Xehanort is the main antagonist of the eponymous "Xehanort Saga".
A Keyblade Master who once taught Ventus, Master Xehanort believes that darkness and light should exist in perfect balance, and for this reason, he seeks to conquer Kingdom Hearts and recreate the worlds according to his wishes. Through his many different incarnations, including Terra-Xehanort, his Heartless, Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, and his Nobody, Xemnas, Xehanort is ultimately responsible for the series of events that repeatedly threaten the worlds with destruction, including the mass release of Heartless into the Realm of Light, and the creation of the Nobodies and Organization XIII. He has also brought tragedy to many that have crossed his path, including Sora, Riku, Kairi, Terra, Ventus, and Aqua.
Young Xehanort acquired the ability to travel through time from his future self's Heartless, and he used it to manipulate events so that his future self's plans would come to fruition.
In his true, original form, Master Xehanort first appeared in the teaser for Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep as the antagonist battling Terra, Aqua and Ventus alongside Vanitas. Despite being the true main antagonist of the "Dark Seeker Saga", Master Xehanort did not appear until Birth by Sleep, the series' sixth installment, and did not meet Sora face to face until Dream Drop Distance, the seventh. After Kingdom Hearts II, it was believed that Terra-Xehanort, then simply known as "Xehanort" and the original persona of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness and Xemnas, was the true Xehanort and the series' antagonist, until Birth by Sleep revealed that the character was simply a possessed version of Terra by the elderly Master Xehanort, the villain's true original incarnation. Master Xehanort's origins and connection to Terra-Xehanort were hinted when it was revealed that he would be voiced by Chikao Ostuka, the father of Akio Otsuka, who voiced Terra-Xehanort and Ansem.
In the English version of the series, Master Xehanort is voiced by Leonard Nimoy, who was chosen specifically by Tetsuya Nomura because of his role as Mr. Spock from Star Trek and because Nomura himself is a huge fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars, two franchises he intended to pit against each other by additionally casting Mark Hamill as Master Eraqus, Xehanort's enemy. Of note, Birth by Sleep was originally intended to be Nimoy's final performance before his retirement in 2010, but he has since come out of retirement and briefly reprised the role in Dream Drop Distance.
Before Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Xehanort grew up on the Destiny Islands, and as a young man, he was paid a visit by his future self's Heartless, Ansem, who granted him the power to traverse time and tasked him with gathering twelve other incarnations of himself from across time.
After carrying out his duties in the future, Xehanort returned to his proper place in time and relinquished his memories of the future, while retaining the desire to travel to other worlds. He eventually found a way to depart his home world and arrived at the Land of Departure, where he encountered a Keyblade Master. Under this master, he began training as a Keyblade wielder, along with his fellow pupil Eraqus, who Xehanort eventually came to see as a brother. The Master taught the two the ways of the Keyblade and that their role as Keyblade wielders was to protect the worlds of light from darkness. However, this answer was unsatisfactory to Xehanort, and he often visited other worlds without permission to learn more. Initially, Xehanort wore Keyblade Armor during his travels, to protect himself from the darkness between worlds, but eventually he discarded it and sought to control the darkness, believing that if he succeeded, he would not need his armor for protection. Eventually, both Eraqus and Xehanort became Keyblade Masters, and Eraqus was chosen as the Master's successor. The newly titled Master Xehanort was free to take on apprentices of his own to train, and he traveled the worlds freely.
As he journeyed, Xehanort obtained vast knowledge concerning Keyblade lore, the Heartless, and the mysteries of the Keyblade War and Kingdom Hearts. Xehanort came to believe that darkness and light were meant to be in balance, but the "tyranny" of light had destroyed much of the darkness and shifted that balance. He therefore resolved to obtain the power of Kingdom Hearts, so that he may create a World in balance. To that end, he sought to recreate the legendary χ-blade and begin a new Keyblade War. By this time, however, Xehanort had grown very old, and he devised a plan to use his Keyblade to extract his own heart and transfer it to a younger body to prolong his life until his ambitions were fulfilled.
At one point, Xehanort discussed his ideas about the Keyblade War with Eraqus, who attempted to dissuade him from risking a new apocalypse for the sake of gaining knowledge. When Eraqus tried to stop him by force, Xehanort used his power of darkness to easily fend him off, scarring his face in the process.
