Thursday, March 21, 2013

Character Analysis: Riku (Spoilers)

Riku: What are you making me choose now?
DiZ: Between the road to light and the road to darkness.
Riku: Neither suits me. I'm taking the middle road.
DiZ: Do you mean the twilight road to nightfall?
Riku: No. It's the road to dawn.

Sora, while the hero of Kingdom Hearts, is kind of blank, especially when compared to the around 5 people living in his heart.  (Trust me, it makes slightly more sense in context)

Riku is much more complex.  Riku is the could have been hero who followed the failures of his predecessors and found success.

For starters, Riku was selected by Terra to be the next Keyblade wielder.  Terra ultimately let his anger take root in him and was taken over by Master Xehanort.  So far, his true heart has not been discovered. 

Riku, as he grew older, grew restless over his inability to experience the outside world.  He knew it existed, when he met Terra he knew Terra wasn't from Destiny Islands immediately. And that knowledge that there WAS something outside his idyllic island life gnawed at him.

So, he decided to make a raft and leave.  Or that's what he said.  The night before Sora and Kairi planned on leaving with him, he opened up the Heart of the World to connect it to the Darkness so he could use it to travel. After all, he wasn't scared of the Darkness.

At this point, he mostly disappears from the first game until around mid to late game.  What we DO see is Maleficent slowly seducing him to evil.  Maleficent manipulates situations so it looks like Sora is ignoring Riku.  She asks him to do little evil things for him in order for her to help him find Kairi.  She gives him power over the Heartless.  And this power he accepts.  He never really revels in it, but he takes it as a necessary evil in order to find his friend Kairi.  And it works, mostly.  He kidnaps Jasmine, he uses the Heartless to attack Sora on Captain Hook's ship, and he does find Kairi.

So, he claims the keyblade back.  It was supposed to be his, after all.  He summons it from Sora and leaves Sora out  in the open.

Sora, though, manages to summon the Keyblade back later.  Riku loses and then Ansem comes, offering him power.
(start at 7:55)

Riku accepts, and mostly disappears for the rest of the game.  Ansem has taken him over.  Riku is somewhat aware of what is going on during the takeover.  Ansem and Riku's voices overlap.  Sometimes, especially when talking about Kairi, Riku's voice is stronger and overwhelms Ansem.  When Ansem attempts to kill Kairi, Riku manages to physically hold him back for a short time.    The only time his heart/soul appears after that, is when Sora is attempting to shut some doors to seal the Darkness away, but Riku would be trapped on the wrong side.  Riku tells him to do it anyway, and to take care of Kairi.

Then Chain of Memories happened.   In Chain of Memories, Riku is a playable character with his own story line. In it, Riku must grapple with his use of Darkness. Vexen makes a copy of him, Lexaeus tells him he should accept the Darkness so he can't be destroyed from the inside out, He has to face a clone of himself who revels in the darkness, and then Zexion tries to trick him to drown in either light or darkness.  Of course, this is not counting Ansem constantly trying to use him as a vessel (and he's working independently of the Organization) and Ansem the Wise/DiZ imitating Ansem to try to get Riku to work for him.

Then Namine comes in to save him.  She tells him that Riku is both Light and Dark, and while neither side can claim him, his path is wide open to do what he wishes, and he can use both to save every World.  That's what he needed to hear.  He manages to defeat Ansem's conciousness, seals him away himself, and goes off to save everything with King Mickey.  (This is where his quote at the top of the page comes in.)

That's the plan anyway.  358/2 shows he had a lot of trouble with the plan.  Ansem's heart continuted to bother him, so he left Mickey to travel the worlds by himself.  He rejoined Ansem the Wise/DiZ.  He half kidnapped half saved Namine. He covers his eyes with a blindfold. He stalks Xion to figure her out,and ends up becoming close with her.  He helps her figure out what exactly she is, who she keeps on dreaming about, and what she is supposed to do.  After she returns to Sora through Roxas (Sora's nobody. LONG story),  Roxas challenges Riku.  Roxas and Riku fight to a stand still, but Riku wins... by tapping so deep into Darkness he embraces Ansem in his heart.  And by embracing Ansem, he turns into Ansem.

This is where Kingdom Hearts 2 picks up chronologically. Riku is sulking behind the scenes.  He watches over Roxas in the digital world.  When Sora wakes up, Riku keeps an eye on both him and Kairi.   He fights Sora in the "Land of Dragons"  for unknown reasons, he saves Kairi the first time Axel tries to kidnap her, but he generally stays out of the way until the last level.

In the last level, he finally managed to rescue Kairi and Namine, he helps Sora in a fight by holding off Heartless, he gives Kairi a keyblade, Kairi shows Sora that the Ansem:SoD who's been following them around is actually Riku after he tried to leave, and he protects the group after DiZ blows up a fake Kingdom Hearts (again, makes somewhat more sense in context) 

The blowing up did have a good side effect, it gave him his body back. He fully reclaimed his identity as Riku.  He helped Sora defeat Xemnas.  He used some dark abilities to protect them, Sora gave him a keyblade to use,  and while he is injured in the final battle, he doesn't fade.  Instead, he finally manages to return home with a clear concious.

