Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – 01-03 Review

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Not only that this guy is rude to her because he thinks she’s poor. No! He then continues to act as if poverty is contagious and pushes her away. That strange superstition is supposed to be a joke… I guess? It’s certainly weird how Nike isn’t complaining to the sun king about this.

This series is supposed to target girls, I just want to make this clear. I really can’t say this often enough in this case because there’s something really strange with this series. On the surface it’s about a princess coming to a far-away kingdom to marry the king there but… Okay, I didn’t know that this is a thing in the Shoujo-Genre but this series has done it: Soredemo Sekai wa Utskushii’s central romantic relationship is based on an Oedipus Complex!

Synopsis:
Nike is a princess from the poor backwater Rain-Kingdom who comes to the glorious Sun-Kingdom to marry its king. Said king turns out to be a boy but he lost his mother and refuses to address the emotional pain this caused for him. Naturally Nike wouldn’t be a proper woman if she didn’t help this virtuous king deal with his emotional problems (because women are so much better at this stuff naturally). And they both fall in love with each other… because fuck this “age of consent”-thingy!

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And naturally this shoujo-series needs villains who threaten to rape the main-character while the series pretends it’s a metafictional joke about fanservice.

Review:
Look, I didn’t know this would turn out to be such a… well, this. I thought it would be an adventure-series with a female protagonist and a medieval setting with some supernatural elements. But it’s really not that, not at all really. What it is, is a shoujo-series, a romance between a woman and a… uhm, I guess, male person is the nice way to phrase it. And my reaction to it was basically sadness. I pitied the girls who this was written for. Someone wrote this story with girls in mind and thought they need to read this. Now, I don’t doubt the potency of princesses, kings, castles, magic and rainbows in literature aimed at girls but I’m not sure this kind of story was what they had in mind when those tropes were used for the first time.

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii begins with the arrival of a Princess called Nike from the Rain Kingdom where it always rains (rain kingdom=always rains, get it?) and despite the fact that she’s indeed a princess her life lacks the splendor and aloofness true rich people fill their lives with. So she can get pretty chummy with the common folk but she hasn’t come to the Sun Kingdom (sun kingdom=always sunny, get it?) for that. As future wife of a great king her story is basically one of proving her worth to be a queen. There’s also a romantic aspect of love to it as it’s also about caring about each other. While it’s never doubted that Nike and Livius love each other they have a push-n’-pull-relationship based on their opposing personalities. So there’s banter and mostly Nike helps Livius deal with the troubles of being this great sun-king. The show does all that and it does it in a very idealized manner that’s clearly more concerned with escapism than telling a story.

On the surface and in regards to its intentions this show does what it set out to do. And I have generally no problem with a show that straightforward and limited in its ambitions that you’re basically consuming one single mood. A really good series would, of course, let you go on a journey in terms of the emotions and mood. But not everything has to achieve that kind of depth and therefore conceptually I have no problem with the existence of single-minded idealized series. In Soredemo’s case, though, it’s the ideas behind the idealization that I really don’t like.

The romance between Nike and Livius is of course the central plothook of this series. And it’s a really weird relationship. In a series that concerns itself with escapism and wish-fulfillment regarding love it’s a strange move to make the great king a kid. Sure, he’s only childish when he’s supposed to be cute and otherwise quite mature (and even has bad-boy-vibes when the plot demands it) but… why? I guess, it’s story’s way to stray from the typical formula but it’s such a weird point to deviate from, especially since the story doesn’t want to commit to him actually being a kid. Livius is represented as “best king ever”, not only wise, just etc., etc., no he’s even SO manly that he basically conquered his kingdom since he was actually a bastard (yeah, kid has a dark past, the series really pulls out all stops for that one)… and seriously, don’t ask me how that makes sense at his young age. He sure was busy, it seems, to have such a rich history as king. Nike, meanwhile, really is supposed to be the potato-princess… who has spunk… but knows how to be a great princess (pretty and whatever else dark magic women do)… basically loves every shit and his dog on earth… and she has magical abilities… And it’s all in service of MAN-HEALING! The great job women are often saddled with because heroic men can’t deal with their emotional wounds without the help of caring women! Because guess what, Livius is a real badass who killed every shit and his dog who stood in his way, but he didn’t do it out of malice or hatred. He did it – because they took his momma away from him! Those bastards killed her! And so he killed them and is sour like lemon forevermore… or something. Anyway, Livius still suffers from the loss of his mother (wasn’t that long ago after all, I mean, he IS a kid) and apparently she often talked about rain and the great pop-songs the rain-kingdom produced. So Livius invites Nike who decides to help him overcome his pain over the death of his mother. And while doing that they both fall in love with each other. And at one point the butler-dude tells Nike that Livius can relax around her because he likes to protect her but she replies that she wants to protect him instead. Okay, let’s summarize: We have a boy who hurts over his lost falling in love with an older female character who loves him in a protective way. And it’s considered to be a romantic affair. I’m not sure what the general opinion about Oedipus is among the teenage-girl population of this world but as for me… I found it to be very creepy to put it at the centre of this kind of series without acknowledging it.

