The kingdom series is so precious and sentimental to me now that my only regret was not finding out about it sooner. The emotions welling up inside of me are so powerful that I’m going out of my way to write this review. Now rather than try to entice newcomers to tryout this series based solely on its merits, I will try and put forth my true and pure emotions in the raw intensity that the show also demonstrates.
Story: The world is alive and decidedly mortal as each battle has an outcome on the lives of the soldiers and their people. China is breathing and I felt the pressure the states were exerting on each other, even when they weren’t being presented in the show. New and powerful enemies that made me feel increasingly significant, as I looked on to what battles have hardened them to become so powerful. The magnitude and sheer ferocity of each and every battle is well displayed in this sequel. Battle schemes and tactics are amazing as ever and kept my interest well absorbed in each and every episode. Moments of turmoil are increasingly heavier than the last with more at risk at each and every strike of a blade. The coming of age story and Warring States setting all mold so extremely well to present such a new found enjoyment for me its indescribable.
Art: The art does no injustice as it encapsulates each and every emotion clearly strewn out every characters face. The subtle movements in ones eyes make for intense telling that a thousand words would not suffice. The 3D CGI makes its return, but not at all at my displeasure. I managed to look past it and look more to the characters and the world. The skies, ground, and terrain all make for a beautiful stage for which wars will be fought on.
Sound: The sound is phenomenal as I had never found myself very rarely tearing up at the mere mention of one of the many spectacular pieces of music the show chose. The sounds of cries of pain or a struggle ensuing in the distance undoubtedly made me . The clashing of swords caused me to feel the weight reverberating of each and every strike. The voice actors do a great job at stressing every word that made feel the weight behind every action they take.
Character: Characters are given more back story which made me appreciate for their plight much more so than the previous season. Characters feel more greatly connected and enemies feel more fiercer and omnipresent than ever. When faced against other state great generals I sensed the force of a person who is like no other.
Enjoyment: I truly enjoyed each and every second this anime offered. Experiencing these massive battles that made the earth tremble was so eye-opening. Seeing each and every character change ideals sparked a flame inside me as well. This anime is like no other to me that it has even motivated me to becoming a better person. Concepts like “never giving up” are all the more apparent to me, as this show has set the bar for giving up.
Overall: I wrote this review as my own little catharsis. I understand if this review isn’t coherent at all as I myself am still trying to figure out all these conflicting emotions. It’s plain as day to see that this anime will receive a 10/10 from me. Take it as you will, I just wanted to express the emotions I felt when watching this anime rather than trying to recommend it on its characters or plot.
Haruhisa’s retelling of China’s warring state times is now in full swing, the first season came off as vastly impressive and the second was expected to do nothing but hit new heights.
The biggest talking point of the 2nd season would without a doubt be the art. If you were worried coming off from the mostly CG first season then you can put your worries to rest. It would seem that at the start of the first season, producers had very little expectations for Kingdom and its budget was kept low, but with the advent of soaring Manga sales and anime popularity, they decided to spare a few extra change to the second season. It should be noted that the second season consists of almost completely new character designs from the ground up as the story kick starts at about 365 days after the end of season one and the new designs perfectly complements the aging of most characters. The CG whilst still present is kept to a bare minimum and traditional 2D art is extensively adopted. The 2D art is most of the times great but there are still a handful of moments where inconsistencies are obvious. The atmosphere remains striking and dazzling as in the first and vastly improved lighting and shading makes Kingdom a time look like something Ufotable might have done. The 2D art is great and all but it did come along with its own set of luggage when it comes to matters on a battlefield. The CG in the first season is mostly disliked by fans but it’s still apparent that it brought a sense of intensity and thrill that is lacking in the second, various encounters that could have been animated well using CG is instead replaced by still 2D art, while not a recurring event the fact that we could still have had movement if the CG was involved brings down the tone a bit.
The second season although highly anticipated strangely suffered from poor composition. The first season that spanned 38 episodes contained 3 almost evenly length arcs with almost perfect pacing. The second season however had 2 short arcs at the beginning and end with one longer dragged on arc in the middle. Most problems in this season could have been eliminated by simply reducing the episode count to accommodate the length of the story, but someone unfortunately wanted to spend as much time on air as possible. This middle arc is by no means boring but the fact that it drags in a few places affected Kingdom in many ways; Strategy that played such an important role in the first season comes a times too far apart from each other as the present one replays for a few episodes quickly losing impact, and most importantly Xin’s development in general just seemed to come at baby steps a times. What’s more apparent is that there are certain moments where several episodes will contain no noteworthy event happening but then all of a sudden the next episode would be packed full of so much content you won’t know where to begin analyzing, this leads to the question as to why episodes like this might not have been more evenly spaced out to accommodate the slower pace of the show. The slow pacing wasn’t all evil as it featured a little more in depth look at character associations, it was nothing too impressive but at least it was something positive to take from the experience.
By far the biggest and most impressive introduction to the second season of Kingdom is the intra-country politics; the battlefield in Kingdom is now being fought on 2 fronts. The governments in Kingdom adopt a feudalistic civic, meaning an individual need not swear fealty to the King alone and could also gather and own assets such as resources and troops which the throne had no jurisdiction over. This of course does not mean the King serves as nothing more than a puppet but it means that individuals in control of massive assets in the court may have bigger influence in the structuring of the Government than the King himself. What this means for Kingdom is a constant power struggle to enlist allies in the court, it may sound boring in description but the exchanges, secrets, deceptions and alliances can sometimes put the events transpiring on the battlefield to shame. Fans of Zheng who taught he would have almost no role to play in the second season since he had claimed control of the throne in season one can be at ease as he takes center stage in this aspect of the show. The politics is a much needed breadth of fresh air for the show with its only disappointment being that it didn’t feature as many times as one would have liked.
We find ourselves in an age of anime where main characters are mostly found annoying and disliked by most fans, however the case for Kingdom has always been the opposite. Most Kingdom fans enjoy seeing Xin and his development is no doubt one of the shows’ pinnacle moments, however scars of this started to show in the first season and in the second are almost laid bare to all. Kingdom relies too much on Xin. Xin is the MC and is expected to be the main driving force of the show, but what this has incidentally caused is that when the series decides to take a different turn by removing Xin from the story for a little while, it immediately becomes apparent that the show has lost its potency, the supporting characters are just not strong enough to move the story along and their development most of the time takes a back sit or is overshadowed by Xin. Xin is still one of the most interesting MCs in anime and it is because of this that when he is absent on screen for too long, Kingdom falters.
In comparison to the first season, the supporting cast of the second is absolutely outstanding. The introduction of Wang Ben and Meng Tian, two fellow aspiring great generals like Xin added new meat to the story by letting us witness Xin grow around others of the same rank. Xin’s weaknesses are plain to the eye when he compares himself to the two and their continuous rivalry to render achievements as well as seeing their relationship grow is a joy to watch. Kingdom also continues to do a great job in personifying not just Xin’s allies but enemies as well. Enemies unlike most anime are well presented as actual people with hopes, dreams and ambitions with steadfast determination to see them through, their contrasting personalities and exchanges in the story displays how good use of characters really pays off.
Kingdom’s second season starts very strong and ends very strong but some parts in the middle were a cause for concern, the new stylized 2D art will be a joy for most but inadvertently had limitations in its application. The saying goes “Third time’s the charm”, a third coming is still unannounced, but if it can provide the intensity of the first season and retain the aesthetics of the second, then very little will stop it from being a masterpiece.