Was Ni No Kuni All In Oliver’s head? A Cynical Theory – New Gamer Nation

While I was playing Ni No Kuni –Wrath of the White Witcha constant thought swam through my head. Was this actually happening, or was Oliver just imagining the entire adventure?  I tend to question this whenever I play a game or see a movie that involves a child going on a fantasy adventure. It’s rather cynical of me, but I can’t help it. As I played Ni No Kuni, I couldn’t help going back to my theory at key points in the story and important dialogue moments. I was expecting something to be said or done that would just blow my theory out of the water, but by the end of the game, there wasn’t anything really to disprove me. Don’t believe me? Read on to see why this could all be in Oliver’s head, and keep in mind this is full of spoilers.

Let’s set up the premise of the game. You play as Oliver, the every-day, normal, nice neighborhood boy. His troublemaker friend, Phil, convinces Oliver to sneak out of his house at night to drive a car Phil built. As Oliver is driving the car, the White Witch makes the wheel come off, which causes Oliver to veer into a nearby river. Oliver is drowning until his mother; Allie, jumps in and heroically saves her son. Once safely on land, Oliver’s mother collapses because of her weak heart and dies.  You would think her death in general is the most important part, but it’s actually the way that she died which is the key to everything

This event sets up the entire game–but more importantly, it also begins my theory on why this is all in Oliver’s head. Now, to follow this theory, you have to take yourself away from Oliver’s perspective, since his perspective sees everything as true. If you analyze it as a third party, things aren’t as magical anymore. For example: the Witch made the wheel fall off the car, which caused this spiral of events to unfold. Or maybe the wheel just fell off because the car was built by a young boy, but Oliver had to rationalize the tragedy by blaming a higher evil power.

That’s just one quick example of how instances in this game can be explained with a more rational cause. Let’s get intoAllie hands OIiver Mr. Drippy in Ni No Kuni the bigger issues at hand. After Oliver’s mother dies, he sulks in his room for three days. Who wouldn’t? He just lost his mother and he’s a child. It’s hard to comprehend why such tragedies happen, and he doesn’t know how to move on. Story wise: he cries on his doll, Mr. Drippy, who comes to life and tells him a fanciful tale about another world where he can save his mother. Hope is renewed! Everyone’s happy and an adventure begins! Or – in my cynical world of ruining everyone’s fun – the doll never came to life and Oliver is just exhibiting escapism at its fullest by not being able to deal with reality.

Mr. Drippy speaks with a very Scottish (maybe Welsh?) accent, and it’s rather strange that he does. Everyone else speaks with English accents, but Mr. Drippy is the only one who doesn’t. This is explained later on in the story when Oliver has a flashback to when he was younger. He was crying because of his mean friend. Oliver’s mother pulled out a handmade doll she called Mr. Drippy to cheer Oliver up. Like all mothers, she made it come alive in the child’s mind by giving it a voice. What kind of voice does she use? Well, a Scottish accent, of course. This explains why Mr. Drippy sounds that way to Oliver. Also, Mr. Drippy is first presented to Oliver when he is sad, and he then cheers Oliver up. When Oliver’s mother dies, he’s incredibly sad, and it’s Mr. Drippy who cheers him up again. This is only the beginning of the connections.


So what does Mr. Drippy actually tell Oliver? He tells him there is more than one world in the universe, and not to get too deep into multi-dimensional time travel, let’s just go along with there being another world.  The people of the second world are directly connected to the people in Oliver’s world.  Mr. Drippy immediately recognizes a picture of Oliver’s mother as the Great Sage Alicia in his world.  Mr. Drippy then tells Oliver that there might be a chance to bring his mother back, if he travels to the other world and saves Alicia, who is trapped in some magical orb.

What boy wouldn’t do anything to get his mother back? The traumatic experience of witnessing his mother die would undoubtedly trouble him deeply. However, it gets worse, because she didn’t just die. Remember, Oliver’s mother died because she was saving him. Oliver feels directly responsible for his mother’s death, and it also implies his weakness caused her death as well. If only he could have swum to the surface, this wouldn’t have happened. This is vital, since the entire story is about Oliver growing into a brave hero–someone who is capable of saving the world. It is about Oliver being able to take care of himself, and having the power to do what must be done. This is his second chance, because the first time he was too weak, and his mother paid with her life.

This journey sounds like a great idea, so Oliver goes along on this adventure to save Alicia, which will in turn save his mother. I don’t need to explain the entire story or go step by step. Basically, the way the game plays out is that some people have a broken heart that needs fixing, and Oliver can help them. Wait a second; Oliver is helping people with broken hearts? Oliver’s mother’s heart was weak, or one might say…broken. Oliver couldn’t help his mother’s weak heart, making him feel helpless, so on this adventure to empower himself, his main task is helping people with their problematic hearts. Now that’s a coincidence, isn’t it?

Oliver carrying groceries in Ni No Kuni in Motorville

Sometimes when a person’s heart is really broken, Oliver needs to return to Motorville and find that person’s counterpart.  It’s a mighty big coincidence that every major person in the other world also happens to have a counterpart in the small town of Motorville.  Almost as if Oliver is basing the population of the other world on the people he knows in Motorville. That may very well be the case.  Of course, this is also the developers keeping a limit on their game and making sure to keep the focus on the other world.

