Ansem, Seeker of Darkness
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, sometimes referred to as Xehanort's Heartless, is the main antagonist of Kingdom Hearts and the "Reverse/Rebirth" scenario in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, as well as a supporting antagonist in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts III. He is a member of the real Organization XIII and the Heartless of Terra-Xehanort, and as such his appearance and personality are primarily derived from Master Xehanort, and he retains his original form's "shadow".
Ansem was created when Terra-Xehanort, masquerading as Ansem the Wise, reawakened his sleeping memories and split his heart from his body, creating a Heartless; this Heartless, also named Ansem, appears to have characteristics of both Emblem and Pureblood Heartless, and it is unclear exactly which category he falls under. However, because Terra-Xehanort did this of his own will, he retained his memories in his new existence, and gained the ability to control the other Heartless. With their power, Ansem attacked the Realm of Light, intending to have the Heartless consume the hearts of every world and lead him to Kingdom Hearts.
Before Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
On a quest from his original persona, Ansem travels back in time to when Xehanort lived on the Destiny Islands. Ansem entrusted his younger self with the mission to gather ten vessels to house fragments of Master Xehanort's heart to create the Organization XIII so that they could create the χ-blade and restart the legendary Keyblade War. To accomplish this, Ansem gave Xehanort the power to travel forward into the future. Once his mission was done, young Xehanort would lose his memory of the event, although the subconscious memory would lead Xehanort to become a Keyblade Master. Ansem himself remained on the Destiny Islands until the time the Destiny Islands were destroyed, ensuring a version of him existed across time to allow his younger self the ability to travel to any time period.
Between Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts
Terra-Xehanort, at the time using his king's name, "Ansem", willingly gave his heart to the darkness in the pursuit of knowledge, creating both his Heartless and his Nobody, Xemnas. His Heartless was able to retain its selfhood for uncertain reasons, though it was believed by the first Ansem that this was due to Terra-Xehanort's willing abandonment of his heart. The self-styled "Seeker of Darkness" and the legions of Heartless at his command continued Xehanort's pursuit of knowledge in the belief that it lay with darkness, and stole countless hearts from both humans and worlds in their search for their ultimate goal, a legendary repository of tremendous power and knowledge known as Kingdom Hearts. To reach this heart of all worlds, Ansem would need to open the Final Keyhole, and to do that, he would need the Princesses of Heart to complete it first. He also realized that he needed to locate and neutralize the wielder of the legendary Keyblade, to prevent them from saving the worlds from his Heartless. He detected a power within Kairi, a Princess of Heart living within Radiant Garden, linking her to a guardian of light, which he misidentified as an innate connection between Princesses and Keyblade wielders. In truth, the power within Kairi was the charm Aqua had placed upon her, with much the same effect—when he cast her loose in the Ocean Between, she was naturally drawn to Sora and Riku on the Destiny Islands.
Ansem, after nine years of being a Heartless, appears in a brown robe at the Destiny Islands Keyhole before the world's fall into darkness, insulting Sora's ignorance of what was to come, and completely ignoring Sora's questions. He then vanishes when Sora's back is turned.
It would later turn out that Ansem was not insulting Sora for not knowing what about to happen that night, but what would happen in the future. The future versions of Sora and Riku from two years from then would return to the past right before the destruction of Destiny Islands as part of their Mark of Mastery exam to wake the Sleeping Worlds. As part of Master Xehanort's plans, Ansem was there to allow himself and the other members of the real Organization to follow the duo and make one of them another vessel for Master Xehanort's heart. To separate them to better the Organization's chances, Ansem creates a phantom of Ursula to attack them. After its defeat, Ansem watches as the two enter the Sleeping Worlds, noting that he is connected this world to them.
Seeing the same kind of lust for power that he had once seen in Terra coming from Riku, Ansem appears before him following his battle with Sora. Riku is confused over why the Keyblade left him, to which Ansem explains; only a strong heart can wield a Keyblade. He tells Riku that to become stronger, he must open his heart to the darkness and let his entire being become one with it. Riku complies, opening himself to the darkness. However, Ansem uses this to posses Riku, regaining a body.
