Speaking as a seasoned fan and consummate professional, I use the word “anime” as both a noun and loving pejorative descriptor. When I’m talking about animation that comes out of Japan, I call it anime. But when a video game or a show has a certain look to it, makes certain storytelling choices, or features certain character tropes, I’ll often sigh, smirk, and say, “ah, that’s so anime.” So, Interspecies Reviewers or Detective Conan? Those are anime. But Code Vein? That’s so anime. Get it? Good.
When it comes to stuff that makes me smirk and say that to myself, then, few things come to mind faster than Kingdom Hearts. The series has been going strong for almost two decades, and the recent release of Melody of Memory proved that its steadfast commitment to goofy anime nonsense isn’t dying any time soon. Which is good – Kingdom Hearts is a series built on broad, silly tropes from shonen anime, and fans like myself love it for that.
“There’s little doubt in anyone’s mind how much the Kingdom Hearts series apes from anime,” Jeremy Signor wrote for Unwinnable in 2019. “Whether it’s through the increasingly convoluted plot points or the idiosyncratic character designs, Kingdom Hearts wears its anime influences on its sleeves.”
That being the case, then, Kingdom Hearts should embrace those influences and finally make good on an anime adaptation. Hopefully, the animated series already in production for Disney Plus is a US-Japanese co-production – if not an entirely Japanese one. It’d be a shame for all of those influences to be thrown out the window in favor of yet another American studio cribbing things from the medium.
There’s already a great manga from Shiro Amano, too, that offers the perfect blueprint for adapting Kingdom Hearts to the small(er) screen in an anime series. Amano authored and illustrated several manga tie-ins to the games from 2003 to 2015, and returned for the ongoing Kingdom Hearts 3 manga. Her manga offers not just a retread of the games, but a stylish and fluid re-imagining of them that never gets too lost in the weeds. What it lacks in niggling little lore details, it makes up for with compact and compelling storytelling. That take on the source material would be a must for compelling TV, as a lot of fat would need to get trimmed for it to not get bogged down in droll exposition dumps. Plus, Amano’s redesigns of both the core cast and beloved Disney characters are spot-on, which should make her a shoo-in for a potential anime’s character designer.
Square Enix is also a fairly prolific presence in the anime world – their Monthly Shonen GanGan has serialized smash-hit manga like Fullmetal Alchemist and Soul Eater, and different parts of the company regularly contribute to anime productions. Disney also already has a Japanese animation division, which has collaborated with other studios for projects like Madhouse’s Stitch. Point being, both companies have some clout in this world and are no strangers to working with Japan’s top talent to make some great shows.
With how much the franchise has drawn from anime, it would be extremely cool to see Kingdom Hearts make its jump to the medium. While any animated series is worth getting excited for, the idea of a studio like Bones bringing Sora, Donald, and Goofy to life is enough to make a fangirl’s heart flutter.
Header art by Shiro Amano.
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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.
She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.
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