「冥府の王」 (Meifu no ōu)
“King of the Underworld”
This season stands in stark contrast to many, in that for me there’s a very clean demarcation among the series I’m following. Ousama Ranking is clearly the best, Blue Period is far above everything else, and Senpai ga Uzai Kouhai no Hanashi is third. And after that is everything else, more or less in a big dogpile. Blue Period has had a couple of truly elite episodes (like the most recent) that are right there with the best of the season, and it’s generally excellent. But week in and week out, Ranking of Kings is the king of the rankings.
Everything that’s been great about this series all along (especially the bond between Kage and Bojji) was great this week too. But a couple of things really stood out, one of which was the staggering imagination on display in the visuals. Part of the credit surely goes to mangaka Touka Sousuke for that, but also to the artists at Wit. I could just look at the background details and consider this one of the best series of the season. Also, this may be my favorite Murase Ayumu performance ever. I like him – he’s overexposed at the moment and not necessarily possessed of a big range, but he’s very good in his zone. Kage takes him out of that zone, and he’s nailing the full range of emotions in the character – a scared child with a tough guy exterior.
Ousama Ranking gives you a viking buffet of praiseworthy elements every week, of course. The plot continues to be a fascinating puzzle. Bojji and Kage are in the presence of the king of the Underworld, Death-har (Shimoyama Yoshimitsu). Kage fiercely defends Bojji against the (#2 ranked) king’s mockery, and insists Death-har give Bojji the power-up he’s come in search of. Death-har agrees to let Bojji spar with the captain of the legendary Order of the Underworld, which doesn’t especially go well until Kage argues that in order to be appreciated Bojji needs to be seen displaying his dodging skills.
Those are as formidable as ever, but Death-har is unimpressed – Bojji isn’t going to be able to bring down any strong opponents with that. The letter of recommendation Kage produces – which I can only assume came from Bebin – actually makes this worse. There’s a good reason for that, which the boys only learn when the captain – impressed by both Bojji’s resolve and his will – notifies them that the man they were actually sent to find is the king’s younger brother Dear-par. That’s what Kage gets for forgetting the name…
Meanwhile, things really hot up beneath Bosse’s castle, where Daida has just defied the mirror’s demand that he drink her potion. Apeas’ arrival is wholly unexpected by both Daida and the mirror, and he’s clearly there with intent to eliminate Daida for betraying his father’s wishes. But the mirror stops him, and he immediately recognizes it as “Lady Miranjo” – though he does immediately ask what she’s doing stuck in that mirror (and the question doesn’t please her). She was the seated figured from the flashback last week, of course – and whatever she whispers in Apeas’ ear, it’s enough to bring him completely to heel.
What a mysterious tangle all this is. Among the many things I’m curious about is the relationship between Miranjo and Bosse – who was working for whom there, exactly? Miranjo thinks Bebin has been acting out of affection for Daida, but he actually seems to be working on Bojji’s behalf. Apeas was indisputably trying to honor Bosse’s wishes but Miranjo’s words must have been very powerful indeed (as must she herself). And of course, what exactly has Miranjo done to Daida by force-feeding him the daddy smoothie (with Apeas’ help)? We know she lied to him about what the potion was, and we know his mother had a terrible premonition – which I assumed to be about herself, or Bojji – but maybe Daida was the cause of it.
We’re barely a quarter of the way through the adaptation (huzzah!) of an ongoing manga, so those answers may be a while in coming, The intrigue here surrounded Daida and Apeas, but the feels were all about Kage and Bojji. The little prince’s determination to hide his disappointment from his friend (and ultimate failure to do so) was this week’s heartbreak. But things are looking up – they do find Death-par (Sakurai Takahiro), who cuts a very different figure than Kage expected. It seems to me that the endgame for Bojji isn’t going to be finding the kind of strength he’s searching for, but having the world recognize the strength he already has. The people who know him best already do…