Firmly in control of Riku's body, Ansem meets with Maleficent as the Final Keyhole forms. He informs her that unlocking the Keyhole to the darkness will allow the Heartless to overrun Hollow Bastion, but she is uncaring; Maleficent believes that she can use the darkness to rule the other worlds. Sneering, he creates the artificial Keyblade of heart from six of the Princesses of Heart's hearts. As the Keyhole is not finished yet, Ansem notes it is because Kairi's heart is missing and without its power, they are at a standstill. Maleficent leaves him to guard the princesses, while she deals with Sora, Donald, and Goofy. After she is defeated, Ansem follows her to a hidden chamber, asking if she needs help. Once Sora sees him and the Keyblade of heart, Ansem tells him that it can unlock the hearts of others. Ansem demonstrates by stabbing Maleficent with it and unlocking her heart, restoring her to full power after an entire decade. Maleficent uses the darkness to turn into a dragon for a second battle. However, the dragon is felled by Sora and co., leading Ansem to comment that the dark fairy was arrogant to believe that she had manipulated the Heartless when it was actually the other way around. He insults Maleficent and takes his leave, waiting for Sora in the chamber of the Final Keyhole.
Sora arrives, finally reunited with Kairi, though she is comatose due to the loss of her heart. Ansem comments that she lacks a heart, and from his impersonal comments and unusual nature, Sora realizes that who he sees as Riku is not truly the friend he knew. Riku introduces himself as "Ansem, Seeker of Darkness". The Heartless goes on to explain that Kairi's heart is in Sora, and that his dark Keyblade is necessary to remove the imprisoned heart. Sora refuses to agree with the plan and they battle. Sora wins the duel, and Ansem retreats. However, his efforts are not in vain, as Sora stabs himself with the dark Keyblade, in order to free Kairi's heart as well as the six other Princesses. This ends up opening the final Keyhole and the way to Kingdom Hearts, as well as the loss of Sora's heart and his brief transformation into Sora's Heartless.
Ansem shortly returns, having expelled Riku's heart and shaped his body into one resembling his original human self. Now that the final Keyhole is open from Sora's sacrifice, he plans to kill Kairi now that her purpose in his plans has been fulfilled. Donald and Goofy bravely make a stand against Ansem in order to protect Kairi, but both know that, without Sora, they may not be able to stop him. Before he can dispose of the three, Riku projects himself from Xehanort's stolen body and manages to establish enough control to stop the Heartless in his tracks, allowing Donald and Goofy to escape with Kairi. This leads to an internal struggle between the two that Riku ultimately loses. His heart is forced out of his body, and Ansem completely takes control. Ansem then allows himself to be enveloped by the darkness flowing out of the Keyhole, and travels to the End of the World and Kingdom Hearts.
During this time, Ansem was recruited by Young Xehanort to become a member of the Real Organization XIII two years in the future. Ansem's job was to weaken Riku's resolve, so they could turn him into their final vessel. After his allotted time in the future expired, Ansem was returned to the past with his memories of the future erased.
As Sora, his humanity having been restored by Kairi's light, arrives at the remnants of Destiny Islands at End of the World, Ansem appears, bearing Riku's form. He explains Riku's fall to darkness, that he desperately sought to escape the island "prison" enough to open his heart to darkness. Afterward, Ansem explains his philosophy: that worlds and hearts begin and end in darkness. Thus, darkness is the heart's true essence. Sora denies this, in words and in battle, with Ansem. During the battle Ansem summons both his familiar, the guardian, and a Darkside Heartless to assist him. As the battle rages on, Ansem leads the trio to the endless abyss where the Door to Darkness resides. This time, Ansem merges himself to the World of Chaos, a monstrous Heartless ship, and captures Donald and Goofy, though Sora rescues them.
