My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from the second half of The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii), which aired during the Spring 2014 anime season.
Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click through numerous pages.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode one]
The line “The world is not beautiful, therefor it is” happens to the the central philosophy messaging objective of Kino’s Journey, which is one of my favorite shows. I doubt the title of this series is supposed to be a nod to Kino and her adventures, but I can always hope that perhaps a bit of that spirit lives on somewhere.
Hajime Kamegaki as a director is the kind of fellow who has sort of hit a career brick wall for a long time now, peaking with the likes of Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres almost twenty and fifteen years ago. Those series, able to draw from a number of different genres and demographics at once, are the right kind of thing to be able to have in the back pocket here though. Princess Nike is the kind of adventurous and thoughtful yet naive and flawed heroine that can make her endearing to multiple audiences quickly. Elsewhere, we have the big orchestral music, shadowy military officials talking of a concern and plot in a crowded harbor town pub, and the kind of medieval Europe styled fantasy land where a horse nibbles on a girl’s hair and one wants to rip the bread off the screen and eat dinner with the characters.
As far as first episodes are concerned, this was excellent at setting me up and getting a sense of this being a world I want to spend time in going forwards. We get some light history of the Sun Kingdom and its ruler Nike is here to marry, but not too much. We have some action in the application of a scuffle or two, and a bit of magic. It is a display well oriented towards just breathing it in and getting a sense of things, much like Nike herself is by coming to shore and walking about in an unfamiliar land alone.
Then the show goes off the rails entirely for a few seconds with a forth wall breaking joke about a potential on-screen rape being fanservice for the viewers at home.
I have no idea what on earth that is doing in the final script, as it does not jive at all with the tone of the other twenty or so minutes. It is weird, it is jarring, and its the kind of out of left field humor that really hurts to see here. This line, this one “joke” near the end would likely be the most pressing thing a more general audience would end up walking away from it with. If not that, then the one other stumbling block where it trots out Princess Nike’s sisters in modern swimwear. It is just odd. Which is a real shame, as taken on the whole this material is the kind of stuff that really should not feel a need to succumb to such urges.
Could those two bumbling dunderheads make a recovery were they to become any kind of consistent characters? It is possible, as it is certainly a side misadventure and commentary routine that has worked out elsewhere, right down to the One Tall One and One Stout One character physicality. Heck, Turn A Gundam even had its own set.
I don’t necessarily mind if we see more of them if, say, they ended up becoming Nike’s go-to connection should she need them to grab street-level underworld information on something and the tomfoolery therein. Having tried to swindle her, then getting their butts kicked, they could in turn have a little arc as supporters. But I think they can do that without also trying to eyewink at the audience with really extreme jabs, which I think breaks a lot of the nature of such more classic slapstick hijinks, regardless of subject matter. Otherwise, you need to go full Waldorf and Statler and use them as if they were observers.
Princess Nike seems like a pretty swell lead, the kind who wants to spend time with the folks she will come to rule over. Her potential future conflicts with the opinions of her husband to be and whatever larger conspiracy is at work seems compelling. It has a world that is already engaging me intellectually, and visually it came prepared with simple but lively character designs and a country for them to live in.
More of all that, less fourth wall rape jokes.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode two]
As if there were any doubts from the previous episode (and to be honest, I had a few given some of the humor it used), this does seem to want to be a lighthearted affair between two different worldviews with occasional airs of seriousness.
Princess Nike trying to make our Sun King smile by trying to yoink his mouth upwards with her own hands in one moment, and “You own the world, but you’ve never looked at it” sentimentality in another. And somewhere in-between, the genesis of a middle ground of mutual understanding. Our King’s notion of cutting a few percentages of military budget for redirecting to flood control measures is especially interesting, as it is a behavior that can be read a few ways.
I do enjoy how Nike’s rain summoning ritual operates. That it is a unique song she needs to construct based on the area, what it contains, represents, or provides feeling for so as to drive the melody, rhythm, and lyrics.
I did not know to expect that, and it does give this more of a nice Disney vibe in the process. The song of this episode was perhaps a bit too on the pop music side of things, but if the giant robots and space aliens of Macross could get away with it that is not a death knell in and of itself. I do hope though there is showcase of song styles going forwards, as I think that can be made very compelling and further execute on Nike’s explanation. Beauty through variety, which is all the more apt for this series to wish to strive for.
