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Anime Hajime Review: Ranking of Kings

Original Run: October 15, 2021 - March 25, 2022
Number of Episdoes: 23
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
based on the Series Created By: Souske Tooka

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Ranking of Kings. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

The higher a king’s ranking is, the more it impacts the prosperity of a country. In the Kingdom of Bosse, the people enjoy a comfortable way of life due to their king’s prestige. But even a ruler as great as this must, eventually, pass down the crown.

First in line to succeed his father is Prince Boji (voiced by Minami Hinata). However, Boji was born deaf and unable to speak. Boji is often the subject of harsh ridicule, and many across the land see him as too naive and, thus, unfit to rule. Nevertheless, he is constantly pushing himself to prepare for the throne.

One day, Boji has a chance encounter with a shadow-like creature named Kage (voiced by Ayumu Murase). At first, Kage takes advantage of Boji’s overly trusting nature. Soon, though, Kage sees that the young prince is fighting harder than anyone realizes. 

Realizing the size of the boy’s heart, Kage befriends Boji and becomes his most loyal ally.

Sadly, the moment the Kingdom of Bosse had been dreading arrives – their monarch passes. Unbeknownst to everyone, forces behind the scenes have been working to upend the country. Therefore, to fulfill his destiny, Boji, joined by Kage, sets off on a journey to prove he is worthy of the title “king.”

Series Positives

To say Ranking of Kings was good would not give you the complete picture. Yes, it was solid, brilliant, and all-around fantastic, yet those words don’t encapsulate what this series was. Singing this show’s praises doesn’t feel like the correct route to take. 

Let’s try going about things this way:

Consider the difference between something like Dragon Ball Z and films from Studio Ghibli. Both are unquestionably iconic – regardless of whether you’re a fan or not – and both are, and this is key, anime. 

Now, “anime,” in this situation, is more of a blanket term to describe an animated production that came out of Japan. Still, and maybe this is just me, it has never felt right to call a Ghibli movie an anime since there is a stronger sense of artistry that simply doesn’t exist in Dragon Ball Z (wow, don’t I sound annoyingly posh).

Keep in mind; I like Dragon Ball Z. All I’m saying is that it and Ghibli exist in two different (and equally praisable) categories.

So, what does any of this have to do with Ranking of Kings?

Well, Ranking of Kings is far closer to the Ghibli camp than the Dragon Ball Z one. Heck, there were a ton of aspects about this series that reminded me distinctly of Studio Ghibli:

  • The atmosphere
  • The music 
  • The hand-drawn feel of the animation
  • The grandness of the story

Going back to what I was talking about at the top, saying this show was “good” isn’t good enough. Instead, Ranking of Kings was special because it was, wonderfully, its own thing. Although it might be early in the year (March 2022 at the time of this review’s posting), I will go out on a limb and guess there probably won’t be another anime like this for the rest of 2022.

To change gears: quick, think of one anime that incorporated sign language in any capacity. Maybe you thought of something (if you did, let me know in the comments), but I know I am having trouble thinking of a single example. As such, it was really neat to have it here in Ranking of Kings.

It was nice to see representation that has pretty much been absent from anime.

(Side Note: It was, by contrast, a little disappointing how many ways this series found storytelling avenues to make signing largely unnecessary. But still, it was surprisingly prominent throughout the show.)

For Prince Boji, being deaf wasn’t his defining character trait. No, he was a kind, hard-working, brave kid who just happened to be deaf. Believe it or not, having a disability is not a personality, and this show understood that Boji’s limitation was precisely that, a limitation. With a bit of extra effort, Boji not being able to hear did not hold him back.

And that was the great thing about Ranking of Kings. Nothing was surface-level.

When this series first started, it presented a vast array of familiar story tropes. And yet most, if not all of them, turned out to go much deeper. Queen Hiling (voiced by Rina Satou) was a great example of this. 

When the story first introduced her, Queen Hiling came off as the stereotypical “evil stepmother” character who would do everything in her power to ensure the success of her biological son rather than the rightful heir. She appeared conniving, cruel, and unapproachable. But as the story moved forward, we learned that none of those things were true.

Instead, Queen Hiling had a strong sense of duty, and Boji’s personality, in her eyes, would not have been a good match for ruling. Nevertheless, she loved Boji; he was her son, and she would and did anything to protect him.

There was no evil for the sake of evil in Ranking of Kings. There was a reason for every action; every act of villainy had a detailed reason behind why it came to be. This was not the type of series where you could assume something based on preconceptions.

The consequence of this was a story that always felt relevant; the show was constantly leading us to something. It should come as no surprise if you end up finishing this series in one sitting. It is that hard to put down.

If you’re merely looking at Ranking of Kings, you might mistake it for a lighthearted adventure tale. Trust me; it has so much more going for it.

Series Negatives

From what I was saying in the last section, I get it if you think I was infatuated with Ranking of Kings. Although I believe this show was phenomenal, I won’t act as if it was flawless. I can even return to my Dragon Ball-Ghibli comparison to make my point.

Sure, most of the movies in the Ghibli filmography are masterpieces, but none of them are without their hiccups. 

I will go one step further and say that that same sentiment is true even for the great Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away). Let’s not kid ourselves; Mr. Miyazaki is a master of his craft. Be that as it may, his endings have tended to be his weakest bits, especially compared to his worlds, stories, and characters.

As I stated above, Ranking of Kings reminded me a lot of Studio Ghibli.

This series didn’t have a predictable ending, but it did rely on plenty of narrative beats countless other shows have employed:

  • Fake-out death 
  • Prolonged battles 
  • A never-ending stream of last-ditch moves
  • Premature victory celebrations

Now, to be clear, Ranking of Kings didn’t lose its quality. However, looking back at its earlier moments, the finale felt safe. 

Of course, this is all assuming we got an actual ending. This series left plenty of openings to suggest there is more to explore. And that is not a negative.

Ranking of Kings

Final Thoughts

Well, this was a knockout if I’ve ever seen one. This show was an all-around winner – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

This was a series that had a tale it wanted to tell; a story filled with heart, excitement, sadness, and meaning. And it did all this without ever giving away its full hand until it was ready to do so. So, while this show may have been twenty-plus episodes, it will be over in no time.

Here’s hoping this will not be the end of it.

Ranking of Kings has earned itself a recommendation.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? How would you advise Ranking of Kings? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m Odyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

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