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The treatment of women in this series



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Xblade13

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I can’t let this go. It’s the worst thing they could have done for this series. And the only person we can blame is Nomura since he handcrafts the story himself and writes the script. This is all on him and it’s clear he doesn’t see it as a problem. He doesn’t know how to write female characters. His comments about people liking Aqua back in the BBS days makes more sense now. He didn’t understand the appeal of her character and didn’t think people would be drawn to her character type because he personally did not feel drawn to what he had written.

And then they just nerf her in the game. Sure, gameplay wise we get to play as her and she’s badass, but storywise she is treated so poorly.

And I don’t know how many times I can complain about Kairi without reiterating in shock that Nomura never intended to develop her in a meaningful manner and it is as clear as day now. She is just a device—a vehicle for Sora’s affections and motivations in the latter half of the game. She amounts to nothing more but the love interest that sits there and dies to give the hero his driving force to fight. I’m so disappointed.

I don’t think this is just an Asian culture thing. We have plenty of good female characters from Japanese media, and from shonem series at that. Obviously those tend to be more of an outlier than the norm, but we see these piss-poor depictions of women all across various cultures in media. Only in the last decade have we seen a major paradigm shift in how media approaches female character development now that people are more likely to call this stuff out on social media. But despite that, it is clear that this isn’t a pervasive movement in media in Japan, although it is getting better like it is in the rest of the world.

The problem begins and ends with the writer behind the character. If Nomura had even given a fraction of the same treatment he gave other characters like Riku got during the entirety of the series, the female cast of this game would be so much better off. Instead he treats them like props.

I thought Kingdom Hearts was a little different. Of course the female characters were driven by their interactions with their male counterparts and women were outnumbered by a huge margin, but the game’s depictions of Aqua and even Xion stood out as outliers among most shonen-inspired media. They were strong in their own ways. Even Namine felt intriguing despite her bare-bones appearances in the series. So to go from what we had in previous games to this is insane.

I thought this series was done with being a shonen-fest after KH2.

Depending on how I feel after I finish KH3, I’ll decide how I want to engage with this franchise in the future. As it stands right now I’m just utterly disappointed on this aspect.

The easy fix for this problem is to hire a writer but that won’t happen since Nomura has been unrestrained as the script writer since 2006.

I agree with you 100%. It's hard for me to say "I'll let this series go", but something has to be done. I agree that we need a different writer for the series. Nomura himself should only be the overseer and the guy who makes the Big Ideas, not the guy in charge of character development at this point. The series was better written in the beginning, when he passed on his script to a writing team. Ever since he took over the job himself, it has gone more and more shonen, more and more complicated, and less favorable towards the female characters. Nomura is in the same boat as George Lucas at this point. They both have great ideas, but they need people around them to tell them no.
 

Sephiroth0812

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Lol yeah, the fact that 12 of the original 13 Organisation members are male has long indicated to me that this is not a feminist, or equal representation, series.

You're telling me of ALL the people in the world, males are the ones who have strong hearts, worthy to become humanoid Nobodies?

And I know we have answers now as to why these specific 13 characters for Organisation XIII, but when KH2 came out, 'strong hearts' was all that was given with regards to Organisation membership.

Correct, it is similar to how the seven "pure" hearts apparently have always to be female. Like as if certain traits and properties of a heart are available to only one gender.

With Aqua it is especially jarring since she basically faced the ultimate gauntlet of endurance known in the KH universe so far which proves the strength of her heart and while narrative-wise it makes sense that her defenses are worn down by constant pressure and that she might be not at her peak when finally rescued in KH III, this can be portrayed in-universe without making a total fool out of her.

I agree with you 100%. It's hard for me to say "I'll let this series go", but something has to be done. I agree that we need a different writer for the series. Nomura himself should only be the overseer and the guy who makes the Big Ideas, not the guy in charge of character development at this point. The series was better written in the beginning, when he passed on his script to a writing team. Ever since he took over the job himself, it has gone more and more shonen, more and more complicated, and less favorable towards the female characters. Nomura is in the same boat as George Lucas at this point. They both have great ideas, but they need people around them to tell them no.

Funny thing is I've compared Nomura to George Lucas already years ago since they do seem to be the same category of creator.

They're both visionaries with great ideas for overall narratives and general plot framework, but totally suck in actually molding these ideas into a coherent and engaging script.
Characterisation and character development needs to be put into hands who actually know how to do that shit.

