The portrayal of darkness throughout the games



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Veevee

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Soo ... the Kingdom Hearts games are often about a struggle between light and darkness, the need to keep both in balance and insists that darkness is not inherently a bad thing. Xehanort especially insists on their balance, that darkness shouldn't be supressed but channeled while characters like Aqua or Eraqus believe that darkness should be fought and represents all evil. Riku found the balance between light and darkness and grew strong through on his journey through dealing with that.
Still I think the game doesn't really hold up its own premise of "darkness is not inherently bad" - nearly everything concerned with darkness is portrayed as being a bad thing. The Realm of Darkness is a dangerous place. Darkness is only tolerable when kept in check or controlled - no one ever had to keep the light in check, the light is always the salvation (like when the door to the RoL opens), the light drives away the darkness and the Seven Hearts are being praised for being pure light. Dark attacks (with the exception of Riku and Terra) are usually by the bad guys. Heck, in the case of Ventus and Vanitas Ventus is portrayed as the good "pure" kid while Vanitas is the bad one, even though he is technically also pure. Mickey wields a keyblade of darkness, but the actual difference between the three types is never really explained so we don't know if there's a bad side to that. If people fall to darkness, they lose themselves (e.g. Aqua) or are tarnished in some way.

Xemnas has a talk with Sora / Riku / Mickey at the end of the second game where Mickey points out that darkness is scary, but later wonders why he even thinks so. Riku then replies it's because of who is lurking in it, so Xemnas questions what other choice they even had, being "turned away by both light and dark". Sora replies with his standard answer in this game "you don't feel anyway, duh" and the topic is basically done.

So, what do I overlook? I'm really willing to believe that darkness is an ambivalent thing, but the games lead me to believe everything coming from the dark side is indeed bad or at least to be watched.
Actually, I would love if they'd bring up a being of pure darkness that is a good noodle, maybe clashing with some actually evil light guy. That would mix up the dynamics between both sides a little.
 

okhi12

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I agree. We are supposed to believe that darkness is not inherently bad, but all the evil in the series is darkness related. However, you seem to forget the most important proof that there is good within darkness, and I don't mean Riku...


Darkness is pure and innocent.
 

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It’s a lot like how a lot of fiction where the mice or dogs are the heroes while cats are the villains, but they’ll have a ‘token good cat’ because they don’t want to imply cats are inherently evil.
Which is incorrect, of course. My cat is evil and I am proud to obey her whim.
 

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I think it's because darkness can spiral out of control a lot easier and is often associated with evil intentions and immoral behavior. Light too, can spiral out of control and I can point to extreme political movements in real life to make my point but this isn't the place for it.

I agree with your point on the PoH. Nevertheless, one can argue that the foretellers aren't inherently evil.

Allow me to go on a philosophical rant. In real life we live in a universe that leans towards an increased state of entropy, or randomness, chaos, darkness (if you look at Yin Yang). That entropy governs everything from the galaxies above to things so meniscule you can't see with the naked eye. That chaos is what essentially gives rise to order, from solar systems to us humans. And within the human heart there is darkness. Essentially all that we know comes from darkness and returns to it. Just like good days would have no value if you didn't have bad days. Just like you could score your dream job only to walk out of the building only to get hit by a bus. I can go on but I think you get my point. There are many ways to look at how order and chaos manifest, be it in Kingdom Hearts or in the real world, it just depends on how it presents itself and in what context. But one thing is for certain, the world as we know it would account to nothing if it wasn't for darkness. Therefore, it is my firm belief that darkness itself isn't inherently evil, and doesn't get half the credit it deserves.
 
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Yeah, the series tries to go for a "they are two faces of the same coin" but then literally everything bad happens cause of Darkness.
It's kinda like Assassin's Creed that tries to tell you that Templars aren't necessarily "evil", and then all Templars are the worst scum on the face of the Earth, and when they're somewhat decent they'll turn to the Assassins' side.

Eraqus and I guess the Foretellers are supposed to be the "when Light goes bad" group, and even then what they do seems more of a moral and concious choice, clearly different from [insert name] Disney boss who gets enveloped in an aura of evil and malice and often loses even the capability of coherent speech.
Not to mention Light never "claims" its own users, meanwhile a lot of the time you can be done by Darkness overdose: in KH1 it's basically stated that using the Heartless is a pact with the devil because as soon as you lose or outgrown your usefulness the Heartless and the Darkness will in turn devour you too.

