Ranking of Kings – Episode 5

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today the sky is bleak and overcast, and the summer heat has cooled to a murky chill, so it seems time for a show that will brighten this atmosphere. And what better source of light and joy is there than young prince Bojji, with his warm smile and generous heart? Surely we can count on Bojji to part these clouds, summon the sun, and generally restore vitality to this cold gray day?

Well, perhaps he could if not otherwise occupied, but as of now it appears that Bojji has been kicked into hell itself. Domas has carried out his terrible assignment, choosing loyalty to the crown over his own moral compass, and Bojji has resultantly plummeted from the surface world. Meanwhile, his brother Daida doesn’t actually seem to be faring much better, having been convinced by his mirror to consume his father’s power. It’s a messy situation for both our boys, but as Mitsumata once told Bojji, they would do well to remember that there are people who care for them. Let’s see how both prince and king handle these new obstacles as we return to the Ranking of Kings!

Episode 5

Hah, I’d actually forgotten that Bojji’s journey only really commenced last episode. Just one episode’s worth of time between embarking on his adventure and plummeting into a hellhole, our poor boy

Love this cold open on Bojji blinking and blankly staring forward. The show exploits the abruptness of these shots to mirror the surprise Bojji himself must be feeling, having transitioned from the shock of being betrayed to presumably being knocked unconscious by the fall. Clever directors can use the breaks between episodes as dramatic punctuation like this, doing things like using sudden leaps into action or between locations as a way to match audience and character disorientation

Bojji recalls he was saved by a bolt shot out of his backpack. Nice dynamic sequences of camera movement here – first pulling back the composition layers to convey a zoom in on the rope, then bouncing in time with his movement on the rope, creating a sense of playfulness that disarms the tension of the scene

And indeed, it is our good friend Kage who saved him. Bojji’s tears here are devastating – after having been betrayed by almost everyone, he is reassured that when Kage said he “wanted to be in your corner from now on,” he truly meant it

And Bojji’s tears bring Kage to tears in turn. Not since his mother’s death has he ever been so genuinely valued by someone, so dear to them. Through Bojji’s support, Kage might begin to see himself as someone deserving of love again

The animation is more than capable of conveying both the messiness and the charm of their blubbery faces. Ranking of Kings has excellent action scenes, but it is refreshingly democratic in its distribution of animation resources, and understands that the most important visual facets of this production are Bojji’s expressions and body language

“Intertwining Plots”

Apparently Kage’s actually been saving Bojji left and right, and is responsible for most of the mysterious events of the past few days. Excellent physical comedy of his little noodle arms wiggling around outside Bojji’s bag

Our impression of Bebin is further complicated through the revelation that Kage was protecting Bojji on his orders. Bebin and Domas have now each revealed themselves to be the opposite of what they initially seemed – of course, this is Ranking of Kings we’re talking about, and thus the actual truth is even more complicated. These men weren’t simply hiding their true intentions behind a façade, they were operating according to a variety of complex and sometimes contradictory motives. Domas’ constancy as a knight can be one of his most laudable qualities, and also one of his most damnable, depending on how that quality is exploited

Kage has a new quest for Bojji – to meet a man who’ll make him the strongest man in the world! Love Bojji’s slightly unbelieving “me?” as Kage explains this plan

In a flashback, we see Domas meet with Daida, who explains that his betrayal of Bojji’s right to be king means he cannot be trusted as a knight or advisor. Daida expertly wields Domas’ veneration of duty against him, in order to force him into that moment on the edge of the hell pit. The show has bedeviled our expectations of characterization before, but here it is dancing on a knife’s edge, forcing Domas into an abominable action only to show that even ostensibly reasonable people can be capable of the unthinkable, if the right factors align just so

“This aching in my consciousness comes from my failure to have strong enough resolve.” Domas is simply a man who believes in something – the duty of a true knight – more than he believes in the wisdom of his own heart. Or at least, that’s what he thought, until the moment of truth arrived