His story does NOT end there (In all seriousness, this has taken quite  a chunk of time)  After an undetermined amount of time, Riku has (FINALLY!) Cut his hair, and YenSid (as the only master currently in existence) offers to give him and Sora a Test of Mastery.  There's a lot of dream craziness, but Riku finds himself being stalked by Ansem:SoD and Young Xehanort throughout the game. They begin by urging him to fall to the darkness.  To accept his fate as Ansem:SoD's pawn.  Riku, however, continually refuses.  Then he runs into either the image of himself or Repliku.  We're not given clear notice either way.  As time goes on, Young Xehanort eventually appears to tell him Riku is no longer needed, especially because Riku is firmly set in such a way so he can not fully succumb to darkness or light.    So Chernabog is to kill him.

After that, Riku FINALLY manages to track Sora down... and finds out he's  been captured by the new Organization to be the Thirteenth Vessel for Master Xehanort.  (Again, makes slightly more sense in context).  Riku, of course, says that is a horrible idea and manages to mostly hold the possession off.  Mostly, because after that point he can't wake him up.

As it turns out, Riku knew something was wrong from the beginning and became a dreameater for Sora's dream and protected him through that.  So, to wake Sora up, he'd have to go BACK into the dream and defeat a shadow version of Sora wrapped up in Ven's armor then answer questions from Roxas, Ven, and Xion (while not knowing who Ven or Xion are) then finally making it back and finding out he's the new keyblade master.

(Deep breath)  Okay, got all of that?    Yeah, it's a bit of a doozy.

So, let's analyze all of this.

First off, Riku may value freedom highly, but he always valued his friends more.  When he left, he did seem to want to talk his friends with him. When his friends are in danger, he will do anything to protect him.  Kairi lost without a heart? He'll drown in darkness to get her back.  Sora's currently drowning in darkness?  He'll risk his life to wake him up.  Random person who's in trouble in the world?  He'll protect them.  Mickey has a very high priority since the two are besties (and I can't show it here.)  As for Xion?  Well, he did all he could to save her, even when he knew he would forget her.  Even though Xion had to go back to Sora, he still tried to find a way for her to exist separately from Sora at the same time.  As of right now, it hasn't worked out but it still may in the future.

Second:  When it comes to him falling to Darkness, he fully admits he was wrong but he not only tries to fix it but to keep people from following him.  In other words, he may be a kind of anti Xehanort.  He understands that what he did was wrong, even if he may end up becoming the most powerful and wise keyblade master because of it, and he is willing to sit down and explain why it worked for him but it wouldn't really work for anyone else.

Third: He's blunt.  If something isn't going to work, he's going to say so and say why.

Fourth: He's very focused.  When Shiki attempts to flirt with him, he doesn't know how to react and he freezes up. He wants to save Kairi, he WILL save Kairi.  He wants to save Sora, he WILL save Sora and ignore all the other distractions, unless they are "The world will be destroyed"  type of distractions.  Those cross his path quite frequently.

Fifth: He's very compassionate.  He knows what it's like to be wrong, to face the darkness, so when people face any sort of problems, he wants to sit down and talk it out.  He wants to make sure they are okay before he moves on.   He doesn't worry about anyone's pride, but he can tell when people need help and he'll reach out.

Sixth: He's focused on redemption.  He knows he screwed up in KH1, and he's spends the rest of his time trying to fix it.  It may not always be right, and it takes a while for him to get there, but he's always eying the possibility that he can do something to save the worlds and everyone in it.  And if he gets redemption, then so can everyone.

Riku is one of my favorite characters, especially from Kingdom Hearts.  Riku is complex, sympathetic, and caring.  So, what will he do when the games start up again?  Especially as he is know the universe's only Keyblade Master.

I guess we'll find out in Kingdom Hearts 3.

1 comment:

  1. Your analysis towards the end pretty much stated everything that I love about Riku. He is one of the best written characters in the game and has one of my favorite redemption arcs EVER (although Prince Zuko gives him very stiff competition). Granted, I look at redemption arcs from a Christian perspective and other people may see them differently, but I've noticed that there's a very fine line between making a flawed character sympathetic vs. making the character out to be a victim who really shouldn't be held accountable for what he/she did. It bothers me when writers lean towards the latter especially when the character in question DID do something very wrong. But they've never done that with Riku, and I love that about his character. It's like you said; he acknowledges that he made some terrible mistakes and then he uses his flaws and his experiences to become a better person.

    He really struggles with his inner darkness too. He had a lot of trouble keeping Ansem at bay in Castle Oblivion even though he wanted nothing to do with that power anymore, and it took Mickey's power to save him twice. It took several games for him to return to his old confidence in Dream Drop Distance, and I love that about him too. His whole arc sends a great message to players: don't let the past get you down, you CAN rise above your weaknesses if you try hard and you have good friends that support you. You won't change overnight, but you can do it as long as you don't give up and you have someone to lean on.

    Oh, and you forgot to mention his awesome one-liners in 3D. Snarky Riku was very fun to watch.