「王国の乱れ」 (Oukoku no midare)
“The Kingdom in Turmoil”
No question about it, Ousama Ranking can get pretty damn brutal when it wants to. It’s a slightly different sort of brutality than one gets in Made in Abyss or Hunter X Hunter (less fetishy than the former can be, and less unutterably bleak than the latter) – more “straightforward” if you will. But it has the same effect of clashing with the visual motifs of the series. There’s no question that discordance makes the brutal moments hit that much harder. And one feels as if nothing is off limits, which gives the whole enterprise a threatening air which heightens the tension considerably.
This episode is titled “The Kingdom in Turmoil”, and it’s certainly a fitting one. Dorsche and Hilling are making a desperate stand at the castle – aided by Anne, leader of the knights protecting the Queen (if we’ve met Anne before, I don’t recall it). Apeas stands by and watches helplessly, yearning to intervene but restrained by his allegiance to Miranjo (I’m still not sure why that loyalty is so strong). Miranjo’s pet crims are preparing to wreak their own sort of havoc, and what should be the cavalry riding in to save the day – the Underworld’s royal guard – is actually there to take advantage of the chaos and seize the kingdom. What a mess.
Dorsche has certainly prepared well for the magical beasts, and Anne is a more than able warrior, but there are just so damn many of them. Things only get worse when the convicts join the fray. Black and Red are pretty clearly small fry, but Gigan is a problem, and he makes serious problems for Dorsche. whatever Zokku’s hand is, he hasn’t shown it yet – there has to be some power backing up the authority he exerts over the others besides a silver tongue. But of course we know it’s Ouken who’s the real threat.
Ouken is an interesting one. Upon arrival the captain of the Underworld guard refers to him as “Prince Ouken”, which pretty much confirms him either as Death-har and Death-par’s brother or one of their sons (and they don’t look old enough to have a son that age). He also has the ability to heal himself or is just altogether undead or a demon already, and he’s weak against light – at least Hilling’s “Holy Light” spell. Hilling manages to heal Anne after Ouken cuts her down, but as we’ve seen using all this magic really takes it out of her. And with Anne down for the count and Dorsche in no position to protect her, the clock appears to be running out for Hilling.
Poor Dorsche is literally being ripped apart, and it’s too much for Apeas – he finally uses her spear for good, though it may be too little, too late. Miranjo lays her cards on the table – she killed the old queen because giant women can only have one child, and she needed Bosse to have more to prolong his own life. The nature of her hold over Apeas and indeed her motivations for doing what she does remain a mystery – perhaps the most important mystery in the series.
Ousama Ranking seems to be a story of good persevering against overpowering evil, but that never comes easily. The conflicted existences of most of the cast reflect the moral ambiguity that reigns in this world. Bojji may have powered up but he’s still very small against all the wickedness arrayed against him. There’s Bebin, an enigma but certainly someone who seems to fall on the side of decency (and may be about to free Daida). And Death-par of course, who’s warned the captain not to try and take on Ouken himself and most especially not to let Bojji do so, as Ouken is his “natural enemy”. But he’s on that damn fat horse and his arrival may come too late for more than one of the good guys (and even maybe guys)…