Let the King of my heart“King of My Heart” (John Mark McMillan / Sarah McMillan)
Be the fire inside my veins
The echo of my days
Oh oh, He is my song
The excellent new series, Ranking of Kings, introduces a unique concept to the idea of monarchy. The kings of each land are ranked, based apparently on their strength as warriors. Thus Bojji, the crown prince, makes a poor fit for kingship as he’s small, weak, and unable to hear or speak. And yet, the kindly and agile young man has something kingly about him, even if few around him see it the same way.
We as the audience realize by sometime in episode one, if not immediately in the intro, that things aren’t right. This is no way to rank a king.
So how should a king be ranked?
Perhaps the first question that begs to be answered before that is, what makes a king a king?
The definition for “king” varies across different cultures, nations, and continents, and over time, too, even within the same tribes and nations. But some standards apply on a near universal level: The king reigns as a central figure, based on some legitimacy and plays a pivotal role for the subjects over whom he reigns.
Although Japan’s history has long featured an emperor rather than king, anime has a fascination with the latter concept, though rarely does it show the figure in a very positive light. Take King Fritz for example. The figurehead king in the world of Attack on Titan, he is described by the Villains Wiki as “careless, apathetic, lazy and possibly alcoholic.” Not a good king by practically any measure, and ultimately a failure as a monarch.
Not all anime and manga monarchs have poor leadership qualities, however. For example, in volume one of Her Royal Highness Seems to Be Angry, Princess Leticiel, a female “king” of sorts, becomes the head of state after her father falls in battle. Her dad is himself presented as a strong monarch, caring and fatherly, and Leticiel uses her immense strength to support and defend her nation. However, both father and daughter die in battle, and their society is destroyed nonetheless. Try as they might, they failed in their duties. Intent wasn’t enough to make them “good” kings.
Some in anime are more neutral, like the Soul King of Bleach. He’s more of a god, actually, a supernatural clock of sorts, there to regulate society. Alternately, he’s defended by some and villainized by others. But, I would argue, if he is a king, he’s not a good one either, because he doesn’t fulfill the qualities needed to be “good, ” for though he fulfills the role, he doesn’t do so successfully either on a personal level nor ultimately on the grander stage.
In the Christian faith, God is viewed in somewhat the same way as the Soul King in that he is both God and also revered as king. And likewise, his adherents (all humankind in this case) have mixed feelings about his rule. Jesus tells of the narrow road, demonstrating not only that there are many who will outright reject his teachings, but even that many of those that do proclaim him as majesty will not find their way into the kingdom because they didn’t truly know him.
But the Soul King is without personality, almost frozen in time. He has no qualities other than a godlike (though not omnipotent) strength to sustain and put in motion the system of the Soul Society. In this way, he would fit as a top-tier monarch in Ranking of Kings. But is there something more to be desired?
The God of Christianity trumps these outward kingly appearances by being personal as seen throughout scripture and particularly through the life of Christ, God incarnate. He has a distinct personality, the characteristics by which we form our own, and is additionally “personal” through his involvement in each person’s life. I think this is part of what we see in Bojji, one who has a heart for others, and stirs others hearts toward him.
And in that manner, God is also more like Leticiel, who battles for her kingdom. Like her, he is also depicted as a warrior, fitting as the Christian faith is often described as a war against the evil of this world, instigated and led by Lucifer. And like God, Leticiel has immense power and uses it out of love for her people. She is serving them, in fact, by going to war to protect them, battling on the front lines rather than hiding behind closed doors, which is what King Fritz does.
There’s another similarity between Leticiel and the Christian God—both give their lives for their beloved. They even both resurrect! But the manner of both death and resurrection display a profound difference between the two. After dying, Leticiel is reborn centuries later in the very same world where she died defending her people, carrying with her a tremendous guilt, having failed her people. God, meanwhile, came to us as Jesus, and was falsely accused, unjustly convicted, and tortuously executed, but not ultimately because the world conspired against him, for as Christ mentions, he could call on legions of angels to defend him if needed. No, Christ allowed the world to kill him because it needed to happen, because it was God’s will, and the way to victory.
Christ would defend his beloved to the point of death, but surpasses Leticiel as king, because he was and always will be victorious.
The image of The King is startling because only he can match the terms of the perfect kingship. His rule is holy, without one error, for he is the perfect and righteous God. His rule lasts not one generation, or possibly two depending on how the story in Her Royal Highness Seems to Be Angry plays out, but for all time. His love for his people is unrelenting, down to sacrificing his very life for them, though he is not defeated in death. The story doesn’t end with the cross. No, God is victorious in his death, victorious in resurrection, victorious now and for all time.
And that epic story also reveals the personal quality of the greatest king, an aspect that tends not to be included as part of a great kingship. Who ever heard of a king who personally knows all his subjects by heart, who dies for them and rises for them as well? But that is Christ, who wins the great battle against Satan on a cosmic scale and in your life as well. He never fails—not when the powers of the world, seemingly so evil and strong, blow against your very doors, and not even when that evil is within and you betray the one whom you call King, when you place others on his rightful throne or when you crown yourself king in his place.
God’s love for his subjects never fails, even though we, as his subjects, do. His rule will never cease, and his victory is never failing. And that is the goodness of God. That’s the picture of what it means to be holy, of what it means to be the “good king.”
And thus, it becomes clear what makes a king of the highest rank—one only need look toward the qualities of the King of Kings, the one who always has and always will rank highest. He is perfect—and we, his subjects, can bask in that holiness, love, and goodness, serving one our hearts adore.
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh, He is my song
‘Cause You are good
You are good, oh-oh
You are good