Eventually, Xehanort encountered Ventus, who he took on as a pupil. Finding Ventus unsuitable as a vessel, he decided to use the boy in his plan to create the χ-blade. After failing to stimulate Ven's darkness during a training exercise in the Badlands, Xehanort forcibly extracted the darkness from his heart, creating Vanitas. Ven's heart was badly damaged in the process, and Xehanort brought him to the Destiny Islands to die in peace, but Ven showed signs of recovery after his heart connected with that of the newly born Sora. In order to strengthen Ven's light and keep him separated from Vanitas, Xehanort brought him to Eraqus and requested that he take care of Ventus and train him as a Keyblade wielder. His hopes were that Eraqus's dedication to the light would nurture Ventus and make him equal in strength to Vanitas, so that they could one day fight each other, forging the χ-blade. Despite how they had parted ways, Eraqus readily accepts Xehanort's request, taking Ventus as an apprentice, to be trained along with Terra and Aqua. While there, Xehanort notices Terra's desire for power, and he decides to make Terra his new vessel.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
A few years later, Master Eraqus invites Master Xehanort to the Land of Departure to witness Terra and Aqua becoming Keyblade Masters. Xehanort accepts, but he hints that Terra has the potential for darkness and suggests Eraqus administer a Mark of Mastery exam to the two apprentices. During the exam, Xehanort subtly uses darkness to affect the Orbs of Light and nudge Terra's darkness during his spar with Aqua. At the end of the exam, Eraqus names Aqua as Master, telling Terra that he failed to keep his darkness in check. Meanwhile, Xehanort leaves the building, passing by Vanitas, who tells him that Terra is the key to luring Ventus away from home. Outside, Xehanort tells Terra that he should not fear his darkness, and that he should learn to channel it instead. He then leaves via a Corridor of Darkness, making himself unavailable when Eraqus tries to contact him about the Unversed threat. Master Eraqus tasks Aqua and Terra with countering the Unversed and locating Master Xehanort, and Vanitas manipulates Ventus into following Terra.
During his travels, Master Xehanort meets the evil fairy Maleficent, and he informs her of the existence of other worlds, the Princesses of Heart, and Kingdom Hearts. He also tells her that the Keyblade is necessary to take others' hearts, and warns her of the three Keyblade wielders that would follow him to her world.
Some time later, Master Xehanort summons Terra to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he tells him of Vanitas and his connection to the Unversed. He explains that he created Vanitas after Ventus succumbed to darkness in a training accident, and he asks Terra to stop Vanitas for him, suggesting that he may be drawn to Radiant Garden, the city of light.
After arriving at Radiant Garden, Terra spots Master Xehanort walking into the Castle Town, but he is distracted from following him by a giant Unversed. Xehanort strikes an alliance with Braig, and they stage Xehanort's kidnapping in order to manipulate Terra into using darkness. Braig faces Terra in battle, and Terra accidentally channels his darkness, scarring Braig's face and forcing him to flee. Xehanort consoles the distraught Terra, offering to take him under his wing, so they may pursue a balance between light and darkness together. He tells "Master Terra" to continue his journey and his search for Vanitas.
After Terra leaves Radiant Garden, an injured Braig attempts to gun Master Xehanort down, furious at being set up as "collateral damage", but Xehanort easily forces him to back down. When Braig remarks that a scarred face is better than a lost heart, Xehanort reveals that Terra is incapable of stealing a heart, implying that he himself was the one who stole Aurora's heart.
Later, Master Xehanort has Vanitas abduct Mickey Mouse to lure Ventus to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he reveals to Ventus the truth about his past and his plans to create the χ-blade. He adds that Master Eraqus has kept Ventus from venturing away from the Land of Departure in order to prevent the creation of the Keyblade, and that he never trusted Ventus enough to tell him the truth. Xehanort summons a dark vortex that sends Ven to the Land of Departure, expecting him to confront Eraqus. He then calls Terra to him, telling him that Ven went to confront Eraqus on his own, and that he fears for Ven's safety. He sends Terra after Ventus, and Terra arrives in time to protect Ven, throws him through a portal to safety, and defeats Eraqus in battle. Although Terra and Eraqus both regret their actions, Xehanort appears and delivers the final blow against Eraqus, who dissolves into light in Terra's arms. Revealing his true intentions to Terra, for him to succumb to darkness, Xehanort tells Terra to return to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he will see Ventus and Aqua meet their ends. He then summons his Keyblade and uses it to unleash darkness on the Land of Departure, completely destroying the world and leaving nothing but the castle's remains, before departing.
When Terra, Ventus, and Aqua travel to the remains of the Land of Departure again, they meet the time-displaced Young Xehanort, who hides his identity by keeping his hood up. After he is defeated, he departs again through time.
