Ranking of Kings (Wit Studio, 2022)
Innocent First Prince Bojji can't hear or speak and so is ridiculed by the citizens. One day he meets a rude creature named Kage who somehow understands him while robbing him of his valuables. Despite that Bojji is happy to find someone who could understand him and decides to follow Kage's orders, returning every day to let Kage steal his expensive royal clothes.
However, after learning how much effort Bojji was putting to keep up a strong front he decides to befriend him. Bojji is denied his throne and sets out on a journey in the hopes of becoming stronger, unaware of the secrets that lie within his kingdom.
Decided to watch this because of the hype. It kicks off feeling like a children's show and the art doesn't help but it quickly gets ugly as you learn what Bojji has to face everyday. Not your fairy tale children's story that's for sure. I quite enjoyed it because you're fairly much setup ready to cheer little Bojji on right away. He's tiny so lacks in physical strength, pure to a fault yet he does his best to put on a strong face so he doesn't disappoint his father as he is next in line to ascend as king.
Apart from Bojji, the other characters like Queen Hiling on the good side are great too because they're not almighty and you can see them doing their best against the overwhelming enemy just like Bojji. Her character is pure almost like Bojji but not in the sense that she's a completely good character. Rather she expresses herself immediately without thinking about it first. In that sense, Hiling can be irritating at times and it's good they manage to let her son Daida, the second prince inherit some of that character in the show. In a way she's also kind of like your cliche alcoholic middle-aged woman character but instead of alcohol she drinks potions instead which is amusing.
Each episode is fairly much a tear jerker early in the show with all the betrayal and abuse. It does manage to lighten up with the characters and sometimes an episode will even leave you with a smile.
With that said, you have to wonder if the show would be as appealing if Bojji and Daida were switched round so that it was Daida struggling and making baby-like sounds. I guess it's the kind of character design you get with most shows where characters are struggling against something on a scale much greater than they can handle alone.
It's also irritating seeing the "double agent" switching sides all the time with little hint of what his intentions are. That said, it's got a good wrap-up.
Aesthetically you wouldn't think it's a Wit Studio show considering what they've been animating. It looks like a children's picture book but just like Made in Abyss, it's not all cute. There's actually gore too. Not as bad as Attack on Titan but still lots of blood and limbs flying etc. Battles are intense and smooth just like the studio's AoT episodes. The fight scenes are smooth but they're not all intense. Bojji's fight scenes are more on the comical side.
If you're tempted to skip episode 12 because it looks like a recap, it's actually only half an episode of recap.
Some people seem to complain after the first couple the episodes the show falls apart because there's no more hidden twists any more and it's a straight run of good versus evil. It does start to get a bit repetitive around last third of the show as little mystery is left which leaves little to compel you on. It becomes a fairly straight forward good versus evil while waiting for the big reveal of what happened to Miranjo. If it wasn't for the fun characters like Hiling who still give you the odd laugh it would probably have become plain boring. It's like the show just shot off at the start but lost traction after that.
With all that said, I still enjoyed it. The show takes a lot of cliche fantasy ideas and puts them to good use, adding a twist every now and then.