Light cannot destroy hearts or planets, there is no "Lightlings" race of monsters ready to assault innocents in the name of Light, at best Light powers will caress and protect you and at worst they'll have no negative side effects and it's more like YOU were the problem if anything.

Like, the entire notion of a balance is kinda hindered by the fact that the series' genesis is "Once there was all Light and only Light, everybody loved it and was happy in return, then when people became bad Darkness came and destroyed everything. Then all was saved because a bunch of good people used the Light again."

I also like others hope that now that the DARK Seeker saga is done maybe we can see the other side of things, especially since Eraqus' new game starts with seven white pieces who are supposed to be the Ux Masters (presumably the next antagonists?), so who knows.
 

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I think what baffles me the most is how blatantly obvious the games make it that they don't actually believe their own "darkness isn't totally bad"-talk the tiniest bit.
Even when you have good people do bad stuff, it's suddenly okay because they say "I did it for the light!"
Or even if it's not okay, it's still somehow blamed on darkness.
Eraqus tries to kill Ventus in order to keep peace? Well yeah, ok, but have you looked at that evil Terra-guy with his evil dark-powers with which he tries to defend his little brother from their master who has simply gone mad at that moment? Yeah, that dude needs to get punished and told that his master's death is his fault, instead of being acknowledged for having used his "dark evil" powers to save someone, not hurt them (yes, ofc he hurts Eraqus...but Eraqus literally says that he'll kill BOTH Terra and Ventus if Terra doesn't step aside, so??? I really do not see how anyone could logically blame Terra for anything here).
Sora kills Demyx quite remorselessly and for no actually crucial reason? Sure, but then again think of all the evil things that dark nobody-dude has done! Like...stealing a medallion. And fighting Sora twice (albeit with super annoying water clones that can go su- it.). He totally asked for it!
 

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I think the fact that people like Eraqus, Xehanort, and Riku - all beings from the realm of light - can do bad things and able to control the darkness is a sign that darkness itself isn't isn't "bad". It's just like how light isn't automatically "good". The keyblade from the realm of darkness, an item you would think is inherently "bad" did several good things - close the door to darkness, help fight heartless in the realm of light, and more. While there are tales of keyblades from the realm of light being used for horrible things (like starting a Keyblade War in the age of fairytales).

The Realm of Darkness seems like a "bad place", but only when someone from the realm of light enters it. If you think about it, beings from the realm of light waltzing into the realm of darkness and killing the inhabitants there is kind of bad in itself. The heroes are killing natives who are just existing in their realm, I mean I guess it's self defense, but... :unsure:

Basically, I think Riku has proven that darkness does not equal bad. I think that the darkness is a power easier to wield than light, and hence bad people are drawn to it more quickly. It is also interesting to think that the universe establishes 7 "lights", but there doesn't seem to be 13 established "darkness". Is it that they're trying to say that pure light exists and can work together, but pure darkness either doesn't exist and/or cannot work together? Xehanort had enough problems wrangling 12 empty vessels together to make copies of himself, I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to have 13 distinct individuals of pure darkness together.
 

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Whenever we're shown the Realm of Darkness, it doesn't exactly comes off as a horrible place. Yes there's the Heartless but this is their native realm. Nothing happens during Sora and Riku's first visit there. It's just the calm sound of waves. In 0.2 Aqua chases illusions of her friends and faces a manifestation of her fears and doubts, but these things are only bad if Aqua gave into her own issues. She was essentially fighting herself in all those scenes.

But why didn't Sora and Riku go through any of that? Well, by the end of KH2 the worlds were saved. Their friends were safe. They had each other. They didn't have any fears or doubts or regrets. As the world is made of both light and darkness, they were happy to be the darkness.

What the Realm of Darkness does seems to depend solely on the person's disposition. But that's just a theory.
 

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Whenever we're shown the Realm of Darkness, it doesn't exactly comes off as a horrible place. Yes there's the Heartless but this is their native realm. Nothing happens during Sora and Riku's first visit there. It's just the calm sound of waves. In 0.2 Aqua chases illusions of her friends and faces a manifestation of her fears and doubts, but these things are only bad if Aqua gave into her own issues. She was essentially fighting herself in all those scenes.

