Ranking of Kings truly came out of nowhere to become a huge surprise hit. Despite its simplistic look and humble origins, this mature fantasy tale captivated us across two seasons and has finally come to its long-awaited conclusion. So, now that we’ve experienced the entirety of Bojji’s story (so far, anyway), how does it measure up as a whole? Here’s our review of Ranking of Kings!
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
If you had never heard of Ranking of Kings before the anime was announced, you wouldn’t be the only one. It’s mangaka Sousuke Touka’s very first manga, which he started publishing on the user-submitted platform Manga Hack in 2017 after quitting his salaryman job at the age of 41. Wow... we suppose it’s never too late to achieve your dreams! After receiving several awards and circulating over a million copies, it was adapted into the anime we know and love – by Wit Studio, no less!
This same theme of persevering in the face of overwhelming odds carries over into the narrative itself, following the deaf and physically weak Prince Bojji along with his misunderstood shadow friend Kage as they try to prove that they’re capable of so much more than anyone gives them credit for. However, it’s not just these two underdogs that you shouldn’t judge by their looks; every major character has a well-rounded personality and complex motivations that fly in the face of the storybook character archetypes that they seem to represent. Our personal favorite is Queen Hilling, who seems like a standard evil stepmother at first, but she’s really just neurotic and overprotective. Once Bojji shows that he isn’t as fragile as she thinks he is, Hilling loosens up and becomes one of his most steadfast allies throughout his journey.
Emotional Moments That Hit Hard
We’ve stated as such in previous articles about this series, but Ranking of Kings made us cry real tears by as early as the second episode. Bojji can’t speak intelligibly and Kage is a completely non-humanoid shadow creature, and yet their struggles speak directly to our hearts. You can feel how Kage’s past stripped him of his innocence and happiness little by little, turning him into a cynical husk whose voice drips with bitterness even after he finds a new purpose in life at Bojji’s side. You can understand the betrayal Bojji feels when others use him as a pawn in their schemes, and the internal strife he goes through when deciding whether or not to forgive them.
All of this is a combination of the phenomenal writing, the surprisingly expressive animation, and especially the voice acting. Everyone involved seems to have poured their heart and soul into this project – in fact, after Yuki Kaji (best known for playing Eren Jeager in Attack on Titan) recorded Prince Daida’s tearful breakdown when the character is trapped in his own mind, the animators had to redraw Daida’s facial expressions to match the intensity of Kaji’s performance. Every emotional moment in Ranking of Kings feels raw, real, and intense, which makes it incredibly engaging to watch.
Could’ve Been a Bit Shorter
Not everything about this series is perfect, however. The biggest problem is the pacing, which drags for large sections of the second cour. Watching it week to week, we wondered if the fight with the invincible swordsman Ouken would ever end, since no matter how many desperate attacks our heroes threw at him, Ouken could just put himself back together again. His storyline is interesting, but it doesn’t really impact the main plotline, so the entire fight feels like padding in the grand scheme of things. Desha’s dealings with the Underworld and the king ranking system also seem extraneous, but are likely setting up events for a future season, so we don’t mind those as much.
Ideally, Ranking of Kings would’ve been 18 - 20 episodes instead of 23. This arc of the story was obviously far too long to tell in just one 12-episode season, but by stretching it out to two full cours, the pacing suffered somewhat. We wish anime series could just be as long as they needed to be without having to abide by TV scheduling structures!
Overall, Ranking of Kings is an amazing anime that deserves all of the critical recognition it’s gotten. Bojji, Kage, and Sousuke Touka have proven themselves worthy of greatness, so do yourself a favor and check out the results of their hard work!
What did you think of our review? Did you enjoy watching Ranking of Kings? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!