FEATURES By Spencer Aug 29, 2013 at 1:58am (EST)
Yen Press has finally done what many fans of the Kingdom Hearts manga thought might never happen and that is continue the manga where Tokyopop left off. This first volume of Kingdom Hearts 2 includes volumes 1, 2, and the first half of 3. Now we finally get to see how Sora's very long journey begins after leaving Hollow Bastion.
The first thing you will notice about this first volume is that it is literally full to the rim pages. The entire volume has just over 500 pages and this is by no means a bad thing. After all Kingdom Heart 2 has the longest story in the entire series. So if you are not a fan of Roxas' story (which you should love) get ready to skip over half of this first volume.
Amano really takes his time to introduce us to Roxas and really make his last few days of summer vacation come to life. Sadly there are a few parts to the opening of Kingdom Hearts 2 that don't make the manga and really end up feeling missed. Not showing the boss fight with Roxas taking on the giant nobody, Twilight Thorn was one of the most memorable parts. Even small things like Roxas not skateboarding at all made this Roxas almost feel different to the one we played in Kingdom Hearts.
Roxas' story is not all misses though and actually ends up taking a couple liberties with the story that really pay off. Showing Axel getting mad at not being able to find Roxas really hits an emotional chord for all of us who know how close these two friends use to be and how much Axel wants to have his best friend back. Also the way struggle matches are played are a million times funnier when you actually see the fighters play with balles stuck to their outfits.
For those of us who have seen Roxas' last seven days of summer vacation many times before, it can start to drag towards the end with the extremely heavy focus on story Amano takes. Newcomers to the series might not mind this as much since you have yet to experience one of the saddest openings to come out of a video game.
Of course the story of Kingdom Hearts 2 isn't all about Roxas (that's what 358/2 Days is for) and eventually our heroes Sora, Donald, and Goofy wake from their slumber after Chain of Memories. The three have no memories after the event of Kingdom Hearts, this means they have no idea of what they went through in Castle Oblivion. The trend of a character not remembering something, but the heart not forgetting is one that happens a lot in Kingdom Hearts 2.
This makes Sora's journey that much more sad whenever a moment from Roxas' past effects him and he can't even understand why. Amano really nails these moments of pure emotion in these manga. The scene where Kairi hates the fact that she can't remember anything Sora, not even his name and how happy she becomes when she finally remember his name (after a hint) really goes to show the kind of bond these two have for each other no matter what happens.
A issue that has divided Kingdom Hearts fans about the manga continues to be present with the manga not having a lot of combat in favor of more story. There end up being only three major fights in this entire volume and while they are well done, still might make you want a change of pace from the sometimes slow story moments. It was a shame to see this since Amano did a great job balancing the two in Chain of Memories.
The third half is actually the biggest saving grace and not just for the fact that it is new content. Beast's Castle is the first Disney world that our three heroes must investigate. Not only is it great to actually see more of Beast after the ending of Kingdom Hearts, but actually exploring his complex/tragic life is done quite well. We even get a much better final fight to this world than the original game had not just in terms of combat, but story as well.
Kingdom Hearts 2 is a massive story to take on and isn't even done yet in Japan. The manga adaptation of it is far from perfect, but so was the original games story. It is great to still see that Amano takes these incredibly memorable stories and find a way to put his own twist on them that makes the manga stand up with games in terms of story telling.
Now that things have finally gotten rolling and with our three heroes visiting more worlds in the next volume, Kingdom Hearts 2 volume 1 is still gets a big recommendation. The amount of content is great and Yen Press has been doing a stellar job at including full color images whenever they can that were not in the original releases.
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If you have read Kingdom Hearts 2 volume 1, be sure to post what you think about it in the comments below. If you also have any questions about the manga feel free to post them below and I will respond to as many questions I can answer.
Next week will be the final week of our Kingdom Hearts Manga Impressions with Kingdom Hearts 2 Volume 2. Kingdom Hearts Union has released these impression leading up to the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix in North America and Europe.