But why didn't Sora and Riku go through any of that? Well, by the end of KH2 the worlds were saved. Their friends were safe. They had each other. They didn't have any fears or doubts or regrets. As the world is made of both light and darkness, they were happy to be the darkness.

What the Realm of Darkness does seems to depend solely on the person's disposition. But that's just a theory.
I think that theory would be correct. Riku also suggests that the Realm of Darkness changes, as he doesn't recognize it from when he first visited it. It's possible that it changes depending on what is going on internally in the person. When Riku first visited, he was consumed with anger/worry over what he did. Even when he returns with Mickey, he doesn't seem to encounter problems until they follow the path that Aqua was on -- at this point in time, she was overwhelmed in her own feelings of misery, so the heartless were probably drawn to where they were.

I wish they would delve deeper into the nature of the Realm of Darkness. We got some of that from Aqua's time in 0.2, but it would be really cool if the Realm of Darkness is a space that manifests the darkness within a person. On its own, it just exists as a space where the heartless (those whose hearts fell to darkness) gather and isn't necessarily bad. I think that would add on the emotion of what Aqua went through during her time there.
 

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What they show and what they say about darkness is not consistent to me.
CoM, 2 and DDD tried to do something but the series never committed to it past Riku. Riku is the rare exception and I don’t think we’ll see another character reach that point.

Obligatory Star Wars reference, I always saw Eraqus as the Prequel Jedi, a Guardian devout to the light that was slowly twisted by dark forces. The dark side(war) slowly pushed the Jedi to do questionable things and I see the same with Eraqus.

Eraqus has his moment of clarity when he’s defeated, he sees what he did wrong and ultimately realizes “my own heart is darkness.” So the action and emotions he went through brought forth darkness within him.

While I think it’s impossible for darkness itself to be evil(it’s not conscious) I do think the stigma is reasonable.
 

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I mean if we look at the only person we have that is confirmed "pure darkness" - Master Xehanort - he was acting for the good of the worlds... in his heart/mind. If he believed what he was doing was good, how could he become pure darkness? It's like what Larxene said about Elsa's magic - if she deemed it as dark magic, her heart would become filled with darkness. Did Xehanort see his plan as evil or did he do something to himself to make himself pure darkness? I would assume that if he thought what he was doing was good, he wouldn't be consumed by darkness. Perhaps the mind and heart's intentions are separate? Clayton became possessed with darkness after his plans to kill the gorillas fell apart and Jane scolded him (although I think his heart was just vulnerable at the time).
 

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Master Xehanort isn't pure Darkness. Master Xehanort is a human who was corrupted, so by all accounts he should still have Light in him he just chooses not to use. Considering he once became a full fledged Master before becoming corrupted, I wouldn't be surprised if when push comes to shove he's even BETTER at Light than Sora or Eraqus.

Pure Darkness are entities like Vanitas or Ansem SoD. The first one has been (sadly) confirmed as a patented a-hole with basically no remorse or depth to the awful actions he does and is an accomplice of, and about Ansem SoD I sort of like that him being a Heartless kinda justifies his Darkness boner: to him Darkness should be something impossible to live without.
I like to think that the reason why in KH III he says he just doesn't care anymore is because he realized that Master Xehanort's ideal world was a worse world for him, and that's why he struggles to follow the plan.

I also would like to point out that the Dark Margin isn't strictly the Realm of Darkness, but a place in between, and so far that's the only place where the people trapped in the RoD could actually it and wait peacefully. So technically Sora and Riku never *truly* went to the RoD in KH II.
The actual Realm of Darkness is a place in which the very sense of time and space are distorted, and Heartless would constantly hunt you if you're not one of them. They're natives, sure, but imagine if every single denizen of the Realm of Light was a combat abled demon who gets a massive power boost by just being in the Realm.

In 0.2 Aqua chases illusions of her friends and faces a manifestation of her fears and doubts, but these things are only bad if Aqua gave into her own issues. She was essentially fighting herself in all those scenes.
In those scenes sure, but in every other instances she fights Heartless, a lot of them. If I have to recount the danger of the RoD I think more about when a bridge almost falls with her on not due to some physical cause but simply because time there is unpredictable, or when she gets out of a thorny forest only to witness the Darkside Fire Nation trying to level everything to the ground with a nega-Spirit Bomb (I STILL wonder what that was all about).

