While I was playing Ni No Kuni –Wrath of the White Witch, a 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 into 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?
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.
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 summarize 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.