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Kingdom Hearts remains a beloved video game series for me from a young age until being an adult. While the games are the focus of Kingdom Hearts, there are other adaptations out there, too.
This includes the manga series that I will cover in full in this Kingdom Hearts manga guide. You’re in the right place if you’ve wanted to know about this adaptation.
There are many people that the Kingdom Hearts manga guide is going to make sense for. This form of media might work for someone, for instance, who wants to see the game’s plot and characters in a new light.
Or for someone with not a lot of time to pour dozens of hours into a game but still wants to check out the characters. Regardless of your reason, here’s everything you need to know about the Kingdom Hearts manga adaptation.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Kingdom Hearts manga came after the video games that each is based on, adapting the storyline and characters for a different form of media. The series follows Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they travel around Disney-themed worlds to save them from the forces of darkness using Sora’s signature keyblade.
There are four different manga series right now, each based on a different game. For the most part, the plot of the series remains the same, but there are some notable changes at times with the various characters and even tone in some volumes.
This makes it feel like a different take that is well worth checking out for newcomers to the Kingdom Hearts franchise and existing fans alike. Here are the current series to date:
- Kingdom Hearts
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
- Kingdom Hearts II
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
- Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix
- Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts Manga Explained
The Kingdom Hearts video games from Square Enix and Disney are some of the most popular JRPGs of the 21st century with their blend of Final Fantasy and Disney characters. The action RPG was popular enough that it warranted an adaptation beyond games into the form of books.
In this case, there is the Kingdom Hearts manga series. This takes the existing plot and characters from the various games and adapts them into Japanese comic book format. This means that there are black-and-white images accompanied by the standard bubbles of text here and there.
The manga adaptations provide a different take on the series, presenting characters and storylines in a new light. That said, the series does follow the format of the games in dividing up the various series by their respective games and having separate volumes for each of them.
Some of the manga series is relatively short, with only a couple of volumes that tell their story, while others are rather long and ongoing today.
Many of these volumes have been translated from Japanese into English and other languages so that fans worldwide can enjoy the books. But unfortunately, not all of them are localized, nor has the Kingdom Hearts manga covered every one of the games yet.
The Kingdom Hearts manga began life in Japan not too long after the release of the original Kingdom Hearts game on PlayStation 2. In 2003, the adaptation of the first game’s story began serialization through Square Enix’s own Monthly Shonen Gangan magazine.
Shiro Amano created the first and all subsequent manga in the Kingdom Hearts series. Amano has almost exclusively been a manga creator for various Square Enix works outside of a couple of one-shots and volumes about other works.
It began with his manga adaptation of the Legend of Mana games in 2002 before starting Kingdom Hearts in 2003. The bulk of Amano’s career has been the six series that he has worked on so far in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, minus a couple of other series throughout, like The World, Ends With You.
Soon after the conclusion of Kingdom Hearts’ first manga, Amano began work on Chain of Memories, going in order of the game series itself. That was followed by the much longer Kingdom Hearts II manga that had a shakier situation. Before it was completed, Amano shifted gears onto 358/2 Days before coming back to finish it.
Following those two series, Amano revisited the series with the Final Mix manga before finally starting serialization on Kingdom Hearts III most recently. That one is currently in the middle of circulation with only a couple of volumes.
The localization history of the Kingdom Hearts manga has been even more troubled than the actual creation of the series. Courtesy of the publisher Tokyopop, the first Kingdom Hearts manga was able to release in the United States in English officially for the first time only two years after it started in Japan.
Thus began the localization of future series, but we only got a couple of volumes of Kingdom Hearts II and 358/2 Days before Tokyopop shut its doors to localizing the manga. Yen Press is the current localizing company for the Kingdom Hearts manga, but there is still some catch-up that needs to happen.
For those new to Kingdom Hearts, the story begins with a young boy named Sora who lives on an island with a couple of friends. After a crazy event happens, he finds himself in a new world with Donald and Goofy, who are looking for King Mickey.
At the same time, Sora is on a quest to find his friends and a way back home. They team up together and travel to various Disney-themed worlds, meet characters from the Final Fantasy series, and use Sora’s keyblade to fight off the evil threatening everyone.
Each of the series expands upon the settings featured in the previous ones, offering new locations, both familiar and new to fans of Disney properties.
There are a few main characters that are prominently featured in the Kingdom Hearts manga series. The first of these is the lead protagonist and most famous original character in the series: Sora. Sora is a young boy who grows up on a tiny island alongside his friends.
At the start of the series, he discovers the keyblade and his ability to open up the gateway to other worlds. In the midst of this, he becomes stranded in another world, looking for his friends and a way back home. Sora is a gentle protagonist but someone who puts everyone else first.
