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The Winter 2022 Preview Guide
The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt ?
Community score: 3.8

What is this?

The prince of this small and weak kingdom strives for only one thing: selling out his country and living a quiet life in leisure. Sadly, the greatest obstacle he will ever face is his own genius. As he achieves ever greater accomplishments, he earns more and more favor with the people of his kingdom, which makes fulfilling his own dreams all the harder.

The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt is based on Tōru Toba's light novel series and streams on Funimation on Tuesdays.

How was the first episode?

Caitlin Moore

The best thing I can say about Wien, the protagonist of The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt, is how many puns I can make out of his name. “You want some cheese for that Wein?” I ask as he flops down on the floor, whining about how he doesn't want to run the country. “What a Weiner,” I think as he drops his princely act the moment he's alone with Ninym.

So we have here a young man seeking out an easy life… who accidentally gets dragged into a war… whose plans unintentionally succeed… with a straight-laced female sidekick? I've seen this show before! No, not in the way that 75% of modern anime is samey plain oatmeal. I just described Genius Prince, but also 1993's science-fiction classic Irresponsible Captain Tylor, about a man who joins the military in hopes of getting a well-paid desk job with room and board but ends up captaining a ship full of miscreants. It's also a show I'd much rather be watching.

The difference lies in the heroes. While Wein wins support by being charismatic in public but a spoiled child behind closed doors, Tylor wins people over by being genuinely kind, if a little dopey. While Wein schemes but fails at failing, Tylor just kind of wanders into sticky situations and then stumbles his way out. In short, Tylor is infinitely more likable and fun to spend time with than Wein and you know what, I still haven't pulled out my fancy limited edition blu-rays…

The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt isn't actually that bad. Wein sucks, but the character acting and voice performance makes it so he sucks in a pretty entertaining way. It's just that, when I'm offered two shows with similar premises and one of them is about a character who is kind and one is about a total wiener melange, I'm going to choose the kind one every time.

James Beckett

Well then, between this and—deep breath now—Life with an Ordinary Guy Who Reincarnated into a Total Fantasy Knockout, today is two-for-two for shows with terrible titles that surprised me with how much I liked them. The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt is ever so slightly less clumsy than Total Fantasy Knockout's full title, so it wins in that regard, but I'd wager it loses points for threatening the audience with anime that's all about national debt. It's enough to send shivers down the spine.

Thankfully, The Genius Prince's Guide is the exact opposite of boring, most of the time at least. It's got lively animation paired with some creative direction, and Prince Wein displays that perfect combination of preternatural genius and hilarious buffoonery. He's the exact kind of protagonist who could accidentally bumble his way into being a great leader when all he wants to do is fail his way into retirement. Ninym is a great straight woman to play off Wein's gilded tomfoolery, and she gets the most compelling scene of the premiere when she cuts off that mouthy general's head. This show's got some potential, that's for sure.

My biggest gripe is how often The Genius Prince's Guide indulges in one of my least favorite storytelling crutches: Lazy and boring expositional dialogue shared between characters who already know everything that's being talked about. The premiere has a ton of this kind of hacky writing, and it killed my excitement and interest whenever it came up. They even double down on the sin by having Wein straight up say “But you know that," and it's enough to drive a guy mad!

I'm hoping it's just a problem with the premiere, though, and that the show will be able to show a story unfold instead of just talking about it forever. The aforementioned decapitation scene is a great example, or the way Wein shows off his brilliance and leadership skills when he casually remarks how easy it is to remember the names of soldiers in the kingdom's tiny army. It's details like that which can keep an audience coming back for more. Here's hoping that The Genius Prince's Guide can deliver the goods.

Nicholas Dupree

Well, that wasn't what I expected. Going into this show, I was thinking it would be like the similarly long-titled How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, where the whole premise would be taking the standard fantasy setting and twisting it to be all about the minutiae of statecraft, perhaps with a focus on macroeconomics with the whole “debt” part. What I wasn't expecting was the fantasy equivalent of The Producers, sans the musical numbers. And I gotta say, that's a way better concept.

