At first glance, with just an image of a young child in diapers sitting on a throne, one could be wrong Ranking of kings for nothing but another mediocre shonen anime that was all the rage in the US. Or, for those not committed to anime, something of a frivolous kids’ show.
But in just one episode, this adaptation of Sosuke Toka’s manga is sure to capture any viewer’s attention. It introduces us to the universe of the series not exclusively through explanations, but through a beautiful set of contrasting and complementary visuals. On one side is the world at large, one of the kings and heroes seeking recognition as the best of the best, and on the other is a young prince crying and comforted by a mother figure.
The words that close the cold open of the premiere, “you must become the greatest king in the world”, are all the explanations that the series needs to know what to expect (and if you replace the word ” king” by any other role, you would have the description of any given shonen). Bojji, a naive, deaf prince who can’t even lift a real sword and finds himself the butt of everyone’s laughter, stands out from the collection of tough shonen protagonists built for long fights. Despite all the company surrounding him in his father’s kingdom, the condescending stares and comments from every individual he meets, Bojji’s only friend in this world comes in the form of Kage, a being from the shadow and a thief with a dark history who is equally lonely. .
That the relationship between these two characters goes from exploitative to sincere isn’t all that surprising, with Kage being one of the few people who can understand Bojji without using sign language, but the way the show depicts their connection and relying on their Goofy Dynamic is one of its strengths. The Kage kingpin outright mocking Bojji saying, “You can’t hear and you’re an idiot, so no one engages with you,” actively encouraging and defending him in the presence of danger isn’t forced, come as naturally as possible in just a few episodes. After all, in a world where the real danger exists within your own family, even more than the world at large, who better to find solace than another outcast?
From the first episode, “The Prince’s New Clothes,” it’s clear that most of the action will take place between Bojji and those closest to him (both his family and those who live to serve them), but what the series done so deliciously is to introduce seemingly dodgy characters through a single perspective to slowly but surely peel away their cold facades. Take the way Prince Daida and his mother (Bojji’s mother-in-law) Queen Hiling are introduced, both seemingly full of contempt for Bojji and the idea that this young man could take the throne once King Bosse passes . Rather than keep them fixed as villains, each episode of Ranking of kings cleverly develops their stories and shows them themselves as victims of circumstance.
Ranking of kingsThe brilliant exploration of character and narrative storytelling is not limited to these characters, extending to everyone, including minor characters. Comparisons with game of thrones that have been made are actually rather appropriate, with the show’s dedication to exploring the messy interpersonal politics of a large number of characters being quite in line with the fantasy series. But where this series relied heavily on violence and death, Ranking almost feels like a challenge to its creative team in its inexhaustible optimism and willingness to show how each individual, no matter how “bad,” may have their own baggage.
Its intentional circumvention of cruelty and touches of empathy for monsters and allies are part of the series’ storybook charm, and its aesthetic design is just as much a key part of it. The show effectively feels like a throwback to the sensibilities of some of the best anime of the 1970s and 80s, with Isao Takahata’s work with Nippon Animation and World Masterpiece Theater feeling like the perfect point of comparison in their soft, rear-end color palettes. -magnificent shots, and impeccable but simple animation.
In some ways, it’s also reminiscent of the charm of the works of some of anime’s greats. At Osamu Tezuka’s Dororo, which also features a disabled protagonist and uses childlike aesthetics to explore dark storylines, is most notable in this regard, but equally significant is Akira Toriyama’s debut work; humor and slap-stick that were present in Dr. Slumpthe distinct yet consistent character design of dragon questand the sense of adventure and heart that accompanies dragonball (before it turns into overly long fight scenes). That the show can bounce between creative fight sequences and something as silly as someone getting their balls kicked in the middle of the monologue seems tied to how dragonball often did the same thing.
Lest it mislead, this is in no way a forgery of one of the standout works, as series director Yosuke Hatta intends to tell the show’s endearing story in his own way. . Limitation Ranking of kings because just an enjoyable watch is just as much a disservice, because the further the series progresses through its 23-episode run, the denser it becomes. Beneath all the beauty lies a nuanced exploration of all of its characters and their individual traumas. It bounces fluidly between past and present to contextualize the decisions made by all its characters, from that of the Magic Mirror Miranjo to the trio of royal brothers (Desha, Despa and Oken).
As predictable as its journey and shonen ending may be, the series thrives on all the beautiful routes it takes to get there and the colorful characters that populate it. The few loose ends that exist don’t feel like unfinished narrative strands, but a distinct world-building that would allow for deeper exploration in a second season, not that it needs to, that it’s perfectly designed to be standalone or continue. The series as a whole is practically designed so that anyone can comfortably slip into its unique universe and come away feeling warm and fulfilled at the end.
As corny as it sounds, Ranking of kings is in a way a picture-perfect show dedicated to discovering the beauty and strength that exists in every individual, despite the “flaws” that others might perceive and mock. His extremely optimistic first opening number, “BOY” from King Gnu and the accompanying animation (entirely focused on Bojji walking past with his head held high and the others by his side) is kind of a perfect thesis for the series: future. Panting with effort, you shine brighter than anyone.
Ranking of kings is available to stream on Crunchyroll or can be purchased on Amazon Prime.
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