Nevertheless, Oliver returning to his home is still significant in this theory, since it shows how people react to him while he’s on his adventure.  All the people in Motorville can’t see his friends from the other world.  When they see him wearing a cape, they just assume he’s a young boy playing.  It isn’t so far-fetched to imagine a young boy playing in the neighborhood with a cape and imaginary friends.

When Oliver is back in Motorville, he has to help someone that is having a problem.  In the setting of the story, they have a nightmare controlling them.  In the real world, they just are depressed or upset about something. A kid lost a race and has no ambition? Guess you have to fight an evil creature, or maybe it just requires a good old fashion pep-talk.  A girl never leaves her room? Surely there is a better explanation than her being controlled by a nightmarish creature?  This tells me that Oliver is just running around his neighborhood helping people pretending to be doing it for some huge adventure.

Quick recap since I feel I may be losing many of you. Oliver’s mother dies because Oliver is too weak, so he wants to become stronger.  He goes on this “adventure” to save his mother.  He has to help people with troubled hearts, which mirrors why his mother passed away.  Oliver also returns to Motorville and interacts with people who treat him normally.  So he didn’t disappear for long periods of time.  Also, the people in Motorville cannot see or hear Oliver’s companions like Mr. Drippy, which leads one to believe Oliver is just making them up.

Shadar in Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch

Some of you should already be able to poke holes in my theory.  For example you could ask: if Oliver never went to another world, where did he get that cape?  That is true, he gets a cape, wand, book, and vile that he carries around.  But think for a moment.  It isn’t impossible for him to find those items in his house or somewhere in the neighborhood. I tied blanket around my neck when I was a kid and pretended it was a cape, that’s not strange.  He also finds the book in his house, and his first wand is a branch off a tree outside.  This implies he does find objects laying around, and remember, Oliver can imagine a whole new world, he can imagine his wand looking different, or the book in another language.

Let’s fast forward to the end of the story.  Oliver returns to Motorville, but things haven’t actually changed.  His mother is still dead, because halfway through the story, Oliver realizes he cannot save his mother.  The reason why is somewhat confusing if you don’t play the game, but basically; Alicia in the second world, was actually Allie in the first world.  There was no second person, they were one in the same.  She traveled to Motorville years earlier and lived as a normal person.  So Alicia was never actually trapped anywhere, but people only thought she was. This is extremely important, since it is a realization!  Oliver has admitted to himself that he cannot bring his mother back.  Oliver started on this journey to another world in his desperation after just losing his mother, just like any person in denial would, but acceptance always comes eventually.  Oliver is now accepting his mother’s death, a major step in maturing.

There are two main antagonists: Shadar and The White Witch. They both represent something important to Oliver, but let’s start with Shadar.  Shadar is – wait for it – actually Oliver’s counterpart! Big twist aside, what does this mean?  Well, Shadar became evil because he was too weak to save people he cared for.  Wait a second…too weak to save people?  That sounds just like Oliver being too weak to save his mother.  And what must Oliver do in the story?  Oliver must defeat Shadar, which really means, Oliver must defeat his weak self.  By defeating his weak self, he can become stronger to make sure nothing like this happens again.

The White Witch represents Oliver’s current situation. The story of the White Witch is a sad one, and I’ll try and The White Witch Cassiopeiasummarize it quickly. She was a young Queen that just wanted to help people.  When she tried to help the world with magic she accidentally killed everyone (accident might be an understatement).  This is undeniably sad, but it means a lot.  The White Witch deeply regretted what she did, which directly connects to how Oliver felt about his mother’s death as well.  Both of them didn’t mean any harm, but their end-result was fatal for someone other than themselves  Now, the White Witch is in complete isolation and wished for company.  This correlates directly with how Oliver feels.  He lost his mother, and feels completely alone in the world with her gone, just like the White Witch.  Another matching factor between them is what they do.  The White Witch creates a council to talk to, which turns out to be imaginary friends.  This mirrors exactly what Oliver is doing with Mr. Drippy and his other companions.  In his depressed isolation, he creates people to help him through his problem.  Once he defeats the White Witch, she realizes she does not need to be isolated anymore.  This is Oliver realizing he doesn’t have to be alone either and there are people near him that care about him.

What really convinced me that this was all in Oliver’s head was the very last line of the game.  “Mom, I’m gonna get on with my life, and I know you’ll always be watching over me.”  He didn’t say anything about the other world or the people in it.  The last line of the game, often considered the most important, is all about his mother. Nothing physical in the Motorville changed to show Oliver really did anything either.  The entire game – the entire adventure – is about Oliver being able to cope with his mother’s death.  Oliver accepted what happened, overcame the problem, and declared he’s going to move on.

And there you have it – a very cynical theory on Ni No Kuni.  It’s just about a boy that lost his mother and didn’t know how to cope.  To do so, he created an entire world where he was able to mature enough until he could move on.  Am I looking too deeply at a game?  Most likely. But do you think you can poke holes in my theory?  Leaves some comments and feel free to debate.  Maybe you’ll set my cynical self straight.

