Three reasons why ‘Ranking of Kings’ is the best new anime in years

The greatest urge in recommending anyone to start watching Ranking of Kings, the superb anime series from Wit Studio which just had its finale yesterday is to tell them to just trust you. Or, in my case, to tell them that, in a few years it might be regarded in the same light as the acclaimed series Fullmetal Alchemist for its world-building and intricate lore. If neither of those versions works, play them the OP to the second cour—hell, maybe even show them the visual credits to go with it—an absolute earworm of a song from Japanese artist Vaundy. 

Simply put, Ranking of Kings is the best original anime in years. There are countless reasons why—many of them things that should be kept close to the chest to not spoil anyone who has yet to be lucky enough to start the show anew. From the artistry, eclectic character designs, and impassioned voicework, to limitless imagination produced through the world-building and the promise of even greater stories that lie beyond the portion of the world audiences grew to know, Ranking of Kings, written and illustrated by Sōsuke Tōka in the manga and directed in the anime by Yōsuke Hatta, is a spellbinding and empathetic epic. 

Spoilers below 

To strip it down to its basics, three key elements make this such a special anime, its singularity borne from fresh takes on traditional ideas. 

The heart of its protagonist 

The first is the lead character, Bojji, whose kindness is something that powers the entire series and seeps into every aspect of the story. He is the easiest element to champion and likely the most obvious entry point. Born deaf to giant parents and not granted the strength nor size of his mountain of a father, King Bosse, he’s been overlooked and undervalued his entire life, especially in comparison to his step-brother Daida, a strong-willed and natural-born fighter. His loneliness doesn’t last long into the series as he meets Kage, an orphaned member of the shadow clan (just roll with it) who, while trying to steal from Bojji, ends up becoming his friend and traveling companion. 

It’s that first interaction that gives us insight into who our protagonist is as he happily offers Kage the clothes off his back. It opens up Bojji’s circle of support and care and the way his alliances grow throughout the episodes is one of the series’ many highlights, a strong reminder of the power of family and community be it found or built. 

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Making it more emotionally potent, we learn later he wasn’t ever purposefully ostracized. Instead, it was the people around them and their inability to empathize with his perspective that drew such a domineering wall. 

The extraordinary character development 

Any show worth its salt has decent character growth—it’s oftentimes the point of a story. Show how character A got to place B and became the type of C they needed to be to develop the story and push the narrative along. Regardless, the character development in Ranking of Kings isn’t just great because it simply happens but because of why and how it manages to surprise us. 


Every character we encounter (and I truly mean that) is given unexpected time to flesh them out and become multi-layered characters who subvert our expectations. There are many archetypes represented on the show, but they are utilized more to be broken down than to be celebrated. 

This strength is made most evident and the mark of a shift in the tone of the show through Queen Hiling, voiced with spark and ferocity by Rina Satō. Introduced as seemingly little more than the evil stepmother to Bojji who is plotting for her son, Daida, to become the future king despite Bojji being next in line, the script takes a quick heel turn a few episodes after we think we have her figured out. Yes, she believes Daida could be a great king, but her affection and love for Bojji is given greater time to shine as we bear witness to the time and effort she’s put into being a guardian for him since his biological mother’s passing. 

Miranjo, the Magic Mirror, isn’t simply the show’s antagonist but also a young woman trying to find comfort in the only person who ever gave her it, running from her trauma and seeking atonement in equal measure. The three brothers of the underground, Desha, Despa, and Ōken, aren’t just bolstered by greed and fueled by envy, but also spending a great deal of their time trying to save the other in ways that manage to make complete sense while still coming out of left field. 

The action 

The last aspect, and one that is perhaps expected from the studio that brought us the first three seasons of Attack on Titan, is the dynamic and fluid action with violence and a measure of brutality that feels exhilaratingly earned rather than being used for shock value. Some of the most horrifying moments in the show are completely bloodless and still visceral. The action design works beautifully against the simplistic and exaggerated character designs so that when true battles take place there’s a deliberate sense of unease. 


The action grows increasingly as the story progresses, climaxing in a mini-arc within the show during which the characters we’ve come to know join together to stop a seemingly unstoppable force. The fairytale animation style of the characters and the world goes against the horrors that the characters face.

Regardless of the lack of bloodshed (most of the time,) the acts of violence translate so strongly because they go against everything we’ve come to believe the show is. The horrors that happen against Miranjo are hinted at and the death of Bojji’s mother is showcased in the blood that pours down as she guards him with her body. Ouken’s first fate is bloodless, but the cruel and calculating measures Bosse goes through to ensure his defeat are chilling and, later, when we believe Miranjo has been eaten by the demon she broke a promise to, her fate of living in continuing, unbroken horror is nauseatingly grim. 

There are no exploitative spins. It’s just the horror of conflict. It’s why Hiling’s power for healing and the strength with which she infused into it and Bojji’s way with a sword that stuns rather than maims is such a breath of fresh air in contrast to countless modern displays of action. It shows how power can be utilized in a way that doesn’t champion violence. 

There’s so much more that could be said about this lovely and gripping series which, in its finale, perfectly tied a bow on a season that could either signify a completed or standalone narrative while still being open up to the possibility for future seasons. There are distortions of reality for the sake of spectacles, such as when Bojji fights Bosse and the latter, to the former’s eyes, appears to grow into his former, giant size, or the entire training arc in the underworld. The brilliant character design allows each character a prominence that keeps them a step out of beat from so many standard anime today which feature a lot of similar designs. There’s the key component about not just finding what you love to do or finding a way to make good by the community you share but also the significance of finding someone who is unabashedly supportive. 


Ranking of Kings is one of the most vibrant and fully formed anime in years and even though it’s only just finished it’s already left its mark as one of the best examples of immersive world-building in anime.  


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