Because of this, he has a firm resolve and a good sense of character that helps him be one of the most accurate forms of what a hero can be. Alongside him are Donald and Goofy, the classic Disney characters. Donald is the occasional voice of reason, while Goofy is, well, the lovable goofy.
Riku is another main character and Sora’s best friend. Riku, too, finds himself elsewhere and has a much more complicated history and personality in the series. While Sora is full of light, a bit of darkness persists in Riku, causing him to struggle more than his best friend.
Kairi is the third of the trio of childhood friends and a girl whom Sora profoundly cares about. Her presence and part in the story are smaller in the early parts but become more prevalent throughout as a strong-willed and kind girl who wants to do what’s right.
Lastly, the final main character worth mentioning is Roxas. He is a young man who has a quiet and reserved character. There is a bit of a depressing side to him due to the harrowing events that he has faced in life. But, like Sora, he truly cares about his friends and will do anything for them.
There are quite a few memorable main villains present throughout the Kingdom Hearts manga. Initially, the villain that readers meet is Maleficent. The eternal enemy of Sleeping Beauty and the Mistress of Evil is not a force to be trifled with, as seen in her lead role in the original Kingdom Hearts manga.
Maleficent is unique among the villains as the prominent Disney one. For most manga series, the main villains come from the original characters in Organization XIII. There are many members of this group, 13 to be exact, but some rotating selections throughout.
Organization XIII is led by Xehanort and his 12 underlings, with each of them having a respective number and ranking within the order. This affects their leadership role and even where they sit when the group gathers together.
Organization XIII are the villains that Sora encounters throughout the manga series, with different members antagonizing the protagonist at various moments. Of them, Xehanort and his various incarnations are certainly the most memorable as the villainous leader who will not give up when it comes to his plans.
Where to Read the Kingdom Hearts Manga
Now that you know the general basics of the Kingdom Hearts manga, I would not be surprised if you are interested in checking it out yourself. If you would like to do that, there are a few different ways that you can go about it. The first method requires you to decide whether you want it physically or digitally.
This will come down to personal preference. Some people prefer a physical book in their hands when they read something, so they focus better, while others prefer whatever is the cheapest. Often, the digital version of a manga like Kingdom Hearts will be more affordable.
Once you figure out which you want, here’s where you can read it. For the physical copies of the Kingdom Hearts manga series, if you do not mind not owning the books, I recommend penny pinchers out there like myself to hit up your local public library and see if volumes are available there.
That is actually how I first discovered there was a Kingdom Hearts manga series years ago and how I read the original four volumes of the first game. This is great since you can read them at leisure in a beautiful library (or at home) without spending a cent on them (remember to return them on time).
On the other hand, there are a couple of places where you can buy physical books, like online retailers such as Amazon. If you want to hit up a brick-and-mortar store, you can try places like Barnes and Nobles in the US, where the series might be available. Just remember that it may only have newer volumes.
For the digital fans out there, there are a few options. You can try places like Amazon, but I think Bookwalker is the best solution for digital readers. This is because it has the latest chapters of the Kingdom Hearts III manga that is still in serialization.
You can even buy the latest chapters before they are compiled into an entire volume, saving you the excruciating months (and sometimes years) of waiting. The only problem with this method is that Bookwalker does not have Kingdom Hearts II and some of the older volumes. I’m not exactly sure why this is.
Manga Series List
One of the most confusing parts about the Kingdom Hearts manga series is that it is not like other manga where they have a primary series, and readers can start with that. You do not have to worry about the spin-offs and the like; just focus on starting from the first volume.
The problem with Kingdom Hearts’ manga is that it divides up the volumes and series like the games did. If you are familiar with the games, that’s not necessarily too much of an issue. However, it can be frustrating if you are entirely new to the franchise and are looking to start with the manga.
To help with this, I had listed all of the Kingdom Hearts manga below in order from when they first started, so you know which came first and all of that. In addition, I included the number of volumes that each manga has (currently), so you know how each read could take you:
- Kingdom Hearts: Four volumes
- Chain of Memories: Two volumes
- Kingdom Hearts II: 10 volumes (as of now)
- 358/2 Days: Five books (for now)
- Final Mix: Two volumes
- Kingdom Hearts III: Two books (for now, still in serialization)
The tricky part of this list is that this is not necessarily in chronological order, and some significant games are still missing. To make matters worse, not all of the volumes are localized, either. Kingdom Hearts II is notoriously unavailable in English legally outside of two books, while 358/2 Days is mixed.
Differences Between the Manga and Games
There are some notable differences between the manga and the video games for Kingdom Hearts. This is, of course, beyond the obvious changes like the fact that you play and have a direct role in how everything goes in the games, while the manga is a straightforward story that you consume.
