I've watched a lot of anime in my day. In fact, I’ve written several articles about it for this very website, including articles about classic anime from the ‘80s and ‘90s, to more modern anime, like My Hero Academia, and Demon Slayer (Where I even ranked the 10 best episodes). But honestly, I’ve never seen an anime like Ranking of Kings before.
And that’s because there’s nothing else like it. When I did my article on 5 great anime to check out on Crunchyroll, I mentioned Ranking of Kings. But now, I want to give a deeper dive into the series since the show has recently become eligible for nomination in the Outstanding Animated Program category for this year's Emmy Awards. And this is no small feat, either, since the last (and only) nomination for an anime from Japan in this category was way back in 2009 for Afro Samurai: Resurrection.
So, Ranking of Kings, which can be watched for free with ads, or, can be watched ad free with a Crunchyroll subscription is definitely something unique and special. But, why is it so special? Well, you’re about to find out.
The Animation Is Unique
Ranking of Kings might fool you with its whimsical animation, as it looks really cute. In fact, if you’re familiar with the Hayao Miyazaki movies Ponyo, and The Castle of Cagliostro, it kind of looks like a cross between those two movies. But, don’t be fooled, because even though the animation looks like it’s for kids, it’s really not.
Animated by the brilliant Wit Studio, which was also responsible for the first few seasons of Attack on Titan, the team kept true to the style of the manga. In fact, during a special recent event where TV Academy members screened the first episode of the series with moderation by Crunchyroll's Chris Han, the Character Designer, Atsuko Nozaki, had this to say (via Funimation/Crunchyroll):
And this style really makes the show look like a moving storybook. So, even though the series is TV-14, and there is some violence and cursing that you wouldn’t expect in a show that looks like this, it’s still there, giving the show a very unique identity.
The Relationships Develop Over Time In Ways You Wouldn't Necessarily Expect
At its heart, Ranking of Kings is really about the relationship between Prince Bojji, who is deaf and mute, and his friend, Kage, who is (literally) a shadowy assassin. Their friendship adds tremendous weight to the series, and you grow to love their partnership throughout the 23 episodes.
But, that said, there are also a number of other characters you think you have figured out as villains who turn out to be heroic, and then, you have heroic characters who turn out to be villains. So, it’s really a show that has tons of twists and turns where you’re left with your mouth open.
I love all the feelings I get when I watch a show like Attack on Titan, but those are more feelings of disgust and horror. Ranking of Kings is a show where I’m both thoroughly shocked, but also pleasantly surprised, so I definitely prefer that sort of balance with my anime. It can’t be sadness all the time.
The Humor Is There, But It's Also Dark Where It Needs To Be
As I mentioned, there are some pleasant moments in the show, and scenes where I actually laughed out loud, like a moment where Kage explains how he’s been with Bojji the entire time, rescuing him in pretty unbelievable situations. Or, when we meet Desha, the King of the Underworld, and Kage mispronounces his name. So, yes, there are humorous sections.
That said, the show isn’t just flat-out silly like anime such as Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball Z. There’s always a weight to the humor, and also a darkness to it as well. Some of the townspeople make fun of Bojji, with many of them saying how they don’t think he’s fit to be king. In fact, the entirety of the show is mostly Bojji proving his worth and value over and over again. So, even though there is humor present, it never overwhelms the show. It just keeps it light enough so that it doesn’t succumb to the pretty dark story.
The Kid Characters Are Actually Enjoyable To Follow
Essentially, besides Bojji and Kage, we also follow Bojji’s younger half-brother, Daida, as he wrestles with his new responsibilities. Now, I’ve seen quite a few anime that deal with young protagonists, like Hunter X Hunter, Pokemon, Sword Art Online, the list goes on and on. But, while the scenarios of those aforementioned shows have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for me to actually enjoy them since I’m not in love with the protagonists, Ranking of Kings actually makes me gleefully follow along with Bojji’s and Daida’s storylines.
It might be because we know so little about Bojji and his limitless potential. Since Bojji is deaf, and the characters are signing to him, we are also learning about his world as if he’s seeing it for the very first time, which he is when he goes on his quest.
Plus, Daida is struggling deep down to be a good and worthy king, but the adults want something else out of him, and it’s compelling to watch him learn on the job. So, while I kind of tolerate the younger characters on shows like My Hero Academia, I gleefully follow the younger characters here.
It Doesn't Feel Like Any Other Anime Out There Right Now
Lastly, Ranking of Kings feels like nothing else out there right now. At least, nothing else that I’ve seen lately. The story jumps back and forth in its plot, where we learn more about the characters through events that happened in the past, which makes every scene feel meaningful. I don’t mean padding like you’d see in something like Naruto with its many (too many) flashbacks. No, in Ranking of Kings, every storybeat furthers the overall narrative. Plus, you just learn to flat out love these characters, and care about them.
In the same TV Academy members screening, Animation Producer, Maiko Okada, had this to say (via Funimation/Crunchyroll) on why so many people love Ranking of Kings:
And I agree. There is always this internal story beneath the story that we’re being presented with, which carries a certain narrative heft to it that brings the viewer along throughout the entire series. Seriously, watch Ranking of Kings if you haven’t already. It’s likely not what you think it is if you’ve only seen still images of it.
So, that’s why you really should be watching Ranking of Kings right now. But, what do you think? Have you checked it out yet? For more news on anime that you can find on Crunchyroll, be sure to stop by here often!
Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.
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