Here is a bit of a pickle though: I enjoy how we did not need to wait a whole season to see a rain summoning song, brought on in earnest by the King’s quarters being set on fire. However…
If one were to have injected maybe another thirty to forty minutes of material to bulk up our first two episodes here and pace some things out a bit more, we would basically have a feature film or nice OVA on our hands.
Think about it: Nike arrived ashore from her distant land, had some trouble finding a place for the night and got swindled of her luggage. We get some of her backstory, and we know there are disgruntled government and military officials on the Sun King’s end. We meet a nice family so things are not so bad, there’s a kidnapping mixup, and Nike managed to get her bags and the girl back. Nike arrives at the palace, has some frosty interactions with the King. She gets into prison, then breaks out of prison. Misunderstandings of beauty and luxury. They start to connect, then Nike takes an assassination arrow meant for him. Nike sent away so as to protect her. Palace burns by internal forces, so Nike heads back to put it out and help save the King.
With some scene injections for character development and heftier running time, that is a rather workable little production in its own right. Right down to the rainbow at the finish.
My biggest concern then becomes one of if as a television series it would risk sputtering out.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode three]
I am at a bit of a loss for what I really want out of this as a television series versus a film.
I like the visual old European trappings, a lighthearted tone to balance more serious political or personal moments with comedic instances should keep things snappy, and the rain summoning song with associated magic and representative mysticism is a nice idea to implement.
Yet I feel like I get tripped up here and there in small ways that are hard to explain. That the characters have a good surge of a personal moment only to swerve into exaggerated reaction territory afterward rather than having a more solid comedic setup and delivery in a separate scene. But I have enjoyed other shows that did this same character approach, so I’m not sure what the disconnect or choppiness is I’m feeling here. It might be a tempo thing I can’t place my finger on? Is it perhaps a little too eager to pop out The Big Funny Part after the serious bit, in turn seeming a bit more mechanical? I really don’t know.
That the rain song, which had a good rollout last episode, is pretty much rattled off again in the following episode here with the same tune kind of bugs me as well. Different lyrics, sure. But given that they tie these to a larger grand musical accompaniment for viewers at home, I think the actual instrumentation and rhythm therein becomes the more important part to alter. It has the potential risk of making these moments, which should show Nike growing and accomplishing something for her feelings, blur together over the long haul. That could be a sad occurrence, as I feel these should be showpiece sequences for folks reflect on and revisit. Things to remember the series with. Macross figured out how to do it, so it is not like there is not a history of this sort of thing working out spectacularly well if one executes on it right.
Or perhaps this is an agency thing.
Maybe this is what has been kind of gnawing at me. We do have Niel The Butler show up this episode in surprise Make Out / Have Sex With The King Already capacities, after all.
Which is, well, that is one of those things that arguably fits within a more medieval setting given real life analogues, I guess, sure. Though at the same time, there is the whole potential for this to be just as much if not more Taming Of The Woman as it is Opening Up The Man. To say nothing of course of the whole Nike As Dead Mom Replacement Analogue angle. Which would all be a shame, as I do like Nike as a character.
I am less interested in Nike being brought out for shoving things in the face of the snarking royal court, and more her trying to get beyond the castle walls and see this country she is supposed to perhaps come to rule over. Which she has emphasized as important to her. It’d be nice if she and the Sun King were able to have, say, travels together during a royal inspection, pilgrimage event, or the like. I feel that would help immensely, in giving them character moments while emphasizing on what should be a stronger thematic point about, well, the “world” part of the title.
It is not all bad though, as I said. I think aspects like the King having an insane schedule but he picks Nike flowers, and different members of the royal court being pretentious jerkfaces to our less prestigious princess, work well. Heck, I think the King going on about how the rain that saved his life tasted bad and the breakfast conversation with its less serious reactions about Nike being a stuck up moral absolutist and colored aura effects worked.
