Title: With Dignity
Game: Kingdom Hearts II
Description: genfic with Roxas, Demyx and Axel
Reasons: Insight on Demyx and layered characterization for Roxas
Yes, my second Heartless designation is another genfic focusing on Axel, Demyx and Roxas. I enjoy character studies and the taunting-based approach of this struck a strong chord within me. This fic deviates slightly from the previous story with its increased attention on Demyx. Demyx is no comparison point or foil in this piece but a definite member of Organization XIII and a character with a mind and spirit of his own. I'm so used to seeing Demyx portrayed as a goofball, a coward, a slut, the works. This version of Demyx is still terribly inept with a touch of juvenilism, but he's also clearly aware of his purpose. When Demyx points out to the snappish Roxas that his position at Castle Oblivion is to deter Heartless with his music,both the playfulness and melancholy of his character ring true. His boyish side also reveals itself as he teases Axel about his singing. Although Demyx continues to be the target of scorn from the Organization, as he probably was, we see a side of him that's truly human. I would argue that this is one of the best attempts to explore the many layers of his character I've seen since rejoining the fandom.
I'm a bit biased when it comes to Roxas' part in this piece since I adore an authoriative Roxas, and Roxas is clearly relishing his power here. Alternating between uttering orders to both Demyx and Axel, Roxas could come easily across as a real bastard, but this fic prevents that by dipping into Roxas' psyche, showing his confusing with Axel's interest in him and his frustration at being the only Organization member who can't recall his past. Roxas general air of confusion is captured in this piece, showing him to be eager to prove his worth but at the same time unsure why it is necessary. Although it is Roxas' perspective that hosts most of this fic, the writer manages to keep Roxas' opinion from butting into the story, as many writers have done with others. One of my favorite moments where the writers displays a willingness to move the characters beyond their one-note characters is the scene where Roxas demands Axel's silence as Demyx stares in shock.
It was ridiculous and there was no reason the notoriously uncooperative Nobody should have listened to him. But Axel only shrugged and turned to stare out the window, not even bothering to sneer at the bossy tone.
Demyx blinked. "How did you DO that?" he demanded.
"It's a special skill called commanding respect," Roxas said. "You learn it when you can keep yourself alive for more than a minute against a decent enemy. Get ready to attack me."
"Axel doesn't respect anybody," the musician said, sounding very upbeat about it, but at least he settled into a wary pose, hand poised above his sitar's string.
While Axel is more of a side item to this piece, his personality remains just as strong as his counterparts. Axel speaks seldom, usually only to make quips at Demyx or address Roxas, and instead his characters is maintained through his actions. Axel constantly watches Roxas, forcing Roxas to decipher his motives. His anxiety over Roxas' growing discomfort with the situation and his subtle concern are brought to life without placing too much emphasis on his presence. As a snide note, another amazing aspect of this piece is its ability to touch on Axel's violent side, something many fic writers neglect now that they've grown fond of "sad puppy Axel missing his Roxas." One line in particular demonstrates this, never telling the reader what it's actually doing.
"You want me to sing?" Axel said. It sounded like a threat, and from the way Demyx winced, it probably was. "I'll sing."
It's clever and also devilishly funny and pure Axel and just another of the elements that makes this story worth much notice.
Title: A Light in the Dark
Game: Kingdom Hearts II
Description: AkuRoku merged with RikuSora
Reasons: Dark take on the post-game relationship of the fan favorites with only a few details missing
This story attempts to weave together the RikuSora and AkuRoku relationship by taking up the notion that Axel is Riku's Nobody and has a significant degree of influence over him. After the last story in this category, my interest in the Axel/Riku duality should be clear. Unlike the previous fic, this piece runs with the idea for a while. The constant worry with a story of this nature is the urge to give each character their own body and own existence. While this fic does not take that route, its alternative doesn't deviate entirely and creates an almost haunted existance between each character and his Nobody.The effect is extremely disconcerting, which I expect to be the intention. Both Roxas and Axel want to use their Others to achieve their own goals, connection with each other once more and a life of their own. Their ways of going about this vary from taunts, discussion to borderline nonconsensual blackmail. A dark atmosphere that really hits my buttons, as Sora and Riku become trapped in their own inability to understand their feelings for each other and Roxas and Axel's desire. As this writer is heavily familiar with the AkuRoku pairing, characterization of the two is no issue and dialogue flows from them almost as it would from the game.