About The Author

Neil has had a passion for video games ever since the Atari entered his life so many years ago. He's been writing about them for over two years and sees no end in sight. Reach out to him on twitter @nconnors13

37 Responses

  1. JuanchoTrucupei


    First, great article! Second, I have the same thoughts too and the more I think about it I feel that this was oliver’s coping mechanism. A psychologist/psychiatrist could publish a fun paper on this game if they inclined to do so.
    In any case, just to play devils advocate, I feel that there are a couple of events that could be argued for the existence of other world/magic/wizardry.1) The Wizards Companion is found in the fireplace and its intact. This book is carried by oliver everywhere and its constantly featured throughout the cutscenes. Meaning that if the book was part of olivers imagination he would be carrying a big pile of ash everywhere. Miss Leila (the grocery store clerck) or anyone else for that matter in Oliver’s world never pointed out that fact. Think about what your natural reaction be to a kid whose lost their parent(s) and is covered in ash? I think its safe then to think that he was carrying an actual book.2) Near the beginning when oliver casts gateway to go to other world for the first time, we will be treated with a cutscene where a dog starts barking at the magical gates that were summoned by gateway. The gate is ignored by the dogs owner but not the dog. Why would the dog bark at nothing?3) There is a quest in Perdida where a girl sees her soulmate tending to some flowers and that the soulmate is sad. Oliver travels to his world and sees that the girl in his world was sad because here flowers are dead. Oliver casts rejuvenate and the flowers instantly come back. The girl then comes immediately happy because her flowers are alive and pretty again. So either that girl is bipolar and can go from happy to sad in 1 second flat and or she’s just as nutty as oliver or other world and magic/wizardry is true.

    4) Alicia had a journal in her room that tells the story of her quest to find lucien/shadar which becomes a tale of wonder in the wizards companion. Anyway the journal entry mentions places specific to other world (like miasma marshes). So it could be argued that other world exists since oliver learns of the marshes existence by experience and then reads the journal entry which solidifies that the place is real and that he didn’t come up with the name by himself.

    5) Oliver carries a lot of stuff in his bottomless bag, the bigger items include a cauldron, a telling stone and a familiar cage. If his bottomless bag wasn’t really magical (and capable of negating weight and size) he wouldn’t be able to carry all the stuff he hauls around.

    I like to believe that all these points can be refuted but I don’t have arguments against all of them. 3 and 4 are the stronger arguments IMO for the existance of other world.

    At the end of the day I’m with you and I think that this was all in Oliver’s head.


    • JuanchoTrucupei

      pardon the formatting, that wasn’t how I intended my post to look like.

    • Nconnors13


      Hey you make some pretty good points, and there are always going to be holes in any theory.  I think it’s important that the overall story of Ni No Kuni seems to support my theory.  All the main turning points in the game, all the important cut-scenes, and dialog moments are good evidence to support my theory.  
      Nevertheless, the points you raised are good ones and I’ll attempt to give some explanation on each one, albeit, they may be flimsy. 

      1. I think you’re right and he was carrying and actual book.  I meant that it wasn’t the actual physical book in question, but what was written inside.  So, I believe Oliver had a real book in his possession, but he used his imagination to change the contents of the book to fit the world he created.  

      2.  This is an excellent point, it’s mentioned several times that Oliver’s companions cannot be seen by the people in Motorville, so it makes sense the people wouldn’t see the gate.  And since animals (supposedly) have a sixth-sense of sorts, the dog could see the gate.  However, I use to have a dog and when I walked her there were a couple times she started barking in some direction.  I wasn’t able to know what she was barking it, maybe it was just some squirrel or, maybe some mystical portal was opening and my dog was trying to warn me about it, who knows.  Point is, I dragged her away and played it off as nothing really there because there probably wasn’t; meaning, the dog in the game was really barking at nothing.  Another possibility, is that maybe the dog was actually barking at Oliver, and the person knew it was just a boy so she dragged the dog away.  

      3. This is a good point, because of the flowers rejuvenating alone.  Little kids have a habit of being able to switch moods instantly, especially if they get their way.  But the fact the flowers came back to life so quickly makes me pause, because I don’t really have a good explanation for that.  I guess it’s important to note that it was another child that started to believe in Oliver’s magic ability and not an adult.  Still, you may have me on this one.

      4. That’s true, and I actually don’t remember that part of the game, which means I’m going to have to check it out and see for myself.  This could be a major hole in my theory.  As of right now, I guess my only argument (and it’s flimsy) is that it was a story book Alicia had that would tell Oliver when he was a child.  Like any mother reading their child a fairy tale of another world.  This way, when Oliver grew up, these names were already in his head, maybe even subconsciously, so he used that book as a jumping off point when he was creating the new world. But I’ll have to play the game again and see.

      5. My refute for this is rather simple.  He isn’t actually carrying all the items that he thinks he is.  The Familiars aren’t real, so he doesn’t have a familiar cage.  The cauldron synthesizes items with magic, which he doesn’t have magic, so he isn’t actually making any items. The telling stone could just be a rock he put in his pocket and pretends it talks to him.  Maybe not the most creative argument, and it is simple, but a child’s imagination is a powerful thing. 

