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What are the reasons people say Kingdom Hearts is cringe?



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AegisXIII

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People say Kingdom Hearts is cringe and that the story is convoluted.
What do you think are the reasons for these reactions? Is it the dialogues or the actual story itself?
Also is this perception shared in Japan or is it proper to the Western translations?

I personally keep my love for Kingdom Hearts very private. It used to be because Disney was mostly perceived as a media for children back in the days. But now, as an adult, I realised I keep it secret mostly because Kingdom Hearts without context is really really really weird.
 

Sephiroth0812

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I'd guess there are several different factors playing into it.
The whole "cringe" stuff may be partly because of the (perceived) childish Disney elements but also because KH as a whole has a more colorful and largely idealistic outward presentation and while people who actually are into the series know there's quite some nasty stuff story-wise under the colorful surface more casual players or those who only see the marketing and snippets of the whole miss those and consider KH a flashy kiddie-game, older Square fans possibly even as an inferior "Final Fantasy light".
The idealistic angle may also play a role as for several years if not even two decades there was (or still is? dunno) the flawed notion that only works with "mature" themes and outlook are valuable and that "mature" somehow also almost always had to involve a cynic and largely grimdark outlook and characters with emotional ranges of a toaster.

As for the convoluted story, well, that is at least partly the KH series own fault as the way the storytelling works creates the impression of convolution even if at the core the narrative isn't actually that convoluted.
Having the story spread out over a dozen media, in the past it were games scattered over a dozen different consoles, today it is the constant inclusion of mobile gacha games, does not help keeping consistency.
If you then put on top the facts that some story beats are present only in in-game secret reports (not so problematic), Japan-only Ultimania books, creator interviews and as of recent even concert pieces it is quite understandable that people who are not absolute lore nerds find the story and its numerous little threads that interconnect difficult to follow or comprehend.
Nomura also not keeping consistency of KH's own internal universe because his changing interests seem to influence KH's main narrative more than they should may also play a role in the impression of KH's story being more complicated than its need to be.

I honestly don't know enough about the Japanese fanbase to judge if it is only mainly a western phenomena, but what I do have observed throughout the years is that there tend to be quite some differences between preferred fan favorite characters in Japan than there is among large parts of the western fanbase.
 

Chie

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The current world operates on ironic, detached repetition of memes as "facts", which take prescedence over the "truth". You may repeat those "facts" as much as you want without caring, while those who defend the "truth" are revealing their legitimate engagement and are thus vulnerable to ridicule in comparison.

So, Kingdom Hearts.

Truth: KH's story is told through a linearly released series of games
Memetic "fact": Nomura puts lore on literally anything such as cereal boxes and you have to read all of it!
(Note: This is largely spawned solely by the short audio scene from the concert. However, nearly every single Japanese franchise ever has included drama CDs where characters have conversations about as unimportant as that audio scene, just filling in a convo we know happened from context clues as a treat for the fans. This is not unique to Kingdom Hearts or notable.)
(Note 2: If the mobile games do not get turned into console games like coded did, this makes the first claim untrue; however, people practically fall over themselves defending gacha games and MMOs in other series, so I don't think people actually care about this.)

Truth: Sephiroth appears as a bonus boss in KH1 and 2, mostly separate from the main story
Memetic "fact": This is a game series where Mickey Mouse fights Sephiroth, that's so ridiculous!

Truth: KH is a series of action-RPGs with different titles fitting to their contents, telling a story that meanders through different points in time
Memetic "fact": KH expects you to play all these spin-off side games with completely different gameplay and nonsense titles to understand the REAL games

Truth: Kingdom Hearts was the only series Nomura was allowed to direct until FF7 Remake, so he includes his personal expression in it
Memetic "fact": Nomura largely made all the FFs he did character design for, yet insists on forcing his personal expression and OCs into Kingdom Hearts

And of course there are many other ways to show your detachment from KH without directly stating a falsehood. For example, KH's choice of worlds, although limited by what's owned by Disney, emphasizes worlds based on fairytales or children's literature to drive certain themes, but people who would never engage with this in their lives will joke about all the wildly unfitting things they think should be in KH next, because it's all a big joke to them.