Sora is the first victim of the tension in this story, but the spotlight soon falls on Riku. This allows for the introduction of Axel's presence, a truly creepy process, peppered with Axel's usual "got it memorized" and sly manner of speech. The power struggle between Riku and Axel serves as much more engaging than that of Sora and Roxas, possibly because Sora is more troubled by Roxas. Riku seems to maintain an illusion of control or at least tells himself that for much of the story. I regret not having gotten as much of Roxas' complexities as Axel, who shows his vicious side as well as his lovesick/desperate side. It could be why the Axel/Riku parts for me work the best. With things as they are and Riku and Sora rapidly losing control of their own desires and those of the beings inside them, the ending rushes at the reader fast and furious, fairly unrepetant in its execution.
Another success of this piece is the side inclusion of Tidus, one of the Destiny characters who's been neglected since the pre-KH2 interest went down. It is nice to get his perspective, completely lost as to what's going on with his friends, a chance to get an outsider's view of the situation. It also provides a look at possible relationships between Riku and the other boy since it's clear from KH that Riku chose to spend his time with Sora more than any other.
So why a Nobody you may be asking. Again, this story has not yet been able to convince me that Axel could be Riku's nobody. I feel explanation is necessary for a scenario like this since both Namine and Roxas' existence are given some reason in KH2. I think the story on how this is possible is a missed opportunity. Since this fic has potential to continue, I hope it's an aspect the writer will consider. Also, as I've mentioned, the gap between the enjoyment and believability of the Sora/Roxas and Riku/Axel parts is slightly large and more attention could be paid to the latter to establish Roxas' character especially. My last issue is more of a personal nitpick, which has to do with the elaboration on details, particularly where Riku and Sora's observations/thoughts on each other are involved. Sometimes the details and descritpion create something meaningful, but other times they seem overdone and too fan-oriented. A tough call but by no means making the story any less worth reading.
Title: Bonds that Break
Game: Kingdom Hearts
Description: First part of Hallow Bastion through Donald's perspective
Reasons: Focus on Disney characters, which I'm not always keen of in KH fanfiction, but it works!
First, this is a piece from Donald's point of view so already it gets a nod for taking that approach. Second, it takes place during the stage of Kingdom Hearts where Donald and Goofy abandon Sora in favor of finding the King so the potential for great angst and emotional storytelling is strong. The thing that gives it this category aside from its focus on Donald, is its small insinuations of a Sora/Donald pairing. Nothing blatant or over the top but it can be interpreted as such, the writer said so herself. Either way, the Trinity is the heart of this piece. While I have some misgivings of Donald's voice, something that would generally be difficult to capture because of the spazzy image ingrained in most people's heads, it doesn't detract from the shifting emotions in the piece. The reader watches Donald go from ignoring his misgivings on leaving Sora to understanding just why the Trinity needs to be together.
Also mixed in are Donald's views on Riku, struggling to differentiate what he sees from the boy Sora has described as his best friend. I really enjoyed the peek at Riku's dark side while trapped under Darkness' thrall. The scene with him using the Keyblade to murder Heartless before Goofy and Donald and their reactions is amazing. Another great moment is Donald's defense of Goofy once Riku suggests using the Keyblade against him for Goofy's squeamishness. I got more out of this than Sora's return near the end, though still powerful, because they were new ideas from the writer and new chances to explore characters reactions given circumstances that fit neatly into the KH storyline. The writer expresses concern over her writing of Riku, but his actions seem quite plausible at this stage of the game, when we know he's been conned into believing he is Kairi's only real hope. Riku, like many adventures, loses to the call of power. That aside, this fic does exactly what it strives out to do, presents the Trinity with a brilliant chance to shine as a unit and as indviduals.
1. Incompletion: AkuRoku, RikuSora, Spoilers
2. Antithesis: Focus on Anti-Sora
3. Here is Okay: RikuSora Spoilers
4. Goal: Axel-centric
5. Hate: Saix-centric Spoilers
Because 5 is only a drabble, this week we have a bonus rec.
6. Madness: Luxord/Saix