Axel, the Flurry of Dancing Flames (おどる火の風 Odoru Hi no Kaze?), is the Nobody of Lea, and is Rank VIII within Organization XIII. He wields fire and enhances his weapons, twin Chakrams, with his pyrokinesis to unleash powerful rapid attacks. The Assassin Nobodies are under his control.
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Axel was the trump card for the rest of the Organization as a double agent in Castle Oblivion to keep track of Marluxia's plans. In Kingdom Hearts II, Axel betrayed the Organization for his friendship with Roxas and acted of his own accord to try and help Sora, though he originally wanted to turn Sora into a Heartless to get Roxas back. Axel appears in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days as a playable character in Mission Mode and one of the main protagonists.
When he is first introduced at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Axel has a mysterious, stoic, and calm demeanor on par with that of Marluxia. A very good liar, he makes a point of keeping himself difficult to read, coming off as fooling around when really his mind is at work manipulating the other members around him. Axel often makes witty conversation with Larxene while Marluxia is away, though is almost completely unfazed by her flirtatious behavior towards him. He also has friendly bets with Zexion as to which member will be defeated next, seeming amused at their deaths.
Eventually, Axel betrays both with no remorse. Vexen's cries for mercy only receive a cruel "Aren't you happy to die?" and a cocky "Goodbye" before Axel incinerates him without any hesitation. This cruel nature persists even when Marluxia uses Naminé as a human shield against him: Axel confidently declares he would eliminate Naminé to get to Marluxia. He is a person who does what is necessary to keep his actions, like those in Castle Oblivion, unnoticed by the rest of the Organization, so that he and his allies' goals are attained smoothly.
Axel's personality changes drastically in between Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II because of his friendship with Roxas and Xion. In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, he has a very sarcastic and laid-back, "go with the flow" outlook on many things, including missions and battles, very similar to Marluxia. He also is shown to have a very kind and protective side towards Roxas and Xion, which is ironic for a Nobody and his actions at Castle Oblivion. He acts like an older brother towards them, being their main source of advice and wisdom, shown by Roxas in a journal entry when he wrote that he thought Axel knew everything. In some cases he got them out of trouble even when it could and did earn him his own trouble, like his dismissal and eventual betrayal of Saïx to protect them both. Axel apparently does not like to talk about his past despite Saïx's insistence on its significance. Whenever Roxas or Xion asked him about it, he would give a brief or vague answer, then try to change the subject, often avoiding eye-contact when lying. Even at his worst points (his earlier days as a Nobody), Axel still valued friendship, as despite Saix's vast change, he was still the closest to him out of the Organization XIII and was willing to risk treason by helping him rise through the ranks. However, as Saix changed too much, Axel ultimately began to be uncomfortable with their working relationship and he ultimately abandoned it for Roxas.
At his death, he was at least able to recall how Roxas gave him a "bizarre illusion of humanity". An important thing to note is that in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, when Axel bids his final farewell to Roxas, it can be seen upon closer inspection that the teardrop at the end of the scene belongs to Axel, which clearly displays his unusual emotional capacity. Even during the events at Castle Oblivion, Axel displays emotion and acknowledges it when he begins laughing, but catches himself and stops. He even mocks his ability to feel during his death. Whether he, Roxas, Naminé, and Xion all seem to have something unusual in common regarding the heart, is unknown. But it has been hinted by Xemnas, and Axel himself, that by being close in contact with Sora's heart, Axel began to feel emotions of his own. Axel has also stated that Roxas makes him feel as though he does have a heart, even though he does not.
Like other Organization members, Axel wears the basic black gloves and boots. His black coat, however, is one of the more distinctive ones in the group, as its sleeves close up tightly around his arms and emphasizes his lithe and skinny build. Axel himself is also easily distinguishable from other characters in terms of facial features, made easier by the fact that he rarely wears the hood of his coat up. Axel has fair skin with rosy hues, a widow's peak, rather small eyebrows and thick, shoulder-length, bright red hair styled into slicked-back spikes. His eyes are a bright emerald color and he has a purple reverse-teardrop shaped marking under each eye, which are similar to, although not the same as, Reno's facial markings.
A data recreation of Axel can be fought during the New Organization XIII Event in the month of August.
- "Let's meet up here after missions. Beats bouncing back and forth between work and the castle."
