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Only thing I disagree with you on is that Sora didn't see Vanitas. That wasn't simply a visual nod for the audience only, it rarely ever is in this series, like how Terra received a premonition of the end of BBS from his own Darkness during his second conversation with Master Xehanort right before visiting Radiant Garden. Sure it worked as a narrative tease for us the audience, but Terra reacted to that, like Xehanort's speaking snapped him out of some deep thought. There's nothing else we can assume he was thinking about, that vision is already a visual cue of what he was thinking about. I bring it up because it's essentially the same thing happening with Sora in this particular scene in DDD. Vanitas standing there wasn't simply a visual tease to us as an audience, it WAS what Sora was seeing. Yes Vanitas' presence there was due to Ven's heart reacting within Sora, but that doesn't mean that Sora doesn't experience it. There have been multiple times where people within Sora show reactions and feelings through Sora. Sora cried when Ven could feel Terra and Aqua suffering in BBS, he saw Kairi speak to him multiple times while her heart was within his in KH, he cried Roxas' tears when he had to leave Twilight Town in KH2, and I don't think I need to point out all the obvious things that happened to him in Organization XIII's nightmare trap. He's already shown the ability to be directly affected by Ven and to see those who are directly connected to his heart, so why is it any less of a possibility that the same thing happened here, that Sora saw Vanitas just as Ven was?


Like with Terra, it's not just a 4th wall-only moment, it's an actual indicator of what Sora is seeing, thus why he's so confused right before YX disappears. He's not just reacting to his statement, he would have just snapped back at him if he was, "What's that supposed to mean" and all that. He looked shaken by something, it would only make sense if it was seeing someone he'd never met or known before, but clearly felt something upon seeing him, a feeling that didn't belong to him. Like I said, it wouldn't be the first time. He likely only focused on what YX said because he probably brushed it off as a trick. If anything, YX was counting on something like that to happen, saying the right words to trigger him, in more ways than one, in order to make him more susceptible to further trappings down the line. This all comes to a head when the nightmare trap happens, meaning that the whole test was used as a way to temper both Sora and Riku for the plan Xehanort had for them, only Riku was able to make himself beyond his reach prior to the final execution. What I'm getting at here is that Vanitas' manifestation acted as one of several essential gears in Xehanort and YX's plan to lure Sora deeper into their clutches, and it wouldn't have been nearly as effective if Sora didn't feel those effects.Just having Ven react to something without Sora also experiencing said reaction is essentially the same as having two friends go to the same movie but one of the friends looked away for a second while the other witnessed a dramatic reveal in the movie, the impact is lost on one of them and they won't reach the final climax with the same level of investment.


The plan works better if Sora did see Vanitas, was equally confused by his appearance as well as with YX's words, and with everything else he witnesses later. Yeah he doesn't recall back to that moment again later in the game, but then again Riku never brings up seeing his doppleganger in Pranksters' Paradise again later in the game either, so I'd just chalk it up to a minor lapse in writing (on that topic though I'm almost convinced that it was Riku Replica, seeing as how a past version of Riku wouldn't make any sense if present Riku is still untouchable and Xehanort can't just "conjure up" a fake dark Riku out of nowhere, and Riku doesn't have the same set of circumstances as Sora does in order to see people who aren't physically there...plus this Riku was able to physically interact with Pinocchio and could be seen by everyone, so yeah he's corporeal). Apart from that though, yeah I agree with you, Vanitas is likely coming back (why tease his appearance at all if they weren't gonna bring him back?), and the way you described might be a pretty accurate idea. Either way, I hope we do end up seeing him make a true return so that more can be done with his character, especially if there's also the chance that Riku Replica might come back as well, I really would love to see an evil Sora-Riku tag-team battle against OG Sora and Riku. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

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