「王妃と盾」 (Ouhi to tate)
“Queen and Shield”
While Ousama Ranking reminded me most of Made in Abyss at first (by far), that’s shifted to an extent of late. There was an interesting phenomenon in Hunter X Hunter where the series could be every bit as great without Gon and Killua involved, but their presence was still sorely missed. I found myself longing for the relief they provided from Togashi’s dark worldview, which he wields like a berserker’s battle axe. It’s not as though those two lads aren’t full of darkness themselves, or that Togashi didn’t take them to terribly dark places. But still, somehow, they brightened the series’ aura with their presence in a way nothing else did.
We’ve seen nothing to suggest such darkness exists inside Bojji’s soul, but that certainly doesn’t lessen the impact he has on Ousama Ranking. He is alien in a certain sense, much as Gon is – a strange child who doesn’t fit neatly into the box of normalcy. And while Kage is certainly the Killua to Bojji’s Gon – with his own bloody and painful backstory – he too seems less driven by dark impulses, if equally by fierce loyalty to the friend he sees as nobler and purer than he is. I see a lot of similarities in the dynamic, and in the impact each pair has on their respective series.
None of this is to say that the scenes with the remainder of the cast of Ranking of Kings are unrelentingly bleak or humorless. As painful as these last two episodes have been, they’ve been peppered with moments of absurdity and nobility. But damn, this is hard to watch sometimes. Each of these characters are so conflicted that it’s hard to get a solid read on any of them, but for me Bosse remains the greatest enigma of the bunch. It seems more likely than ever that he’s working to undermine Miranjo (who I’m assuming is some sort of witch, until a likelier explanation emerges). But given what we more or less know he’s already done, how can we possibly forgive his actions?
Through artfully staged flashbacks, we continue to see crucial elements of the past used to connect the dots of the story. We saw how Bosse courted Hilling in the first place (that’s one way to shop for jewelery), but how can we trust anything we see in this respect? How do we know he wasn’t simply taking the necessary steps to produce another child to consume – or that he didn’t murder Bojji’s mother in the first place? That’s an interesting question in and of itself, because it begs the question of why Bosse would have done that. Could she have caught on to the true source of his power?
Things seem more clear-cut with Queen Hilling. She’s obviously a spoiled noble when we meet her (and even to this day) but she has the decency to regret it when her imperiousness impacts innocents. And her sins are minor in the big picture (though Hokuro might disagree). And her desire to be a good mother to Bojji seems to have been entirely genuine from the start, which says more about her essential nature than anything else could. Where her biological son (I don’t even want to think about how that might have been possible) is involved, she feels no hesitation at all in condemning her husband when he reveals the truth – there can be no forgiving what he’s done as far as Hilling is concerned.
It was Hilling’s earnestness and ability to be self-critical that won Dorsche over – though his “isn’t anyone?” answer to Bosse’s question about whether she deserved protection is what stamped Dorsche as the gallant soul he is. We now know what Bosse whispered to him – he warned Dorsche of the impending attack on Hilling. I don’t know how to interpret that as anything but an indication that Bosse is rebelling against Miranjo, but I still don’t get with his endgame is. In fact though, maybe he doesn’t either – he tells Dorsche he’s “just going with the flow”.
Watching Daida and Hilling try in vain to reach each other was one existentially brutal scene, that’s for sure. Daida too has done terrible things – he ordered the murder of his brother, and it was only under the influence of Miranjo, not her direct control. But a child deserves more slack in these things than an adult, that’s just how it is. He certainly doesn’t deserve the terrible fate Bosse has thrust upon him – and even if Bosse didn’t know exactly what that fate would be I think it’s irrelevant to his crime. If nothing else, I think being brought low and facing visceral despair like this has changed Daida, probably for the better. If it’s not too late for him.
Bosse ordering Dorsche to take Hilling away and “bide his time” fits the pattern of evidence about his intentions. He obviously “danced” with Miranjo (who’s clearly in love with him) to exhaust her spiritual power and force her to go to the underworld for more – presumably giving Domas the opportunity to destroy the portal and strand her there (though there’s certainly more than one way in and out, which she’d surely know). Again, Bosse’s ultimate aims remain a mystery here, in a series full of them. It’s all pretty bloody brilliant, but I hope we get a dose of Bojji and Kage – and the tonal balance they provide – sooner rather than later.