There is just this weird niggling sensation I have. And perhaps it will just go away as we get to know the characters more. Maybe I just had bad fish or something. But I would not be fully honest if I did not bring it up.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode four]
I am starting to think that the warmest character episode of this series may well turn out to be that first one.
There has just been this increasing lack of subtly between character interactions as time as elapsed, which is even more driven home this time. The fashion designer being kind of ridiculous and obsessive over their artistic work, to the point of telling the princess to lose weight in a tone deaf manner, I can wave off as going for humor, sure. But Princess Nike sneaking into the temple dressed as a servant, only to immediately blow her cover by removing her hood, and the borderline cackling Evil Priesthood Leader is… a bit much. The Grand Booming Orchestral Music almost drowning them out hurts even more. And then she breaks down crying because she might not get to stay with the Sun King just feels weird. They have not established too much of an on screen rapport for that kind of emotional rollercoaster at this stage.
Then we get a surprise bucktoothed orphan. Which I feel is exactly the sort of thing I want to see the series deal in, but… not quite like this. They exist more as an arm to tell us how awesome the King is, and that he said the flowers at the orphanage reminded him of Nike. They are an extension to tell us development for a different character entirely, without needing to show him doing said actions, rather than more realized individuals who happen to also have this touching story to share. Given how short and rushed said orphanage visit is between everything else does not help alloy this concern either.
The show pulling the “foreign ethnic group” card as a means of having the priesthood cancel the enagement does not sit with me well.
Yeah, everyone knows the charges are trumped up on a technicality just to be a pain for a larger political game. But, I feel that is something a series called The World Is Still Beautiful could delve into the mechanics of once it raises the spectre of it. How these cultures, social backgrounds, ancestral histories, and identities have developed. Where they differ, or what they share in. How this can play into the idea of nationality or what it would be to lead or love. There is a host of really swell topics they could have played with in there for world building, and still keep the romance story or humor trappings as they try to share and debate.
Unless we are just going down the This Show Is Trying To Sound Smarter Than It Actually Is route. And we are not going to do anything with that topic. In which case, it needed a different charge.
Given all of the Shut Up And Let Me Protect You and No I Will Undergo This Invasive Ritual So As To Protect You this episode, I should probably dig in so I stop raising my hand excitedly when I think it maybe might have a moment of conceptual cogency.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode five]
It is never really a good sign when I opt out of playing a current episode for several days in a row. Especially if those days are weekends, and I had the time.
Everything about this show is just getting to feel like a great big sigh. The fight scenes and confrontations this episode are shot in that bland cinematography style where it is mostly close-ups of shouting, and the characters are barely in the same shot as each other if at all. In turn, there is little weight to their situation.
The unsecured and last place left alone in the priesthood’s underground assassination maze? The waterway. When trying to catch and kill a rain princess. Sirs unmasked as conspirators leaves no impact, since we have not really met these folks in prior character capacities. The Sun King and Nike are having grand “If you disappear I don’t know what I’d do” statements before fields glistening in morning sunrises when they barely have had time for chemistry between each other. It is episode five and we have drug out the rain song into what I was most concerned over, that it would just be reduced to a forced bit. For all the lip service on how rare and individualized each of its deliveries are supposed to be, the series has been using the same song for three of these episode finales now.
And that in and of itself is not terrible. Forgettable or average maybe, disappointing sure, but not a death sentence alone.
But then we have things like the forced comedy of the great council elders having their passionate discussion on how big the breasts of the princess should be. Or Nike getting to punch out one of the people who plotted her assassination, but the scene is handled with a camera zoomed out so they are the size of ants. And surrounded by wacky comedy stars. And narrated by the old dudes who had such a groan inducing discussion over her chest size.
This series really does seem to have an agency issue with Nike. Like, a pretty structural thing where her moments are often minimized, being used for the benefit of others, or where our older and spunkier female lead is otherwise just the butt of every and all jokes. In a way where I’m actually kind of surprised they haven’t actually mocked her butt much.
I get the idea of a self insert fantasy where one gets swept away or the like, which would justify the lack of chemistry I’m feeling in favor of just trotting out a love story highlight reel of scenes to just go “Wouldn’t that be nice” to. Silly romantic comedy on the whole, I get that too, to keep things light and comfortable.