After several more rounds of combat, Ansem, weakened, opens the Door to Darkness, imploring Kingdom Hearts to fill him with the power of darkness so that he can gain enough power to destroy Sora, Donald, and Goofy and shroud the universe in darkness. However, Ansem is horrified to see light pour out of the door. The overwhelming light of Kingdom Hearts envelops and destroys Ansem, allowing Riku to take back his body.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories
Because Riku served as the host for Ansem, a piece of the Heartless remains even after his destruction by the light of Kingdom Hearts. Riku remained unaware of this until DiZ impersonated Ansem and sent Riku on a trial through Castle Oblivion to overcome his regret and fear of the darkness within him. When Lexaeus fights Riku, the resulting battle causes Riku to lose consciousness and Ansem takes control of his body, slaying the Nobody. However, before Ansem can cement his control over Riku, King Mickey's light seals him away for a time; this angers the Heartless to no end.
Eventually, Riku overcomes his fear of the darkness, intending to use it as well as the light. He also additionally receives some guidance from the enigmatic DiZ, the true owner of the mysterious voice, who in turn leads Riku to Naminé. Naminé offers to seal away Riku's darkness and Ansem, but he instead chooses to face the Heartless on his own. DiZ then gives Riku a card that will give Ansem form, so that Riku can finish him off once and for all.
Ansem again attempts to turn Riku to the darkness completely, and tries to defeat the young boy so that he can take possession of his body once more. Though this succeeds in destroying Ansem's consciousness, his power still lingers in Riku's heart. Riku sets off with King Mickey to rid himself of the Seeker of Darkness forever.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Having been unable to find a way to rid himself of Ansem's remaining essence, it began taking over him and transforming Riku into a copy of Ansem. Riku kept it bay by blindfolding himself, and relying on his other senses to keep Ansem from completely taking over him. After learning Sora's memory cannot be completed without his Nobody, who holds the memories of Kairi in him, Riku knows that he might have to use the darkness to capture the Nobody and bring him to DiZ.
Riku catches up to Roxas at The World That Never Was, but Roxas proves to be too powerful and Riku is left with only one way to overwhelm the Nobody: unleashing his inner darkness. This allows Riku to manifest Xehanort's powerful guardian, who seizes Roxas and knocks him unconscious, but also forces Riku to take on Ansem's appearance. Feeling that he has sacrificed his identity, Riku takes on Ansem's name.
Kingdom Hearts II
During the Battle of the 1000 Heartless at Hollow Bastion, King Mickey reveals the truth about "Ansem" to Sora, Donald, and Goofy—the Heartless wasn't the real king of Radiant Garden, but the Heartless of an impostor. While the trio are shocked and dismayed to learn this, Mickey pacifies them by telling them that Ansem was still a powerful enemy that needed to be stopped.
Following the destruction of the Kingdom Hearts Encoder Ansem the Wise was using, the resulting explosion of light restores Riku to his normal form, implying that "Ansem" has finally been destroyed and his hold on Riku broken once and for all.
Kingdom Hearts coded
Yen Sid later explains to Mickey that the destruction of both Ansem and Xemnas has revived Xehanort and will lead to the restoration of Master Xehanort. Ansem appears along with Xemnas as one of Mickey's mental images.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Ansem returns to become part of Master Xehanort's new Organization XIII, thanks to Young Xehanort's doings while time travelling. Accompanied by Young Xehanort, Ansem appears before Riku in La Cité des Cloches, stunning the young Keybearer, and offers him to become part of the darkness again, but Riku protests, reminding Ansem that he now walks the road to dawn. Undaunted, Ansem merely takes his leave.
When Sora is captured in the World That Never Was, Riku rushes to his rescue and runs into Ansem again. Ansem reveals that Riku had been traveling within Sora's dreams like a Dream Eater, and asks Riku to join him now that the boy has accepted his darkness. As they fight, Riku counters by asking Ansem to become part of his light, but Ansem ignores him and is eventually forced to retreat.
Once Riku finds Sora in the throne room with Mickey's help, Ansem appears before them along with Master Xehanort, Young Xehanort, Xemnas, Xigbar, Saïx and the rest of the new Organization. Master Xehanort proceeds to reveal that Ansem's possession of Riku's body, along with overseeing Maleficent's gathering of the Princesses, was all part of his master plan with Riku meant to become the vessel to complete the Organization. Ansem restrains Riku from trying to save Sora from becoming Master Xehanort's final vessel, but Lea's unexpected intervention distracts Ansem long enough for Riku to break free. Ansem summons his Guardian and has it grab Riku and Mickey, but the Guardian is defeated by Donald and Goofy. As the heroes advance, the Organization's allotted time expires and its members, including Ansem, retreat to their rightful points in time.
