OP2: 「Hadaka no Yuusha」by (Vaundy)
「戦いの足音」 (Tatakai no ashioto)
“The Footsteps of War”
Winter and 2022 in anime start in earnest with the return of the series on the pole for the race. Ousama Ranking would have been my #1 show of 2021 and I fully expect it to set down a marker for the rest of 2022 to try and equal – and that’s surely not going to come from anything else airing this season (though strong challengers – and past champions – lurk). If the reported turmoil behind the scenes at Wit is having an impact on the ground it’s so far not visible in Ranking of Kings, which remains a stellar production on every level (including the new spoiler-heavy OP and ED).
I’ll say this much – this is not a show you want to take your eyes off for even a moment. It’s not just that a lot happens every episode, but that almost nothing that happens is irrelevant. That applies not just to what’s said but what’s implied, and seen in the background. After an extended Kage narration at the start leading me to think we were headed for a recap episode (and that OP), things kicked into gear and never stopped kicking until the ED.
Miranjo’s merry band of miscreants arrives in town – well, under town – and she gives them the green light to do whatever they like. While he doesn’t seem to be the most powerful among them it’s Zokku who acts as the leader – based, presumably, on his self-control and ability to step back and analyze a situation rather than let his killing instincts take over. After Bosse-Daida has been bound and sent to the dungeons it’s Kingbo who sits on the throne (the reason he shows special interest will soon become clear), but the mysterious Ouken has issues with that. Ouken is a creepy and terrifying presence, eternally masked and seemingly battling panic at every moment, and possessed of a strange power which allows him to despatch (though not kill) Kingbo with ease.
Meanwhile we learn that Death-par has in fact been paid to join the raiding party sent by his brother. Unfortunately he’s chosen to ride his old steed Hakuou (“Whiteking”), who (like Despa one suspects) has put on a few pounds since he was in active duty. Whiteking is every bit an equine popinjay to match his master and he certainly can’t keep up with the others, but what’s interesting to me is that Death-har has sent Death-par on this journey. I suspect he intends to have him killed “in battle” – another thing for the seemingly honest and noble captain of the guards to have to wrestle with his conscience over.
Indeed, things are in quite a state. Hilling and Dorsche arrive at the castle and Miranjo (whose existence as the mirror seems to be a surprise to them) quite openly tells them she’s responsible for the coup, and intends to “bring the country to ruin”. Her motivations remain a mystery here, among many others. Dorsche is surely no match for an entire squadron of magical beasts, and however strong Bojji may have become he can’t possibly be strong enough to tackle all the forces Miranjo has marshalled at her disposal.
The real out of nowhere development though is Kingbo, of all people. He’s the son of the mad king that Bojji met in the woods, as it turns out. We see that king urge Kingbo to “develop a conscience” and follow in his footsteps – and in the background, the judge we saw earlier, presumably there to confer the #1 ranking on the king. The king who for whatever reason seems to have destroyed his own kingdom, and in the process sent Kingbo on the road to madness and villainy. Kingbo appears dead but isn’t quite – and one can’t help but remember that Hilling has healing magic. One way or the other Kingbo’s role in the story is clearly just beginning – the question is which side he’ll eventually wind up fighting for.
ED2: 「Flare」by (milet)