Interior of the Heart

"What's happening to me? Falling... falling... into darkness."
        --Sora, Kingdom Hearts

Like light, the darkness is a reoccurring theme that spans each game in the Kingdom Hearts series. From the beginning, the darkness is portrayed as an unstoppable force that cannot be vanquished; in essence, it is an evil entity. However, because of its indestructible quality, it has been known to reside in all hearts, no matter how pure they seem. Thus, the darkness coexists within one's heart along with light, leaving the individual vulnerable and never completely protected. It is important to note that Kingdom Hearts does not make a clear-cut distinction between right and wrong or good and evil. Thus, the terminology they use to refer to negative qualities is "dark".

"Don't steep yourself in darkness too long. The Heartless consume the careless."
       --Maleficent, Kingdom Hearts

Sora's first real taste of emerging darkness is when his home, Destiny Islands, becomes consumed by a swarm of Heartless. Sadly, his first loss to the darkness is Riku, his best friend. Riku was intended to be the chosen wielder of the Keyblade; however, because he had "betrayed the light" and accepting darkness. What, then, does that mean?

The darkness is not an evil, an affliction, or the devil himself. It is many things-- weakness, human flaws, the loss of innocence, and selfishness-- something that everyone holds.

"Long ago, people lived in peace, bathed in the warmth of light. Everyone loved the light. Then people began to fight over it. They wanted to keep it for themselves. And darkness was born in their hearts"
       -- Kairi's Grandmother, Kingdom Hearts

Sora watches Riku step out into the night, leaving the islands without fearing the darkness because he accepted it. Riku performed a selfish act in wanting to know what was beyond his world in order to fill the void in his heart. Riku wanted to abandon everyone and put everything behind him for all the wrong reasons. He was willing to do something unacceptable in order to gain something that he wanted.

It is this same struggle to gain knowledge that drives everyone else down, be it the knowledge of wanting to know the worlds outside of your own, or to know what exactly Kingdom Hearts is. Ansem the Wise had to delve himself into research in order to further his comprehension. This kind of worldly knowledge disconnects people from other people's hearts, and finally, their own.

"I wished I could live life the way you do. Just following my heart."
       -- Riku, Kingdom Hearts II

What makes Sora stand out is that he doesn't need anything to fill his heart; he is happy with what he has. Although he had wondered what the worlds are like outside of the islands, it didn't necessarily bother him or create a void within himself. With guiding words from Kairi, Sora only needed to be himself in order to overcome darkness. However, for Sora to entirely conquer the darkness within, he needed to touch it, to experience it firsthand. The strength of his loyalty to the light is tested when he turns into a heartless in order to save Kairi, and then back to his human form using only his will power. But a key thing to note is that Sora never betrayed the light; he turned into a heartless and faced the darkness with complete rejection.

"If the world is made of light and darkness... We'll be the darkness."
       -- Riku, Kingdom Hearts II

At the end of Kingdom Hearts II, Sora and Riku reach a shore at what seems to be the end of the line for them. They have accepted their destiny of living in complete darkness, watching the sea move as the worlds of humans remain safe. Their plans change, however, when the "door to light" opens, allowing them to return home; ironically, the brighest light rests within the darkest of places. The reason why Sora and Riku cannot stay in the darkness is because, light, just like darkness, exists within humans. Although they may accept it peacefully, it's their innate ability to conquer it that keeps them from residing in the realm of dark.

"But someday, a door to the innermost darkness will open. And the true light will return"
       -- Kairi's Grandmother, Kingdom Hearts