I’m the piece of Ventus that was taken away. And you’re the piece Ventus needed to be whole again. So...why shouldn’t you and I look exactly the same? You define me, Sora, the same way that Ventus does. We are brothers who, together, make a greater whole.
Vanitas to Sora
Vanitas, also known as The Masked Boy (仮面の少年 Kamen no Shōnen?), is a Keyblade wielder, the creation and second apprentice of Master Xehanort, the embodiment of the extracted darkness from Ventus's heart, and the progenitor of the Unversed. Vanitas is one of the main antagonists in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, and a supporting antagonist in Kingdom Hearts III as Rank XI of the real Organization XIII.
Vanitas's name is derived from the Latin word for "Vanity" or "Emptiness", and was chosen for its meaning, that it sounded similar to "Ventus" and that it was a written pun on "Sora" in Japanese.
There, you're gonna see me choke the life out of Terra and Aqua. Then we'll see how long you play the pacifist.
Vanitas to Ventus
As the "dark" half of Ventus's Heart, Vanitas was at first much like him. However, due to the suffering he endured by the hands of Master Xehanort, and his desperate desire for salvation, he became proud, cunning, and cruel in order to achieve enough strength to forge the χ-Blade with Ventus, believing that to be the salvation he desires. As such, the lives of others, including that of even Master Xehanort, hold absolutely no value to him, and he shows zero remorse for his actions. As a pragmatist, he will strike without a moment's thought, warning, or hesitation, as seen when he ambushes Aqua in the Keyblade Graveyard and attempts to eliminate her.
Despite his loyalty to Master Xehanort, he has no qualms with disregarding his orders if he feels the need arises; for example, he attempts to eliminate Ventus after defeating him in their first battle despite full knowledge that Master Xehanort needed Ventus alive for his plans, all while openly acknowledging that he would be going against Xehanort's plans by doing so.
He is also shown to be an uncaring, cold, and ruthless individual, having not the slightest sympathy for anyone but himself. Vanitas holds everything and everyone in contempt, and holds a great resentment against Ventus and the friends he has. The envy he feels against them is seen in his frequent criticizing of Ventus's friendships with Terra and Aqua, when he callously breaks Ventus's wooden Keyblade while cruelly antagonizing Aqua for playing with the Lost Boys, his constantly calling Ventus "idiot", and forcing Ventus to fight him by threatening to kill Terra and Aqua after Ventus refused to.
He also possesses a high degree of arrogance, believing his skills surpass all others; in his first fight with Aqua, he claims that he will be the only one that will walk away alive, even bursting into a fit of laughter upon defeat. When fighting her for the final time, Vanitas taunts her by sarcastically asking if she has given up, and boasts that Aqua was just "wasting her energy" trying to stop him. Right before possessing Ventus, he remarks that Ventus never stood a chance against him and Master Xehanort.
When fighting Ventus for the final time, he laughs when Ventus declared he would defeat him and destroy the χ-blade. During this same battle, Vanitas directly states his belief that he is the superior half of Ventus's heart. This extreme overconfidence in his abilities usually leads to his downfall as he underestimates his opponents when fighting.
The only time in the entire game when Vanitas expresses genuine concern and fear is when he has been defeated by Ventus for the final time. He begins to panic and makes a desperate attempt to grab the floating χ-blade in a hopeless flurry to hold onto his only way of salvation before dying. Despite his villainous and fearsome persona, however, Vanitas was actually a tragic and sympathetic character, having become the way he was due to Xehanort's ambitions and manipulations.
Vanitas wears a black and red organic-looking bodysuit, which is quite similar to Riku's Dark Mode. He wears a silver helmet covered with dark glass, hiding his face from view. Behind his mask, he looks identical to Sora, although he possesses golden-yellow eyes, jet-black hair, paler skin and a taller, more muscular build.