Kage even has a cloth crown for Bojji, returning the prince’s image into balance

God, I love this show’s background art. Both Bojji and Daida’s journeys into the underworld are elevated through these evocative dungeon stairwells, conveying the sense of a world whose scope dwarfs our tiny heroes. These backgrounds feel like an inherent call to adventure, while simultaneously emphasizing the outsized danger facing our princes

Every element of the basement Daida enters speaks to his unsuitability relative to Bosse – it’s all built for a giant, making him look all the tinier

He enters a hallway of monsters preserved in ice, all leading up to the icy body of Bosse himself

A moment of utter grotesquery turned just-palatable-enough via this show’s playful, childlike art design, as Bosse is literally ground into a slurry

Our next flashback belongs to Apeas, as he struggles to demonstrate worthy strength to Bosse

Meanwhile, Bojji is rescued by some giant knights riding tiny horses. As Elden Ring well understands, “giant warrior + tiny horse” is an inherently winning combination

As Apeas passes by, we see there is one other human figure trapped in the ice, this one seemingly a woman

Though it embraces a wide variety of fairy tale traditions, one of Ranking of Kings’ defining features is its counterbalancing unpredictability, and the wild directions its narrative often takes. “We’re going to boil Bosse down to a smoothie so his son can drink him and gain his power” is definitely not a turn I would have predicted

Ah, of course it’s not quite that simple – instead, the Bosse-smoothie is transformed into an egg, which hatches into a terrible giant bird, which is swiftly beheaded by the guards. I would love to see a Ranking of Kings recipe book

This episode is complicating Daida in a very different way from its usual motive reversals. From Bojji’s perspective, Daida was a genuinely imposing presence – but now, in this vast underground, and with the mirror whispering instructions in his ear, we see that Daida is just as overwhelmed by his circumstances, and more likely acting out of fear than malice in his interactions with Bojji

Daida refuses to drink the elixir, which in fairness seems to be some truly vile shit

“See that you are not deceived, whether by those around you, or most importantly by yourself.” Wise and salient words from Bebin – as Ranking of Kings consistently insists, we must be rigorous in reflecting on our own actions, for even the best of us can slip into patterns of cruelty like Hyling, or subservience to unworthy ideals like Domas

It is this key lesson from Bebin that gives Daida the confidence to refuse the elixir. Another point there: that a great portion of our strength is the lessons others have entrusted us with, not just our inherent, immutable qualities

“The cursed gas didn’t kill them? Ah, the two of them are already cursed, no wonder.” A key incidental reveal from the man that Bojji and Kage are brought to

“One is a giant who has had his power taken. The black one is a shadow clan member in altered form, who has met with divine disfavor.” Ranking of Kings happily blasting through these reveals, which I personally love to see. I find hidden information to be a profoundly weak driver of drama compared to actual character conflicts. “What is the technical deal with Bojji” just isn’t an interesting question to me, so I’m glad the show answers it so offhandedly, in the course of setting up its real drama

On the surface, Hokuro attempts to strike Domas for what he’s done – but it’s Domas himself who completes the job, severing the hand that had the audacity to push Bojji

And Done

Oof, that was a busy episode, huh!? With both Bojji and Daida now set on their respective paths, this episode did everything possible to draw a clear parallel between them. Their twin trips into the underworld provided an easy point of connection between them, while the actions of the magic mirror made it clear that, just like Bojji, Daida is being guided by menacing forces beyond his control, which clearly don’t seem to have his own best interests at heart. And in the margins of that central parallel, this episode offered a wide array of tiny moral parables, demonstrating the complexity and variability of identity through each of its active players. Ranking of Kings is a gripping fairy tale, a nuanced moral statement, and an aesthetic wonder in one; we are always lucky to receive a show like this.

This article was made possible by reader support. Thank you all for all that you do.