Terra, Ven and Aqua arrive at the Keyblade Graveyard, where Master Xehanort and Vanitas confront the three Keyblade wielders. Xehanort uses his immense magic to alter the landscape, summoning giant cliffs and creating a whirling stream of abandoned Keyblades that pursues the three friends. Terra is knocked onto the cliff where Xehanort stands, Ventus tries to attack him from behind, but Xehanort instantly moves behind Ven and grabs him by the helmet of his Keyblade Armor. Terra is knocked off the cliff by the flying Keyblades while Xehanort flash-freezes Ventus and drops him off the cliff. Xehanort then creates an orb of magic which he launches into the clouds overhead, summoning Kingdom Hearts in the sky.
Terra returns to the top of the cliff and faces off against Xehanort and Vanitas, but Xehanort soon sends Vanitas to fight Ventus, leaving Xehanort and Terra to fight one-on-one. Xehanort goads Terra into tapping into his darkness, and Terra successfully defeats the elderly Master. While the battle between Ventus and Vanitas climaxes in the forging of the χ-blade, Xehanort uses his Keyblade to extract his own heart and implant it into Terra, declaring his vow to survive to see the results of the Keyblade War. Terra-Xehanort becomes the new incarnation of Xehanort, with his old body fading away in a shower of light with a triumphant smile.
Master Xehanort and Terra continue to dispute over internal dominance within the new Xehanort. Despite Xehanort's insistence that he will soon subsume Terra's heart into his own, Terra remains confident that he will win over and eventually expel Master Xehanort. Xehanort realizes that Terra is harboring the heart of Master Eraqus, which may allow him to resist his darkness for longer than he expected. However, Xehanort serenely points out that he has many other plans in the works should he lose control over Terra's body.
Between Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II
Anticipating that Ventus and Vanitas's union may fail to successfully create the χ-blade, Master Xehanort had arranged a number of back up plans: Braig, as Ansem the Wise's trusted guard, took the role of advisor and comrade for Terra-Xehanort, who had lost his memories following his fight with Aqua. With Braig's guidance, the new Xehanort began conducting experiments into the nature of the heart and the darkness within, in the attempt to remove one's sense of self. The two recruited Ansem's other apprentices to assist in their research, which eventually led to the mass release of Heartless into the Realm of Light. Having banished Ansem the Wise to the Realm of Darkness, the apprentices continue their experiments until they lose their hearts to darkness. Terra-Xehanort, recovering the use of his Keyblade, takes Braig's heart himself, then gives his own heart over to darkness, creating his Heartless, Ansem, and his Nobody, Xemnas.
Ansem and Xemnas each carry out a part of Master's Xehanort's plan: Ansem manipulates Maleficent into gathering seven hearts of pure light, while Xemnas and Braig's Nobody, Xigbar, found Organization XIII, intending to turns its members into vessels for Master Xehanort's heart. However, anticipating that the Organization members would prove unsuitable as vessels, Ansem, lacking a body, travels back in time and approaches Xehanort in his youth. He grants him the ability to move forward in time and tasks him with gathering many incarnations of himself from throughout time.
In the meantime, Ansem and Xemnas each attempt to obtain the power of Kingdom Hearts. Ansem, by manipulating the Heartless into consuming the hearts of many worlds, creates Kingdom Hearts in the depths of the End of the World from the lost hearts, while Xemnas, by having Roxas and Xion collect hearts from Emblem Heartless, and later by manipulating Sora into doing the same, creates Kingdom Hearts in the sky above The World That Never Was from people's hearts. However, their plans are both thwarted by Sora and his friends.
Kingdom Hearts coded
Musing that Xehanort will have left himself many paths to take and cryptically suggesting that there may be more than one of Xehanort to contend with, Yen Sid instructs Mickey to summon Sora and Riku to the tower to take the Mark of Mastery exam.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
The time displaced Young Xehanort successfully gathers other incarnations of himself from across time, until they total twelve, including himself and the elder Master Xehanort.
At the beginning of Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery exam, the disembodied Ansem appears, in his robed appearance. He causes Sora to be marked with the Recusant's Sigil, allowing him to be tracked and guided through the Sleeping Worlds by Young Xehanort and his comrades.