      ***END SPOILERS***

      I appreciate the comment and I’m glad to see someone agrees with me.  Hopefully, this comment helped explain a little more, but maybe not.  I’m sure there are also other holes in my theory that I didn’t think of, and there is also probably more evidence to support my theory.  This game certainly has a lot incorporated within it to be analyzed, and that’s part of what makes it such an amazing game. 

      • JuanchoTrucupei

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. I didn’t say earlier but I really appreciate your article because its a great step towards scrutinizing ni no kuni and figuring out its meaning if any. I’m really glad that the community is talking about this possibility since I think that ni no kuni is even more tragic than what it shows the player.

        As per your reply I must say that you have valid points as well, and I’m with you on your arguments. I played advocate to see what could come out of it. For me the nail in the coffin is the horace. What follows is my reasoning why.

        ** SPOILERS **
        I’ve come to the conclusion that the character that holds the key to all our answers is horace, the sage of ages. If we can prove that horace doesn’t exist we can prove that the rest is fake as well.
        Fact is that horace wrote the Wizards Companion (WC) some time after the wizard wards. Since the great wizard king stopped the wars and him and horace were buddies. According to drippy, (while talking to horace at hamelin) the wizard wars occurred thousands of years ago. Meaning that the original WC, the first edition used by Cassiopea, is over a thousand years old.Now there’s no problem that the WC is over a thousand years old but that fact proves that Oliver is making it up with his head as he goes in order to cope. We must again look at the  story of oliver’s mom (12th story I think) this story happens about 20-30 years before ni no kuni takes place. How can horace write the WC which is the standard of all wizardry, a book that is “supposedly” element proof, and add stories that are popular common folk tales from the future, thousands of years in the future mind you. One could argue that he’s the sage of ages, he can travel to the future, write the stuff in his book and then travel back, but that’s the problem right there. Horace himself, the one and only writer of the WC states himself that you can cast that spell once. A pleasure cruise to the future just for a couple of tales of wonder doesn’t make sense. Even if he did travel, he would have learned from the future that the council is evil and that they would kill him on his way back, we know that it was a surprise to him when he was murdered so this makes him going to the future for a tale of wonder even more unlikely.

        This whole argument (to me at least) proves that oliver is making stuff up as he goes and filling his blank book with stuff as he goes along, meaning therefore that he’s just coping and that nothing is really happening in his world, only in his head.

        One could argue that multiple editions of the WC were printed but the truth is that in the world of ni no kuni. Wizardry is a mostly lost art that has been banned by shadar. If WCs were still around oliver could simply replace his (that has missing pages) with one that is complete. So this supports that there is only one edition of WC.

        So if oliver is using a WC and he’s making stuff up as he goes, then there is no drippy and there is no gateway spell to begin his adventure. Therefore its all in his head.

        There’s a other inconsistencies like Alicia could be seen by residents of the real world but esther, swaine couldn’t be seen while all three are for other world. So there’s that inconsistency which doesn’t make sense.

        PS: How do I know that the alicia/shadar arc was 20-30 years before ni no kuni? great sage rashad had to be a kid, because he worked with alicia to stop shadar, alicia travels to the future while (maybe?) pregnant with oliver, by the time oliver goes to other world rashad is a full grown adult and has a daughert, esther. That’s why Esther/Oliver are about the same age.

        ** END SPOILERS **

        This might sound cruel, but bottom line is that oliver went nuts when his mom dies because he feels responsible in some way. Hence he goes through this beautiful and colorful adventure to come to terms with the fact that his mom is dead and is successful at it but is still thinking that he’s a wizard.

        I’ve been writing this post for a while now, so sorry if there are problems in spelling/sentence structure/all that jazz. Looking forward to a reply.

      • Nconnors13

        It’s always important to play the Devil’s Advocate to really see if a theory is sound or not. I’m really glad you brought that up, because I was questioning things involving Horace as well, but I left it out and tried to stick to the main topics; the parts of the story people HAD to experience.  That way even the casual players would be able to make some connections and see if they agreed or not.  But everything you said holds true and makes complete sense, to me at least.  And I’m completely with you.  Oliver experienced something tragic and didn’t know how to deal with it. Classic case of escapism. 

      • Permafry_42

        Horace specifically says in one of his talks (i think the third one) that that oliver has a new addition that was made after his time. When he’s explaining the nasicaan language and why its in the book, he explains that the ORIGINAL COPY was completely in nausicaan. This proves that Oliver’s book is in fact  This addition was probably Alicia’s copy, explaining how the pages were still in tact when he found them in Ni No Kuni. I also suspected that the tale was that of escapism, but after considering it (like Calvin and Hobbes), it was more a matter of perspective that was intentionally vague so that those who wish to believe it was all in his head can, and those who believe it did happen can believe it happened. The actions of Oliver in the real world, particularly the nightmare fights, the heart side mission and particularly the flower side mission is proof that it really did happen IMO. However, I believe there is evidence on both sides so that players can decide for themselves, just like Calvin and Hobbes.