But as what is ostensibly a shōjo series it seems horrified of the thought of boring young boys.
It’s a shame, really, as I was interested in the prospect of a medivial-ish romance series with a more shōjo orientation. And I still am.
I do not know much about the manga personally, so I would certainly be interested in hearing others takes on that as well. Especially as supposedly only the first episode was anime original. But, it runs in the same magazine as Skip Beat! and Kamisama Kiss, so it has that going for it in terms of what is associated around its pages.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode six]
This series is wallpaper paste.
It wants to bring together a bare dramatic wall and adorn it with a more lighthearted pattern, but it just is not sticky enough to do the job. I do not find myself amused by the jokes, as they keep curling in odd and off-putting ways. We have our random childhood friend fiance character show up, and we speed right on along to her firmly feeling up Nike to make remarks on her breast size. We have the council of old dudes making giddy remarks about how they would definitely choose the little fiance girl, as a wife needs to be young and all (which thus in turn relegates Nike to spinster status).
Its shots just do not connect with me.
So I’m left with the underlying dramatic structure, which, well… little fiance girl stone cold flying off of her horse and over a cliff in shock at the realization Nike had a connection with the Sun King is pretty much where we are operating on that front. Actually, I legitimately had to restart that whole horse sequence again after it was over to figure out what the camera was up to. The staging was incredibly awkward, and would have made monumentally more sense if Luna and Nike had been just plain standing near the edge of the cliff, and then the former had her sudden shock that sent her over the edge, and then Nike running to get her.
It begs the question of why we are even using horses for their showdown scene in the first place, since they have not featured prominently for anyone prior. Given all of the dancing this episode, they could have done a cliff-slide dance off for a competitive princess balance testing challenge, and that actually would have fit far better comparatively. Luna could still fall over the edge due to a shock to the heart and everything. It would have tied the whole episode up far better with just that alteration.
The series so desires to have Big Sweeping Moments like this, or the main couple dancing under the stars, but it is such a rush to roll them out after the comedy bits. It is like the show is desperately trying to make up for lost time or something when it comes time for the drama. In turn it is reduced to cobbling together the biggest parts it has lying around without any of the finer engineering required. And these moments would work, is the thing.
But what I end up seeing here is what looks like a high school stage crew desperately pulling a frazzled all nighter after screwing around for too long, so nails are sticking from everywhere and big gobs of wallpaper paste are oozing and dripping about. And I was on those crews back when I was in high school, so I’m more than familiar with the differences of what our final products would be between when we would actually take our time on the seems and constructions details versus emergency schlepping.
That this episode both started and ended with the same rain song as always, as if to make up for the occasions we did not have it playing, does nothing to alleviate my concerns of what could have been a such a good character trait reduced to a bit part fishing for “feels” and killing air time.
“Have you heard her song? “Yeah, I hate it.”
We are rapidly getting to the point of self parody, sadly.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode seven]
…is it just me, or did the episode this week have a noticeable animation quality drop? A lot more click and drag character / object movement, less visual fidelity in the aspects that more more fully animated, and so on. Which is odd, as this is the immediate episode after a production break. Pierrot as an operation is not exactly in a Studio Trigger situation here, they are an established player well versed in long running shows and this is only episode seven of a much smaller one.
Our two fourth wall breaking rape joke buffoons from before pop back in and apparently calls for a nearly a minute of flashback material replaying their first episode bit scenes, as if we were stalling for time. Combined with all the lasso tool layer shenanigans and Adobe After Effects confetti, I can not help but think something has gone terribly wrong behind the scenes.
So Mister Bardouin Cecil Ifrikia here does make a swell point about travel being an incredibly wonderful thing, allowing one to be able to see all manner of beautiful things in the world. Which sounds like an incredibly relevant series of points to be able to make or explore regarding a series entitled, well, The World Is Still Beautiful! Hell, when the festival bit at the start of the episode got underway I was actually hoping we were going to be able to get into some of this kind of material the show seems to suggest is important. See the people, get more of an idea of the cultural aspects or their lives, the aspects that supposedly drive Princess Nike’s songs, and so on.