He appears before Sora and Riku in several worlds, often accompanied by either Ansem or Xemnas. They taunt the two, Sora about his unknown links to others' hearts, Riku about his dark past, and both about being trapped in their dreams. Young Xehanort chooses to make Sora the thirteenth vessel for Master Xehanort's heart, as Riku had developed a resistance to darkness. Eventually, Sora is brought to the real World that Never Was, where Xigbar explains how his journey had been manipulated all along, and Young Xehanort plunges Sora back into a deep sleep, showing him illusions of his own past. Sora then dreams of the many people connected to him, and when he chases the phantoms in his dream, he falls deeper into sleep. Eventually he confronts Xigbar and Xemnas, who reveal to him the true purpose of Organization XIII and admit that Nobodies can regrow their hearts over time. Although Sora defeats Xemnas, the fight weakens him to the point that he cannot escape from his deep sleep. Young Xehanort reappears before him, and he tells Sora how they had manipulated his journey. As Sora falls unconscious, Xehanort informs him that he will become the thirteenth member of the new Organization XIII.
Riku attempts to find Sora in The World That Never Was, eventually defeating Ansem and returning to the real world. He tracks Sora to the Castle That Never Was, where he finds Sora in Where Nothing Gathers. Young Xehanort stops Riku from reaching Sora, and he tells him about the true purpose of Organization XIII as vessels for Xehanort, as well as his role in gathering the members from across time, and his choosing Sora as the thirteenth member. The current members appear, but before Master Xehanort fully materializes, Mickey arrives and freezes the area with a Stopza spell. However, Master Xehanort possesses the body of his younger incarnation, allowing him to move and to summon a Keyblade. Young Xehanort faces Riku in battle, but Riku finally prevails. The time freeze wears off, and Master Xehanort fully revives on the highest throne, while Young Xehanort takes his place on another.
Master Xehanort admits to his past endeavors and his failed attempt to create the χ-blade to Riku and Mickey, but also reveals that he has another way to create the χ-blade and restart the Keyblade War. Since the χ-blade was divided at the conclusion of the Keyblade War into thirteen darknesses and seven lights, he had orchestrated many previous events, including manipulating Maleficent into capturing the seven Princesses of Heart and the creation of Organization XIII as vessels of darkness, each meant to harbor a piece of his own heart. Due to Sora and Riku's interference and the unforeseen independence or weakness of a number of Organization members, the two-part plan had failed. However, having given Young Xehanort the ability to travel through time, Master Xehanort has brought about the creation of a new Organization XIII made up of himself, his other incarnations, and vessels that harbor pieces of his heart, which he intends to pit against the "Seven Lights".
Master Xehanort moves in to place a fragment of his heart inside Sora, but the arrival of Lea, Donald, and Goofy forces the incomplete Organization to retreat, each member returning to his own time. As Master Xehanort fades, he tells his opponents that both the seven of light and the thirteen of darkness will have their numbers filled when the time comes.
Although Yen Sid and Mickey agree that they will be playing into Xehanort's hands, they resolve to gather seven Keyblade-wielding defenders of light, rather than endanger the Princesses of Heart.
A fragmentary passage
As an old man, Master Xehanort is bald except for thin eyebrows and a curled, silver goatee. His ears are pointed and his eyes are yellow. He has broad, hunched shoulders and a crooked back. He appears overall as a somewhat feeble old man, certainly deceiving given his immense power. His clothing is the same as that worn by his eventual Heartless Ansem. It is composed of a white and black coat with a red inner lining, which is worn over a white shirt with two thin black belts, as well as white gloves and calf-high black boots. The major difference between the two outfits is that Ansem wears the shirt unbuttoned, exposing the Heartless emblem on his chest. However, there are a few minor changes as well; Ansem's coat has gold lining on its edges, where Xehanort's has black lining. He sometimes wears a black coat, which would later be worn by Xemnas and the Organization members, over this outfit.
In his youth, Xehanort had mildly tanned skin, golden eyes, and silver hair which both slightly spikes and falls past his shoulders in the back; it is styled similar to Terra-Xehanort's, albeit with four bangs framing his face, the back two thicker than the front two, and the two backwards spikes on the sides are absent, the topmost one slicked back. He wore the same style of white shirt, which only reaches to his thighs, a black vest with a high collar, long armbands which cover his forearms, and dark grey pants stuffed into his boots, similar to those worn by Organization XIII but without the silver lining on top, much like those worn by the guards of Radiant Garden. While traveling through time, he wears the black coat.
Young Xehanort's body model in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is a copy of Saïx's, though it is likely that this is simply due to data recycling rather than any deeper significance.