In an interview with Tetsuya Nomura as well as various novelizations of the game, it is revealed that this similarity is due to Sora's heart connecting with Ventus near the beginning of the game, and had anyone else connected with Ventus's heart, Vanitas would look like that person. His appearance prior to Ventus's connection with Sora was that of a humanoid creature similar to a Heartless but with red eyes.
He normally wields his personal Keyblade, the Void Gear, that is colored primarily in red and black, with two blue eyes like Riku's Soul Eater and Way to the Dawn, Terra's Chaos Ripper, Master Xehanort's Gazing Eye, and Young Xehanort's Keyblade. However, near the end of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, he gains the χ-blade, and when he fuses with Ventus, he also alters Ventus's body to accommodate his golden eyes and bodysuit.
Prior to Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Empty creature from Ventus riven... to you, the name Vanitas shall be given.
Master Xehanort, upon Vanitas's creation
Four years before the events of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Ventus served as Master Xehanort's apprentice. The Keyblade wielder was sent to the Keyblade Graveyard, where he was forced by his master to face several Heartless in an attempt to forge the χ-blade. Ventus was unable to use his darkness, and was knocked unconscious.
Master Xehanort then proceeded to use his Keyblade to unlock Ventus's heart, extracting the darkness within and resulting in an orb of dark energy forming into a young boy in a mask who is then given the name "Vanitas" by Master Xehanort. The dark enigma is also the source of the Unversed, as well as a key component in Master Xehanort's plans.
After Master Xehanort views the battle between Terra and Aqua as part of their Mark of Mastery exam, he leaves the room to find Vanitas hidden awaiting him. The two converse about Ventus, and Vanitas claims that Ventus's performance was weak, and he still needs to "break that loser in". Master Xehanort instructs him to do so somewhere else as he needed to keep up appearances.
So Vanitas decides to give Ventus an "incentive" to leave home. Vanitas later appears before Ventus in his room, speaking of Terra being a different person, and that Ventus should follow and try to help him before it's too late. Ventus becomes very defensive, saying that Vanitas does not know the first thing about Terra, and that they will always be friends. Vanitas simply mocks his friendship with Terra, telling him to grow up and vanishes into a Corridor of Darkness, claiming that unless Ventus sees it for himself and looks beyond his "tiny world," he will never know the truth.
Vanitas then travels to different worlds, spreading his Unversed across them in hopes of making Ventus strong enough to forge the χ-blade.
After his first few ventures throughout the worlds, Ventus spots Vanitas in the Lanes Between and is lured to the Keyblade Graveyard. Ventus interrogates him about what he meant about Terra being a different person. Vanitas simply reiterates what he said before, that Terra will be gone forever, and challenges him to a duel, intent on testing his power and revealing for the first time he is a Keyblade wielder.
Despite Ventus's best efforts, Vanitas easily outmatches Ventus, gaining the upper hand mid-way, and knocking him down. Vanitas then prepares to eliminate Ventus, deeming the boy too worthless to be of use, but before he could deal the final blow, Mickey Mouse appears, healing Ventus. Mickey then reprimands Vanitas for using his Keyblade to bully others, and the two then proceed to fight Vanitas, who simply shrugs off the fight and leaves yet again upon his defeat, claiming that Ventus is on "probation".
After the battle against the Trinity Armor in Radiant Garden, the ensuing argument forces Terra, Ventus, and Aqua to go their separate ways. While Aqua is in the Central Square, Vanitas appears, taunting her by calmly inquiring about Ventus and if he has gotten stronger. When Aqua asks what he means, Vanitas, in a more hostile tone, states that he is asking the questions as he claims that between the two of them, he will be the only one who will walk away alive, and attacks, the two fighting a vicious battle with Aqua as the victor.
After the duel, Aqua attempts to unmask Vanitas while he is unconscious, but the dark enigma quickly recovers, startling her with an insane laugh. He then compliments her skill and congratulates her on her victory, making an ambiguous comment about her being his backup plan, revealing that it was all a ruse to test her strength. Ventus returns to Aqua's side just as Vanitas leaves in another Corridor of Darkness. This encounter indicates that Vanitas may have sought to possess someone other than Ventus if Ventus proved too weak to reform the X-Blade.