Kingdom Hearts III
Ansem first appears alongside his Nobody counterpart, Xemnas, outside of Twilight Town's Old Mansion, waiting for Sora. Seeking to use Roxas as a possible 13th member of the Real Organization XIII, Ansem and Xemnas demand that Sora gives up his heart to darkness, so as to recreate Roxas. They decide not to humour Sora's thoughts about putting Roxas back into the data version of Twilight Town that Ansem the Wise had created, saying it's just data and, therefore, fake. After breaking Sora with their words, both of them leave through a Corridor of Darkness, after summoning a swarm of Neoshadows and Dusks for Sora, Donald and Goofy to deal with. After this, they are shown watching Sora leave Twilight Town from a rooftop, just as Xigbar arrives to berate them.
Later, Ansem goes into the Realm of Darkness to retrieve his old master and bring him back to the Realm of Light, as he wishes to know of the whereabouts of Subject X, a mysterious amnesiac girl that Terra-Xehanort had found in Radiant Garden, and who had become his favourite test subject before her disappearance. Assuming she was taken away by Ansem the Wise, Xehanort's Heartless demanded to know where she was, and was determined to take his master with him for that objective's sake. That brings him into conflict with Aqua, who kept Ansem company in the Dark Margin. However, and despite her resistance, Aqua could do nothing to Xehanort's Heartless without her Keyblade, and was cast into the ocean by Xehanort's guardian, which causes her transformation into Anti-Aqua.
Bringing Ansem the Wise back into his old headquarters at the Old Mansion in Twilight Town, Ansem begs his treacherous apprentice to cease, as he doesn't wish for more victims. Xehanort's Heartless is not convinced by Ansem's act, reminding him of all the children that were sacrificed in their research on the heart, as well as his treatment of Roxas and Naminé, declaring that he believes Ansem doesn't have a single merciful bone in his body. Suddenly, Hayner, Pence and Olette, who had been watching all along, enter into action. While Hayner distracts Xehanort's Heartless, Olette helps Ansem the Wise escape. Although Hayner manages to do nothing towards such a powerful foe, and is put in peril once Ansem decides to summon the Guardian, he is saved by a handful of Dusks, who attack Ansem despite his allegiance towards Master Xehanort and the Organization. Later, it will be revealed that these Dusks were under Vexen's orders, whose true loyalties lie with Ansem the Wise.
Ansem shows up for the last time in the Keyblade Graveyard, accompanying Master Xehanort alongside Xemnas, Young Xehanort and Vanitas, while he welcomes the seven Guardians of Light. Much later, he drops into the labyrinth, alongside the other Seekers of Darkness, for the final battle. Ansem, now without his Organization Black Coat and wearing his usual attire, fights against Riku alongside Dark Riku and Xigbar. Once Sora joins the fight, it doesn't take too long for Ansem to leave.
Xehanort's Heartless appears for the last time alongside his Nobody counterpart and his original incarnation's younger self, as the last line of defense before Sora can reach the elderly Master Xehanort. Defeated by Sora, Riku and Mickey in a battle alongside his aforementioned incarnations, Ansem voices his final thoughts on his relationship with Riku, stating that Riku's might is "vaster than darkness" and showing he is proud that the boy he previously thought to use as his vessel has grown into such a powerful Keyblade Master. Riku even states he is going to miss his archnemesis. After their parting words, Ansem fades away into darkness, a smile on his face.
Before possessing Riku, Ansem was little more than a wandering heart and could only appear as a figure in a brown hooded robe. This robe has two dark brown straps crossing over his shoulders and chest with five metal studs lining either strap. Due to his lack of a body, he appears much shorter and crippled in this form and wears the robe's hood up that hides his face.