  2. Mnamikaze

    Wow! Great article mate. I was thinking the same thing

  3. Okamigami

    Interesting article indeed. This definitely came to my mind when I was playing the game, as well. The idea of Oliver creating an alternate world for himself isn’t at all far-fetched, especially considering the point you made about the White Witch representing Oliver (an astute point, btw. And to bring it further, the White Witch was the one who killed Oliver’s mom, but in reality it was Oliver’s fault). In fact, you could probably argue that all of Studio Ghibli films are created in the minds of the main character to cope with various crises in their lives (Chihiro moves to a strange new home in Spirited Away, the two sisters have an ill mother in My Neighbor Totoro, Sosuke in Ponyo has an alcoholic mother and absent father, etc.) I don’t necessarily agree with those theories, of course. I’m just pointing them out.
    But here’s where it gets interesting/I sorta contradict your article: Ni No Kuni may actually be the most truthful/realistic of all of Studio Ghibi’s work. That is to say, the idea that this all happened in Oliver’s head is actually less likely than the idea that the sisters imagined Totoro. And this theory goes far beyond the game itself. Basically, one can argue that Ni No Kuni really did happen for Oliver; because it’s true in real life, too. A staggering amount of quantum theory supports the idea of “alternate universes”, such as the Double Slit experiment, and how it’s been proven that an atom can be in two places at once. The rule of thumb tends to be that everything that can happen will happen, no matter how many worlds it requires to fulfill it. In layman’s terms, there could be thousands of versions of yourself, your family, your friends, etc. living in alternate universes not unlike that of Ni No Kuni. I’ve even heard someone explain that when you say “I think I’ve met you in a past life” you’re actually drawing on the memories of a different self, living at the exact same time as you, who has already met this person in their world. Hope this isn’t too hard to follow, quantum physics can get quite dizzying and I’m far from an expert on it.So to wrap it all, maybe Oliver did create the world of Ni No Kuni as a form of escapism. But that alternate world could very well exist; whether or not Oliver found some magical way to visit it. 

    • Nconnors13

      You’re right, there is the possibility of multiple universes. I’ve actually taken an entire class on time travel and alternate universes, not to say I’m an expect by any means, because it is a fairly complicated area with just too many loose ends and theories that could go either way.  But, to keep it short, you are correct, there is no real evidence to completely disprove another dimension, and this game could very well just be about a boy finding that other dimension.  However, I have to admit that I still believe he was just trying to comprehend a terrible circumstance he went through.  All the same, I appreciate the comment and glad not everyone readily agrees with me. 

  4. gamerblivion31

    Just beat this masterpiece, and would love to throw my two cents in against your point. I’ve gotten escapist vibes for many “young child on a grand adventure”-themed plots, but this story wasn’t one of them. I see two main problems with the “cynics” theory for Ni No Kuni (in addition to points already made):

    *spoilers ahead*

    1. Pea appears before Oliver’s mother dies. You might say that she was already his imaginary friend, but when she appeared she was distinctly warning Oliver that something bad was going to happen. Unless Oliver is psychic, there’s no way his “imaginary friend” would have known his mother was going to die.

    2. Myrtle hearing voices. When you first meet her, Drippy says he can talk as loud as he likes, because people in Oliver’s world can’t hear him, but then Myrtle validates what Drippy said and Drippy is shocked. Fast forward to when you have Esther and Swaine, Myrtle again asks Oliver if he can hear voices and Oliver quickly denies it. Drippy mentions Myrtle’s probably more in touch with the magical world than most other humans. Are we now assuming Myrtle’s nutty, too? (and if so, how is she hearing the same voices as Oliver?)

    Also, you make a point in your article that it’s unusual all the soul mates of the people in the alternate world are in Oliver’s little hometown. I think the game developers knew this, which is why characters like Swaine and Marcassin do not have a known soul mate. Which leads me to wonder, why would Oliver bother creating characters that aren’t connected to the people in his world, especially if he’s really just running around helping people? They serve little purpose in Oliver’s ability to “mend hearts”, and he could easily experience an “imaginary adventure” without them.

    Et voila. Would love to hear your thoughts on these. But nice article, overall: even though I don’t completely agree with it, it was a well-written and thoughtful read.

    • vealsing13

      also, there’s a side quest where oliver has to help a little girl back in motorville grow her plants quickly(quicken growth), or bring them back to life(rejuvenate spell). After she she’s it happen she says “wow that was like magic!”.

    • xxadverbxx

      1) Pea at the start could have been his conscious. After all him and Phillip were sneaking around at night when they weren’t suppose to. They were also test driving a probably dangerous vehicle. Many people would have some red flag pop up to make them think doing that stuff was not the smartest idea.

      2) Myrtle could be nutty too. Its not odd for kids to play make believe together, and considering it seemed Myrtle’s home life sounded a bit abusive, it would make sense she’d try to join in. Or as Mr. Drippy went everywhere with Oliver, Oliver may have been speaking himself under his breath what Drippy was saying.

      Others like Swaine and Marcassin could just be people Oliver knows and we never see the Motorville counter for. Or he may have come up with them to try and make his own makeshift world seem more believable. Both show up after Oliver is pretty well into the world, and may have started to realize how odd all the major characters have a counterpart so his mind ended up creating a few new players.

      Personally I use to make believe and would sometimes include people I knew, and then people I didn’t when I was a kid.

  5. Lawson Douvier

    Honestly, I had this feeling while playing as well, but chose to disregard it, as I felt that it was just too sad. Great article and perfect game, by the way.

