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Editorial ► Boss Fight Books: Kingdom Hearts II by Alexa Ray Corriea Review



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Dandelion

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I was very unsure of what I'd find when I heard about this book being published. Boss Fight Books is a publisher whose goal is to publish great books about classic video games from a critical, analytical and personal standpoint.
 Book Cover
 
As a student of literature and media studies, I'm always very interested in seeing people unpack their favorite media. Video games, perhaps one of the newest forms of media, has only relatively recently begun building worlds that hold literary and narrative layers. Even in a game that's mostly gameplay or combat oriented, though, one could argue a plethora of topics or observations about the subject matter. In short, games are an under-tapped source of analysis and I was incredible interested in what this book would have to say about the game Kingdom Hearts II (hence referred to as KH2), especially since everyone's opinion and views on the series seem to stem from personal experiences. 
 
Its author, Alexa Ray Corriea, is a professional gaming journalist whose work has been featured on G4, Polygon, and GameSpot among others. Kingdom Hearts II (her book, not the game) is essentially a primer of essays dealing with the games inner-most themes and her own personal relationship with the series and its core lessons. 
 
Initially, I was pleasantly surprised by how quick she was to concede the series flaws while still holding it to a high regard by dissecting the problematic layers of KH2 with criticism and what that means for the narrative and its themes. Alexa points out that Roxas's prologue is jarring and too-long, but also admits that the mundane tasks of regular life as Roxas does help set up the ache we feel when he loses all chance of a normal life. Kingdom Hearts definitely has a problem with under-representing female characters, but interestingly enough isn't afraid to center its plot on the complexly close and emotional relationship of its male leads. 
 
For the sake of honesty, I must admit that there are a few scuffs with the book. A few hiccups with the lore and over-generalizations of plot points and characters that will leave the most pedantic of KH2 fans a little frustrated - but ultimately these don't negate or distract from the book's message. Any Kingdom Hearts fan will tell you that two well-versed loremasters can have two different viewpoint of a single aspect of the series, and have canonical and word-of-god references to back the points up but the points could still be completely conflicting.  There's also a chapter on King Mickey that makes some very big assumptions on his role in the universe that don't really have any canonical evidence, but there are interesting points in it about Arthurian parallels so it's still a valid read. 
 
But ultimately, it's Alexa's own personal story and attachment to the game's questions of: "What does it mean to be a person? What are we here for? Do our motives make us selfish? And if so, can anyone really be good?" that make up the hardest-hitting points of her critiques and analyses over the series. If this is the start to a new age of discussion over the series, I welcome it with an open heart.
 
Must Read or Pass?:
Overall this book is definitely worth a read, particularly if you've got emotional attachments to the series or if you're a fan of reading media analysis. The book is very charming in person, with a minimalist design that'll look great anywhere and if you're a fan of ebooks, the digital version is very affordable. 
 
 
You can follow Alexa on twitter here:https://twitter.com/AlexaRayC
And check out the publisher, Boss Fight Books, at their site here: https://bossfightbooks.com/
 
Full Disclosure: KHInsider is mentioned in the acknowledgements section, and our staff is called "lovely", however this reviewer was unaware of that and was pleasantly surprised to find said note in the book. This reviewer bought his copy of the book. Boss Fight Books did not sponsor or ask, and this reviewer has never spoken with the author in any capacity. (But would love for her to appear on our new interview podcast, just saying.)
 

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Here's an image of the book's cover if any one was curious.

Great review Tinny. I'm looking forward to my copy coming in the mail so we can discuss it even further :3
 

DarkosOverlord

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Definitely interesting, I would go through the effort of getting it shipped all the way here but... eh. KH II.
Maybe for another title I will.
 

Dandelion

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My question is, how was she able to publish this without Disney's authorisation?
You're legally allowed to publish nonfiction criticism and analysis of copywritten works so long as what you publish is scholastic in nature. It's a fair use caveat and without it we'd never be able to review anything or study anything.
 

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Why the "eh"? Do you not like KH2?
Oh, despite being a grumpy cat I still like all the games. Minus one.
It's just that I don't like KH II enough to buy this. Also because I saw enough discussions and introspections about it, I'd like to see works focused on other titles.
 

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man, i'm reading this now and i'm sorry but it is /rough/. like, so many mistakes and errors are made, so many just like... bad points/arguments? i just finished the chapter on the game's female representation issues which was frustrating because at its heart i agree (the series has bad female rep, is overwhelmingly about men, and the few women get little to do) but the way she presented it and her arguments and tone and readings were just so.... off and reductive that it just left a bad taste in my mouth about a topic i actually agree on. i'm just kinda disappointed in the book, and it's also a shame because this is likely to be like THE only book of criticism on the KH series and I just feel like it could have been handled so much better? idk.
 

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I'd really love to buy this. Can someone tell me how long the book is?
 

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[FONT=&quot] like, so many mistakes and errors are made, so many just like... bad points/arguments? i just finished the chapter on the game's female representation issues which was frustrating because at its heart i agree (the series has bad female rep, is overwhelmingly about men, and the few women get little to do) but the way she presented it and her arguments and tone and readings were just so.... off and reductive that it just left a bad taste in my mouth about a topic i actually agree on.

[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]There would be two reasons for this.

One is that the author completely, willfully maligns Kairi while elevating Namine even though much of the reasons given behind both the malignment and elevation are all in her own head and not actually present in the games' writing at all - the author is being the stereotypical, bishie-loving, female character-hating (except for the female character they personally identify with; in this case Namine) fangirl who presents her own fanon and headcanon crap as canon fact when it's not.

Two, and this is more important, is that she dares to present this as a feminist critique...all while being misogynistic toward Kairi. Kairi most certainly has problems in how she's written. This would make her the VICTIM of sexist male writers, but instead of rightfully criticizing those writers and hoping that Kairi gets better treatment in the future, which would be the actual feminist thing to do, the author criticizes Kairi herself and hopes she dies (and then Sora can get with Riku and fulfill her personal fantasies). She blames the victim, and even worse, she does so while pitting her against another female character (Namine). This is not feminist behavior in the slightest, it's misogynistic and is a cancer on the fandom.[/FONT]
 
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