Ansem gains a body by possessing Riku, though at first his presence is only evident from the change to Riku's voice. In his physical form, like his Nobody counterpart, Ansem's skin color varies by being depicted as tan in the game to quite dark in official artwork. He shares Terra-Xehanort's amber-orange eyes and long white hair, as well as the three spikes on the top and sides of his head, but he lacks Terra-Xehanort's bangs.
He wears silver-white gloves on his hands, each with a grey band on the wrist, while the rest of the glove, which has three black buttons lining one side, bells outwards. There is a black pauldron on both of his shoulders, each attached to his coat by two straps. He also wears black pants and black, silver-lined, knee-high boots identical to the ones worn by Organization XIII members.
Ansem's black leather coat is red on the inside and lined with yellow, and also has a large grey section that covers the lower half and shoulders of the coat. Upon closer inspection, this grey section seems to be attached by several small pins or buttons around the hip and neck sections of the coat, as well as by a belt that wraps around the Heartless's back and attaches to the rim of the coat. This coat is high-collared and completely unzipped, showing the second, shorter jacket the Heartless wears underneath. Ansem's second jacket is white and high-collared much like the outer coat. It is mostly unbuttoned and exposes Ansem's chest before being closed up by three buttons and two belts near the Heartless's waist, only to flare outward again, leaving three buttons undone. On the Heartless's chest is the Heartless emblem, but it seems to be just decoration as it appears attached to the long coat.
When Ansem becomes part of the World of Chaos, he loses both of his jackets and his gloves, showing a well-toned physique, and his pants and boots are replaced by a pair of black skin-tight leggings with yellow lining. He also grows to a tremendous size and his eyes become completely orange and pupil-less in this form.
As Ansem is essentially the Heartless of Master Xehanort, his overall appearance is nearly identical to a younger version of Master Xehanort, wearing the elderly Xehanort's attire.
Ansem is, thus far, one of only three Heartless with human-level intelligence, the others being Sora's Heartless and Scar. His knowledge of the worlds and hearts shows that Xehanort's keen intellect has survived the transition into a Heartless. However, the few shreds of humanity which remained in the researcher have been obliterated. Ansem is cold, calculating, and utterly ruthless. He treats people and their hearts as either tools to be manipulated and disposed of, or as cattle for his ravenous Heartless legions. He reveres power and knowledge above all things, and he despises ignorance.
The only times when Ansem's voice rises above a cold, monotonous drone is when he is berating Sora for his foolishness, or when he is reveling in his latest triumph. However, Ansem's scientific genius is blinded by obsession with the darkness. His arrogance ultimately leads to his destruction when the door to Kingdom Hearts is opened, and his greatest thesis is, in the end, proved wrong.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep reveals that Ansem is essentially the Heartless of Master Xehanort. This is why he appears to share most of his personality traits with the elderly Keyblade Master, demonstrated by his choice of words when facing Sora, Donald, and Goofy; this is also reflected in his desire to find, open, and become one with Kingdom Hearts itself.
As a Heartless, Ansem has control over darkness, which he can use to attack others, steal hearts, and create Corridors of Darkness. He can also possess other beings, and has command over the Guardian. Due to lacking a body, he is also capable of traveling through time.
When Ansem takes possession over Riku's body to procure a physical form, his fighting capabilities increased greatly, and he gains the ability to fly. His new body allows him to fight alongside his guardian by having it possess others to trap them while he utilizes an energy shield to both protect himself and damage foes.
When necessary, Ansem becomes more powerful by merging with either his guardian or the World of Chaos.
Ansem does not wield a specific weapon.
While possessing Riku in Kingdom Hearts, he wields the Keyblade of heart, which was created from the six captured hearts of the Princesses of Heart. Later, in his World of Chaos form, Ansem wields a weapon as massive as he is, a dual-bladed Soul Eater halberd. When fought on his own, Ansem simply uses the power of darkness and his Guardian to attack opponents. When Riku assumes Ansem's form to become Riku-Ansem, he wields his Soul Eater (and later, the Way to the Dawn), just as he does normally.
In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Ansem briefly wields Frollo's sword to threaten Riku, but does not actually use it to fight.
Notes and references
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