  6. rinksidecafe

    Well, to be fair, My Neighbour Totoro may have worked along the same lines except the girls’ mother was sick, not dead.

  7. Tonamelt

    Or you know, perhaps Motorville is in Oliver’s head too, and if you think about it, perhaps Oliver himself just exists in Oliver’s head…
    Perhaps Ni No Kuni isn’t even real, you just imagined you played the game in a PS3 that never existed on the first place…
    Who knows what reality is anymore?

  8. Joe Marchese

    I just finished playing through the story and the extended story and no one mentioned what happens when you defeat the Guardian of Worlds. The conductor, the one who gives you all the final boss bounty hunts and initiates the boss rush mode, talks a lot about multiple dimensions and once you finish all the bounty hunts, he brings you to an alternate Motorville. He says that the conductor is actually Oliver in a universe where he wasn’t saved by Alicia. But the coup-de-gras of the ending is that Alicia is still dead in every iteration in every universe. No matter where the conductor takes Oliver, Alicia is dead. Going back to physics, you would think that there has to be some instance where Oliver doesn’t do something to make Alicia die. This leads me to believe that this was indeed in Oliver’s head as a coping mechanism rather than a “real-life” adventure.

    • Nconnors13

      That’s a good point too add. I never knew about an alternate Motorville and I believe you are correct. At least one universe Alicia would be alive, but since he knows in the “real world” that can never happen, he doesn’t allow a universe to be created where that scenario can play out. So he has to deal with what happened eventually. At least, that’s what I think you’re saying. It makes me want to go back and play through it to experience it myself. Especially if it strengths my opinion on Oliver making up the entire adventure. It’s interesting that even parts of the game that aren’t on the main-story can support the theory as well. Glad you added that.

    • Msekni Nazari

      This, however, excludes such instances where people are linked up together with their alternate selves. Alicia by no means was a mere ordinary woman! Hence any other selves she was linked up to would also have perished. Keep in mind that in Oliver’s world originally there was no Alicia and there was no Oliver until the Great Sage came into his world and conceived Oliver. All in all they set it up in such a way that people can believe either as they please… however there is overwhelming support point towards that this is in fact a true adventure! The same as Pan’s labyrinth!

      • Msekni Nazari

        I gather we will have to wait and see in the next installment of the game.

    • jc

      I’m pretty sure that the conductor only takes you to “his” world. If there are an infinite number of worlds, then the idea that Alicia is dead in 3 of them isn’t really a stretch at all. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Oliver wasn’t imagining it, but it doesn’t really seem to support the theory that it is in his head either.

  9. Elle Stewards

    I really think you’re looking for something more clever than this game actually is. If you want to go this route, most Ghibli’s works could be explained by a child’s imagination. It’s not that the events are unfolding in Oliver’s head, but rather that Ghibli is purposefully telling a story about recovering from grief. They are famous for their projects telling a very specific message and they’ve never made any attempts to be particularly clever about it. Both worlds are real, magic is real, there is absolutely 0 evidence that suggests otherwise and plenty of evidence that others have already pointed out that supports the other world existing. You can’t just ignore whatever you like to make your theory real, and I don’t think this is up to interpretation without specifically ignoring events in the story.

  10. xeno

    great analysis and I hope it is true. i think the game is better off story wise having it been in olivers mind due to the fact the dialogue and how everything plays out is rather simplistic and how a child would construct it. just because the protagonist is a child, does not mean the plot and narrative would be simplistic as well. the game feels almost too simple and pedestrian in how it plays out, that it evokes the feeling that a child is establishing the world and how it is being told.

    there is one hole in your theory, though. at the very end, we see oliver fly back home on a broomstick. now, why would the developers throw that in there? perhaps it was a way for them to tell the audience that oliver does in fact know magic and yes, the story was REAL and not in his imagination. of course, the whole broomstick thing could also be make belief and again is in his mind. but why would they put that scene in there for no other reason but to confuse the audience even further? that may just be the clincher that confirms that the other world was real. but i hope not.

  11. jc

    I don’t think that this is necessarily a “cynic’s” theory. The game deliberately makes it extremely ambiguous as to whether or not the Other World exists. At the beginning of the game, it really seems to be pushing you to believe that it is all made up (“Hmm, for some reason, my magic doesn’t seem to be working in the real world. That’s strange…”) The question is never answered because the point is that it doesn’t matter. The story is about Oliver learning to accept his mother’s death and moving on. Whether he does that by escaping to a fantasy world or by saving a real world, it’s all the same. Even if it were all in his head, his adventure did definitely lead to him helping real people and making real friends (Miss Leila, Myrtle, Denny, etc.). I love that it is open to interpretation and meaningful either way. However, there are a few things that make it difficult to consider it an imaginary world: specifically the fact that Miss Leila acknowledges that she can see Pea, who both has knowledge of the Other World and is able to travel there with you. I guess you could argue that she is just ‘playing along’ with Oliver’s imaginary friend, but that’s a bit of a stretch. It definitely requires a number of coincidences for it to have been in his mind, like the fact that Myrtle’s dad would have had to pass out right as Oliver showed up and then wake up to realize that he had been neglecting his family at the exact moment that Oliver “gave him kindness”. Not impossible, as he may have become agitated by his argument with his wife, which may have caused him to pass out, which may have been a wake-up call that he needed to spend more time with his family and less time working. It’s all plausible, but very coincidentally timed.