But we are instead railroaded through some variety of familial mistrust and background history we are not ourselves aware of, so we get outrageous reactions from Livius towards his uncle instead.
It is exhausting to an extent, because I can see plain as day that there is a show within this show I would enjoy significantly more. That it could take things and run with, while still retaining the central character relationship. And it tells me that show is there, just to snatch it away from me and think I will still chase. And I do not know about you, but I have three dogs: all of them learned very quickly when I was not actually throwing a toy for them to grab.
When the Sun King went on his grand detonation “prison and torture!” temper tantrum binge at the end of the episode (which is post a near rape scene at that), I just sighed and stared. There just is not enough narrative substance there to hurl this level of swing, and the comedy bits do not carry this show for me.
I feel this maybe goes at least a bit back to the main couple of the series just not really getting much of a, well, focus on them being a couple? I still generally process them as independent characters who are just sort of around each other rather than ones in a give and take reciprocal romantic relationship.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode eight]
Last week was the most straight up comedy gag centric episode of this series thus far, and now I feel we are in the most serious mode we have been in since the start of the show. I am not sure if that is an improvement or not, to have massive tonal swings between episodes or for it to I suppose more consistently jump all around internally each week. But it is a sense of focus I guess, and I feel the series did need that. Especially, well, at this point.
We have our great series of infodumps regarding the backgrounds of Bardouin and Livius then, with all the loves , wars, frustrations, etc that entailed. Or, at least the sense that these were kinds of events that happened before. It all still felt pretty railroaded along, and given the approach vector I still have little idea concerning the nature of this world Livius came to supposedly conquer and have arguments with Bardouin over.
Near as we get to ever see, Livius owns about as much as the capital city walls, despite all these claims of prior strife and other territories being out there.
Given how the entire situation between Bardouin and Livius was resolved (shove them into a gazebo during a rainstorm), I think all of this could have been paced rather differently.
Had the genesis of that scene come to actually start a lot earlier, it would feel less like only a few minutes had passed before they get to saying an hour went by and Princess Nike is hoarse from singing that same song. This would require re-scripting at least this and the last episode of content to allow things to happen that way, sure (given, there are a lot of episodes of this show I would re-script, which is to say: nearly all of them). But it would work a lot better for trying to sell them hashing out and coming to terms with these personal issues over a longer heart to heart rather than walking away with the sense of “Well, the episode is already over and the plot demands this situation be resolved.”
Which is, fitting enough, how I feel about the whole relationship between Nike and Livius anyway. A series of “If Z does not happen, we do not get to X” motions, like if they were actors in a television series who were not really giving their all, but not really necessarily terrible, just putting in a good enough shift and getting their wages.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode nine]
…I legitimately looked up to see if this episode had been handed off to a mercenary director or something this week.
It felt very different than how the show has been operating almost since it began. The comedy is still hyper non-synergistic with the drama, and probably more outlandish than ever, but then so too were the drama parts played tighter and more competently than they have been too. It still feels like I am watching two very different shows at points, sure, rather than a light romantic comedy mix. But, the halves are like their own little worlds now? And in doing so they are each like getting a half of two more robust and confident programs, like flicking two channels on the television back and forth? I dunno. It is a strange feeling I am having to try and get across.
Things like the big castle shots, narration, conferences, guests, all that wall more traditional grand fantasy stuff. Throw in the travel element to the Principality of Rain (so we finally are going on some kind of excursion outside of the bloody world capital city, which has bugged me a lot given the things this show has said are important at points), and that came off as solid too. Nice little chat under the stars on the boat about seeing the stars in the country ones significant other was born in, the more personal time the two lead characters have after getting a bit more settled in and Nike’s family separates the clouds for their kingly visitor.
That all is surprisingly well composed, shot, and executed on for this series given its track record.
Now, I still think it has that specific kind of problem where these feel like swell moments out of another program entirely.
The romantic drama element of Nike and Livius has been so haphazard and largely shoehorned or battering rammed around tonally in earlier episodes where now that the show is actually giving them what I find some more genuine sweet moments, it causes I suppose a kind of difficulty to buy into as them personally. I still give it credit for being able to deliver on said moments and figure out how to present these two individuals together in a more romantic sense, sure. But it is so much at odds with the rest of the series where it is almost like I switched to a later year television reboot of the material two thirds of the way through this show.
