Her RolesAqua finds herself with various roles in the game. Among others, she is a friend, a caretaker, a pupil, and a Keyblade Master. Though all of the roles are important to her, she struggles to integrate them all into one concept of self. On this page I will discuss each of the roles she holds dear, explain how they conflict with each other and what her ultimate resolution is.
I would argue that friendship is the most important thing to Aqua. She especially values her relationships with Terra and Ven. For that reason, her role as a friend is also very significant. Aqua tries her best to do everything she can for their happiness and to ensure their safety. Although she initially sets off on her journey at the request of Eraqus, Aqua's motivation is to reunite her friends in a place that she knows they are safe. Oddly enough, her role as a friend conflicts with every other role that she takes on in some fashion.
For example, her role as a caretaker has a negative impact on her friendship with Ven. Both Aqua and Terra have a tendency to treat Ven more like a child than a friend. To me, their relationship seems to have more of an older-younger sibling dynamic. Though Aqua treasures their friendship, her instinct to take care of him like a child often frustrates Ven and puts tension on their relationship. He wants her to trust him like she can trust Terra and consider him an equal. Ven does not understand why she won't let him come along to help out when he can clearly fight for himself as well. When the three friends meet up again in Radiant Garden, Aqua is at first stern with Ven and tells him that he needs to go home. However, she softens a little after and tries to explain that it's too dangerous for him to come. I personally feel that she begins to realize at that moment how her role as his friend and her somewhat outdated role of a caretaker are conflicting. Later on she begins to see that it was just Ven's time to leave home and that it is her responsibility as his friend to facilitate his growth. After losing his heart, Aqua comments that she has to find a safe place for him to stay until she can make things right. Yen Sid, however, voices the conflict between her roles as a friend and caretaker out loud. What Ven needs is not her protection. He needs her to love and believe in him. If she can do that, he will have her light to guide him home. Aqua finally understands that Ven had only wanted that from the beginning. At this point, I believe Aqua let go of her caretaker role in order to embrace her treasured role of being Ven's friend.
It is quite evident from early on that Aqua's role as Eraqus' pupil will be in conflict with her role as a friend to both Terra and Ven. Eraqus sends her out to keep an eye on Terra's darkness and to bring Ven home immediately. As his friend, Aqua wants to believe in Terra and trust that he will make the right decisions. She does not want to believe that Terra would succumb to the darkness and need to be kept in check. As his friend, Aqua wants to trust that Ven will be safe and that he must have had a reason to go off on his own. She does not want to feel like she has to chase after him and drag him home if he is absolutely against it. Those were her orders from Eraqus, however, and she felt like she had to obey them. As time goes on and she sees Terra making the wrong decisions and begins to understand the underlying danger that Ven is in because of Vanitas, I believe she starts to more strongly identify with her role as Eraqus' pupil. What he feared was coming true and I think it ends up pushing her friendships with them to the back burner.
When the three meet up for the first time since they all left the Land of Departure, Aqua ends up accusing Terra of not doing the right thing. Rather than being concerned and trying to talk it out like I feel she normally would, she is very judgmental. Terra quickly picks up on this and asks her directly if she has been spying on him because Eraqus told her to. Aqua is a bit taken aback by his question and I think that shows she had not really realized how much her role as a pupil had taken over her actions. Her motivation became to follow Eraqus' orders rather than pure concern for her friends. She tries to tell Terra that Eraqus was just worried about him, but it's too late. Aqua's mannerisms already sent Terra over the deep end. Ven is also extremely disappointed. He can hardly believe Aqua would put Eraqus' orders over their friendships. He then asks her if she is only trying to get him to go home because Eraqus told her to bring him home. Aqua is visibly upset, but admits that everything the two of them said was the truth. I believe that she was ashamed and felt that they had every reason to be upset. Their meeting was like a slap in the face for Aqua. However, as they all went their separate ways, Aqua's actions begin to change. Though she may have lost focus up until that point, her motivation to protect her friends and ensure their safety becomes her utmost priority once more. Her shift in focus is most evident after hearing from Terra what happened between him and Eraqus. I think if she had most strongly identified with being Eraqus' pupil, she would have been a lot more furious or upset with Terra. Because Eraqus threatened Ven's life and Terra was only trying to protect him though, Aqua ultimately was more concerned with what was going to happen to her friends now. Once again, Aqua's role as a friend takes precedence and her role as a pupil fades from her self concept.
Lastly, Aqua struggles with her new role of being a Keyblade Master right from the beginning of the game. Though she passed the Mark of Mastery exam and could rightfully be called a Master, I do not think she considers herself one until the very end of Birth by Sleep. Of course this could stem from the fact that Aqua is very modest and probably believes she still has a lot to learn and improve on. I think that there was more to it than that, though. Aqua was increasingly struggling with her sense of identity because of her various role conflicts. Without a self-concept, how could she possibly consider herself a Keyblade Master? How could she consider herself a Keyblade Master when her notions of light and darkness and good and evil were consistently being challenged? Not to mention, her role as a Keyblade Master itself was in conflict with her friendship with Terra. They had both trained together and both had the same dream of becoming one. When she was the only one who passed the exam and she saw how devastated Terra was, I hardly think she would be able to feel accomplished. Even though Terra valued his friendship with Aqua, he was clearly upset and I am sure he was at least somewhat jealous. They both worked so hard and he is only human. Aqua, being sensitive to others, clearly picked up on all of his feelings. I think it would be hard for her to want to be a Master if it meant there would be some invisible wedge between Terra and herself.
As Aqua continues her journey, however, everything begins to come together. She resolves all the role conflicts I've already mentioned and realizes that no matter what responsibilities she has, her friends are always her top priority. After Eraqus' death, Ven losing his heart and Terra's consciousness being lost to Xehanort, she no longer views the world in black and white like she once did. She grew to have a more intricate understanding of the world and what her place in it was. Aqua, with a renewed sense of self, truly understands what it means to be a Keyblade Master. So, when she faces Xehanort in Terra's body at the end of Birth by Sleep Final Mix, Aqua can finally say with confidence,