The World is Still Beautiful

The World is Still Beautiful

20140618-183340-66820297.jpgNike is the fourth princess of the Principality of Rain and has the extraordinary power to call forth showers with her song. She is chosen to travel to the Sun Kingdom to marry Livius – King of the realm – for her country, despite the fact that she is in no way happy about this arranged marriage. When Nike arrives, she discovers that the infamous Livius, who practically conquered the world in the three years since he ascended the throne, is still just a child. In light of this, Livius is willful and demanding, and wants Nike to call forth the rain for his own trivial reasons. But underneath Livius’ kingly demeanour is a lonely child struggling to rule a kingdom. This story follows these two very different people who do marriage in reverse – coming together in matrimony and then slowly establishing an emotional bond.

It’s difficult to write a summary for this anime. I can’t find a way to write a synopsis without it sounding like an old-fashioned, misogynistic theme. This really is not the case. Even if I try and compare it to a traditional fairytale template: a cold and unfeeling monarch summons a poor princess to be his bride, the princess travels to him reluctantly but driven on by her duty to her country, but through the trials and tribulations that they go through together they begin to see the good in one another and eventually fall in love. Despite love rivals, politics, and those determined to see their relationship fail – everything ultimately brings them closer together and they only get stronger. Of course, many of these elements are true, but there is just something extra at work here that stops everything in this anime from being one big cliche.

20140618-183933-67173215.jpgThere is something very fresh to this approach, and it works well. I do enjoy an old story told in a modern setting, or with a quirky spin. Like they say: the old stories are the best stories. There is something of a fairytale vibe going on here (what do you expect with the title The World is Still Beautiful?) that makes this anime charming and funny in a way that makes it difficult to dislike. The Sun Kingdom is all-powerful, but there is something that it always lacks: rain. Livius initially wants Nike’s powers for himself, to secure his throne, and Nike refuses to turn what is a sacred rain-summoning into a performance for Livius’ subjects. In turn, the Sun Kingdom is suspicious of this unrefined ‘princess’ with strange powers. The nobility tries to shape her into the king of princess they think she should be, but Nike is having none of it. Loud and stubborn, but also optimistic and kind, King Livius finds himself warming to her.

20140618-183340-66820618.jpgOne of the points of this anime is watching Livius transform into someone kinder and more accepting. He becomes more open with those around him and we begin to see him struggling with the tragic death of his mother, leading him to become the Sun King at a very young age. It is clear Nike is filling the emotional void left by his mother, and as a result he slowly becomes more enamoured with her. There is just one bone that I have to pick here – Livius age. Whilst the other characters do talk a lot at the beginning about how mature he is for his age, etc., it’s still a bit uncomfortable to watch the amount of sexual behaviour he exhibits towards Nike, and that I always see a little bit more of him that I would like to see in the ending credits. It’s a problematic relationship that borders on Oedipal at times. I don’t want to descend into a well of psychoanalysis here, but several overt connections between Nike and Livius mother are made throughout the storyline.

20140618-183340-66820906.jpgAnother thing about the storyline is that is doesn’t have much of a trajectory. I can see where other viewers might find this a bit frustrating, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I enjoy watching each episode as it comes and the different story focus of each one. Livius and Nike are slowly becoming closer as they are immersed in each others world and share in each others problems. There are a lot of supporting characters, most of which often don’t appear in consecutive episodes, but they are only there to drive the bond between our two protagonists. Livius change in attitude is gradual and believable, especially because he doesn’t do a complete about-face in character. He still doesn’t suffer fools gladly or tolerate other people well, but he has developed a sense of humour and now talks to Nike instead of the pair of them yelling at one another. In the same vein, Nike is acclimatising to living in a large kingdom and acknowledges the importance of her role as Livius’ queen. She is learning to be graceful and charming at parties and banquets and having people waiting on her. You don’t only notice the small things in this anime – you appreciate them.

20140618-183341-66821456.jpgAnimation and voices are also done very well here – particularly Tomokazu Sugita (of Gintama and The Melancholy of Haruki Suzumiya fame, amongst others) as Neil. Character designs are also good, with some great outfit designs from not only the main characters, but also members of the Sun court and Nike’s sisters.

Lovely, delightful and charming. These are words that I would use to describe The World is Still Beautiful. To me, this anime does have one glaring problem, but even despite this I still really enjoy it. It goes to show how solid the setting and character development are that it can overcome them by being so… lovely. If the stoic king and free-spirited princess theme doesn’t appeal, you were being read the wrong books when you were young. Nike is an easy character to find yourself rooting for, and her maturity is both admirable and comic – watching someone being forced into a corset by long-suffering maids is always amusing. The World is Still Beautiful is essentially a fun, feel-good show – and it does an excellent job.