I mean if the finale arc of the show can maintain this, it may be able to salvage some final scoring points from me yet. But it does remind me: the first episode from weeks ago almost felt like a condensed film, and this little arc will perhaps feel like a small multi-episode OVA. The rest of the series in-between may just be aimless fluff kneecapped by having to be a modern short one season television series given modern production trends, rather than a tighter and smaller approach that would have been punchier and worked far better for this material.
That rain song has a steep hill to climb to win me back over though.
At first I was potentially excited that it was going to be more of an idea that could be taken on by all kinds of different forms and sounds via wholly altered lyrics and the like for changes in feeling or ideas (more thunderous song for thunder, etc).
Which in retrospect may have been a bit overambitious a hope. But, certainly, I think at least even taking the same song and then doing some alternatively sung versions of it would still work.
I can conceptually understand the basic idea that only Livius rather than the audience would be able to hear a difference in Nike’s performance as a personal connection thing within this episode. But, they keep using the same recording for it every time, rather than a few different tempos or styles and then bringing back a previously performed version that Livius could claim to catch something different in only he can hear. So I don’t think it lends itself as well to that set of character feelings in execution since the prior repeated use of the identical song track comes off as so lazy.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode ten]
The way this series will careen in tone is enough to give someone whiplash.
Especially now that the two separate halves of the show between slapstick comedy and drama almost seem at war with each other internally. Nike starts the episode bleeding from a head wound due to repeatedly slamming her head into a sturdy wall in a wacky over the top fashion, because she has feelings. By the end of the running time she picks up another cranial laceration due to hurling herself into prison walls, also because she has feelings.
But it is two different kinds of having feelings, you see.
I still have the same issue as last time where now that Team Drama decided to show up for the endgame episodes, Team Comedy seems more out of place than ever. And, in its own ways, is defeating Team Drama through structural subterfuge. It is so very difficult to take the high levels of embarrassment and zaniness over feelings with their appropriate hilarity because we have both seen the drama elements step up and we should also be well past this stage so late in the show. Yet also the drama is not without its share of muscle cramps and other afflictions, because the comedy has kept it down for so long that it gets hard to take the serious moments as serious as they should be as it tries to make up for lost time.
Things like Nike’s Grandmother turning out to be the big bad here feels rushed and more hammy than menacing, given the speed of that development and reveal.
I mean from the start of the episode we are thinking Kitara is a problem. Before we know it we have grandma on a pier giving bellowing evil laughs in the middle of a thunderstorm taunting a boy king in swamp water looking for The One Key that will save Nike. But that is not a good twist, it just comes off as kind of bland. Grandma has never been much of a mention in this series outside of a few passing statements regarding Nike’s background, so it is not like she has had major screen time she is acting against now and turning on its head. It was not like we had a letter from her more often in the series to get to know her (or think we know her) that way at a distance, for instance.
Kara Remercier coming out on stage to sing with a rock group during the welcome festivities was nice for what little we got to hear or see.
Even if it was just a reinstrumented version of the introduction credits song, it was more fun than I have had with a mid-episode song in this show than the usual rain summoning one tends to be by now.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode eleven]
Can we just cut out the middle, say, 6-7 episodes of this program and graft on some connective tissue that would get to tighten the show up, cover the bases it did, and manage to progress us to here?
I feel the show wants that, as structurally we have saved basically anything resembling progression of actual character writing rather than hollow scene motions in the leading relationship of Nike and Livius until this arc. I suppose one could say the moments we see of them now being quite a bit more comfortable together or open would be “payoff,” though to me it has come off more as emphasizing just how long the show was spinning its wheels and how much excess material it could have trimmed. There is a good romantic comedy or lighthearted romantic drama or what have you in here somewhere. Now that it seeks to breathe in big gulps of air after popping its head above the week-in-week-out swampwater I almost feel bad for it. The show would have fared a lot better with like an OVA series format.