Also, Kingdom Hearts makes an especially good target for this due to its perceived popularity and seeming naivete (which isn't exactly accurate), but a lot of these attitudes apply to other story-based Japanese game series too - a general hostility against a director perceived as full of himself for arbitrary reasons, a sense of indignation at the idea of following a story instead of just skipping to the newest entry. In the 00s (when KH began and was at its height of popularity), it was considered natural to talk about how Japanese games made no sense and all their writers were on drugs for expecting you to care about the story of a video game at all. Though even people who will gladly surround themselves with JRPGs often look down on KH.

EXTRA BONUS ADDENDUM: Although the Kingdom Hearts story truly does become in need of rigorous scrutiny to interpret in works such as UX, this is definitely not what people who joke about the series being impossible to follow are talking about, because nobody has read UX except for like, half the people in KH-specific communities (much of its implications have barely taken). The jokes about it being impossible to follow are 100% still hung up on "TWO ANSEMS?????", and will never progress beyond that point.
 
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BufferAqua

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Disney and Final Fantasy together. The overuse of platitudes. The dated translated dialogue from early games. Fish faces. The Nomura designs. Some of the overdramatic scenes.

Love it tho.
 

AegisXIII

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Disney and Final Fantasy together. The overuse of platitudes. The dated translated dialogue from early games. Fish faces. The Nomura designs. Some of the overdramatic scenes.

Love it tho.
This raises the question: would we love it if it was any different? πŸ˜‚
 
D

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People say Kingdom Hearts is cringe and that the story is convoluted.
What do you think are the reasons for these reactions? Is it the dialogues or the actual story itself?
Also is this perception shared in Japan or is it proper to the Western translations?

I personally keep my love for Kingdom Hearts very private. It used to be because Disney was mostly perceived as a media for children back in the days. But now, as an adult, I realised I keep it secret mostly because Kingdom Hearts without context is really really really weird.
Cringe just comes from how the dialogue is written and preformed. But that is common in alot of early anime and video game dubs.

Convoluted just comes from how the story is told. It has a lot of high concepts but explains it in flowery prose and dumps the explanations at the end. It starts with 2 but gets unbearable by DDD.

I didn't mind KH as a kid. It fit my interest in Yugioh and Digimon. I did hide my love of Sailor Moon and Winx Club tho. Lol.
 
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AegisXIII

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Cringe just comes from how the dialogue is written and preformed. But that is common in alot of early anime and video game dubs.

Convoluted just comes from how the story is told. It has a lot of high concepts but explains it in flowery prose and dumps the explanations at the end. It starts with 2 but gets unbearable by DDD.

I didn't mind KH as a kid. It fit my interest in Yugioh and Digimon. I did hide my love of Sailor Moon and Winx Club tho. Lol.
Yes so if the dialogues are cringe, there is a high chance that Kingdom Hearts might not be perceived as such in Japan.
Then for me, English is not my mothertongue and I never felt the english dialogues as cringe. Actually, I learned English with Kingdom Hearts. Am I cringe when I talk then? Probably.
 
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Yes so if the dialogues are cringe, there is a high chance that Kingdom Hearts might not be perceived as such in Japan.
Then for me, English is not my mothertongue and I never felt the english dialogues as cringe. Actually, I learned English with Kingdom Hearts. Am I cringe when I talk then? Probably.
Most dubs are done under a time crunch so that also contributes. God Of War and other games have more flexibility compared to KH.
 

Oracle Spockanort

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Part of KH’s β€œcringe” also has to do with the west’s perception of Nomura, which tends to trend in a fairly negative manner due to a bunch of stuff he was never really responsible for. Or for his fashion sense (which is always on point, but a but it’s easier for a bunch of people to make jokes about belts and zippers). Even when Nomura does stuff they love, they will find something to blame him for despite others being more responsible for certain decisions than him.
 

