Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Jul 3rd 2014
World Is Still Beautiful
7 - 12 Streaming
As Nike and Livi grow closer, more forces appear to try and drive them apart – Livi's former prime minister Bard, for one, and the old men of the kingdom who try to rule it from the shadows for another. When Nike gets a letter from home saying that her grandmother is ill, she and Livi drop everything and take a trip to the Principality of Rain...only to find that the Sun Kingdom isn't the only place that isn't thrilled about their marriage...
After a first half filled with what were essentially stand-alone episodes – the notable exception being Nike's trials – The World is Still Beautiful picks up its pace in its latter half. While there is still a vaguely episodic feel to the beginning of it, these six episodes rely on each other more, with the result that the story feels much more together, despite its pretty inconclusive final episode. The majority of the story takes place in an extended arc in Nike's homeland, the Principality of Rain. Episodes 9 – 11, and an important part of 12, all look at the place Nike came from and her relationship with her family, showing us that the glimpse we had of her home life way back at the show's commencement was barely enough to give us any information at all. These are probably the strongest sequence in the series as a whole, partly because they take a different tack than the rest of the show, but also because they give us the opportunity to learn more about the world in which our protagonists live.
The first major incident in these episodes, however, is the return of Livi's uncle Bard, the erstwhile prime minister of the Sun Kingdom. Bard was a central, or at least major, figure in Livi's childhood, and the two have a tumultuous relationship. This is not helped by the fact that Bard is a womanizer and appears to have his sights set on the lovely Nike, much to her detriment. (At least at first. As in the first six episodes, nothing can really keep Nike down.) This leads to a reignition of the tensions between uncle and nephew, and Nike takes it upon herself to force them to sit down and really talk...by singing for hours so that they're trapped in a gazebo during a torrential downpour. This may be one of the most amusing incidences of the slightly infamous Jpop crooner “Ame Furashi no Uta~Beautiful Rain~”, better known to fans of the show as “Tender Rain.” That the song is overused is perhaps a given by this point, and a later song performed by Nike's grandmother in episode twelve really points out how much better Nike's song could have been: Grandma's song is haunting and ephemeral as opposed to slightly canned. (It's also interesting to note that Grandma may look like an old woman, but she has the voice of a lovely young idol, which is a bit difficult to swallow.)
Once Bard is firmly established, the show moves on to what really is its sole major arc: the visit to Nike's homeland. This is accomplished by Nike receiving a note that her beloved grandmother is deathly ill; she asks if she can go home to see her. Livi decides (much to Neil's chagrin) to accompany her, leaving Bard in charge and thus giving him a reason to exist, which is actually more than we've seen with other minor characters who come in and make trouble. The Principality of Rain is Generic Asian in its design to the Sun Kingdom's Generic European, which makes for a good visual contrast. Most of the traditional clothing is either Chinese or Central Asian in appearance; the costumes for the betrothal/wedding ceremony Nike's family holds for she and Livi are cosplay worthy if you're good with a needle. The real draw of these episodes is the way that they give us more insight into Nike's family life and past, which in turn allows us to have a better understanding of her powers. To say that she herself doesn't fully appreciate what she can do – in part because of her childhood – would not be an understatement. This is also an opportunity for the story to reinforce her strength of will and character, as well as to show us how far Livi has progressed in his emotional growth. By the end of the arc, their relationship feels fully believable and very sweet, something that even their detractors are forced to notice. The conclusion of the storyline at the start of the final episode is touching and genuinely emotional, much more so than the rest of the episode.
The end of episode twelve is a return to the problems that plagued the show early on – it is episodic and inconclusive. While we do receive assurance that Nike and Livi love each other, that really wasn't needed after the Principality of Rain story, and it feels more like the writers weren't sure how to wrap things up and so settled for the easiest sort of cute and sweet finale. It gives an anti-climactic feel to what was otherwise a very good second half, souring the experience just a little.
In the end, The World is Still Beautiful is charming shoujo comfort food. With a plucky heroine, a hero who learns to love, an excitable (yet proper) manservant, and just a bit of magic, it has all of the elements to make you keep watching and feel happy. It cops out at the end, but up until that point, this is a sweet series that should be on your list if you just want something to make you smile.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Nike remains an enjoyable heroine, Livi shows real emotional growth. The Principality of Rain arc is well done; Grandma's song is beautiful.
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