While in Neverland, Vanitas encounters and kidnaps Mickey on Master Xehanort's orders to use Mickey as bait to lure Ventus back to the Keyblade Graveyard. Though the fight is not shown, it is clear Vanitas wins. The villain later crosses paths with Aqua again, this time with Ventus's cherished Wooden Keyblade. Vanitas cruelly mocks Aqua for playing treasure hunter with the "kiddies", proceeding to tell her that, with Ventus's new-found strength, he has "outgrown" the toy, and then snaps it in half, an act that both enrages and horrifies Aqua.
Throwing the pieces aside, Vanitas also claims that he has outgrown his need for Aqua as his backup plan and draws his Keyblade, intent on eliminating her. Aqua, outraged by the act of cruelty and at the thought of Ventus being in danger, calls Vanitas a freak and battles the dark enigma once again, soundly defeating him and knocking him unconscious. Aqua, believing she has finally finished Vanitas, and exhausted by the battle, passes out, as a revived Vanitas takes the opportunity to escape once again.
Vanitas encounters Ventus again in Destiny Islands, after the latter is thrown through a portal summoned by Terra. Ventus initially tells Vanitas that he is through with him. But Vanitas simply tells him that since he is strong enough, Ventus can join with him to forge the χ-blade. Ventus refuses, claiming that the χ-blade cannot be forged if he does not fight. Vanitas, though slightly angered, remains unfazed, responding only by coldly stating that Ventus was once "too broken to talk back".
Then, in the ensuing flashback, Vanitas explains his birth from the darkness in Ventus's heart, and how he took his place as Master Xehanort's apprentice. This causes Ventus great pain in regaining his memories. Vanitas then gives Ventus a reason to fight, challenging the boy to come find him in the Keyblade Graveyard, the one and only place where the χ-blade can be forged, where he threatens to kill Terra and Aqua to see how long Ventus will "play the pacifist". He then disappears into a Corridor of Darkness. Ventus, haunted by Vanitas's deranged threats, and determined to end this once and for all, goes to the Keyblade Graveyard.
When Terra, Ventus, and Aqua approach their final battle with Vanitas and Master Xehanort at the Keyblade Graveyard, intense battles ensue. The two villains meet up with the trio, and after Master Xehanort explains his plans for the χ-blade, the trio armors up and Terra quickly charges towards them. Master Xehanort intervenes, however, blocking Terra's path with massive rock formations. As Terra continues to pursue Master Xehanort, Vanitas goes after Aqua and Ventus, riding on a cloud of Keyblades Master Xehanort created. The two fight valiantly against the dark apprentice, but not before Vanitas returns to Master Xehanort's side before the latter freezes Ventus. He battles Terra alongside Master Xehanort, who later commands Vanitas to go after Ventus and Aqua again.
Vanitas attacks Aqua from above, knocking her unconscious with a devastating blow, and prepares to impale her through the chest while Ventus lies helpless and frozen. Ventus summons all of his willpower, however, and thaws out of the ice to face Vanitas in battle, defeating him once again. Vanitas compliments Ventus on his skill and finally reveals his face, explaining himself to be the source of all Unversed.
Vanitas then summons several Unversed to restrain Ventus as he proudly explains his plan: to spread the Unversed across the worlds, in hopes of luring Ventus from home and making him strong enough to forge the χ-blade. He then forcefully integrates into him. In a burst of light, Vanitas and Ventus are transported to the Dive to the Heart. Ventus's pillar now hosts a picture of Vanitas alongside his own. There, Vanitas wields an incomplete version of the χ-blade.