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Let's conduct a test: Have your parents walk in on literally any cutscene in any game & see if you don't suddenly become hyper aware of just how absolutely dumb the dialogue must sound to them.

There is literally no scene in the entire series that passes the parents walk in test. Not a 1.
 
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@Oracle Spockanort isn't that more out of ignorance than disgust? Most fans don't know a lot about how the business side or behind the scene stuff. Nomura just becomes a figurehead.
 

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Let's conduct a test: Have your parents walk in on literally any cutscene in any game & see if you don't suddenly become hyper aware of just how absolutely dumb the dialogue must sound to them.

There is literally no scene in the entire series that passes the parents walk in test. Not a 1.
That’s true!

@Oracle Spockanort isn't that more out of ignorance than disgust? Most fans don't know a lot about how the business side or behind the scene stuff. Nomura just becomes a figurehead.
Yes, ignorance but it directly feeds into the belief that KH is cringe. If people don't have great things to say about the director of the series, then you get a lot of people who see it as "that game with the the kids with zippers and belts" and say things like "Nomura is a hack!" and the like.
 

AegisXIII

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I also heard, "Nomura is unable to finish his games".
Then you go on wikipedia and you see: director -> 19 titles.
There is a huge gap between perception and reality. The versus 13 debacle is probably the reason why Nomura got a bad reputation as a director.
About people criticizing his fashion sense, that one I do not understand. The guy is responsible for the greatest character designs of these last years. It's even better when you realize how terrible it is for anyone who go down the cosplay route (it never ends well when they choose Nomura's style). πŸ˜‚
 

Chie

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Also, much of Nomura's outfit design work has been completely self-aware. He knows people know him for belts and zippers so he makes designs that deliberately use them in silly ways, or in Donald and Goofy's case, to emphasize them as "Nomura-style" designs as per Disney's instructions.

This is another thing about JP games in general, that people can't fathom them being self-aware works. The idea that a work can know exactly what it's doing and still choose to be sincere and ridiculous of its own free will is unbelievable to people; in the west you avoid writing like that. So works like Kingdom Hearts, or Metal Gear, or killer7, or Devil May Cry, or Deadly Premonition, are often described as if they just accidentally stumbled into being what they are, and the crazy japanese staff had no idea what they were doing.
 
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It takes its own tale deathly seriously with zero self-awareness, irony or nuance. To say that its sense of subtlety is in the negatives is an understatement. All the while Nomura genuinely seems to believe he'll be remembered as one of gaming's greatest storytellers.

Between being comprised 99% of shonen tropes and cliches, with the other 1% being sandwiched between regurgitated Disney padding.

But hey! You get to smack stuff around in super flashy ways, so whatever?

Let's conduct a test: Have your parents walk in on literally any cutscene in any game & see if you don't suddenly become hyper aware of just how absolutely dumb the dialogue must sound to them.

There is literally no scene in the entire series that passes the parents walk in test. Not a 1.
My mom once walked in during the segment when Hayner and NoboVivi were fighting. She seemed pretty nonplussed about them beating each other up over little yellow balls. Does that count?
 
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Elysium

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They're probably referring to a lot of the interactions between Sora and the Disney characters. In KH2 in particular, a lot of those moments were very poorly written and came across childish. That's not a reflection on the Disney characters themselves so much as the way whoever was writing felt the need to dumb them down almost like an episode of Barney or something. It's more about perception of Disney as childish by whoever was writing, I think, rather than the characters themselves being childish. Those interactions often weren't like that, or at least less so, in the early games.
 

Chie

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It takes its own tale deathly seriously with zero self-awareness, irony or nuance. To say that its sense of subtlety is in the negatives is an understatement. All the while Nomura genuinely seems to believe he'll be remembered as one of gaming's greatest storytellers.
Wow a live example immediately after my post... perfect!

