First Impression: Ranking of Kings

The ranking of a king depends on the prosperity of his town and his accomplishments as a warrior-hero. What chance does a tiny little prince the size of a thumb have in such a world? Especially one whom the people mock as he strides happily through the town centre in his underpants. And even more so one who cannot even hear their jeers, let alone utter a word in response to defend himself. Such is Bojji, the firstborn son of King Bosse (who lives up to his name) and First Prince of the kingdom. One day he encounters a disgruntled shadow, a child of the Kage (shadow) clan of assassins, and possibly the only survivor of his kind. Strangely, they can understand one another and so, despite the fact that Kage steals the prince’s clothing at knife point, the prince comes back the next day in search of the cranky shade, bundled up in layer upon layer of rich vestment in order, no doubt, to win himself a friend. After several repetitions of this ritual, Kage’s curiosity gets the better of him and he grumbles after the prince secretly to learn more about him. What he sees is pretty bleak: despite appearances, Bojji is aware of the people’s scorn, and so when his evil younger brother (his poor character being distinguishable by his pointy nose and pride, both of which enter the room before he does) wins the admiration of Bojji’s sword master and only ally, the diminutive prince challenges his snarky sibling to a duel. But Bojji’s inability with the sword is well-known, so just what is he thinking?   

Don’t read this. Go watch the episode instead. My words can’t do justice to the charm of this episode. WIT studio really has exceeded my expectations with this, which is saying a lot because they were pretty high! The characters are full of life and the art is fresh and surprisingly rich for all its seeming simplicity. WIT truly is stepping out into fruitful territory in terms of artistic experimentation. The color design creates a sense of texture despite the shadowless (kagenashi) style, giving the animation an almost paper-like quality similar to Heike Monogatari, but amplified a few times, and made even more explicit in the closing credit sequence. This is an effective device for a series with a shadow in a lead role. The clean, almost childlike character designs are deceptively expressive, drawing your attention to the slightest quiver of eyebrow or lip. This is especially true for Kage, a sort of figure-eight shaped puddle with eyes, a hand and a claw who can somehow blush, indicating that there’s a tsundere heart nestled all warm and fuzzy somewhere in that cavernous oil slick “body” of his—alongside his knife collection of course. Bojji is an absolute brick of a boy, a real trooper of such compelling innocence and earnestness that surely will earn him the epithet of cinnamon roll on Reddit. He’s already won my heart, and so I’m going to call it: Bojji is Anime 2021’s Best Boy. See you at the annual Crunchyroll awards ceremony! 

Seriously, go stream Ranking of Kings on Funimation.   

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