Ranking of Kings is a show that, frankly, I missed the boat on. It was a show that everyone on AniTwitter, everyone on the anime podcasts I listened to were praising to high heavens, but I pushed off watching it. Until now. Now I’ve finally watched it and it’s time to give the show the consideration it deserves.
Ranking of Kings follows Cinnamon Roll Boji, and other Cinnamon Roll Kage. Boji is a prince, and a child of Giants, and heir to the kingdom of King Bosse, but unlike his father he’s physically weak, deaf, and mute. However, he ends up making friends with Kage, a member of the Shadow Tribe (meaning he basically looks like a shadow on the ground), who can also understand Boji’s speech (in addition to some in the court also understanding sign language – Boji on his own is able to read lips).
When Boji is passed over for the throne, in favor of his stepbrother, Daida, and is further attacked by assassins, Boji and Kage end up going to seek someone who will train him in the skills he needs to protect himself, to help protect his father’s kingdom, and maybe even claim a throne of his own.
The animation for this show is by Studio Wit, and does a tremendous job showing their flexibility as an animation studio – the art feels like it’s out of a storybook, and not necessarily a Japanese storybook either, and the animators do a tremendous job making the style work and having it look tremendously fluid. Further, while the series can get tremendously dark, the animation by the studio does give the subject matter of the story and the content a strong sense of contrast.
The supporting cast and their actors were also fantastic. I watched the series dubbed with relatives, and I was amused to see Christopher Sabat as Despa. Now, if I had a dollar, for every time that Christopher Sabat did the voice for the mentor figure for a person with a physical disability who helps them gain confidence and learn to fight in a way that works with their physical limitations instead of against them… I’d have two dollars, which isn’t a lot, but it’s amusing that it happened twice. I also really like Seong-Won “ProZD” Cho’s performance as Kage – the writing puts him in a position where he’s frequently the interpreter for Boji, so his dialog and verbal performance often carries much of the scene.
The other big stand-out performances on the dub, in ways that maybe I should watch more dubs, are Gabe Kunda as Despa’s brother (and King of the Underworld) Desha, and Luci Christian as Queen Hiling. The writing of Hiling, combined with Luci’s performance gets across a woman who is trying to be a caring and loving mother for a child with disabilities, while also having to handle the obligations of raising a possible heir to the throne. On the other hand, the writing of Desha gets across someone who traditionally would be read as villainous, but instead is much more pragmatic – trying to do what is right by his kingdom, but which could also cause problems for his neighbors.
I was ultimately deeply impressed by Ranking of Kings, both with its writing and animation. Honestly, while they got on a lot of people’s radar because of Attack on Titan, I think Ranking of Kings truly show just how much they’re capable of, with fluid animation, tremendously expressive characters, and their ability to not only hit the art style of the original work, but also in so doing doing an art style that is radically different from almost every other anime series airing that year and this year.
Ranking of Kings is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll, and the first half of the series is currently available for pre-order on Blu-Ray from Amazon & RightStuf. Buying anything through those last two links will support the site.
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