Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
World Is Still Beautiful
Nike is the third princess of the Principality of Rain, a not-at-all powerful fantasy kingdom. When her land is solicited by the immensely powerful Sun Kingdom for a bride, Nike's sisters decide that she ought to be the one to go. Nike's not thrilled, but she'll do her duty and sets sail...only to arrive and have no meet her, nor believe her when she finally gets to the palace. Not only that, but Livius, the Sun King, is an ill-tempered child who doesn't appear to think much of the reason he wanted to marry a Rain princess in the first place: she can control the weather. Nike and Livius slowly come to like each other, but the kingdom is mistrustful of the foreign princess and will do just about anything to make sure that she does not become their queen.
You may be familiar with this story: a terrible, cruel, and cold ruler summons a princess to be his bride. The princess is reluctant but will do her duty no matter what. Slowly, the terrible king and the determined princess see good in each other and begin to fall in love. Rivals may appear, assassins and other villains may try to destroy them, but the king and the princess press onward, and True Love Conquers All. It's probably a little early to really make that final statement, but as of its first six episodes, The World Is Still Beautiful (Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii) comfortably fits into the rest of the aforementioned tropes, whether you see them as coming from fairy tale flavored romance or shoujo manga. While this can lead to that no so fresh feeling, it is difficult to deny that the show does the story well, making this a charming, easily obsessed about tale that it is difficult to dislike.
The king and princess in question are Livius, the so-called king of the world and ruler of the Sun Kingdom, and Nike, youngest princess of the Principality of Rain. After the tragic death of his mother, Livius ascended the throne as a child and quickly began conquering his neighbors. Now three years later the Sun Kingdom is immensely powerful. It does not, however, have any weather; water is piped in via aqueduct. The royals of the Principality of Rain, however, have the power to summon wind and rain, and this is something that Livius wants for himself...or at least to see. Nike isn't sure she's okay with all of this, and in fact does not have a great welcome into the kingdom, as no one is there to meet her ship. It is also clear that most of the citizens (or those who matter, that is, the wealthy) are not keen on a foreign princess with weird powers and a not very impressive lineage. The nobility tries to shape her into the kind of princess they want, but Nike is having none of it. She is who she is, and the rest of them will just have to deal with it...and it turns out that Livius likes who she is quite a bit.
Watching Livius' kinder, younger side emerge is a key pleasure of the show, although he still retains his less likeable qualities. Nike obviously fills some sort of emotional deficiency that he has had since the death of his mother, which actually leads to one of the more uncomfortable aspects of the show. While there is a fair amount of sexual behavior from Livius, which given his age is problematic with the entire ending theme consisting of shota fan service, what is perhaps a bit more worrisome is the sort of oedipal nature of his love for Nike. Clearly he does not see it that way, and it is possible that this is reading entirely too much psychoanalytic literary criticism. But the fact that the only close female relationship that Livius has previously had was with his mother, whom he called by her given name, and that he takes Nike to the same places he went with her lends a bit of credence to the theory.
The other major issue that The World Is Still Beautiful faces is plot. While the show is charming and highly enjoyable, it also doesn't have much of a forward trajectory. Yes, Livius and Nike are slowly becoming more and more fond of each other, but that isn't the focus of each episode. Instead we have the nobles' angst about Nike, a girl who decided that she was Livius' fiance, and scheming priests, to say nothing of the first episode, which features characters who are never seen again. While each episode is enjoyable at the time, it is difficult to say that they build off of each other.
So really perhaps the greatest strength of this show is that it is so delightful despite these things. The evil king/spunky princess storyline has existed for so long because it is one that readers and viewers enjoy, and if The World Is Still Beautiful doesn't do much that is new with it, or even develop much of a plot around it, the show still maintains the points that continue to make it a favorite premise. Nike herself is someone it is easy to get behind, with her combination of standing up for herself on the important stuff and accepting things that aren't life or death grudgingly, and side characters like the three put-upon maids who attempt to work for her are all developed enough to make them unique. The voices are all well done – especially Tomokazu Sugita as Neil – and if the animation isn't spectacular, it is still more than serviceable. The World Is Still Beautiful's first six episodes ultimately come off as a feel good show, a little something to look forward to once a week, and if it succeeds in that, then in the long run, it may be enough.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Nike sticks to her guns when she really feels it's important but isn't annoyingly stubborn, Livius' slow evolution is nice. Very few superfluous characters. The show is just nice to watch.
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