen it.  But then, when he does go rogue, he encounters a tragedy, specifically, he kills his best friend.  And not even the “on accident” kind of killing because he didn’t use the mine-sweeper properly, but because she knew it was him or her, and she picked so he wouldn’t have to.  Roxas then turns back to the evil overlords he ran away from (if this were a movie, Xemnas would be played by Malcolm Mcdowell) because as much as he hates him, he knows that Xemnas has the key to bring Xion back to life.  He’s captured, even before he reaches them, and sacrifices himself so that Sora might live.

It's really a good thing the keyblade has a rounded edge, I think Roxas is a cutter.

This is what I mean by the most tragic character in the franchise.  While other characters do die, and cease to exist in some form, Roxas is the only character where his objective, his pure, good destiny, is to sacrifice himself.  We are even encouraged by the way the narrative is structured to sympathize with this point of view and be GLAD when it happens! For me, perhaps the most powerful line in the entire second game is the conclusion of the Roxas arc, as he gazes on Sora for the first time, realizing that despite all the fighting, all the hardship, all his running, and all his heartache, the deception that he’s committed and has been committed on him, that he was willing to kill his best friend to secure his freedom, and realizes it has been for nothing, Roxas looks at the sleeping form of Sora, and presented with a chance for true freedom, all he must do is kill Sora, but he only says “It looks like my vacation is over”.

And, even though he has “merged” to make Sora complete, Roxas isn’t totally satisfied with that.  He surfaces several times throughout the second game (but the thing is SO BLOODY LONG we can’t appreciate this as they’re glazed over, they look more like shadows and remnants of Roxas, rather than a persistent, underlying personality).  Sora recognizes Roxas in the photo which is in the “time capsule” Riku secretly sends him.  Sora also includes Roxas’ name once when he’s naming off all the friends who have helped him fight.  And of course, the first instance on the train in the real Twilight Town, where Sora sheds a tear leaving Hayner, Pence, and Ollette.  This was perfectly timed, it was at the very end of the level, much like how we saw updates on Riku between worlds in the first game.  It reminded us what in the background, as it came ever closer.  However they didn’t continue this pattern so the Roxas moments fell behind, and ultimately deadened the drama between the two.  But let’s talk about that tear for a moment, because it’s another thing from this first section that has multiple interpretations.  Is Roxas crying because he’s saying goodbye to his friends?  I don’t think so, personally.  Roxas is a lot like Sora, probably because he has Ventus’s heart, which influenced Sora’s personality growing up.  In Birth by Sleep, Ventus is very similar to Sora, too. And both of THOSE characters don’t cry at departure, even when Sora is tossed into the World Between, and his, heart, I guess? sees Kairi for that last time at the end of the first game, she sheds a tear, but he’s very upbeat, confident that their hearts are still connected.  What this has to do with Roxas is that I think he shares that view of the world.  It’s possible he’s crying for his fake life, seeing that they were indeed replicas, and he could have had real meaningful friendships with them if he’d only been allowed, and now Sora, the guy who robbed him of his existence, is getting to have those bonds, share those memories, probably with Roxas’ subconscious help.  It’s something to think about.  And then he finally asserts himself in The Wold That Never Was. He finally battles Sora, in, yet another, dual-interpretation attack.  The softer Roxas fans, who like to imagine the Kingdom Hearts universe as butterflies and rainbows (okay yes, it’s a youth-oriented Disney game, but let’s not forget we’ve had entire worlds destroyed, friends betrayed, we even locked the Mouse into the Realm of Darkness without a way out, doomed to fight for eternity or die alone), these fans will say that Roxas is only testing Sora, seeing if Sora is ready to fight Xemnas and the other Nobodies.  What it looks like to more jaded eyes is Roxas’ assertion within Sora’s personality, trying to take over.  His motivations could be numerous, perhaps he DOES want to destroy the Organization himself.  Perhaps he doesn’t want to go quietly, and this is his last chance before his individuality is completely overwhelmed, now that he’s closer to the realm of Darkness and empowered.  And, we even have a retcon reason, perhaps he still wants to save Xion (though technically by now he’s supposed to have forgotten all about her).  Ultimately, no matter his reasons, Roxas backs down, with a smile on his face.