If you're not only a Keyblade, but a pretty damn powerful Keyblade Master in the Realm of Darkness then you're dead or worse. Meanwhile Heartless can be in the Realm of Light and survive, or on the opposite even being the dominating race and taking over planets effortlessly. It would be cool to have some indications that somehow a Heartless perceives being in the Realm of Light like hell (like, maybe the abudance of Light messes up their senses and that's why they're weaker there?), but honestly most Heartless adapt to the environment and seem to have the time of their lives.

It's not wrong and also kinda fun and interesting to try and compare the two Realms and what could be a viable parallel, but at the end of it the Realm of Light at its natural state seems peaceful for every kind of creature and has no natural dangers (the only exception might be the Cornerstone of Light, despite the fact that it stops being a thing after KH II), meanwhile the Realm of Darkness is a barren wasteland hurtful for anyone but the denizens of Darkness.
Like Dark Corridors, which supposedly hurt even Nobodies.

You know what I also think might be at the root of all? The Light is supposed to be what gets rid of Darkness, but is also what Darkness/Heartless seek and devour, kinda like their food. Meanwhile a carrier of Light has never any physical need to have contact with Darkness.
 

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I think what baffles me the most is how blatantly obvious the games make it that they don't actually believe their own "darkness isn't totally bad"-talk the tiniest bit.
Even when you have good people do bad stuff, it's suddenly okay because they say "I did it for the light!"
Or even if it's not okay, it's still somehow blamed on darkness.
Eraqus tries to kill Ventus in order to keep peace? Well yeah, ok, but have you looked at that evil Terra-guy with his evil dark-powers with which he tries to defend his little brother from their master who has simply gone mad at that moment? Yeah, that dude needs to get punished and told that his master's death is his fault, instead of being acknowledged for having used his "dark evil" powers to save someone, not hurt them (yes, ofc he hurts Eraqus...but Eraqus literally says that he'll kill BOTH Terra and Ventus if Terra doesn't step aside, so??? I really do not see how anyone could logically blame Terra for anything here).
Sora kills Demyx quite remorselessly and for no actually crucial reason? Sure, but then again think of all the evil things that dark nobody-dude has done! Like...stealing a medallion. And fighting Sora twice (albeit with super annoying water clones that can go su- it.). He totally asked for it!
I dunno about that which may be because I actually take a different message from it. When they say "Darkness isn't evil - or totally bad" that extends only so far in meaning as that it isn't the actual root of "evil". It doesn't mean that Darkness is not inherently more dangerous and more difficult to control than Light because its elemental properties are objectively more harmful when not kept strictly in check.
Like chemical elements have different properties, some dangerous and some less so even in the same "family" of elements if one wants to keep the whole Light and Darkness are part of the same "coin" imagery.
It seems to be a widespread belief which is also reinforced by what the games show regardless of what some characters say, that Darkness as an element can be easier used for actions most living beings interpret to be harmful, morally compromising or flat out evil, but that doesn't mean Darkness itself is evil.

When "good" people do bad stuff it being "blamed" on Darkness can definitely be an attempt to deflect own responsibility, yet it is a tricky thing because even Xehanort considers his end goals to be heroic and "for the light".

As for the whole Eraqus-issue, the smart thing to do for Terra would have been to take Ven and get the frak away from Land of Departure, not escalating the conflict with Eraqus.
If Eraqus had to be incapacitated in order for that to work a Stop spell or anything else paralyzing would have been sufficient, not going out all gung-ho with Darkness and beat him to an inch of his life so it becomes child's play for Xehanort to deliver the killing blow.
Terra repeats the very same error later during the final battles at KG just like Aqua predicted and warned against.
Imo the problem wasn't even Terra using Darkness as an element, but how he was using it and handling the situation in general.

Sometimes I get the impression people willfully ignore that Demyx was
a) a Commander of the enemy army in a war that was happening at Radiant Garden during that time in KH 2
b) among the group responsible for throwing RG back into Chaos when the Restoration Committee was just making progress in restoring the place and
c) actively standing in the way of Sora & co. going to help the Committee in battling said chaos.

They were enemies in a conflict and at a time of urgency. Donald even told Demyx to move aside in order to possibly speed things up, it was him who refused to budge and thus invited SDGs wrath.
Was Sora himself confrontative? Yea sure he was but even those who are presented as "heroes" do not have to be always understanding and considerate with an enemy, especially not when they're in a hurry to help their allies in need.
Demyx is no different from Xaldin in causing havoc in the world he is faced in and threatening its inhabitants, different demeanor be damned.
Luxord is also polite to a default yet he does trap Sora's friends in cards and earns wrath as comeuppance, so there is certainly a pattern to observe.