- —Axel, starting the "ice cream routine" with Roxas
After inducting Roxas into the Organization, Saïx places him under Axel's tutelage. Initially, Axel was unsure how to treat Roxas, as he acted like a "zombie" due to his lack of memories. On their second mission together, Axel was surprised that Roxas went straight to his room after filling out his mission reports; this lead him to take Roxas to the Twilight Town Train Station to share sea-salt ice cream again. This leads to him suggesting they spend time there after missions. As their friendship grew stronger, Axel began demonstrating emotions due to his time with Roxas. He also explained what friendship is to Roxas, when they observed Hayner, Pence and Olette.
Vexen, Lexaeus, Zexion, Marluxia and Larxene were sent to Castle Oblivion ahead of him, letting Axel spend one last day sharing ice cream with Roxas. Because of their friendship, Axel explained where he was going and left to prepare for the trip. Heading to Castle Oblivion, Axel was informed by Saïx that some of the members at the castle were planning a coup d'etat; he was to eliminate them. Having received these orders through Saïx, the second-in-command to Xemnas, it would appear that Axel also planned to eliminate one other member who could stop their plans to overthrow the Organization: Zexion who learned of Marluxia's scheme alongside Vexen and Lexaeus, the three devise their own counter with Riku.
- "You didn't think after that introduction, I would give up oh so easily?"
- —Axel commenting on Sora's behavior after he purposely allowed himself to be defeated in their first battle
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Axel allies himself to Marluxia and Larxene to weasel into their ranks and being the first member of the Organization to reveal himself to Sora. Upon throwing the first battle with Sora, giving him a card to progress further, Axel admits to testing the Keyblade master's strength. After leaving Sora bewildered, Axel holds a serious conversation with Larxene in which he professes an interest in the fact that Sora retains his self-consciousness even after becoming a Heartless. After Vexen nearly reveals the existence of Roxas to Sora, Axel is ordered by Marluxia to dispose of him. Axel does so effortlessly, and is at last accepted by Marluxia and Larxene into their conspiracy.
Using this to his advantage, Axel allowed Naminé to escape and contact Sora. No sooner did Naminé escape, Axel pondered on the chaos to ensue before realizing that he was laughing to his amazement. He later confronted Marluxia, allowing him to figure out that he acted as a double agent during their entire time in the castle. Citing his previous order to rid the Organization of traitors, Axel readied to attack Marluxia, even after Marluxia used Naminé as a shield, but was interrupted by Sora, whom he eventually fought for the last time. At the end of the battle, Axel pretends to be defeated and confuses Sora with the words "It was worth saving you after all," and vanishes.
After his battle with Sora, Axel meets with Zexion in the castle basement. Zexion brought up the subject of Riku of being of no use with Marluxia and requested the Destiny Islands memory card to depose of him. Despite their previous collaboration, Axel later offers Riku Replica the honor of eliminating Zexion, promising the duplicate that he would gain new powers and be able to defeat the real Riku.
The exact reason for Axel's betrayal is not stated, and seems self-contradictory. Axel comments that it would be more interesting to see Sora and Riku's future than to save Zexion; however, this may have had something to do with Axel's friendship with Roxas, which could have been the reason why he effortlessly destroyed Vexen—to prevent either Sora or Roxas from meeting. In Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Axel states the reason for his betrayal of Zexion, saying: "You just found out way too much." This seems to be quite ambiguous, as in Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Axel and Zexion were shown to be friendly with each other (e.g. in one scene it was shown that Zexion and Axel were making bets on which Organization members in the Castle would be the next to die, something that Axel wins when he accurately predicts that Marluxia will be the next to fall), however this could mean Zexion found out about Saïx and Axel's plan to take over the Organization, which is supported in the Secret Report made by Zexion which he stated he had growing suspicions about Axel and Saïx.
When Axel returns to The World That Never Was, he feels that Roxas has replaced him with Xion. He then ends up accepting Xion and is comforted when she asks him if she could also be his friend, Xion then reveals her face to Axel. Seeing Xion's face shocks Axel because of how similar she looks to Namine. Before this time, Axel thought of girls as complicated beings with buttons, press the wrong one and you're out. At Roxas's suggestion, the three begin to spend time together as a trio. He is often asked questions related to the heart and the nature of Nobodies by Xion and Roxas, who lack any memories of life as human beings. Some of his answers were vague, but at times, he doesn't understand the question himself and is left rambling. At times, Axel acts as a sort of "big brother" figure to Roxas and Xion, standing up to Saïx for them. When Xion loses her ability to use the Keyblade, Axel comes up with the plan of putting her and Roxas together on missions to collect hearts. However, it would seem that Saïx knew Axel too well by the way he was acting.
