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The World is Still Beautiful – Review

by Anthony Sulwer

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New relationships are often difficult to portray in anime. This is why the main characters are usually a well-established duo who, after having many adventures together, come ready-made with a witty repartee and an almost unspoken bond. The World is Still Beautiful, however, captures the nuances of a newly formed partnership between two very opposite and polarizing personalities.

Directed by Hajime Kamegaki (Naruto Shippuden: The Movie, Lupin III) The World is Still Beautiful is, at its heart, both a coming-of-age tale and a story of youthful romance. This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of action sequences, intrigue, deception, and mysterious figures lurking about to make for a surprisingly engrossing first season run of twelve episodes.

The first episode of the series, “The Sun Kingdom,” opens on a young, naïve country princess from the Rain Dukedom, Nike Lemecier. Nike has been promised to the Sun King, Livius Orvinus Ifrikia, who has conquered the world in only three short years. Being a princess of the Rain Dukedom, Nike has the ability to command the rain and wind when she sings. This ability is passed down from generation to generation in the Rain Dukedom where it rains almost constantly. The Sun Kingdom, as its name suggests, has never seen a single cloud or rain fall from the sky.

After arriving in the Sun Kingdom, Nike is amazed and awed by the prosperity but also staggered by the expense of the region. Unable to procure a room due to an overabundance of soldiers, or any food because of the high cost, Nike is taken advantage of by two young, wannabe con artists who relieve her of her suitcase. Finally, Nike passes out in the street where she lay.

Taken in by a local family, given a bed, fed, and nursed back to health, Nike explains her situation. The kids, and their father, find it hysterically funny Nike is engaged to their Sun King, but don’t explain why they find it so hilarious. After thanking the family, and as they are saying their goodbyes, the young girl from the Rain Dukedom gives them a small example of her ability, leaving them speechless with delight.

The second episode, “The Rain Princess,” finally introduces Nike to her betrothed, Livius I. The snickering of the local family is now apparent as the Sun King is revealed to be young boy of maybe twelve years (his age is never actually revealed). Up to this point, based on the various rumors she’s heard, Nike had been expecting someone old and terrible.

Even though he is only a child Livius is a brilliant strategist. Shortly after his coronation he was able to route out all corruption within the capital. He also, methodically, took over all bordering nations of the Sun Kingdom.

Upon hearing of the Rain Dukedom, Livius sent for one of the princesses to show him what rain looked like. His reasoning was for no more than simple curiosity. He was, to his great surprise, not expecting the headstrong, willful, stubborn personality of Nike Lemecier. He commands her to make the rain. When she refuses he does not let her explain and throws her in jail. Using her ability to call upon the wind Nike escapes from her jail cell. Escaping the Sun Kingdom in order to return home would be what any normal person would do. But, instead, Nike decides to tackle the young king in his bedroom and harangue him for imprisoning her without first listening to what she had to say.

After Nike explains how it is she’s able to sing the rain into existence, Livius softens. It is the beauty of the world around her that enables her to form the song required. Because he is the king, she tells Livius it is his responsibility to show her all the beauty of his kingdom. If he does so, she will be able to compose the song necessary to bring the rain he, and the rest of the kingdom, so desperately want to see. Livius, by contrast, has been so consumed with world conquest his whole life he has scarcely an idea of what ‘beauty’ is.

Thus begins the courtship of Nike and Livius.

Throughout the entire first season there is a very real-feeling, complex series of experiences and emotions served and volleyed by both imposing, strong-willed, affianced teenagers. Their feelings for each other grow, evolve, and go through many changes as they both learn from, and about, each other.

There are mysterious agents for many clandestine groups trying to break up the engaged couple for various reasons. Politics, family status, social status, jealousy – all have their conspiracies against the crown, or against Nike and Livius personally.

The animation for The World is Still Beautiful is done by Pierrot (Road to Ninja:Naruto the Movie, Bleach: Fade to Black). Clean, crisp, colorful scenery and characters populate the world of The World is Still Beautiful.

The writing is some of the best I’ve personally seen in quite some time. The characters are rich, well defined, and filled with almost tangible personality. There are also some moments that are laugh-out-loud funny and completely unexpected. The relationship between Nike and Livius also takes many unpredictable turns, leading the viewer to anxiously skip the ending credits in order to devour the next episode.

If there were a drawback to the show it would be Nike only knows one song to bring the rain… and she sings it, at the very least, once per episode. Other than that one drawback, The World is Still Beautiful is a welcome departure from the standard fare of magical swordfights, revenge stories, and werewolf-vampires offered in much of today’s anime, while still incorporating enough familiar notes to make it feel familiar and welcoming.

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Author: Anthony Sulwer

A freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado, Anthony fell in love with anime while working part time jobs at video stores in the 90s. Nights off were spent watching Akira, Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, and anything else to appear in the small "Specialty" section of the large chain stores.

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