Vanitas claims their union was incomplete, and they only managed to make a fraction of the χ-blade. He then tries to join with Ventus once again, but Ventus refuses, vowing to defeat Vanitas and destroy the χ-blade. Vanitas simply laughs at Ventus's declaration, warning him that if the χ-blade is destroyed, Ventus's heart would vanish forever. However, Ventus rebukes him, saying he will fight for his friends and destroy both him and the χ-blade no matter what, even if the price is his heart. The two Keyblade wielders then begin a final showdown in the Dive to the Heart.
As Ventus battles Vanitas in their shared mind, Aqua and Mickey in the Keyblade Graveyard are attacked by Ventus-Vanitas. Ventus-Vanitas summons the completed χ-blade, and tries to attack Aqua, only for her to be saved by Mickey. He then goes on to explain that he plans to unlock Kingdom Hearts so the worlds can be connected and the legendary Keyblade War can begin again. Aqua, sick of Vanitas's nonsense, confronts him in battle one last time.
As Aqua defeats her possessed friend and destroys the χ-blade, Vanitas's metaphysical battle with Ventus comes to an end after he shatters the pillar on which they were fighting. Vanitas is defeated, taking all Unversed in existence with him and relinquishing his control over Ventus. Unfortunately, it is a pyrrhic victory, as Ventus loses his heart and falls into a coma in the process.
Even if you are not the prisoner.
Vanitas to Sora
Vanitas's heart appears within Young Xehanort in the Realm of Sleep, talking to Sora inside Notre Dame in La Cité des Cloches, claiming that Sora has made his heart into a prison, but that he himself might not be the prisoner. Vanitas is referring to the comatose Ventus, who found refuge within Sora's heart after the events of Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. Though Vanitas still lacks a body following his defeat, Sora was able to see him physically due to Ventus's heart reacting to Vanitas's from within him.
Vanitas, now wearing a black coat, gathers with the rest of the real Organization at The World That Never Was to welcome the return of Master Xehanort and to forcefully induct Sora at their final member. However, their efforts to implant Sora with a fragment of Xehanort's heart is derailed upon the arrival of Lea, Donald and Goofy, whose interference causes the Organization's allotted time to expire, forcing them to withdraw with their numbers incomplete.
As his time was up without a proper vessel in the future, Vanitas's heart was returned back to its original place in time, though he, along with the other time-traveling members of the real Organization, soon reassemble in the future. There, they are given refined replicas from Vexen's early batches of the Replica Program to use as vessels for their hearts, thus allowing them to remain anchored to the present time.
Vanitas soon resumes his goal of retrieving Ventus' heart to make himself complete. Vanitas first appears in Monstropolis, in which he explains that he encountered the monster Randall Boggs during his travels to recover his strength. Randall explains that his world is powered up by the screams of children that serve as a source of energy thanks to Monsters Inc. Vanitas decides to manipulate Randall into using his desire for revenge. Vanitas also encourages Randall to collect more scream power as if a child's heart becomes broken, then they'll provide unlimited amounts of negative emotions. The two proceed to put their plan into motion with Vanitas providing Randall with an army of Heartless and Unversed.
Upon causing enough havoc and chaos, the villains decide to create a giant Unversed known as the Lump of Horror, in which Randall later sends it after Sora, Donald, Goofy, Mike Wazowski, and Sulley. After the heroes defeat his remaining minions, Vanitas senses Ventus's heart residing within Sora's body, and soon decides to confront Sora and his allies personally with the intention of extracting his "brother's" heart from Sora. However, Sulley catches Vanitas off-guard by scaring him from behind and chucks him through a series of doorways to prevent him from returning.
Vanitas make his second appearance at the Land of Departure, where Sora's group attempts to awaken Ventus and reunite his heart with his body. Aqua then creates a barrier to fight against the masked boy while keeping Ventus safe from harm. However, Vanitas nearly finishes off Aqua through his dirty tricks, only for Sora to release Ventus' heart, allowing the latter to return and save Aqua. Realizing that he's outnumbered, Vanitas chooses to retreat for the time being.
