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.
Despite his destruction, Vanitas was able to return as a member of the real Organization XIII after Young Xehanort was able to locate his fractured heart, placing it in a replica vessel in order to remain in the present. Vanitas was tasked with locating his "brother" Ventus, first by attempting to extract his heart from Sora in Monstropolis and later attempting to capture a dormant Ventus in the newly-restored Land of Departure. After Ventus was successfully awakened by Sora, Vanitas took his leave for the Keyblade Graveyard, where he would later participate in the Second Keyblade War. After his defeat, Vanitas faded away into darkness with a satisfied grin.
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 yellow eyes and bodysuit.
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 x-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.
- 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.]