Kingdom Hearts: The Novel is an adaptation of the video game of the same name written by Tomoco Kanemaki with illustrations by Shiro Amano. It tells the story of Sora, a boy yearning for adventure, who has to team up with Donald Duck and Goofy in order to find and save his friends, Riku and Kairi, and prevent all the worlds from succumbing to darkness.
This novel is a fairly good adaptation of the video game. It takes the plot of the game and condenses it into a better-paced story. Gone are the worlds which contain little relevance to the overall plot of the story. Instead, Kanemaki chooses to stick to the basic story of the game and let the characters shine through. This, alone, is a smart move on Kanemaki’s fault. While exploring countless worlds works well in a video game, it doesn’t work so well in a novel. Had Kanemaki adapted the game exactly as was, the book would’ve felt very repetitive very quickly.
In fact, the characters are the strongest part of this book. Telling this story in the form of a novel allows the characters room to breathe. Kanemaki does this admirably, particularly with Sora. Kanemaki’s style allows the audience the opportunity to really explore Sora’s thoughts and feelings throughout the story. Routinely, we are granted access to exactly what Sora is thinking about a given event, and it makes the story stronger.
The worlds from the video game that Kanemaki chose to keep are probably the most important worlds to the overall story itself. Wonderland, Tarzan’s Jungle, Agrabah, Monstro the Whale, Traverse Town, Neverland, and Hollow Bastion are the worlds kept in this adaptation, and they’re the worlds most needed to tell this story in a way that makes sense, is paced well, and keeps from being repetitive.
In terms of Kanemaki’s writing style (as well as that of the translator), the book is written fairly simplistically. There aren’t a whole lot of detailed descriptions, and he tries a bit too hard with the whole “not using ‘said’ thing”. A character is always retorting or some other action instead of just speaking, and it definitely comes off a bit distracting at times. Oftentimes it’s a bit unclear who exactly is speaking as Kanemaki routinely doesn’t identify the speakers of sentences; in terms of the pacing of the story, this is okay, but in terms of the clarity, it’s a bit confusing. It’s a fragile balance, and Kanemaki doesn’t always manage to hit that balance as well as he’d like to.
However, Kanemaki is able to bring the theme of friendship and love even further to the surface than it was in the game in the way he writes this book. This is a story of friendship and love defeating even the greatest darkness. It’s a story of perseverance and dedication; a story of bravery and camaraderie. It’s perfect that the story uses so many characters from the Disney canon because it really feels right at home in the Disney universe.
The video game series has been beloved for over fifteen years now, and it’s great that it’s finally getting adapted into other mediums. As someone who doesn’t have access to video games, I am thrilled that I have the chance to properly experience this story in the form of a beautifully written novel. I can’t wait for the subsequent adaptations to be published here in America; Kingdom Hearts is and has always been a good, wholesome, entertaining story appropriate for all ages. It brings out my inner child and fills me with joy. The games always did that, and this adaptation does it, too.
I give Kingdom Hearts: The Novel 3.5 out of 5 wands.
Kingdom Hearts: The Novel is published by Yen Press and can be bought in both paperback and e-book formats.