My first brush with Xehanort was way back in 2012 when Kingdom Hearts was one stand alone, utterly fantastic story that blended the worlds of Final Fantasy with Disney. He was a tall, silver haired fox known as Ansem, who was really Xemnas, who was the Heartless version of Terra possessed by Master Xehanort (hereafter referred to as Terranort), who is not to be confused with Young Xehanort. Confused yet? Welcome to the Kingdom Hearts fandom! It took me quite a while to unscramble my brain and organize all the time travel so I will touch briefly on all four incarnations and then sum up on why this person is the perfect embodiment of all evil and deserves to burn on a pyre. If you haven’t succumbed to the lure of a gorgeously done, award winning game series yet, I implore you: Dig out that Playstation2 and dive in.
“Darkness rules your heart. It gives me control. Muscle and sinew that once obeyed you now rebels against you. How you can remain here at all confounds the mind.”
I’m a bit of a completionist and as such, I feel it is my duty to start from the beginning (with Kingdom Hearts I, not Young Xehanort).
Ansem is all about the Darkness. He wants to live in it, be it, and create an entire kingdom bathed in it. In the Xehanort timeline, he comes to existence due to experiments by Terranort after memory erasure. Terranort successfully rips his Heart from his body and soul before offering it up to Darkness and becoming Ansem. Before Ansem was able to gain a physical form, he floated through time and met up with Young Xehanort, who used dark magic to give him a body. After his return to his original timeline, Ansem sucks up and fuses with our hero’s childhood best friend, Riku, then proceeds to steal the hearts from all the princesses he can find in order to forge a Keyblade that will open the doorway to Kingdom Hearts itself (an actual object that is the heart of all worlds and a source of great power and wisdom). He is the hooded figure you encounter at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts and is the one who decides to open all the doors ever, allowing worlds to collide and mesh, and allows Darkness to enter each, filling it with Heartless minions. It’s a slightly sicker, more selfish version of world domination he’s interested in and when he is destroyed by the Light, we think he’s gone forever! Well, until Kingdom Hearts II.
In the second game, we get to meet Xemnas, the leader of the ominous Organization XIII, and find out he is the Nobody of Terranort, the heartless shell left over once the heart becomes a Heartless (Ansem). He also decides to absorb poor Riku in his quest for attaining a Keyblade of his own, but again, our hero and his friends are able to thwart these plans, even though Xemnas has gone one step further and blended magic with technology. He gets much closer to acquiring Kingdom Hearts, getting so far as taking its power and creating a new world. He sacrifices every member of his Organization XIII, becoming the last to fall at the duel Keyblade power that Sora can now wield.
Birth by Sleep was released in conjunction with 358/2 and while 358/2 further explored Organization XIII, Birth by Sleep went back in time to deal with Master Xehanort and his effect on events that would eventually transpire during the original games. Master Xehanort was a Keyblade Master, a teacher and all around respected guy, whose belief in the balance of Light and Darkness was so strong that his urge to conquer Kingdom Hearts and create a new, balanced universe overcame him. Frustrated at his age, he knew his time would run out before his plans were fulfilled and devised a plan to use his Keyblade to transfer his heart to a younger body. Through subtle manipulations, Master Xehanort is able to turn the character Terra from the path of Light and begins to sow seeds of discontent across the worlds, beginning with the evil fairy, Maleficent. Terra eventually faces off with the elderly Master and defeats him, but is unable to stop Master Xehanort from implanting his heart into Terra, whose hair turns white and is revealed to be the spitting image of Ansem/Xemnas.
Currently, we are waiting for Young Xehanort, who starred in the latest game in the franchise, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, to finish collecting empty “vessels” for pieces of his future heart to inhabit. He has grown up on Destiny Islands and after a visit from Ansem/Xemnas, is gifted the ability to time travel so he can allow his future endeavors to come to fruition. After failing to make Sora the thirteenth, ultimate vessel, Young Xehanort vows he will return and that his new Organization XIII will meet the “Seven Lights”, Keyblade-wielding defenders of light (possibly the seven Princesses of Heart), in a Keyblade War.
“Look as hard as you are able. You’ll not find even the smallest glimmer of light! From those dark depths are all hearts born! Even yours.”
Xehanort, apart from being a wily little time meddler, has powerful elemental magic, complete control over the Darkness, limited control over the Heartless, and he can siphon the Darkness out of another’s heart and grant it form. If you have Darkness in your heart, I recommend staying away from Xehanort, lest you become a minion. Creepy old man taking over your body? No thanks!
If you have liked what you have read and would like to learn more, you can check out the following story arcs/episodes/collected issues:
* For Ansem/Xemnas brought to life by the dulcet tones of Billy Zane, Kingdom Hearts I & II are where you can see him in his prime as he attempts to possess you.
* For Master Xehanort, seek out Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, voiced by the glorious Leonard Nimoy, at his most vile.
* The very pretty Young Xehanort makes several appearances in the Kingdom Hearts manga, so while those are a darn informative read, turn your gaming attentions to Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.
“This… is hardly… the end… Your darkness—I gave it… all to you… My dark shadow… lingers… Someday… Someday… I will return!”