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|“||All worlds begin in darkness, and all so end. The heart is no different. Darkness sprouts within it, grows, consumes it. Such is its nature. In the end, every heart returns to the darkness whence it came. You see, darkness is the heart's true essence.||„|
|~ Ansem talking to Sora about the darkness.|
|“||Behold the endless abyss! Within lies the heart of all worlds: Kingdom Hearts! Look as hard as you are able. You'll not find even the smallest glimmer of light! From those dark depths are all hearts born! Even yours. Darkness conquers all worlds!||„|
|~ Ansem reveals Kingdom Hearts.|
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (also known as Xehanort's Heartless) is a major antagonist from the Kingdom Hearts franchise, appearing as the main antagonist in the first game and Riku's story in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, one of the main antagonists of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (along with Xemnas and Young Xehanort) and one of the secondary antagonists of Kingdom Hearts III. He is one of the incarnations of Master Xehanort.
He was voiced in Japanese by Akio Ōtsuka and in English by Billy Zane (who also played Cal Hockley in Titanic) in Kingdom Hearts and Richard Epcar from Kingdom Hearts II onwards.
Ansem the Wise started to research the Heartless with an apprentice named Xehanort, who is actually the body of Terra converted into an amnesic vessel by Master Xehanort. When Ansem decided to stop his research, Xehanort continued it with the aid of Ansem's other apprentices, including Braig, Xehanort's accomplice. Eventually, the apprentices fell so deep into darkness that they all became Heartless, though their bodies remained as Nobodies thanks to their strong wills. In Xehanort's case, his Heartless took on Ansem's name, while his Nobody called himself Xemnas.
Xehanort's real goal is to forge the χ-blade by pitting seven lights against thirteen darknesses. To this end, Ansem manipulates Maleficent into gathering the Princesses of Heart, ostensibly to find Kingdom Hearts and engulf all worlds in darkness, while Xemnas forms Organization XIII to use as his vessels. However, foreseeing that both plans would be dashed, Ansem travels back in time to Xehanort's youth and grants him the ability to travel back in time and assemble incarnations of Xehanort to form another Organization before staying in the past and watching Maleficent.
Ansem first appears to Sora prior to the Destiny Islands' destruction. Though he does not properly introduce himself at the time, Ansem makes a cryptic message to Sora regarding the fate of the Islands. During the Islands' destruction, Ansem appears to Riku and opens a Corridor of Darkness, sending the boy to Hollow Bastion.
Later, once Maleficent has almost completed gathering the princesses, Ansem possessed Riku's body. He acquires a Keyblade forged from the hearts of the princesses sans Kairi's and uses it to corrupt Maleficent, turning her into a dragon, but she is slain by Sora and company.
Sora then travels to the Final Keyhole, where Ansem awaits. Ansem explains that Kairi's heart is really within Sora and reveals his true identity before attempting to use his Keyblade to draw out Kairi's heart. Sora duels with Ansem, emerging triumphant, and prepares to seal the incomplete Keyhole. As Kairi is still comatose, Sora is forced to use Ansem's Keyblade to save her at the cost of the Keyhole's completion and his own transformation into a Heartless, and subsequently, the births of the Nobodies Roxas and Namine.
Ansem, having expelled Riku's heart and remodeled the boy's body, reappears and declares that Kairi's part is done. He tries to kill her, Donald, and Goofy, but Riku's heart stalls Ansem to buy the heroes time to escape. Ansem retreats to the End of the World, with a restored Sora in pursuit.
In a final battle, Ansem declares darkness is the source of all power, believing that Sora is still ignorant of the truth. Sora, though, retorts that Kingdom Hearts is light and destroys Ansem's physical form with the Door to Darkness.
Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and Kingdom Hearts II
Despite his physical form's death, a fragment of Ansem remains in Riku's body and tries to tempt Riku into falling back into the darkness when the youth emerges in Castle Oblivion's basement. However, seeing that Riku has accepted darkness and not him, Ansem becomes frustrated with Riku and is defeated in battle. However, Ansem points how that he'll take Riku's body when the time comes. Eventually, while fighting Roxas six months later to help the resting Sora, Riku is forced to tap into Ansem's powers and adopts his form in the process.
While Riku helps him from the shadows, Sora learns "Ansem"'s true identity as the Heartless of the real Ansem's apprentice, Xehanort. It was only while aiding Sora in the Castle that Never Was that Riku was purged of "Ansem"'s influence and returned to normal.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Due to Young Xehanort's travels through time, "Ansem" is among the versions of Xehanort summoned and made a member of the True Organization XIII. "Ansem" taunts Riku throughout his journey through the Sleeping Worlds until Riku defeats him and escapes into the real world to thwart the real Organization XIII.
Kingdom Hearts III
Ansem first appears in Twilight Town alongside Xemnas, with the two taunting Sora and encouraging him to free Roxas before summoning several Heartless and Nobodies as a distraction. After this, they watch Sora in the town, where Xigbar berates them for directly guiding Sora.
Later, Ansem visits the Dark World to confront Ansem the Wise about Subject X, a girl Terra-Xehanort had admired as an apprentice. Though Aqua tries to stop him, Xehanort's Heartless corrupts her with darkness before leaving with DiZ turning her into a cold and ruthless Anti-Aqua. Ansem takes DiZ to the Old Mansion and taunts him with the knowledge of the children used in the experiments, but Olette rescues DiZ with the help of Hayner, Pence, and Vexen.
Ansem joins the real Organization XIII at the Keyblade Graveyard for the final clash between light and darkness. He fights Sora, Riku, and Mickey alongside Young Xehanort and Xemnas with help from Master Xehanort, but is ultimately slain in battle. He reflects on his journey that he and Riku had together, Riku admits to Ansem that he is going to miss him and Ansem congratulates Riku for becoming a powerful Keyblade master, admitting to him he never stood a chance against him. He also admits to Sora and Riku that part of him wanted to defy his fate but once he discovered that many members defected from the Organization he found the cared no longer. Sora attempts to comfort Ansem despite his actions against him and Riku but Ansem tells the trio that it is time for them to move on and that was more for them to seek as such he encourages them to go forth and seek it before fading away.
- Zane would later play Commander Sam William Marshall, the main antagonist of the 2006 Turkish film Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, which became controversial because it depicted Americans as terrorists. Disney decided that since Zane was involved, they didn't want him involved in Kingdom Hearts anymore, hence why Zane was replaced by Epcar in subsequent games.
- However, despite fans giving positive reviews to Epcar's performance (beginning with Kingdom Hearts II and ending with Kingdom Hearts III), fans have always enjoyed (and mainly preferred) Zane's performance even after the latter's removal from the franchise.
- When possessing Riku, Ansem's voice is blended in with David Gallagher in English and Mamoru Miyano in Japanese.
- As a consequence of replacing Billy Zane, Richard Epcar redubbed all flashbacks of Ansem's scenes in Kingdom Hearts in Kingdom Hearts II to maintain series consistency. Ironically, Zane's performance as Ansem is retained in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX.
- Ansem's character model was altered in Dream Drop Distance to better match up with Xehanort's other incarnations and subsequently reused for HD 1.5 ReMIX.
- Coincidentally, the name "Ansem" is an anagram of the word "names", reflecting how the name has been used by multiple characters, including Ansem the Wise, Xehanort and his Heartless and Nobody, and Riku. It could also reference how "Ansem" is not his real name, but rather an alias used to conceal his identity as Xehanort.