I’ve never been comfortable when people refer to Roxas as the “other side of Sora”.  He acts very much like Sora, except for the fact he’d probably rather be left alone.  He’s self sacrificing and noble, and will do anything for his friends.  But he’s not “the other side”, he’s just Sora if he wasn’t so naive and lucky. Roxas was dealt a bad hand when Sora was given the royal flush. In a way Roxas is more the other side of Riku.  He’s what Riku could have been, like I said, he’s been moving on this path, trying to find a compromise, a meaning to his existence, and ultimately fails.  Throughout the second game we can feel his depression, like he really is contemplating the suicide option.  And ultimately comes to the conclusion that he has to die, but he wanted to be told, and the freedom to choose, that it was going to be his fate.  I think ultimately, that might be the final answer why Roxas challenged Sora.  It’s an opportunity most noble sacrifices won’t get: the ability to ask “Were you worth it?”

Now, I have to speak, in the interest of fair time.  If the constant berating and sarcasm hasn’t given it away, I am decidedly opposed to the metaphysical concept surrounding Nobodies and their Others.  I do acknowledge that it IS canon that Nobodies, when presented the option, choose to merge with their Other selves.  But just because it’s put into a story doesn’t mean you have to like it, especially when it goes against the rest of the story they are trying to tell.  Xion, almost blindly, follows the path that will lead her back to Sora.  I’m not sure how I feel about this, considering the almost hashed up way she was concieved.  For Namine, I am 100% in favor of this idea because the idea of her being, since she was created by Kairi’s heart leaving Sora’s body, would probably be inherently unstable because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding it.  But at the same time, these extraordinary circumstances are our only blueprint when you look at Roxas in the second game.  For instance, your teacher may accept a late paper surrounding extraordinary circumstances, your mother dying, say.  But does that necessitate that everything that distracts you from completing your papers is a valid excuse?  We often void speeding tickets in our society for men driving their pregnant wives to the maternity ward (cancel out its existence, like the Nobody disappearing), but would it be right to void every single speeding ticket just because the most crucial example is justified?  Using Namine as the moral compass by which to judge all Nobodies’ actions is a mistake, in my mind.  Further still, Roxas is an extraordinary example, but in TOTALLY the other direction.  He already has a heart, he doesn’t NEED Sora’s, especially since he is established to be fiercely independent and have such strong ties to needing a life of his own.  Much like in Star Trek, how all the movies were about Kirk needing to command the Enterprise, Roxas’ scenes all involve his desire to remain his own person.  It feels lazy to then write in the final act that a character who ceased to exist (mostly) in the first act did it because every Nobody wants it that way.  Again I bring up how the message feels like a suicide cult.

I would be more comfortable with this even if we had one iota of dialogue that implied Sora was suffering from Roxas’ absence the way we see the other way around.  If Roxas really is so vital to Sora’s existence, why don’t we even have lip service to how Sora feels somehow incomplete, or different?  Hell, Sora totally forgets that he turned into a Heartless, so INSIGNIFICANT the experience was to his existence.  I am personally turned off by injustice, and the Sora/Roxas dynamic just feels inherently unjust, and I can’t honestly believe that Roxas is getting as much out of this as Sora.  We could get away with it when Roxas seemed like a Nobody, but he has emotions, he has feelings, and desires and joys and suffering.  We’ve even retconned that he has a heart, from Ventus.  He has a sense of self preservation, and a moral compass.  Ultimately though, I get hung up on the idea that Roxas MUST reunite with Sora.  If that were so vital, why did Sora spend a game and a half killing bad guys without a serious complication?  And Roxas did exist for Chain of Memories, Vexen references him.
I do recognize that it is established Roxas would want to unite with Sora because his existence is literally nothing.  But we have just as many Nobodies who don’t care about having hearts, and at least in the case of one, disgust at the thought of being reunited with her heart, hell, Larxene even comments that it would be more painful to have her heart.  Nobodies who are capable of recognizing emotions, especially recognizing good ones from bad ones, don’t sound like entities that have a “nothing” existence. And if that’s what he really wants, why do DiZ and Riku go to such great lengths to keep the truth from him?  No matter how I try to rationalize it, it just doesn’t sit well with me.  Even if you disagree, I hope through this you understand.

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