I can still vividly remember when Harrison Ford once told an interviewer how he got into an argument with Lucas over a part of the script where he told him "George, you may be able to write this shit like that, but you certainly can't say it like that."
 

alexis.anagram

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I wonder if anime/Japanese media that is not KH is making any strides towards being progressive.
Yes. Yuri on Ice!! is one recent example of a veritable "progressive" phenomenon (still niche, like all anime, but nonetheless) which had international appeal and brought visibility to an inclusive method of depicting both men and women, and especially the topic of male vulnerability and emotional/mental health in the athletic context, but there plenty of other references which could be pulled going back through the history of shojo and female authored manga. The works of CLAMP are well known, there's Fumi Yoshinaga's "Ooku: The Inner Chambers" which reimagines key events and figures in Japanese history through a female-centric lens, and although he isn't a woman, Kunihiko Ikuhara's series ("Revolutionary Girl Utena"; "Yuri Kuma Arashi") often draw from a motif of queer femininity as power. Gengoroh Tagami's "My Brother's Husband" has received critical acclaim in Japan and abroad, and of course there are classics like "The Rose of Versailles" and "Sailor Moon" which take normative scripts surrounding the place of women in society and, whether deliberately or incidentally, challenge them.

Obviously all of these exist on a spectrum because just as in any culture, there is no single female, feminist or queer consensus in Japan as to what constitutes good and empowering storytelling, but the myth of the culturally stagnant Japan which harbors no potential or incentive to challenge the injunctions of a majority hetero boy's club in the social and policial arenas of daily life is not so different from the stories people in the West tell themselves about the societies in which they live and the capacity they have to enact change-- it's no more true within the Japanese context than it is anywhere else, and while such movements may differ in priorities or methods due to cultural factors, that only proves that they are very much a living and active part of the culture.

I thought this series was done with being a shonen-fest after KH2.
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Pokie

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This series has always been a bit sexist though, from the very beginning. The main female character played the role of damsel in distress, and the roles the Disney women mostly have is being damsels because Ansem is after them. Yeah, some of those girls play the damsel role in their own movie, but some of the girls that can stand up for themselves, like I swear Jane and Jasmine can. Jasmine can easily punch a dangerous criminal in King of Thieves, and I swear, from memory, Jane whacks a poacher?

But the original KH was about saving women from danger, from the very start. It would be hypercritical to quit the series now when it's always been like this? The question is, why now?

Though, Nomura has always been a bit behind the times, unfortunately.

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CDD

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Let's hope you lot keep your promises of "leaving the franchise" after, of course, contributing to the sales of KH3. ;)
 

MASTER260

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Wait, weren't they supposed to save Namine because she merged with Kairi like Roxas did with Sora and now they want to make them separate people again? Is she even mentioned in this game?
 

Nukara

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This series has always been a bit sexist though, from the very beginning. The main female character played the role of damsel in distress, and the roles the Disney women mostly have is being damsels because Ansem is after them. Yeah, some of those girls play the damsel role in their own movie, but some of the girls that can stand up for themselves, like I swear Jane and Jasmine can. Jasmine can easily punch a dangerous criminal in King of Thieves, and I swear, from memory, Jane whacks a poacher?

But the original KH was about saving women from danger, from the very start. It would be hypercritical to quit the series now when it's always been like this? The question is, why now?

Though, Nomura has always been a bit behind the times, unfortunately.

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Xblade13

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Wait, weren't they supposed to save Namine because she merged with Kairi like Roxas did with Sora and now they want to make them separate people again? Is she even mentioned in this game?

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*TwilightNight*

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Rodin

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How should women be treated in this series? Let's expose those who don't know what they're talking about.
Most of the original KH female characters tend to feel cut from the same cloth with Larxene being the only distinct one. So a little more variety in design/personality/age etc wouldn't hurt.

The main problem is the lack of time and focuses on them as individuals rather than parts of a whole. People are disappointed with Kairi's portrayal in 3 but I never felt she became a fully-fledged character or a convincing member of the trio. Which is sad because they had 8+ games to fix but never really did.
 

Oracle Spockanort

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This series has always been a bit sexist though, from the very beginning. The main female character played the role of damsel in distress, and the roles the Disney women mostly have is being damsels because Ansem is after them. Yeah, some of those girls play the damsel role in their own movie, but some of the girls that can stand up for themselves, like I swear Jane and Jasmine can. Jasmine can easily punch a dangerous criminal in King of Thieves, and I swear, from memory, Jane whacks a poacher?

But the original KH was about saving women from danger, from the very start. It would be hypercritical to quit the series now when it's always been like this? The question is, why now?

Because the games that are the most egregious when it comes to its treatment of female characters and their role in the games were all over a decade old. People hoped that with it being 2019, certain modern sensibilities would have prevailed in that regard. 0.2 being just two years old handles its treatment of Aqua better than KH3 does and with a shorter runtime to do so.

Also, even with those older games featuring typical tropes that women are attributed to in media, they are hardly offensive in their presentation and delivery. KH1 is a quintessential hero’s journey story and everybody’s assigned roles are played straight. It’s simple and effective. CoM gave Namine a lot of importance and Larxene is a treat of a villain. KH2 at least attempts to give Kairi and Namine more agency despite narratively pushing them out of harm’s way later on. Also KH2 is very much a product of its time, featuring a ton of shonen tropes that were really big at the time of the game’s release.

