“The Swordsmanship of a King”
We all know Wit is at the very top of the anime game when they choose to be. But sometimes they just have to show off, you know? Ousama Ranking has been a stellar production from start to finish. It’s clearly a labor of love for the staff, in much the way Made in Abyss is for Kinema Citrus. But it hasn’t really flexed this this since the first cour. Episode Director Goshozono Shota (who helmed the stellar Episode 7) and Animation Director Atsuko Nozaki deliver arguably the series’ most visually stunning episode, and certainly its most stunning action sequence.
We’ve been building to this for- well, 21 episodes. Bojji vs. Bosse, father vs. son – the essence of so many hero epics. The waters are clouded by the moral ambiguity of Bosse (as so many of this cast). And by the fact that Bojji is anything but, which means taking down his father isn’t something that’s going to come easily to him. Tooka-sensei could have taken the easy way out here (as one could argue he does with all the healing). But happily he doesn’t – this is something Bojji has to confront, and he’s not excused from that painful responsibility.
Bosse is not going to let anybody off the hook, that much is clear. It’s no mystery whose side everyone will choose, with the possible exception of Apeas, whose devotion to Miranjo borders on the religious. But even he chooses Team Bojji. This is more moral than practical support – as Despa notes, none of them stand any chance in a fight against Bosse, and throwing their lives away would be a futile gesture. But Bojji has to literally take Domas (who carries the greatest weight of guilt) down to prevent him from doing just that.
I loved the fact that we saw Bojji smile as he strode into battle with his father. That could be taken any number of ways, but I saw it as a sign of confidence. Bojji knows he’s in the right, and he believes in what Despa has taught him. This is, indeed, the swordsmanship of a king. And the depth of Domas’ earlier foolishness has never been more clear (not least to him). Bojji’s skill is effectively a martial art with a rapier, using the enemy’s strength against them. The more powerful the opponent, the more Bojji has to work with. If Ouken was the worst possible opponent for him, Bosse in some sense is the best.
And what a battle it is. This is not a classically rendered combat ballet as we saw in Seirei no Moribito – this is full of the surrealism and whimsy that’s characterized Ousama Ranking from the beginning. One could almost feel sorry for Bosse here (indeed, I did for Ouken last week) – but I didn’t. Bosse and Miranjo’s dysfunctional dance has left a trail of death and despair in its wake, and the only thing to be admired in it is their devotion to each other. But that doesn’t justify the crimes against decency (and just generally) they commit in the interests of that devotion.
Despa, as always carrying the most perspective, is insistent that Bojji do what needs to be done. Bojji professes that he’ll save Miranjo from the demon – and he tends to accomplish what he sets out to do. The first broken promise to the demon, it seems, happened when Miranjo was a child. The details aren’t fully clear yet, but it’s implied that the demon has some connection to Ouken, or at least a means of freeing him from his curse. This seems to be why Desha refuses the #1 ranking – which carries access to magics that could potentially save Ouken. A #1 ranking, it seems, which is destined to fall on Bojji’s narrow shoulders.
If I were betting, I’d wager that “Part I” of Ousama Ranking will end with the resolution of Bosse and Miranjo’s story, and Bojji inheriting that #1 mantle. That will leave plenty of obvious directions for the series to go in the second part. Whatever their fate is I suspect Bosse and Miranjo will get better than they deserve. But that’s the nature of Bojji’s heroism – he doesn’t reserve his kindness only for those most deserving of it. This was a fitting tribute to Bojji’s growth – the entire series has been building up to his unveiling as a hero, and I’m glad it played out in such spectacular fashion. Bojji – and Ousama Ranking – deserve no less.