I don't think Nomura talks about the gaming landscape or the world of game writing at all, ever. He definitely doesn't seem to talk about his obvious inspirations in the field. Maybe it doesn't get translated? But I think not talking about anything too serious is Nomura's survival strategy under Square Enix. If he wants to say anything he's going to say it with Kingdom Hearts. It's practically his hypersigil now...
 
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Wow a live example immediately after my post... perfect!
You said they are self-aware.

That is literally the last thing KH is. It's got zero self-awareness, subtlety, nuance, irony, etc. Kingdom Hearts is what happens when you put TVTropes into a blender lol.

So works like Kingdom Hearts, or Metal Gear, or killer7, or Devil May Cry, or Deadly Premonition, are often described as if they just accidentally stumbled into being what they are, and the crazy japanese staff had no idea what they were doing.
Except all those examples are...completely the opposite. Metal Gear? That's what you get when someone who fully understands characterization and development is given free reign to go batshit. Devil May Cry? It's a shameless hackfest and cheesy as all hell, and yet it STILL manages to squeeze excellent character development and nuance out of familial issues. Deadly Premonition? That's what you get when someone watched way, way too much MST3K. Kingdom Hearts can't even poke fun of itself, let alone something else. killer7? That..........well, let's just be honest. That one just kind of defies any categorization. But it still manages to be extremely stylish while doing....whatever the hell it's doing!

Kingdom Hearts? Friendship! Power of light! The smell of darkness! Time travel and metaphysics! ....Why?
72t93e.gif
 
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Chie

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Yeah, it's self-aware in that they know what they're making, because they're human beings. And consciously choose to make that thing instead of including ironic detachment in the script.

I could also just list the jokes that are in the series about characters not understanding their own story, but I won't go to the effort, but they're there

Except all those examples are...completely the opposite.
That doesn't matter? This is how people treat JP game stories in general, of course all of them are totally different than eachother in reality. But every single one I have seen get hit with "the director doesn't know what they're doing and made all of this on accident" at some point or another. Kojima understanding storytelling and characterization is often a pretty controversial statement, even if it's obvious to you and me that he does. (Also killer7 is not so difficult to describe exactly what it's doing IMO.)

KH is built the way it is for a reason too, but again I don't know if I should go to the effort of explaining it, we're already on a Kingdom Hearts forum... if it all seems like a joke to you and you are caught up, that won't change.

I will give you one recent example (of many) of Kingdom Hearts poking fun of itself, though: In Dark Road, the characters go to visit Hades to contact characters who have died, and they know they've died. They still tell Hades they want to see people who have "disappeared". Hades is like, "What- oh. don't you mean 'dead'?" and Xehanort goes "Whatever." This is a clear joke about how KH tends to use euphamisms for "death" instead of saying the actual word, even when it actually applies.

Or see also the Organization expressing interest in Davy Jones' box in III, said to contain his heart. When they realize it's the actual organ, the heart, which the series has avoided mentioning until this point, they both understand the concept and react in annoyance that that's what they meant by "heart".

Actually, there's a lot of that kind of thing, the difference between the way "Kingdom Hearts characters" see the world and the way Disney characters see the world, since they come from a movie with its own rules that was never meant to operate in the KH universe. The series is aware of this contradiction that has existed since the first game, of course.
 
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My dad once called Sephiroth girlie. Does that count? He's from Guyana so he wouldn't be into anime. He calls any cartoons "mickey mouse".

@AegisXIII
Part of the problem is KH chooses topics that are hard to explore visually. Gameplay is a visual medium but how do you explore someone having their memories altered? Plus a lot of Sci fi writers have a hard time writing emotionless characters outside of robots. So writing the nobodies were always gonna be a struggle.

I don't like the Xehanort saga outside of BBS but DDD is the only entry that's confusing. It feels more like someone's brainstorm than a story. Which is probably true because someone stated DDD was originally the beginning of KH3 cut off into its own entry. That was a rumor so take it with a grain of salt.

Fans aren't known for fair judges. For years people said the Star Wars prequels ruined their childhood. So KH picked up its own bad rep over the years.
 
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