What they show and what they say about darkness is not consistent to me.
CoM, 2 and DDD tried to do something but the series never committed to it past Riku. Riku is the rare exception and I don’t think we’ll see another character reach that point.

Obligatory Star Wars reference, I always saw Eraqus as the Prequel Jedi, a Guardian devout to the light that was slowly twisted by dark forces. The dark side(war) slowly pushed the Jedi to do questionable things and I see the same with Eraqus.

Eraqus has his moment of clarity when he’s defeated, he sees what he did wrong and ultimately realizes “my own heart is darkness.” So the action and emotions he went through brought forth darkness within him.

While I think it’s impossible for darkness itself to be evil(it’s not conscious) I do think the stigma is reasonable.
Indeed, and when looking at everything I do get the vibe that this is to a certain degree meant to be. Different characters may say different things about Darkness due to their own experiences with it as well as influences coming from their upbringing. Conflicting viewpoints do exist and it is possible that neither side is completely right nor wrong about their views.
The "true nature" of Darkness may even not have a single, certain definition just like the heart itself in the series has not.

Eraqus does indeed have quite some parallels with the Old Jedi Order, right down to the issue of inadvertently causing more harm due to losing sight of what truly matters.

That too is something I think many people overlook when they interpret that line of him.
When Eraqus says his own heart is Darkness, he doesn't mean that "the evil Darkness™" made him do these things but he realizes that by choosing the actions he did he himself gave in to the temptations of the " quick easier solution" that is associated with the volatile nature of Darkness.
He doesn't blame the Darkness, but himself for giving in to it.

I don't think the advice to be cautious when it comes to Darkness (the element) and to point out its objectively more volatile and dangerous properties can even be counted as a stigma. To be more careful with dangerous things is sort of common sense and this advice being so often ignored can be also one of the reasons why so many practicing "Darkness users" are portrayed as either ax-crazy or outright evil.
On the other hand though, you have teachers like Eraqus who speak about keeping your own Darkness "in check" yet apparently never actually teach an effective method to do so.
Just suppressing it and pretending it isn't there certainly doesn't work as has been shown several times by now.

You know what I also think might be at the root of all? The Light is supposed to be what gets rid of Darkness, but is also what Darkness/Heartless seek and devour, kinda like their food. Meanwhile a carrier of Light has never any physical need to have contact with Darkness.
An interesting observation for sure, also when taking into consideration that this reading practically annuls the possibility of a truly symbiotic relationship between the two elements.
Darkness is always greedy by seeking and devouring Light, yet Light (the element) and Light-based beings in turn don't strictly need contact with Darkness at all, it's only a threat to their well-being/existence due to its disrupting properties.

In this vein, the often intense rejection of Darkness of most Light-based beings would actually make sense.
 

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While I think there's more to darkness in KH then we've seen so far. I do think that by it's nature, as others have already stated, it's more volatile and harder to really safely use.

If I remember correctly the elements of darkness and light are also closely connected with emotions such as hatred & love, anger & affection, sadness & joy and even doubt & confidence.

The light related emotions tend to be viewed more favorably, but things such as being angry or sad aren't necessarily bad or evil in themselves either. Both can be healthy things to feel.
I assume it's the same with darkness, a bit of it's fine, but it's quite dangerous to get so wrapped into it that you lose yourself in it.

If you think of the emotions I list, besides love and maybe confidence most of the negative emotions do have a higher tendency of people losing themselves in it.

I could imagine that using the elements of light and darkness, could cause people in ways that favor the elements, so using light encourages empathy and using darkness apathy, for example.

Though the link of positive & negative emotions with light & darkness isn't one-to-one, or Ven and Kairi could never get mad or sad and Vanitas wouldn't be able to feel any joy.


I feel like by the mere decision to split the KH universe into multiple realms and have our main worlds set in the realm of light, there was a in built bias from that alone. There's can't be a light-based foes from a light based realm that are invading the world using light corridors, because with the main realm is already the light based realm.

That said the realm of darkness is a blank enough slate that there might be more to it than we know with proper inhabitants other than the heartless.
 
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