「王子の弟子入り」 (Ouji no deshiiri)
“The Prince’s Apprenticeship”
Ousama Ranking is obviously great in all sorts of ways. It kind of gives one a smorgasbord of options to talk about in any given week. What strikes me this time is that this is a story that’s opening up like a flower, every episode revealing more of itself but – like a flower – it happens slowly enough that you only notice it with the passage of time. There are sequels to two series that made my “Top 20 of the 2010’s” list and one that just missed due in 2022, but even if all three of them finish by the end of 2022 Ousama Ranking is going to be heard from at year’s end if it can keep up this level of quality.
So much fascinates me here, but perhaps most of all that seemingly every character in this cast is more than they first appear to be. Motivations are not clear-cut or simple, and good and evil seem to co-exist inside everyone. As a result you feel sympathy for characters you wouldn’t have expected to, and suspicious of others who initially seemed noble and heroic. There are two exceptions to this of course – Kage and especially Bojji. Kage has his dark past but he clearly wears his heart on his sleeve. As for Bojji. he’s as straightforward as it gets. But given how this series works, I can’t help wonder if those other sides of him will come out too, in time.
This episode was a sandwich, two slices of Daida on either end with a big slab of Bojji in the middle. But like the brothers themselves, their parts in this act could not have been more different. Daida’s arc takes a disturbing and tragic turn which flips the entire premise on its ear, and Bojji’s fortunes seem to turn for the better at last. The respective tone matches the content, and Bojji and Kage’s encounter with Death-par is full of comic moments, resolute friendship and tiger-cub GAR. How things have changed in so little time – a reminder that they could turn again just as quickly.
Death-par is a wonderful addition (big surprise) with Sakurai Takahiro clearly having a lot of fun here. I’m learning not to make too many assumptions about anyone in Ousama Ranking, but Death-par seems like a generally decent fellow. He loves a drink or eleven and he’s a bit of a popinjay to be sure. And he extracts not just Bebin’s bag o’ gold as payment to help Bojji, but Kage’s “life savings” as well – though as the little shadow notes, it’s all stolen from the castle anyway. And on the boys’ first night, Death-par comes back home with a “you should see the other guy!” face after a bar fight.
Here’s the thing, though – the guy is clearly smart. And he doesn’t BS with the kids to try and make sure he keeps his payment – he tells them straight up that Bojji has “no physical strength”. He also has some sort of clairvoyance, and he seems to be taking Bojji’s training quite seriously. There’s a hilarious scene where Bojji, desperate to do his share of the chores, concocts an incredibly vile soup for breakfast. It’s comedy gold but also plot-relevant – Death-par lets Kage know that Bojji is descended from giants (new info for Kage). And while he has none of their size or strength, he has inherited their cast-iron stomachs (and possibly poison resistance) – and thus cannot be allowed anywhere near the stove again.
Death-par’s assertion is that Bojji has enormous potential even if there’s no strength to be developed. And the choice of weapon is the key to his plan. This info is kept secret from us, but Bojji satisfies his new master by choosing the right weapon from the armory. He works hard – both behind closed doors with Death-par and in terms of his general conditioning. There are strong hints that he’s making serious – and possibly stunning – progress. But again, the details are kept from us (and Kage).
As for Daida, this appears to be the end of the road for him – though things in this series are rarely as they seem. The daddy smoothie was a resurrection potion, and Miranjo’s plan – presumably one Bosse was complicit with – was to have Bosse possess Daida’s body and thus return to life. It isn’t stated expressly what this means for Daida, but the implications aren’t good. Especially when Bosse remarks “so I’ve sacrificed another son”. This is a game-changer in so many respects, not least for what it says about the character of the man himself.
Daida is hardly faultless in all this, but his apparent fate is a cruel one indeed, and presumably explains the dark foreboding his mother felt. One also wonders whether those (or Bebin at least) who voted for Daida to become king did so knowing this was going to happen, and wanting to spare Bojji that fate. The extent of it isn’t clear, but this ugly conspiracy behind Bosse and his kingdom clearly runs deep and wide. There’s little we can say for certain where Ousama Ranking is concerned, but that Bojji is free of this stain is one exception – and that makes him that much more of a potential threat to those who aren’t.