A funny thing happened on the way to episode four of Kingdom…
If you’ve been following my posts on this show, you know my biggest gripe has been with the excessive use of CGI in the scenes that one would normally not expect it. Well, there’s been a slow decrease in that “inappropriate” CGI, but for whatever reason this ep was almost completely CGI free. I won’t say it was the most lush and fluid drawn animation of the season, but it was far, far less distracting that the odd look the series often sported in the first three episodes. It was, in short, a distraction – and a big one.
With that out of the way (hopefully for good), we’re free to concentrate on what Kingdom does well, and that’s quite a lot. It’s not the slickest or subtlest script around, but I like the story and I like the characters. We have a nice, straightforward historical epic with themes of politics, friendship and betrayal, not to mention our share of violence and eventually, by the looks of things, military strategy. We’ve also got the makings of a buddy comedy as The King, Xin and Diao hit the road in search of the rendezvous the loyalist Chengwunjun had set up somewhere in the mountains, with the assassin Muta (from the far South, as it turns out) hot on their trail.
This isn’t the best comedy in the world, but Diao (who I’m still convinced is a reverse trap – can a kid in an owl suit be a trap? – though that could be KugiRie’s tendency to make her boy characters indistinguishable from her girls) adds some nice comic energy to the group dynamic. That’s much needed as The King remains a cold and distant character – proving his strength both of will and body, but remaining aloof emotionally. We also learn more of Diao’s past as the rendezvous point turns out to be a 400 year-old pavilion deep in the mountains, built by the Emperor Mu Gong – a wise and noble ruler who was the only Qin Emperor to befriend the mountain men. They revere the place and upkeep it as holy, which comes in handy when the three youngsters arrive bone-weary and starving after three days flight.
With Muta having arrived on the scene and bragging about how he plans to kill Xin, it seems inevitable that help is going to come soon – either in the form of Chengwunjun, or more poetically, the mountain tribe that Diao now feels so estranged from. I see a decision in Diao’s future, whether to return to his (her) people or to stay with The King and Xin (which appears to be the most likely scenario). With a first-tier director like Kamiya Jun behind it I fully expect this adaptation to continue to be well-paced and as long as the animation holds out, it should be a good ride. There haven’t really been many anime like it in recent years, though this sort of series used to be fairly common. That alone makes it a welcome addition to the schedule.