Some time later, Axel found himself before Saïx, and revealed that he regretted not being able to talk with Saïx as he could with Roxas and Xion. Saïx reminds Axel of the friendship they shared before becoming Nobodies, and the plans they had to take over the Organization; the friendship between him, Roxas and Xion is "make-believe" while the one he had with Saïx was real in his old friend's opinion. When he learns Xion's true nature as a replica, Axel was left conflicted about what to do. He got to know to Xion for the person she became, not the copy of Sora that she's supposed to be. After she left to find herself, Axel lied to Roxas, saying that she had an important mission.
However, it backfired the next day when Xemnas revealed Xion's defection. Because of the guilt he felt for not telling Roxas, Axel avoided him for a while. After a week or so passes, Axel rejoins Roxas at the train station; he suggested that even if it's against Xemnas's orders, they'll search every world they know how to get to to find her. However, their search ends up fruitless. Since Castle Oblivion was the only place they haven't searched, they decided to look there next. Saïx receives news that the Organization Imposter had been spotted there, assigning Axel and Roxas to search the place. However, Roxas collapses the moment they enter, forcing Axel to take him to Twilight Town. They find Xion there, but she fled after the Imposter blocks their way. They then try to catch him, but he escapes; they're relieved to know Xion's okay. However, Saïx orders Axel to destroy Xion since she's come in contact with the imposter; Axel quells Roxas's fears by saying he'll think of something.
"You both think you can do whatever you want. Well, I'm sick of it! Go on! You just keep running, but I'll always be there to bring you back!"
Axel eventually catches Xion in front of Roxas despite his pleas; this angers Roxas, who then saw Axel as a jerk. With him and Roxas not on speaking terms, Axel soon becomes torn between his attempt to save them both from Xemnas's intent to do with any one of them; he saves them from killing each other in Halloween Town, effectively mending the friendship between the three of them. While assigned to a mission in Wonderland, Xion runs off and Axel makes no attempt of stopping her once she knocks out Xigbar. A few days later, with Roxas learning of Xion's identity and that Axel kept it from him, he leaves the Organization; Axel refused to tell him who Sora was, so Roxas sought to find someone who knew the answers to his questions. Axel, who has enjoyed the time he spent with his best friend, is distraught by Roxas's decision as he tried to reason with him.
The next day, under orders, Axel tracks Xion to the Old Mansion in Twilight Town where he realizes her intentions, telling her that he's fed up with her and Roxas being selfish and doing whatever they want, before he manages to knock Xion unconscious. But the fight took its toll as Axel faints from fatigue once he brings her back to the Castle That Never Was, with Xemnas taking Xion from him. Later, in his quarters, learning of the aftermath of Roxas and Xion's battle, a depressed Axel discovers an envelope containing a popsicle stick which reads "WINNER", a gift left by Roxas.
- "Silly. Just because you have a next life..."
- —Axel before disappearing
Like Roxas, Axel has lost all recollection of Xion by this time (as seen in his final Report in 358/2 Days), but knows he will have to track Roxas down on Xemnas's orders. After the Organization manages to track Roxas down in DiZ's Digital Twilight Town, Axel appears right after Roxas slays Dusks that appeared from a fake virtual Vivi. He tells Roxas who he is, but sees that the reports of Roxas having his memory wiped and replaced with an artificial one are true. Deciding that a fight might bring back Roxas' old memories, Axel engages him in a duel, pulling his punches. However, Roxas manages to win and DiZ arrives, trying to make Roxas believe that the fake town is real and that Axel and his appearances are a dream. Axel tries to get Roxas to remember, but he is banished from the program as DiZ rebooted it. Roxas was dumbfounded by Axel's appearance, lacking any memories of him and awareness of what was going on.
Pressed by the threats from Xaldin and Xemnas, Axel again tries to recover Roxas without destroying him, keeping in mind the Organization's order to either eliminate Roxas or be destroyed himself. Roxas learns that the two had been best friends from Naminé and mentions this to Axel, but his bluff is called when he is unable to remember "their boss's name." Axel feels bad, but ends up summoning Dusks to weaken Roxas; he prepares to kill him after Roxas wins, but DiZ intervenes and freezes him momentarily so Roxas could escape to the virtual version of the Old Mansion. Seeing what has happened, Axel realizes that the Roxas that he knew is long gone and sees that killing him is the only thing left to do.