With how many strides have been made in how female characters are written in media, it shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise that people would expect the female characters of this franchise to be given a similar treatment to its male counterparts. I suppose in a way they were, but the reason it is more offensive with the female characters is because of how the series has handled female characters in the past.

In regards to Kairi, she has been treated as an afterthought since the Days/coded/BBS/3D games. The series never took any time to develop her more than what was established in 2005. The ending of KH3D set Kairi up to be a potential game-changer by including her as a Guardian of Light—that she would potentially shift the tide and finally have her time to shine as a hero alsongside Sora and Riku.

Instead what we get is a regression of her character. She’s solely driven by her desire to see Sora. She wants to fight by Sora’s side. She wants to be Sora’s love interest. She dies without much of a fight, and then is left dead to feed into Sora’s pain. Kairi is used as a plot device and is not a character.


It's not hypocritical to choose to drop the series at KH3 because of how it depicts women. People hoped that KH3 would learn from its past mistakes since most of the were made well over a decade ago. It didn't, so they are choosing to disengage with the series. It's as simple as that.

Though, Nomura has always been a bit behind the times, unfortunately.

Yes, it is a shame. Also it is weird because he is such a western media nut. He has to be exposed to all sorts of shows and films that are doing more progressive things with female characters.

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There are leaked story bits from Versus XIII out there and Stella was going to be more like a Namine-type of character.

I don't think Tabata did anything to fix anything as it is clear in how they responded to people getting upset about how the female cast was being handled during development. They kept falsely stating that Luna is strong but never showed it. They didn't get why people were upset with Cidney/Cindy's clothing and said something to the effect of "Well what else would she wear?" Also with her DLC being cancelled over Ardyn's kinda tells me that SE really didn't care in general about fixing that perception of Luna.


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alexis.anagram

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This series has always been a bit sexist though, from the very beginning.
That doesn't give it carte blanche to actively regress in its representation of women, taking previously capable characters with a history of fighting for and defending themselves and making them dependent upon their male cohorts over, and over, and over again. Even in KH2, once Kairi got the Keyblade she used it and she didn't stop to panic so that Sora could play savior for her. The impression that game leaves us with is that she's become stronger and has the potential to be a self-determining member of the DI trio. KH3 dashes that potential. There's nothing hypocritical about recognizing that the series has failed to evolve in its recognition of its own female cast and chalking it up to Nomura being Nomura is just a method of providing cover for men who need to do better. If he won't, then he doesn't deserve my support or the support of femme and queer gamers in general: it is in no way entitled to that and good luck to the series surviving if it alienates enough of us.

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Unfortunately this still
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U.N. Owen

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I loved that Xion basically calls herself a more useful Kairi. She kind of is.
 

XAROS

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Let's hope you lot keep your promises of "leaving the franchise" after, of course, contributing to the sales of KH3. ;)

We can only hope. This forum is so negative. I mean folks are upset over the memory archives because they aren’t long enough for goodness sakes. Hopefully KH3 weeds out all of the non-fans and negative nancies.
 

Oracle Spockanort

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We can only hope. This forum is so negative. I mean folks are upset over the memory archives because they aren’t long enough for goodness sakes. Hopefully KH3 weeds out all of the non-fans and negative nancies.

You don’t get to say that or decide what a fan is when all of us around here have been loyal to this series from the start. Criticizing this game isn’t a sign of somebody being a non-fan. Blindly accepting its faults and not calling out the problems of this game is just as bad as being completely negative about this game.
 

XAROS

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You don’t get to say that or decide what a fan is when all of us around here have been loyal to this series from the start. Criticizing this game isn’t a sign of somebody being a non-fan. Blindly accepting its faults and not calling out the problems of this game is just as bad as being completely negative about this game.

With the exception of fortnite, how often do video game developers take criticism into consideration? Not very often. We see it time after time, game after game. I’m not saying criticism is unwarranted though, it’s healthy. What I’m saying is it seems half this forum doesn’t have anything good to say about the game. Go to resetera or even reddit and you don’t get the same pervasive negativity. At the end of the day it’s a video game, and if I can find joy in it while not too concerned about the faults (which KH has had many since day 1), then color me satisfied. I could go down a laundry lists of issues with the game but that’s not worth my time.
 

rac7d

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Because the games that are the most egregious when it comes to its treatment of female characters and their role in the games were all over a decade old. People hoped that with it being 2019, certain modern sensibilities would have prevailed in that regard. 0.2 being just two years old handles its treatment of Aqua better than KH3 does and with a shorter runtime to do so.

