Pride Month Picks: Kingdom Hearts And The Romantic Potential Of Sora And Riku

This article is part of Pride Month Picks, a collection of pieces that aim to highlight queer representation across games, television, film, books, and more throughout June.

Kingdom Hearts’ community is one of the most passionate out there, constantly crafting fanart, fanfics, theories and wishlists surrounding the belovedly weird JRPG. Its fans are also very queer, with one of the most popular Kingdom Hearts fan theories being how Sora and Riku have feelings for one another.

Although it’s a theory that Michael ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Mouse is unlikely to ever make into a reality, especially considering how Kingdom Hearts 3 once again seemed to push Sora and Kairi as the central romance, it’s easy for fans to believe. From the very beginning, Sora and Riku are portrayed as the closest of friends, so close that they wanted to run off and explore the world together, ready to leave everything else behind.

When Kairi suggests to Sora that they take the boats and leave without Riku, he’s having none of it, and when he finally reunites with him in Traverse Town a little later on, it’s clear just how much they care about one another. The rest of the game is mostly spent fighting against Riku, but Sora refuses to ever give in and leave him to be consumed by darkness, right up until the moment they lose each other as Riku redeems himself.

By the end of the first Kingdom Hearts, you could argue that they were just super close best buddies, sure, but Kingdom Hearts 2 made that a whole lot more difficult. Throughout the whole game, all that Sora talks about is finding Riku again, running after him in every world and barely giving notice to the fact that Kairi is out there somewhere too with Axel. They’re far more than just guys being dudes – these boys are fruity.

This comes to a head after the two finally find each other in the final stretch of the game and Sora tearfully falls to his knees and cries, thinking that he’d lost Riku for good. Even when I first played Kingdom Hearts 2 when I was seven, I remember feeling something different than friendship from this scene, and I always had this weird electric feeling in my stomach that never quite went away.

The scenes between Sora and Riku in the Realm of Darkness are some of my all-time favourites in the series, and perfectly demonstrate why people love pairing them together. As they hold each other on the edges of light and darkness, they each tell the other that they’re fine so long as they’re no longer apart, and submit to a life together in the darkness.

Then came Dream Drop Distance, where the two take part in the Mark of Mastery exam with one another and, once again, only talk about finding the other. Riku’s affection for Sora comes to a head here, stroking a vision of his face in Traverse Town, forming their own special Keyblade (lovingly nicknamed the Gayblade by the community), and then being revealed as his Dream Eater towards the end of the game.

Although Dream Drop Distance is one of my least favourite Kingdom Hearts games, it’s essential for Riku’s character, as he accepts the darkness that previously held him back, and risks his life to save Sora. It’s the perfect analogy for someone accepting their sexual identity, making the fact that it’s fuelled by Sora even more perfect.

Kingdom Hearts 3 pushes Sora and Kairi a bit more with the paopu scene and Sora’s sacrifice for Kairi, but it still falls flat compared to the scenes that Sora and Riku share together. Sora arriving just in time to save Riku from Aqua just after he calls out his name is a great example, but even greater is seeing Riku sacrifice his life for Sora in the Keyblade Graveyard, spurring him to stop doubting himself and save everyone. It’s no coincidence that Sora thinks the light that he’s following to come back to life is Riku.

If you believe that Sora and Kairi should end up together, that’s just as valid as a theory as Sora and Riku, especially considering certain scenes like the end of the original Kingdom Hearts and when Kairi saves Sora from the darkness in Kingdom Hearts 3, but it’s one that I find harder to believe thanks to their lack of chemistry and screen time.

There are moments where it’s portrayed as more romantic, like at the end of Halloween Town in Kingdom Hearts 2 where he imagines the two dancing or in the first game’s ending where he promises to come back to her, but any time the two are supposed come off as a pairing it feels awkward and childish, like the idea of romance from someone who’s never really experienced it.

Admittedly, SoRiku is a ship I feel strongly about, mostly because it helped me come to terms with my own bisexuality. Seeing how close these two were on-screen and how honest they were with their feelings helped me accept a lot about myself that I never knew was even there, so I’m always hoping that it’ll come to pass as something more than just a fan theory and inspire others just like me.

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