  12. xaade

    I think it is a major ghibli theme. A child’s hope can overcome any heartache.

    It doesn’t matter if it is real. Either he is coping by saving the world, or coping by hoping he can save others, he definitely channels his grief by helping others.

    If it were his imagination one could note that his mother “made” his fairy. Therefore the fairy is either lying, or the dark one put the fairy into his doll.

    Given that after his mother’s death, he always has the doll his mother made, I think in fact both answers are right.

    Meaning he is just imagining it, but doesn’t a terribly powerful imagination make it real?

  13. TheStarshipCat

    Well, I literally just beat this and had no one to talk about it with. I somewhat agree with your theory.
    I think that everything that happened was real, points that prove that are pea, myrtle hearing voices, and the girl you have to grow flowers for with rejuvenate.
    I also think that the writers purposely put in all of the coincidences, like fixing hearts because of his mom’s weak heart.
    So you play the game, and its all real. But when you finish it, you think about the whole story, and you realize that it was also a metaphor for coping with depression, denial, and loss.
    Not all games that can have a double meaning have to be all an imaginary world.

    • Joe Marchese

      I certainly agree with what you are saying and Studio Ghibli is always inserting some underlying meaning in their work. It also seems that death and loss play a central role one way or another. I don’t think that a game has to be imaginary to convey a double meaning, but I do think that this game fits the bill.

  14. xxadverbxx

    HA! Had this same exact thought the moment Drippy came to, and only strengthened when I first came across the King of Ding Dong Dell. Though I must admit I never made the broken heart connection you did.

    Besides the fact that a young boy playing with a cape not being weird, they probably are giving him extra leeway considering Oliver’s mother just died. Not to mention probably playing along at least a little when he comes by.

    The tie in of character’s and their counterparts is just too convinient too. Every major character in Ni No Kuni matches someone Oliver knows both in looks, and general personality. Probably the most interesting is Phillip though being a rat. A rat that doesn’t really look like Phillip, and who steals things. Basically, rats aren’t looked at too kindly, and while they were “friends”, Phillip was often a jerk to Oliver (or as the idiom goes, Phillip was “a dirty rat!”).

    Going to Shadar, he not only is defeating his weak self, he’s confronting the truth when he reaches Shadar (and Shadar is where the DS version ends). Shadar (the truth) is something Oliver didn’t want to face for a long time, that his mother was really dead.

    Your White Witch parallels are really intersting though and make a lot of sense. With the DS version stopping at Shadar, we can take that point and the following Party as Oliver going back to reality and accepting finally what happened. With the White Witch I simply viewed it as in the PS3 version at least Oliver decided he wasn’t capable to face the world. He wanted to keep up in his imaginary world and not deal with reality, and along with adding in the White Witch, minor hope that Alicia may still be able to come back to life returns. More so once you beat the White Witch you can either A) Accept reality and go back to living (aka: stop playing the game at that point), or B) restart from the point just before you beat the White Witch and continue to “Enjoy everything this world has to offer!” (aka: keep living in the fantasy world).

    EDIT: In the Post Game play too, you get a chance to enter a world where Oliver was never born (and it seems Alicia never was in either) which is rather odd. This can however tie into a new level of despair wishing he never had been born at all, and just imagining what Motorville would be like if he wasn’t. My main thought for this being if you talk to the neighbor, she says Oliver’s house has been abandoned for years in the 2nd Motorville, but if you enter it the house is set up exactly like it was at the start of the game. If the house had been empty for years, you wouldn’t expect it to look like people were living in it with fresh fruit and other things out.

  15. Lheticus Videre

    I may be absurdly late to this party, but I just can’t leave this unsaid. I think the Other World IS real. I’ve come up with at least two arguments so far, and as I get further in the game there will probably be more. First, the Nightmares. Metaphorizing the fights against them as more mundane means of cheering someone up, as you claim, seems like a huge stretch to me because of how instantaneously they get over their ferociously bad moods after Oliver gives them the missing pieces of their hearts. In the real world, issues like that don’t just vanish, EVER. At least not to my knowledge anyway, which to me supports the idea that those people really do have magical otherworld mojo related problems, because if they weren’t magical in nature they wouldn’t be fixed so instantly.

    My second argument is Pea, but not for the same reasons others have said. Oliver’s companions can’t see her, just as many (though not, oddly, all) people of Oliver’s town can’t. If this was all a product of Oliver’s imagination, then tell me, what would be the point of having an imaginary friend his OTHER imaginary friends can’t see, hear, or interact with? If it’s all some pretend game or whatever, what reason could Oliver possibly have for that to be the case? Unlike many things that happen in the game that would make sense otherwise, this makes no sense at all unless the magic is real. If I was arguing this as a case in an Ace Attorney courtroom, I’d consider it some pretty darn decisive evidence!

    • Joe Marchese

      You can never be absurdly late to the party!

      First, I see your point but I think the giving people the missing parts of their heart was part of Oliver’s child-like coping mechanism. He didn’t understand the complex emotions that people were feeling so in essence, I think that supports the evidence that the Other World is not real. In this world, Oliver can fix people because all he has to do is give them the opposite emotion to what they are feeling. This seems like a child-like approach to solving problems rather than the therapeutic process people go through to fix problems they have now.