Vanitas later returns at the Keyblade Graveyard, where he along with Xehanort's various incarnations send off a swarm of Heartless, Nobodies and Unversed to wear down the Seven Guardians of Light. Despite this, the guardians prevail and the battle between light and darkness continues. When the guardians face off against the Organization in the Skein of Severence, Vanitas fights alongside Terra-Xehanort against Ventus and Aqua at the Twist of Isolation. There, a new revelation on Vanitas's existence is revealed; Vanitas explains that he wasn't "the same" as Ventus describes himself to be with him, instead revealing that he was merely hidden deep within his heart for a long time, and all Xehanort did was tear him apart from him.
As it seemed Aqua and Ventus were no match for Vanitas and Terra-Xehanort, Sora arrived to help support them. Upon finally being defeated, Vanitas's mask slowly shatters apart, revealing his true face to Sora, who appears surprised at the uncanny resemblance to himself. Vanitas reveals that since Sora kept Ventus's heart in stable condition for years, this makes the three of them "brothers". Ventus and Sora try to resonate with Vanitas in hopes of redeeming him, only for the latter to reject this offer. Before fading away, Vanitas reveals that he was content was his role as nothing more than "darkness" before fading away with a satisfied grin, his heart returning back to its proper place in time as he becomes the sixth member of the real Organization to fall.
One year after Master Xehanort’s defeat and Sora's disappearance, a data recreation of Vanitas, along with the rest of the real Organization XIII, is fought by a digital copy of Sora with the hopes of uncovering the real Sora's location from the encrypted data they possessed. After defeating all thirteen data recreations however, the results proved inconclusive.
Having been trained by the extremely skilled Master Xehanort, Vanitas is very accomplished and extremely aggressive yet fluid in both dark magic and wielding the Keyblade. His prowess in using his weapon and ability to teleport and levitate makes him very formidable in close combat, as in addition to being able to quickly disappear to dodge and immediately launch attacks, even leaving behind after-images to confuse enemies, as well as also float to avoid attacks and launch a devastating downward strike, he can quickly counterattack if struck multiple times and perform a swift two-hit combo. With the χ-blade, Vanitas becomes even more formidable, with his strength and attack range greatly multiplied and being able to skillfully use it to perform powerful moves, incorporating his teleportation to unleash swift attacks from all sides and also bombarding with several rapid jabs while cloaked by darkness. He is accomplished in combining physical combos with magic, such as attacking from above and causing a large pillar of ice to shoot out of the ground, or attacking opponents from below while bombarding them with fireballs, first manifesting a large fireball enchanted to split into three homing fireballs. He can also fire dark lightning bolts from his Keyblade while floating in the air and is able to unleash either a crescent wave of dark energy or a homing χ-shaped one as well as fire dark-blizzard spells of strong homing capacity with great accuracy while riding on a mountain of Keyblades He also can use the powers of darkness aptly in combat, energizing his Keyblade to increase his attack power. After acquiring the χ-blade, Vanitas, in addition to being able to cloak the legendary weapon with darkness, can also use it to unleash dark energy shockwaves and fire homing dark blasts. He even has his own personal Shotlock dubbed the “Dark Cannon”, wherein he creates three large crystals which focus together and fire a large beam of dark energy. His magic also seems to be enhanced, allowing him to create a gust of wind to send Mickey and Aqua flying with a single swing of his hand. His remnant has shown the ability to encase itself in an impenetrable sphere of dark energy while it unleashes clones at fast speeds to attack and cast Curaga. Vanitas is also a powerful telekinetic, enough to summon the Keyblades of the Keyblade Graveyard to his location and maintain it while riding on it, also launching them at Sora, and in addition to retaining all his previous normal abilities, he also adds a new magic-physical combination where he emerges from a pool of darkness and launches an upward slash while also generating a circle of dark flames.