Like Ansem and Xemnas, Xehanort is shown to be a cunning, callous, and pragmatic being with the sole goal of merging with Kingdom Hearts and obtain ultimate knowledge, the lives of innocent people and even those who care for him meaning absolutely nothing to him. To this end, he is willing to put whatever he pleases on the line or destroy anything in his way, demonstrated when he manipulated several characters such as Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Braig, and even Maleficent, created Vanitas, a sentient being born for the sole purpose of forwarding his evil plan, and slew his old friend Master Eraqus in cold blood after tricking Terra into defeating him in battle. He even shrugged off ruining Terra, Ventus, and Aqua's lives by telling Mickey and Riku that they were destined to fall, and went as far as to refer to Sora as a "dull, ordinary boy", despite Sora having foiled several of Master Xehanort's plans. In the case of the latter, Xehanort tends to have a series of back-up plans to occur whenever his previous scheme fails. Yen Sid mentions this to Mickey while discussing Xehanort, and describes him as a devious tactician.
Despite his overweening malice, Xehanort has been shown to have some slight sympathy for his victims, such as when he takes pity on Ventus, following the rupture of his heart, and decides to leave him to perish peacefully on the Destiny Islands. All of Xehanort's other seeming virtues are revealed to have sinister intentions behind them, demonstrated when he only took Ventus as an apprentice and cared for him solely with the intention of making the boy his vessel once he was strong enough, and when he only accepted Master Eraqus's invitation to witness the Mark of Mastery Exam to win back Eraqus's trust following their falling-out and sabotage the exam to put Terra on the path to darkness so as to make him his new vessel after deciding to instead use Ventus for the χ-blade.
Overall, Xehanort is the true catalyst of all the events in the series so far, having been responsible (either directly or indirectly) for converting Terra in the first of his many vessels, arranging his younger self's quest through time, the Disney villains' hunt for Kingdom Hearts, the creation of Vanitas, the Unversed, and the original Organization XIII, and the release of the Emblem Heartless and Nobodies. Xehanort has a few unusual tendencies and quirks, however, such as turning away from the people he speaks to, or over-dramatizing his hand gestures when delivering a speech, even flexing his fingers in an unusual manner, as if itching to grab something.
Master Xehanort is an extremely skilled Keyblade Master and magic user. Able to teleport if he is in danger, Master Xehanort strikes opponents with powerful, fast-paced combos. He also can bombard foes with Thunder, Blizzard, and Earth-based magic. His magic skills are some of the most advanced seen in the series so far, as he is able to create massive rock formations and pillars, encase Ventus's body in ice, project a gust of wind powerful enough to send Ventus and Mickey flying from his hand, block Braig's Arrowgun shots without raising his arms, and telekinetically control the Keyblades covering the Keyblade Graveyard to attack Terra and Aqua. He also possesses physical strength sufficient to grab a fully-armored Ventus by the back of the head and lift him into the air with one hand.
Master Xehanort shows a great deal of skill in utilizing the heart and its capabilities, able to create a living being, Vanitas, out of the darkness of Ventus's heart when he unlocks it, and even able to direct his heart into Terra's body to possess it after his defeat in the Keyblade Graveyard. Master Xehanort's greatest asset, however, is his intellect and capacity for manipulation. For over a decade, he has, directly or indirectly, influenced many of the hardships and suffering the worlds have gone through, and always has backup plans ready in the event his initial schemes fail.
Young Xehanort has the ability to control time with enough precision to manipulate the flow of battle, either by slowing the opponent while unleashing a multitude of swift, powerful strikes, or reversing the flow of time to recover from damage. He is also an extremely skilled magic user, and is able to cast powerful spells based on the elements of Fire and Blizzard, fire magical shots similar to those fired by Sora in Wisdom Form, or teleport himself around the battlefield.
Master Xehanort is able to wield his Keyblade with great skill despite his age, and enough of his strength has remained over the years that he is able to use it in fast-paced physical combos. His battle stance is similar to that of both Vanitas and Riku, but he mainly allows the Keyblade to hang loosely at his side as he walks slowly towards opponents. Master Xehanort also uses his Keyblade to unlock countless hearts, including his own.
Young Xehanort wields two weapons that bear a striking resemblance to Xemnas's Ethereal Blades. Unlike many of Xemnas's weapons, however, Xehanort's appear to have hilts. The blades are made of light blue energy, and the black handles are somewhat reminiscent of the Terminus and Ruination Ethereal Blades. The blades can be combined into a dual-blade or can extend to be lashed like a whip. Xehanort wields these weapons with a reverse grip. In his final battle with Riku at Where Nothing Gathers, while possessed by his older incarnation, Xehanort wields a Keyblade that incorporates elements of the No Name and Master Xehanort's Keyblade.
Notes and references