After Roxas smashes DiZ's computer copy and enters the basement, Axel sends Dusks and Assassins after him, but Roxas proves victorious over the lesser Nobodies. Axel tells Roxas how amazed he is by his fighting and sees that he has truly regained his memories. However, Axel is hurt from his previous encounter with Roxas and fights him and his dual Keyblades (which Axel apparently didn't know Roxas could do). Axel loses the fight and disappears, choosing not to carry out his mission and promising to meet him "in the next life".
While Sora reawakens with Roxas inside him, Axel is entrusted by Riku to protect Naminé. Naminé's words, about those who are dear to them despite being Nobodies, strangely move Axel.
- "The guy you just saw. He's their leader. Got it memorized? X-E-M, N-A-S."
- —Axel telling Sora about Organization XIII's leader, Xemnas
During Sora's exploits to the different worlds, Axel appears before Kairi on a beach across Destiny Islands, intending to kidnap her to draw Sora out. Axel's plan was simple; if Sora were to become a Heartless again, then Roxas would be reborn. However, Kairi escapes through a Corridor of Darkness created by Riku and lands in Twilight Town where she stayed for some time in wait of Sora. Axel, however, follows her to the town and steals her away again, but not long afterward she is taken captive by Saïx who was under orders to give Axel something to actually worry about. After the invasion of Radiant Garden by the Heartless, Sora confronts Xemnas, the leader of the Organization. Xemnas decided to take his leave and Axel later greeted Sora.
Axel hints that the Keyblade caused the hearts that composed the Heartless to flee, but refuses to say what Organization XIII would do with those hearts. Sora realizes that Axel is Kairi's captor, and Axel confirms this. Though initially seeming unrepentant for his actions, he soon apologizes for kidnapping Kairi. However, he soon vanishes into a dark corridor just as Saïx appears.
- "I wanted to see Roxas. He... was the only one I liked... he made me feel... like I had a heart. It's kind of... funny. You make me feel... the same.... Kairi's in the castle dungeon. Now go..."
- —Axel's final words
On the way to The World That Never Was, Sora, Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey are trapped in Betwixt and Between by Nobodies, but Axel arrives to help. Sora and Axel battle the Nobodies, but seeing that the Dusk's numbers were too great, Axel decides to put his entire being and essence into an attack, destroying the Nobodies but sacrificing himself in the process. He did this to save Sora, his best friend's original self, who stayed with him until the moment he faded. He sincerely apologizes to Sora for getting Kairi involved.
Confused, Sora asks him what he was trying to do and Axel confessed that he wanted to see Roxas, the only one who made him feel like he had a heart. Oddly enough for Axel, Sora made him feel the same way (possibly since Sora and Roxas are one and the same) and used these final words to urge Sora on to rescue Kairi. Axel opens the passageway to the World That Never Was with the last bit of strength he had in him before disappearing into darkness completely.
Afterward, Xigbar and Luxord were curious about Axel's foolish and senseless actions; essentially turning against the Organization for the sake of his friendship with Roxas, but Xemnas reveals that Axel's disappearance served to stir Roxas from his rest, claiming Axel's disobedience was not entirely pitiful and meaningless. Xemnas also states that due to contact with Sora's heart, Axel's own ability to feel emotions could have been affected. Axel made one final appearance to Roxas, right before the latter's mental battle with Sora, where he gives a final farewell to his best friend.
- "Best friends forever."
- —Axel to Roxas
Prior to Lea's awakening, Axel talks with Roxas about the promise he made to him and Xion about always being there to bring them back no matter how many times they went away. Later, after Lea saves King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and helps to rescue Queen Minnie, Mickey calls him Axel. He corrects Mickey by stating that his name is Lea. Later, after Lea saves Sora from Master Xehanort, Xigbar and Riku refer to Lea as "Axel" which he first protests being called, but then reluctantly accepts.
Axel, Roxas, and Xion are seen sitting happily together on the Clock Tower with sea-salt ice cream. The trio look into the sunset and Roxas and Xion say Sora's name.
As the Flurry of Dancing Flames, Axel uses two uniquely shaped weapons called Chakrams, and specializes in Fire manipulation. He can summon pillars of flame at will and strike with rapid combos using his Chakrams. He can also surround his Chakrams in flame and throw them like boomerangs, spinning and looping them to hit opponents multiple times.
