A technological revolution is changing the world. As airships, metropolitan areas, speedy trains, and smartphones transform the planet, humans are now taking their destiny into their own hands. Led by Emperor Goethe, this results in a violent persecution of witches, magic-using individuals who were given their powers by God to help humanity. But now, witches are on the run to avoid torture and death. This includes the powerful “Ice Witch” Chloe, who with her human apprentice, Adonis, is trying to find a place that’s tolerant of her people. But the humans have grown in such strength that there is no place beyond their control. The duo’s capture through technological marvel, and the subsequent sentences for Chloe and Adonis, set this story in motion, as does a prison break years later, when the world has turned from a state of madness into something even worse.
The potential for something extraordinary is present in this series, and indeed, The Kingdoms of Ruin could eventually become something grand, but the anime is so very heavy-handed in its execution that the fascinating exploration of how technology affects humanity and belief gets shelved for dramaticism and violence, some of it sexual in nature. It’s a shame that the series is over-the-top because right from the beginning, it introduces an interesting dynamic. The persecution of the witches, because humans desire control, feels akin to many events in the Bible and recent human history, including early people pridefully setting themselves up as God in the Tower of Babel incident and the rise of skepticism about (and vitriolic opposition toward) Christianity during the Enlightenment and the rise of scientism. I could also draw a connection between Adonis’ anger and how some of today’s Christians tend to become combative, forgetting the gospel in striking back against those they feel are taking away their liberties. However, the negatives are pretty overwhelming and push these interesting dynamics to the side. Scenes in which women are subjugated, while likewise ripe for discussion, feel disingenuous, as if they’re there as much for fanservice as horror. The violence isn’t super graphic but is still overboard (spoiler, though you’ll guess this within about two minutes of the show starting: Chloe doesn’t make it—and she goes out a la Bonnie and Clyde + Marie Antoinette style), and the music and sound effects are stupidly obvious and loud. I hold out hope that the series protagonist, Adonis, will walk a path of grace as he’s influenced by Chloe’s memory, the kind Doroka (introduced late in the episode and with whom he figures to team up starting next week), and others he meets along the way. But because the touches of subtlety (another being the title of the ending theme, “Prayer”) are drowned out by loud noises, blood, and roaring mobs, I don’t think the journey will be a transformative one, at least not for the audience. And with all the potential here, that would be a shame.
The Kingdoms of Ruin is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
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