      As for Pea, you do make a good argument that if everything is imaginary, then why wouldn’t the imaginary friends see and speak to other imaginary friends. The only way I can oppose that is to say that within the confines of his own mind, Oliver can make his own rules. If he wanted no one to acknowledge anyone, that is certainly within the rules of the environment. In fact, if the Other World was real, it seems that there is no way characters could ignore each other so it proves that at least Pea, Oliver or the Other World are not real.

      Interesting points and thanks for commenting!

      • Lheticus Videre

        I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic. I could see your first counterpoint if Oliver only fixed people’s hearts in that way in the Other World, but he also fixed them that way for several people in his world. In particular, the very first person he helps this way, Myrtle’s father, casts doubt to me that there isn’t any actual magic because the issue is that essentially her father is at best having serious relationship issues with her mother and and worst he’s being downright abusive. A “pep talk” or any other thing that could take place in the space that Oliver defeats his Nightmare and transfers the missing piece of his heart is NOT going to solve a problem like that–things like that just don’t get worked out quickly.

        Your second point seems to me like it at least partially missed my point. Yes, if the Other World is imaginary, Oliver can make his own rules, but WHY would he make it so none of the other imaginary characters can see or hear Pea–at least until Pea shows up in the Other World, if I remember correctly? If Oliver is the “world builder” here, it seems contradictory to me that he would put in something so arbitrary when all other details of the Other World that have been relevant to him have more readily explicable reasons, either in-story or out.

      • MaryAnn

        Also late to the party! Just got a ps3 and Ni No Kuni is my first game to play on it 😛

        So Myrtle is really crazy too then? Since she can see Pea at some point. When Pea is waiting for Oliver at the shop. You mean to say she is playing along with Oliver’s fantasy world.

    • Tania

      One of the authors of the second game said that “it is not necessarily the same world as in the first game” which means that everything so far is open to interpretation of the player. Is Oliver imagining everything? The truth is bendable. Its what someone wants it to be. Adults think oliver is imagining everything. Children would beleive he is a true magician. Being a normal child or a magician doesnt negate the fact that oliver loss his mother and cope with it how he can. He is truly a brave young man. That is, in my opinion, what is truly important. His bravery through this situation. Not the reality of the imaginary world. His loss his real enough for the story to work.

  16. MaryAnn

    Forgot to mention, I loved this article! I thought about it being just his imagination, but like it better if it is real.

    Also already posted this as a reply, but I thought this might poke a hole in your theory:


    So either Myrtle can see Pea or she is really crazy. When Pea is waiting for Oliver at the Leila’s shop, Myrtle is seen talking to Pea. But then again, Leila’s interacting with Pea too.

    After you restore Denny’s heart you go to Leila’s shop. There you’ll find that Leila, Myrtle and Pea are standing outside. Myrtle says at some point to Pea “And who might you be, sweetie?”. Leila replies looking at Pea with “This little lady’s been around an awful lot lately!”. Pea responds to Oliver that she was looking for him. Myrtle says “Hee hee! Is she a friend of yours, Oliver? Then I’ll leave you two and get back to work. ” and Leila replies “Well, it looks like you’ve found who you were looking for, dearie. I’ll leave you with Oliver, shall I?”.

    Granted, both sentences from Leila could’ve been directed at Myrtle, though for the first sentence she doesn’t look at Myrtle. That last sentence could’ve also been directed at Myrtle since she ran away from the shop and came back Oliver trailing behind. But then again, it makes no sense because Myrtle is also going inside the shop. Thus Myrtle isn’t left with Oliver, but Pea is left with Oliver. Which makes complete sense because Leila and Myrtle can’t see Swaine, Drippy and Esther, so for them Oliver and Pea are left with just the two of them.The only weird thing about this scene that I noticed is that Pea doesn’t reply to Leila or Myrtle, though she does look at them.

    But I agree with some/most things in your article. It is weird that no one mentions that he has been away. Only thing I can think of is that time goes by different in Ni No Kuni than in Motorville. So time goes faster in Ni No Kuni and people don’t age as fast than in Motorville. Than again, it’s also weird that if it was all imagination, that nobody pointed out that he was carrying a doll around the place.

    Also about Horace. He mentioned somewhere that the story about the Great War in the Wizard Companion is wrong. Since Horace was there, he knows how it was. So I would believe that the WC Oliver has is a new version. And since most pages magically (re)appear in the WC and it is all magic, it might be self-updating. Or as someone else pointed out, Drippy says he put it in the fireplace, it might just be Alice her copy, which is a newer version.

    And I think that Drippy, like all the fairies, talks that way because they live on a remote Island. It happens in our world too, right? They learn from each other how to speak and they learned it in a funny way.

    At least, that’s my view of things, though not everything makes sense. But it doesn’t all make sense if it’s just fantasy either..

  17. TamiaSympa

    Im afraid you are right. I cant find any plot holes in your theory. But i suppose the game has the purpose to TEACH the child ( or adult playing) different ways to cope with the grief of losing someone. (I wish i could write more but its a pain on my cell phone )