In his one on one battle with Roxas in Kingdom Hearts II, Axel also summons a circle of fire to surround them and leaps into the flames to hide, emerging to strike with rapid attacks, and then leaping back to keep his opponents off their guard. Axel is a powerful member of the Organization, as shown by how he does not fear the high-ranked members of the Organization such as Xigbar, Xaldin, Marluxia and Vexen. He proved capable of effortlessly wounding and killing Vexen after he had been injured from his battle with Sora, fighting Marluxia on equal footing, with the latter resorting to use Namine as a hostage rather than continue fighting after they reach a standstill, and even besting Xion when she had absorbed some of Roxas's power, although the battle left him weakened to the point of collapsing. Despite this, his power still doesn't match the likes of Xemnas, who is the only one to force him to do things he doesn't like and Axel acknowledges that Xemnas can easily turn him into a Dusk, causing him to consent to targeting Roxas, Roxas, who soundly defeated him after he gained full power, and Saïx, who Axel is shown to be wary of fighting, backing down immediately when he saw Saïx appear in Hollow Bastion.
In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Axel has a Limit Break called Explosion. During Explosion, Axel throws his Chakrams at enemies while they're engulfed in fire, creating a small explosion of fire afterwards. While not being thrown, Axel's Chakrams spin rapidly, gathering fire. However, they can be thrown at any time, and do not need to charge.
During Axel's Final Limit, Axel combines his two flaming Chakrams into one enormous flaming Chakram, easily many times larger than the two Chakrams. The explosion after the attack is also much larger.
Axel utilizes two Chakrams, named "Eternal Flames". Each Chakram is circular and red, with silver spikes and circles around the edges, and two black handles shaped in a cross in the middle. Each Chakram has eight spikes, possibly referencing Axel's rank in the Organization. Axel is very adept in the use of his weapon; he can throw them, use them as shields, or use them as melee weapons. He performs some unique attacks, including juggling them against an opponent, or throwing one across the entire battlefield continuously.
He also uses them in conjunction with his fire abilities, setting the tips or the whole on fire before throwing them. From a scene in Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, it is shown that he can set his Chakrams on fire from afar, acting as a remote detonator.
The Bond of Flame Keyblade, obtained from Axel, is similar in appearance to his Chakrams. Axel's Chakrams are among the few Organization XIII weapons that do not bear the Nobody symbol (the others being Xemnas's Ethereal Blades, and Roxas and Xion's Keyblades), but the spikes on the wheel do bear some similarities to the Nobody insignia.
In real life, chakrams are actually small razor-edged throwing disks used by warriors in ancient India. Axel's Chakrams bear more of a resemblance to Chinese wind-and-fire wheels, wheel-shaped weapons that are used strictly as melee weapons.
Axel bears a great amount of similarities with Reno from Final Fantasy VII. Axel even shares his voice actor with Reno over a variety of languages: Quinton Flynn in English, Jean Christophe Parquier in French, Víctor Martínez in Spanish, Philipp Brammer in German and Keiji Fujiwara in Japanese. Tetsuya Nomura stated that this is done intentionally as an experiment. He wanted to place a familiar character in a new environment and role. He also stated in an interview that the two are "different people, but subconsciously alike".
Axel was popular among members of the Kingdom Hearts staff and though he was initially supposed to die at the end of Roxas's prologue, his popularity caused him to be continued into the main game of Kingdom Hearts II.
- In the Japanese version of Kingdom Hearts II, there were flames consuming Axel's body at his death. The flames were removed from the English version. In Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, despite keeping many changes made to the English version, Axel's death scene uses the flames.
- Axel is the first character to technically curse, as he says the word "hell" in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories when he exclaims, "It's about time you give me one hell of a show!" In Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, Axel uses "Try and make it enjoyable, Sora. It's the least you can do for me, you know." instead.
- Axel's catchphrase was originally translated as "Commit it to memory" in the English version of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, though it was later retconned into the more accurate translation of "Got it memorized?" as of Kingdom Hearts II.
- Axel has been resurrected twice throughout the series so far, as he is a favourite character among many fans and the creators themselves. He was supposed to die at the end of Chain of Memories, but was brought back because the developers liked working with him; he was also supposed to die at the end of Kingdom Hearts II, but, along with the other former residents of Radiant Garden, was revived as his somebody Lea in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance..