Genre: Fantasy
Length: 4 Volumes
Allegiance: Enterbrain (JP), Tokyopop (U.S.)
Mangaka: Shiro Amano
Vintage: 2003 – 2005
Intelligence Agency Report by: Kitsune
When Kairi washed up on the shores of Destiny Island, Sora and Riku realized that she must have come from a different world. Years after her arrival, the three friends prepare to set sail and see new worlds together. On the night before their departure, darkness creeps into their island and transports each of them to separate worlds. Sora, Riku, and Kairi quickly learn of their separate roles in the battle against this darkness, for they all play a bigger part in fighting it than they initially realize. However, they do realize that they now need each other more than ever to endure all the action, enemies, and confusion. Will the three friends ever be reunited, despite the barriers between the worlds?

Research Agent Report by: Kitsune 
Plot
Characters
Impact
Visual
5.75
8.50
6.50
9.00
Overall 7.00
(not an average)
The Kingdom Hearts manga is Shiro Amano’s adaptation of the hit video game. It has generally been well-received by readers, but its popularity is much less than that of the game. I think the reason for this is quite simple: too much was excluded in the manga.

The plot of the manga directly follows that of the video game. While it is good that the manga is accurate in accordance to the original storyline, I feel that the plot was too lacking in detail and a bit dull for someone who had already played the game. Due to the transition from game to manga, the interactivity in the series was lost, so more detail needed to be added in order to keep the reader interested. Unfortunately, this was not supplied. The manga series is much shorter than the game, and many details and even entire worlds were excluded. Reading it felt like a summary of each world’s story. The plot’s saving grace is that its combination of anime-influence, Disney characters, and battles of light and darkness is surprisingly irresistible. Extra jokes also help breathe life into the story. All in all, the plot’s a little better than average.

Kingdom Hearts contains many whimsical and surprisingly deep characters. For instance, Beast from the charming Disney tale Beauty and the Beast was emotionally enhanced in the Kingdom Hearts manga. While he was quite shy about his love for Belle in the movie, it was more convincing that he would stop at nothing to save his love in the video game. Slightly enhancing many Disney characters in the manga allows it to appeal to more mature readers while still providing them with good portrayals of characters that they grew up with. Aside from the Disney characters, Sora, Kairi, and Riku are all very easy for the reader to relate to; they are average teenagers who want to go and explore the world(s) for their own. Of course, things don’t go quite as expected, but isn’t that the case with everyone? The Final Fantasy characters are portrayed as a little more goofy than usual, but they are still as loveable as ever. I did think that the way that some pairings were portrayed in many worlds, such as Aladdin and Jasmine in Agrabah, was a little corny. They were portrayed as a textbook example of characters that like each other, but get all flustered and deny it to save scarring audiences of little children. Romance between characters should either be there in a mature way, or be omitted. But in the end, I found the characters to be one of the manga’s strongest aspects.

There are many themes in Kingdom Hearts, but they are only subtly emphasized. The most obvious theme revolves around the battle of light and darkness, and the way that the manga portrays these dualities is quite moving. The importance of friendship is another commonly occurring theme. Other themes in the manga are buried a little deeper – there are many little messages within the pages, you just have to look for them. Ultimately, it’s a pretty touching manga.

The artwork in Kingdom Hearts is very good. Amano’s characters have some shounen characteristics, but there aren’t any of the typical and unrealistic large muscles or the like. He also portrays the Disney characters with impeccable accuracy. When he does use backgrounds, they are stunningly beautiful and it is obvious that they are hand-drawn and not just standard, pasted-on tones. My only criticism is that I think that he draws Kairi oddly – her facial expressions get mixed with the Disney style a lot, while the other original characters of the series do not. I’m not sure whether this was intentional or not, but I did not like the mixing of the styles. Even so, Shiro Amano’s work in Kingdom Hearts is very appealing.

Kingdom Hearts is a decent manga for one to pick up. While its plot is pretty starved of detail and its themes are a little hard to catch, it is filled with lovable characters and stunning artwork. Its pages contain a universe of people that are easy to get attached to. For the kind and adventurous, Kingdom Hearts is a good read.