Vanitas possess inhuman swiftness and speed, able to perform complicated and nearly impossible acrobatic feats such as jumping off of a high cliff while landing squarely on his feet, and even riding a cloud of flying Keyblades. He also has great durability and endurance, surviving most of his battles while taking little to no bodily damage, able to make instant recoveries. Vanitas also seems to have superhuman strength, as he was able to break Terra's wooden keyblade with his bare hands effortlessly and while possessing Ventus and using the X-Blade, he is able to shatter Ventus’s metaphysical Dive to the Heart pillar with a single strike.
Though he typically uses the Corridors of Darkness to travel, it is shown that Vanitas is freely capable of surviving in and navigating the Lanes Between unaided by surrounding himself in an aura of dark energy.
While Vanitas acts based on his own desires, it appears that Master Xehanort can summon him at will. Vanitas's arguably most dangerous and destructive ability, however, is the power to create and control the Unversed. As he was born from the purest form of darkness, Vanitas can manipulate negative emotions and spawn them as Unversed. Vanitas can also absorb the negativity of any defeated Unversed to empower himself and is able to summon them if needed. According to the novels, the destruction of each Unversed actually causes Vanitas physical pain.
During the last battle against Vanitas in Ventus's story, Vanitas becomes a D-Link to Ventus. While using him as a D-Link, Ventus can fly and use some of Vanitas's attacks. It also changes Ventus's Shotlock into Dark Link, a light based version of Vanitas's Shotlock, Dark Cannon. The Finish Command, Last Word, surrounds Vanitas with crystallized beams of light, followed by a powerful slash, to end the battle.
Dark Cannon (ダークキャノン Dāku Kyanon?) is Vanitas's Shotlock. Vanitas Remnant can also use this Shotlock, and when Ventus uses his Vanitas D-Link, his Shotlock becomes a light-version of Dark Cannon named "Dark Link". Dark Cannon generates three crystals in a trigram formation which project rays that fuse and become a giant beam of dark energy.
Vanitas wields a Keyblade known as the Void Gear, and has a battle pose that is very similar to Riku's and Master Xehanort's stance. The Keyblade can be summoned at will, appearing in Vanitas's hand in a flash of purple flame. Vanitas can energize the weapon with dark energy, increasing his attack strength. The Vanitas Remnant also wields a monochrome version of this Keyblade.
When fused with Ventus, Vanitas gains the ability to wield the most powerful Keyblade of all, the χ-blade. This weapon multiplies his initial strength and attack range a great deal. Vanitas shows great skill in wielding both the incomplete and finalized versions of the χ-blade, able to perform strong combos and powerful desperation moves.
- After his first spoken line, Nomura made a joke saying that he was to voice Vanitas. Nomura also stated in another interview that Vanitas's identity was familiar and perhaps also shocking. It was later revealed that Vanitas was voiced by Miyu Irino, the Japanese voice actor for Sora. According to Tetsuya Nomura, Irino had said for a while that he wanted to play an evil character, and Nomura jokingly stated he sort of got carried away with it.
- Vanitas's theme - "Enter the Darkness" samples Roxas's, Ventus's & Sora's theme (in that order).
- A logic error occurs with Sora seeing Vanitas's face at the Keyblade Graveyard. He was surpised to see Vanitas looked like him, but Sora saw his face at the cathedral and even recognized him in Monstropolis. Either Sora initially thought it was a trick on Xehanort's part when he first saw Vanitas, or he forgot.
- In Re Mind, its revealed that Vanitas is his own independent entity; he was only buried deep in Ventus's heart until Xehanort pulled him out.
- Vanitas is also the name of a form of art largely overlapping with the theme of memento mori. It symbolizes the certainty of death, futility of pleasure, and the fleeting nature of life.
- Tetsuya Nomura: I wanted to give him a name that meant "empty", and so I looked for something that would be appropriate. When I was searching I found a word that meant "emptiness" in Latin, "Vanitas". It looked a lot like Ventus's name, and in Japanese it has the kanji for "sora" in it, so I thought it was perfect. Of course in Vanitas's case it doesn't mean "sora [sky]" but "kara [empty]" [These two words are written with the same kanji, but are said differently and have different meanings.]