Also, even with those older games featuring typical tropes that women are attributed to in media, they are hardly offensive in their presentation and delivery. KH1 is a quintessential hero’s journey story and everybody’s assigned roles are played straight. It’s simple and effective. CoM gave Namine a lot of importance and Larxene is a treat of a villain. KH2 at least attempts to give Kairi and Namine more agency despite narratively pushing them out of harm’s way later on. Also KH2 is very much a product of its time, featuring a ton of shonen tropes that were really big at the time of the game’s release.

With how many strides have been made in how female characters are written in media, it shouldn’t come to anybody’s surprise that people would expect the female characters of this franchise to be given a similar treatment to its male counterparts. I suppose in a way they were, but the reason it is more offensive with the female characters is because of how the series has handled female characters in the past.

In regards to Kairi, she has been treated as an afterthought since the Days/coded/BBS/3D games. The series never took any time to develop her more than what was established in 2005. The ending of KH3D set Kairi up to be a potential game-changer by including her as a Guardian of Light—that she would potentially shift the tide and finally have her time to shine as a hero alsongside Sora and Riku.

Instead what we get is a regression of her character. She’s solely driven by her desire to see Sora. She wants to fight by Sora’s side. She wants to be Sora’s love interest. She dies without much of a fight, and then is left dead to feed into Sora’s pain. Kairi is used as a plot device and is not a character.


It's not hypocritical to choose to drop the series at KH3 because of how it depicts women. People hoped that KH3 would learn from its past mistakes since most of the were made well over a decade ago. It didn't, so they are choosing to disengage with the series. It's as simple as that.



Yes, it is a shame. Also it is weird because he is such a western media nut. He has to be exposed to all sorts of shows and films that are doing more progressive things with female characters.



There are leaked story bits from Versus XIII out there and Stella was going to be more like a Namine-type of character.

I don't think Tabata did anything to fix anything as it is clear in how they responded to people getting upset about how the female cast was being handled during development. They kept falsely stating that Luna is strong but never showed it. They didn't get why people were upset with Cidney/Cindy's clothing and said something to the effect of "Well what else would she wear?" Also with her DLC being cancelled over Ardyn's kinda tells me that SE really didn't care in general about fixing that perception of Luna.




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You hit the nail on the head.This is pretty much everything

Oh well
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alexis.anagram

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With the exception of fortnite, how often do video game developers take criticism into consideration? Not very often. We see it time after time, game after game. I’m not saying criticism is unwarranted though, it’s healthy. What I’m saying is it seems half this forum doesn’t have anything good to say about the game. Go to resetera or even reddit and you don’t get the same pervasive negativity. At the end of the day it’s a video game, and if I can find joy in it while not too concerned about the faults (which KH has had many since day 1), then color me satisfied. I could go down a laundry lists of issues with the game but that’s not worth my time.
Couple of responses:
First of all, having the ability to see the good in the game despite all of its flaws and elect to give priority to the former does not make someone magically more of a fan than someone who chooses not to do that. Just as some players may determine that the game is sufficiently valued against positive aspects in gameplay or graphical fidelity to make it worthwhile, others will see the problems in the narrative as overshadowing thise qualities: it doesn't mean they can't see the good, but all dialogue is structured according to what we choose to emphasize and debate in search of consensus and/or clarifications as to where and why we, as fans, differ in our views and preferences. For some, the game is good despite its bad aspects: for me, the game is bad despite its good ones, and I find it is more "worth my time" to assert that critical interpretation of the material because that is the most authentic approach I can take towards it.

Second, if we want to have a discussion about toxic attitudes, it might be worth addressing the actual topic of this thread instead of sniping at the efforts of others to highlight actually toxic attitudes and assumptions directed at women in our media and our culture, and which specifically impact women within this fandom right now. It is notable that some appear to have more concern for the sanctity of their video game fanclub than the real issues which confront women and girls and which we're taking the time and energy to call out-- if criticism is really healthy, surely there can be no higher purpose than to use it in order to challenge truly toxic ideas that create a second class out of half of the fandom.

Lastly, with re: to other forums like Resetera and Reddit, there are a lot of smart folks all around but these are not dedicated fan sites. Discussion rarely scratches deeper than the surface because the whole idea is to have quick, generalized back and forths which are typically more informative than they are analytical. If that's your thing those sites are good for that, but KHInsider's entire purpose is to devote a space for fans to engage with the series from every conceivable angle. The depth of discussion on this site and the willingness of users to take those harder approaches and butt heads over their disgreements and humor one another for the sake of argument is the best thing about it, and it's a large part of why I think it's so influential within the larger online community. With dedication comes dissent, that's true for any fan community. people who truly love a work of art will find the flaws in it whether they want to or not, because when you look at something hard and long enough the basic absurdities of its content tend to become apparent.
 

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