There are very few anime to come around that hit me right where I live; that touch me deeply and make me realize I had been missing something my whole life.
Based on the manga by Sosuke Toka, Ranking of Kings follows Prince Bojji, the first heir to the Kingdom of Bosse’s throne. Born deaf and unusually small, especially for a giant, Bojji has struggled to live up to the unimaginable expectations expected of a son of King Bosse. Unfortunately, Bosse won’t be king for much longer as he is dying, with Bojji poised to succeed him as king.
Bojji’s naivete leads to him being fooled by the Shadow Kage, the only survivor of a clan of assassins. Kage takes Bojji’s clothes, leaving Bojji to walk towards the castle in nothing but his underwear, causing the already low expectations of him to further sink. Thus, when Bojji is stated to be Bosse’s successor in his will, it is overruled, with his younger brother, Daida, becoming king instead.
To prove he is worthy of the throne to his mother and the rest of the Kingdom, Bojji sets off on a quest to grow stronger. However, unbeknownst to him and most of the land, a sinister plot is under way to ensure that the Kingdom of Bosse reaches the top of the Ranking of Kings.
It is rare for a fantasy adventure story to follow a disabled protagonist discovering their inner strength despite clear weakness, yet Ranking of Kings manages to tell such a story with a protagonist anyone can be inspired by. Bojji’s endless optimism, no matter the obstacles in his path, is so endearing that it persuades even the most dastardly of foes to run to his side. Not since Mob Psycho 100 have I seen a series so set on the idea of redemption, not just in the eyes of others, but for themselves as well, and that theme would not work if it weren’t for Bojji and Kage’s friendship.
Kage is introduced by taking advantage of Bojji, but upon learning more about Bojji, not only does he regret his actions, but he quickly becomes Bojji biggest supporter, and eventually, his best friend. Kage’s realism, formed by his horrific past, leads him to be the perfect companion for Bojji, always being sure to lift him up, but knowing when to run when a fight is too tough.
The entire supporting cast is equally as compelling, no matter how questionable some of their actions may be.
Bojji’s mentor, Despa, seems to complete the trio by presenting a strong, emotionally vulnerable warrior, who understands that real strength does not come from your muscles, but from your character.
Each of the four strongest warriors in the kingdom, Domas, Apeas, Dorshe and Bebin, have varying role reversals throughout the show.
Domas and Apeas appear to be purely heroic, yet come off as deceitful and particularly loyal to a fault.
Bebin is the most devious in appearance, but is actually the kindest, most open-hearted of the bunch, caring for creatures that would normally be seen as satanic.
Dorshe is the only one that acts exactly as he is presented, but by the time his story his focused on, the expectation subversions lead one to think there may be more to him just like with the others.
However, this approach works the best with Queen Hilling, Bojji’s stepmother. In most fairy tales you expect the stepmother to cater solely towards her genetic children, and this seems to be the case when she chooses Daida to succeed the throne instead of Bojji, but it is her care for Bojji that leads her to make this decision.
This style of character writing spreads to the show’s entire cast, with each of them having far deeper characterization than what appears on the surface.
When adapting a story as strong as this in animation, the visuals should match the hope-filled writing. Not only does the more traditional cartoon art style compliment Ranking of Kings’ tone, but the animation, directed by Yousuke Hatta (Death Parade, Magical Warfare), is some of the best I have ever seen. Not only are the fight scenes in this series gorgeous, but even in the simpler, dialogue-heavy moments, the animation manages to further the already amazing characterization present. The team at Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song) somehow outdid themselves once again.
The beautiful visuals need a equally magical musical score to match, and composer MAYUKO (Cells at Work!, How to keep a mummy) crafted one that is equal parts epic and simple. The main melody crafted for Bojji has this heroic, yet childlike, melody that fits him perfectly.
As if all of that was not enough, Ranking of Kings’ English dub was directed by Caitlin Glass (Fruits Basket, Shadows House) with script writing by Jarrod Greene (Megalobox 2, The Day I Became a God), and if you have seen any of the series these two have worked on before then you know you’re in for a treat.
Of course much of the dub quality is thanks to ADR (automated dialogue replacement) engineers Geoff Bisente (My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan) and Mark De La Fuente (Fruits Basket, My Hero Academia), who must have performed some serious black magic to make the dialogue between each voice actor flow so perfectly.
However, when it comes down to it, the cast behind this dub was just utter perfection. Emily Fajardo (Wonder Egg Priority, Shadows House) and SungWon Cho (Odd Taxi, Akudama Drive) are adorable as Bojji and Kage.
Chris Sabat’s (My Hero Academia, One Piece) Gaston-esque performance as Despa was an absolute delight.
Justin Briner (My Hero Academia, Dr. Stone) turned in a career best performance as Daida.
Luci Christian’s (One Piece, My Hero Academia) Hilling was so endearing that I was constantly worried for the character’s fate.
Cris George (Appare-Ranman!, Fairy Tail) was almost unrecognizable as Bosse, which is an astounding feat considering how many roles he has over his long career.
And then there’s Brianna Roberts’ (She Professed Herself Pupil of the Wise Man, AFTERLOST) performance as the series’ main villain, which, without discussing spoilers, may be the best in the show even when considering the incredible talent she is surrounded by.
I wish a series like Ranking of Kings was around when I was young as Bojji is the type of hero that would inspire so many children across the world. The incredible writing, animation, art direction and voice acting make Ranking of Kings one of the best anime I have ever seen. If you love fantasy storytelling with a hopeful message that looks breathtaking, then Ranking of Kings might be the anime for you.
Ranking of Kings is available subbed and dubbed on Crunchyroll.