And even with the strides the series has sought to make and the cards it wants to play, some elements still kind of misfire. Livius being able to meet and speak privately with Nike’s mother should be a good moment, on paper, either for dramatic for comedy purposes. One could go in either direction with it to great effect. Yet their conversation serves as yet another fleeting minor chat about how Nike controls a great power that would be dangerous in the wrong hands and could be used for ill… which is disarmed by Livius just saying that his nation is so big and powerful that nobody would ever get her but him. Which seems like not the best of answers to give in this situation. I would think he would want to play up other aspects in an attempt to prove a kind of point for his feelings for her and such being in a manner where he would care more for Nike as a person than as a kind of weapon.
And yet Might Makes Right somehow resolves the issue immediately enough for them to drop the matter with all the effort of a damp towel. And forgoing the series of issues of that aside, it is just such a lost opportunity for character moments for both of them, especially as we never have seen much of Nike’s mother before.
Likewise, the later scene of Livius being over a cliff for a bit held by Kitora holds virtually no weight. We are too late in the game for this kind of show for there to be any risk of this later character doing anything substantial in this scene, especially nothing in the way of bodily harm. So this is a moment that fills a mechanical gear need for them to have a chat and “resolve” something. Which would be fine, structurally. But arguably, this is what we should have had instead of grandma being the sudden cackling puppetmaster last episode.
The celebration party for Livius and Nike though, I feel, was the highlight of the episode. We get to break out some new costumes and formal dresswear for those visual aspects of traditional culture. There is our bit where our boy king gets to speak frankly about how he really felt about his wife when he first met her and threw her in prison. People are drinking, songs and dancing, relatives making smart remarks, and all kinds of other embarrassments. And our groom here has his nice little speech about family and such.
Honestly, if anything I think the event itself got the short end of the stick here: this is the sort of scene the series should have been wanting to lay the groundwork for leading up to so much more than it had been, to sell it all the harder and have it be more prominent.
The World is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) [Episode twelve]
This show is a borderline case study example for the issues of the modern push for 11 – 13 episode television adaptations above so much else.
In the end, it had a fair enough standard little love story in here it wanted to tell. And the final arc allowed it to end on a stronger note than the rest of the show had been up to that point. But there is just so much bloat and waste in that front end of the series. A lot of folks described this as like a series length Disney film early on (and I do not exclude myself from that either), but going along with that, consider the following. Films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin only run about ninety minutes. The Little Mermaid barely pulls more than eighty. In total, watching all of The World is Still Beautiful clocks in at over two and a half times as long as such Disney romance musical films. And, well, it feels pretty much just like that: A story that would have made a solid film, but faced with the anime market prospect of needing to fill more retail SKU’s. In turn, a front end that really does not do much of anything for the first two-thirds of the show to draw things out and bulk up the package, until they can deliver the more focused content at the end.
Is it better to end on a higher note? Well, sure. As a scene or series of plot gears, things like Nike’s grandmother not coming to say goodbye because her plan had been foiled and she has been embarrassed, but having a change of heart and coming to sing Nike off at the end to swell the winds that pushed her out into the world once again? I like it! On paper. In execution, it just felt far more hollow, as this is material that had been so watered down by everything else in the show that the grandmother’s entire character arc is less of a curve and more a point or two on a line graph. Extreme, and with little subtlety or craft. She was cackling on a pier in a lighting storm out of pretty much nowhere not all that long ago, remember, and we barely knew who she was as a character even then. Likewise, Livius’s remarks about how the person he wants to see most he can never see again is well intentioned and all regarding his mother. But, outside of knowing that She Existed At One Time And Some Unfortunate Things Happened, there have not been much regarding heart to hearts on Livius reflecting on her. The show never really found the time for it, despite everything else it was stalled out regarding.
Hell, this show even pulled the “Remember these folks from that nice family at the very beginning?” move, which you can do in a tightly focused film without ever mentioning them in the meantime as a means of showing how far a character came. In a much longer television show though, I barely remembered who these people even were. So it looked like scenes from a much better show I would have prefered watching instead.
For a show that I at one point was describing as wallpaper paste, it did improve. And I am willing and able to recognize that. But, I would still say that only allowed it to close out as an average at best television series on the whole, where it could have been a far better and more attentive character story were it put to use in a different presentation format.