「王子の剣」 (Ouji no ken)
“The Prince’s Sword”
It’s a pretty steady drumbeat at this point. but Ousama Ranking is simply a superb example of TV animation at its finest. Whatever happens at Wit from here onwards, I certainly hope the core ethos of the studio doesn’t change. They’re as elite as it gets in anime these days, but even by their lofty standards Ranking of Kings is pretty darn special. They’ve taken what was already a very good story and enhanced it in every aspect of the production, starting with the adaptation itself. This show may not be as flashy as some others that get raved about for their production values, but the dexterity on display down to the fine details stamps this as TVs best production of the year.
The danger here is that one can easily undersell Tooka Sousuke’s role in all this. The manga is obviously great – frankly nothing else has reminded me this much of Hunter X Hunter. Of course the details are different, but there are larger thematic and structural elements that for me at least are extremely reminiscent. Having Bojji and Kage return to the story has a very similar impact to a Gon & Killua return after an absence (theirs tend to be a lot longer). No matter how dark things got with them (though “Chimera Ant” certainly put that to the test) they possess so much life force and charisma that they brighten everything around them.
Promptly on display here was Ousama Ranking’s keen ability to give us just enough information to keep us fully engaged, while still protecting most of its secrets. We now know what Bojji’s weapon is, and it’s rather an Occam’s Razor reveal. It’s a rapier, which is really the logical weapon for a diminutive terrier who relies on quickness and agility. Kage is pretty skeptical of Death-par’s claims about Bojji’s newfound strength – which prompts a lecture from Death-par about how vital it is that Kage of all people keeps his faith in Bojji.
Death-par is really a wonderful addition to the cast – genuinely funny, and quite a fascinating and likeable person. And critically, he’s someone who’s obviously very good at this job, which is exactly why Bebin schemed to get him paired off with Bojji. He wastes no time in putting his training to the test, illicitly getting three subordinates (he is a prince after all) to interrupt during his celebration dinner with the boys and goad Bojji into a fight. Once again Kage shows his doubts, and once again he’s proven wrong – Bojji has learned a lot from Death-par already (and he was quite good on his feet to begin with).
I’m extremely interested in this “amazing” additional ability Death-par speaks of, which apparently Bojji “won’t get to use too often” (maybe it was what allowed him to split the boulder). As for what we do see, it’s some very nifty martial arts-fencing hybrid stuff, with Bojji using the size of his opponents against them and employing a very impressive knowledge of human weaknesses. Death-par has given Bojji the sort of strength that fits him – the ability to subdue his opponents without killing or even harming them (much).
Bojji may have paid a price for Bosse’s thirst for power, but he has benefitted from some excellent teachers. He learned much from Mitsumata, and Death-par’s teachings expertly built on that. What ties those two together, of course, is Bebin – and more than ever he seems to be at the center of the labyrinth of mysteries at the heart of the series. His endgame remains an enigma (as does he, like so much of the cast). He claims that Daida has his ultimate loyalty, but he’s insistent on protecting Bojji at all costs It’s pretty obvious that he’s playing a long game here.
It’s just great to have Bojji and Kage back in the spotlight – as great as these past few eps have been, they have been pretty heavy and dark. Bojji’s kindness and his bond with Kage is the anchor for Ousama Ranking (and Death-par fits nicely with that dynamic). The final sequence (barring that mysterious rat-eating scene at the very end) surrounding Bojji’s suspicion of Hilling really highlights what these two bring to the table. You can’t blame Bojji for letting his mind wander in this direction, based on what he’s seen. But as ever, has has Kage to steady him and help him get back on the true path, Remind you of anyone?