One of the most significant changes is the fact that the Kingdom Hearts manga does not necessarily follow that of the games in terms of releases. While it did go in order with the first game, Chain of Memories, and so on, the manga has neglected a few crucial entries so far.
Most notably, the Kingdom Hearts manga completely skipped Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance in favor of adapting Kingdom Hearts III first. This is primarily a travesty since both of these titles directly affect the story that happens in III.
There are entire characters that will play a massive role in III, especially from Birth by Sleep, that you will not even know or care about if you’ve never experienced their storylines before. This is all before including some entries that I think should happen as well.
I think it would be quite well cool to get a manga that makes sense of the story and strips away the mobile aspects of both Union and Dark Road. Moving specifically into the manga’s content themselves, some notable tonal changes happen.
Chain of Memories is the one that everyone brings up with its much lighter content in the manga compared to the pretty moody game, but I think even Kingdom Hearts II has some substantial changes in this goofier regard as well, from what I’ve read.
Best Alternatives to the Kingdom Hearts Manga
Now that you know all about the Kingdom Hearts manga, you might be wondering where to go from here. There are a few recommendations that I have for other manga and games that I think you should check out if you are a Kingdom Hearts fan.
Starting with manga-exclusively, here are some manga series that I think are similar enough to appeal to fans of this series with a little bit of information about each of them:
- Any Disney manga: This is a bit of a cop-out answer but there are actually quite a lot of manga adaptations of Disney animated films. Not all of them are that great, but I particularly enjoyed the Lilo & Stitch spin-off manga and Big Hero 6 adaptation that I think worked quite well for the form.
- Isekai manga: Kingdom Hearts is basically an Isekai series (kid wakes up in another world) without ever really saying it, so there are plenty of these that will appeal to existing fans. There are countless in this genre but some of my favorites include Tales of Wedding Rings, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, The Rising of the Shield Hero, So I’m a Spider, So What?, and Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation.
- The Ancient Magus Bride: Lots of creatures and magical elements. The manga and anime have that rare Disney animated magic to them, in my opinion.
As for video game recommendations, since we are an RPG site, here’s my quick list:
- Final Fantasy series: Final Fantasy characters appear in Kingdom Hearts and some games even have similar gameplay mechanics. I, personally, love and highly recommend IV, VI, VII Remake, XII, and XIV. That said, XIII and its trilogy are quite similar to Kingdom Hearts, in my opinion, so might be worth checking out.
- Ni no Kuni series: The two Ni no Kuni games give some heavy Kingdom Hearts vibes. A mix of a kid in another world, magical stuff, and the gorgeous art that is Studio Ghibli-style makes them like Disney-infused JRPGs well worth playing.
- Tales of series: The Tales of games are action-based like Kingdom Hearts and have similar save the world tropes. My suggestions are Tales of Berseria, Tales of Vesperia, and Tales of Arise.
- The Legend of Heroes series: While much darker overall and turn-based, this series reminds me of Kingdom Hearts in how twisty its unbelievably excellent story can get. The Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel sub-series are the ones to play.
Question: In what Order do You Read Kingdom Hearts Manga?
Answer: The order that you should read the Kingdom Hearts manga is (pretty much) the order that they were released in, following the games’ order as well. The changes I make to the order are you only need Final Mix, since it is like a remix of the original Kingdom Hearts and I like 358/2 Days before II, personally. Here is the order that I think that you should read the manga series from first to last:
• Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix
• Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
• Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
• Kingdom Hearts II
• Kingdom Hearts III
Question: How many Kingdom Hearts Manga Volumes are there?
Answer: There are around 25 volumes of the Kingdom Hearts manga that are out today if you count Final Mix as its own thing. There are four volumes of the original, two volumes of Final Mix, two volumes of Chain of Memories, five volumes of 358/2 Days, 10 volumes of II, and two volumes (so far) of III.
Question: Should I Read the Kingdom Hearts Manga?
Answer: This will differ from person to person. If you like manga already and/or the Kingdom Hearts series, I think you should absolutely give it a shot. If you’re new to manga or Kingdom Hearts, that is a bit of a tougher one. I think the games are mostly better, especially in the Chain of Memories case, so I recommend trying the games first, then checking out the manga.
The Kingdom Hearts manga series is well worth your time. It might be a little bit different from what you are used to if you’ve played any of the games, but it also allows for more insight into the characters and plot than ever before.
At the same time, it is in bite-sized chunks that do not take too long to read, making them well worth the short time to read each volume.
However, if you do not know if the manga versions of the series are right for you, that is totally understandable. I recommend checking out our full overview of the Kingdom Hearts franchise as a whole to find out more about all of the games and see where the best place to start might be for you.
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