TL;DR – Boji is known as “The Useless Prince” by his own people. Standing barely two feet tall, deaf and practically mute, no one believes he should be the next king. No one believes he is capable of anything.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Ousama Ranking (aka ‘Ranking of Kings’) performs a magic trick that is surprisingly effective. Initially, it presents you with a story that appears like a textbook fairy tale.
There’s the strong and giant king, Bosse, who rules his realm with a steady hand and defends his people from outside threats. He has a son, Boji, who is deaf, tiny and weak. Bosse has established his realm to provide for Boji and give him everything he needs. A kind and loving father indeed.
Boji is trained to defend himself by Domas, a great swordsman who cares and loves Boji almost as much as the king. Boji aspires to be as great as his father and has an empathy toward others that is both optimistic and naïve.
The initial tensions are between Boji and his younger half-brother, Daida, who also desires the throne. The usual brotherly rivalry is on full display.
Boji’s stepmother, Hiling, wants Daida to be the next king as she deems Boji not suitable to protect the kingdom.
There’s even a magic mirror that influences both Bosse and Daida in mysterious ways.
Everything points to a pretty straight forward fairy tale, and the show is reinforced by the animation, which looks like it was taken from a children’s picture book.
And then the magic trick happens…
As the episodes progress, everything is not what it seems. There are only two constants, Boji and his only friend, Kage. Kage is a shadow assassin from a nearly extinct clan of assassins and appears like two ink blots with eyes and a mouth like a claw. He survives as a thief, and initially takes advantage of Boji by demanding his clothes, which Boji gives to him freely. Eventually Kage sees that Boji is pure of heart and his compassion and kindness penetrates the jaded view Kage has of the world. Kage swears to be Boji’s faithful friend and together they navigate the many changes and revelations that occur around them.
Revelations that include the following:
- Bosse is not the noble king we are led to believe at the beginning. He has made a pact with a demon to steal the power from his first son, Boji. He has established the kingdom for Boji out of guilt.
- Queen Hiling, the ‘evil’ stepmother, turns out not to be ‘evil’ at all. We learn that she made great efforts to become close to Boji (including learning sign language) after Bosse’s first wife and Boji’s biological mother died. She loves Boji but sees the only way to protect him is for his half-brother, Daida, to assume the throne.
- Daida, initially, appears one-dimensional in his pursuit to take his father’s place as ruler, and he wants to rank himself as one of the greatest kings in the land. However, he is taught certain lessons by his mentor and tutor about what true strength is all about. Further, Bosse ends up using Daida as a vessel to keep on living resulting in Daida’s soul being trapped. Daida comes to empathise what Boji must overcome in order to be a king.
- Domas teaches Boji and learns to care for him, but his loyalty to Bosse causes him to do the unthinkable, he seeks to murder Boji.
These are just a sample of the layers beneath the surface of all the characters, and it is held together by the strength, hope and resilience of the friendship between Boji and Kage.
Boji is the ultimate underdog, and his true strength comes from his ability to transform hearts through his own determination, kindness and understanding.
With so much anime to choose from, stories are the most critical aspect in ensuring viewers will sit through an entire series. At 23 episodes, Ousama Ranking has the story to back it, and you’ll be cheering and crying in equal measure as you follow Boji through his growth.
9 out of 10