There's just something funny about watching somebody purposefully try to fail, only to inadvertently snatch victory from their own jaws of defeat. Wein is about the perfect amount of unlikable, trying his hardest to get out of the whole running a country gig with a golden parachute to keep him comfortable, the rest of the nation's wishes be damned. But he also needs to keep up appearances, and by bad(?) luck or providence keeps bluffing his way into major victories and successes he desperately does not want. It's sort of the inverse of Diablo in How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, where instead of a timid nerd role-playing as a merciless demon, our asshole lord just keeps doing too good of a job playing the inspiring, royal prodigy. It's a good bit, and could end up going a long way if the show can keep coming up with clever ways for this jackass to fail upwards.

That said, it does feel like the show isn't going as far as it could. Wein is a lazy jerk, sure, but he could honestly stand to be more whiny or angry when he can't stop winning. A stronger contrast between his noble exterior and exasperated inner monologue would make the whole thing much funnier, in my opinion. He could also stand to have more pushback from his right-hand lady, Ninym, who gently chides him but otherwise goes along with his plans pretty easily. It's nice that they get along well, and genuinely seem to trust each other, but a slightly more antagonistic rapport would make their scenes together come to life. Also the scene with him telling her to say “meow” while she talks is a little weird. Please keep your pet play out of the strategy tent, your highness.

But hey, this is just the opener, and with a solid comedic premise like this, there's a lot of room for the writing to find its groove. I'll at least be sticking around for a couple more episodes to see if it does.

Richard Eisenbeis

Wise and dashing princes seemingly born with kingly qualities are hardly a novelty in fantasy stories, but what if the competent prince doesn't want to rule? That's the story of Genius Prince—and it's a pretty enjoyable one at that.

Wein, our titular prince, is an interesting character. He desperately wants to be free of his responsibilities running the country but, at the same time, doesn't want to simply run away in the night and leave the nation in chaos. Despite himself, he takes his responsibilities seriously. Moreover, as the country's ruler, he is determined to act like one—at least in public. In front of everyone, he appears the perfect prince in every way. It's only when he's alone or with Ninym that he lets the mask drop—not even his sister knows the true him. This in turn hints at a deep connection between himself and Ninym, one that I look forward to learning about as the show continues on.

I also love the comedic core of the series. Not only is there the clash between his outward personality and his inward one, but Wein is every bit the genius everyone believes him to be as well. However, that genius is focused not on improving the country but on finding a way for him to get the freedom he's always wanted. It's funny to watch how other people misinterpret his actions in the noblest possible way while we know the truth behind them. But the best part is the twist: no matter how much of a genius he is, luck is always a factor—and Wein's luck is either very bad or very good, depending on your point of view. All in all, it's a hilariously fun first episode.

Rebecca Silverman

Don't you just hate it when your plans work out when you're trying desperately to fail? That's the base premise of this show, and it's one that works quite well, though the pacing in this opening salvo is a little too fast, but that seems to be what we're getting in adaptations this season. But the episode also makes it clear that depicting battles isn't what it's interested in – much more time (and animation, which aren't quite the same thing here) is devoted to Wein's inner monologue of frustration than anything that happens during Natra's brief war with Marden.

While on the surface that may not sound great, in practice it actually really works. Wein may be too smart for his own good, but showing the soldiers as game pieces isn't just a good way to save on animation; it's also a nice insight into how he's looking at his job as crown prince: as a game he's actively trying to lose. At the same time, we get the idea that maybe he only thinks he wants to sell off his kingdom to the highest bidder, because despite his efforts to see this as a crappy board game, he's also got the names and faces of all of his rank-and-file soldiers memorized. It could be that he simply is good at that sort of thing, but it also seems like the action of someone who does, in fact, care.

That means that the real battle here isn't between countries, but between Wein's inner and outer selves. He wants to be a spoiled brat who offloads his kingdom for a cushy retirement, but he doesn't seem to be able to help having Captain Tyler levels of luck and smarts. The only real difference between the two characters is that no one believes that the good captain can do anything right whereas for the good prince, it's the opposite. It's a political version of Sei's bonus curse in The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent: good for everyone but the wielder, who'd just like to hang out here in the corner, thanks.

This may not be the most thrilling first episode, but it absolutely lays out what it needs to while introducing the ambiguous relationship between Wein and his attendant Ninym (and the prejudice against her race). It's worth giving the old three-episode test, because while this story isn't exactly action-packed, it could be a lot of fun to follow the man who can't fail – no matter how badly he wants to.

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