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A nice depiction of the power-dynamic this series thinks constitutes a loving romantic relationship.

Characterization-wise Nike is definitely a more believable and more sympathetic character but with each episode the plot got more banal and the stakes got lowered. And that banality that basically led to a real lack of a plot just made the flawed depiction of the central relationship all the more obvious. It’s just strange to see how in a series aimed at girls with a headstrong heroine it seems she always ends up backing down to the demands of Livius. In the end all her actions really are for the sake of him. Even on the rare occasion she doesn’t just outright agree with him, it’s because he’s actually hurting inside emotionally. At all other times it basically just always ends with her doing what he wants but there’s always some sentimental little arc that Nike leads to submission in a roundabout way that makes Nike more understanding and Livius look nicer than he looked at the beginning of that arc. The rest of the time they both overplay their childish tendencies and just engage in pleasant but witless banter.

And that’s another problem, too: After three episodes I really don’t know what other stories there are left to tell with those characters and that setting. It’s not like this series has already told its story or that it’s more a slice-of-life-kind-of-series. This series is just very shallow. There’s no real worldbuilding, there are no real setups for any serious conflicts and the emotional relationship between Livius and Nike is pretty stable. I’m certain that there will be some kind of arcs coming to give this series a story to deal with in some form or another but this series just spent nearly an hour celebrating its own idealized world with Livius and Nike at its centre. It’s also done in such an unimaginative manner, it’s all just as you would expect from that concept. And the one exception to this is this VERY weird Oedipus-complex. Just think about it: This is a series aimed at teenage girls about the romantic relationship between a male and a female with the male grieving over the loss of his mother and the female love-interest stepping in with the intention to protect him. And the male is basically a kid. That’s the romance this series idealizes! I mean, if there’s any romantic relationship out there that has that dynamic, I’m fine with that, but why…? I can’t understand why you would put this kind of dynamic into a shoujo-manga. Are all heterosexual girls supposed to crave for occasional childishness in their male partners because good guys have an Oedipus-Complex…?

Well, ignoring the weird idea of romance at the centre of this series, Soredemo Sekai wa Utskushii is a straightforward romance-series. It definitely gets the tone and atmosphere right but the lack of any form of noteworthy plot beyond the basic setup of the story there really isn’t anything interesting to these first three episodes. If you would draw a dramatic curve of the series’ first three episodes it would basically just flatline.

Episode-Rating: 1st Episode: 4.5/10 2nd Episode: 4/10 3rd Episode: 4/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on April 21, 2014, in Anime, Reviews, Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I dunno, this series is another surprise of the season. It’s sweet, like the manga.

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    • It’s sweet, no doubt about it. But there isn’t really that much to it except that so far. There are animes that nail the pleasant mood better (Aria, Tamayura, all those Healing-animes basically) and in terms of romance Spice & Wolf, for example, has better characters with a more interesting chemistry. And well, what this series does to deviate from the formula is the Oedipus-complex at the centre of it.

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    • Hmm, interesting. Can you elaborate on how do you think the Oedipus-Complex improves this series’ romantic relationship between Nike and Livius?

      Because in my opinion aside from the fact that this part of the romance kinda hides in plain sight and is the motivation between the kind of love they have for each other, the series doesn’t do anything with that dynamic since it’s so concerned with not being open about it.

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  2. Why did you say there’s an Oedipus Complex here? Isn’t this complex has something to do with being sexually intimate with a parent?

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    • It’s not literally an Oedipus-Complex but Nike is a bit of a mother-surrogate in the inter-personal-dynamic between her and that boy-king. But that relationship is also blatantly romantic so that’s why I said there’s an Oedipus-Complex at the centre of this series.

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      • Ahh, I see. I thought you were referring to Sheila. =)) Okay, that made sense.
        Anyway, I liked the series but of course it can’t surpass any of the best shoujo manga I have ever watched. I find it quite sad that most anime shows today lacks… substance.

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