What They Say:
Politics makes for strange bedfellows, especially when you’re a Princess, where bedding some strange fellow may be your duty to your country. Which is how Nike, fourth Princess of the Rain Dukedom, finds herself being shipped off to marry the King of the Sun Kingdom after losing a game of chance with her older sisters. And if it wasn’t bad enough that King Livius is apparently a power-mad potentate who’s managed to conquer most of the world in a few short years, Nike even manages to get herself mugged just as soon as she arrives!
But then something strange happens and Livius turns out to be… well, not nice, but at least not exactly what Nike expected. There are sinister forces at work in the kingdom that can only be defeated if both young royals can find a way to work together. The future of both kingdoms and the world depends on a diplomatic relationship becoming something even more powerful!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo only using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that is largely dialogue driven when you get down to it but it brings in some decent moments of minor action along the way to give it a bit more of a workout. This doesn’t strain the system or do anything unique or outstanding, but it’s all well handled as we get some back and forth on the screen with some minor directionality to it all. Where the mix gets to step up a bit in a nice and mildly noticeable way is when it works the rain angle. I’ve always had a love of how anime handles rain, from visual to audio, and they do a nice job here of making it feel rich and full, creating and enhancing the mood of the scenes at hand. Overall this is a pretty good mix with clean and clear dialogue throughout and no problems during regular playback.
Originally airing in the spring 2014 season, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode series is kept to just one disc as it’s a monolingual one and not a really high motion one either. Animated by Studio Pierrot, the show has a really good look as it brings the manga to life and feels like it really captures the essence and feeling of it. There’s a great color palette chosen here where it feels rich but not too saturated while still standing out in a good way. The color fields remain solid throughout and there’s some great levels to it that make for some surprisingly rich areas at times.
The packaging for this release is pretty straightforward as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case the holds the single disc inside. The front cover goes for some nice framing with the old style feeling to it so that it has a bit more weight, though part of me would like it without it just to enjoy the artwork. The artwork itself is pretty good as we get our two leads with Nike and Livi together laying back and enjoying the beauty of the world itself. There’s a mild darkness to the clouds and background but the lightness comes from the characters. If not for the ruffles on Livi’s outfit this show could pretty much take place in the present going by the artwork here. The back cover carries the framing through while within it we get a nice breakdown of sections. The left gives us a lot of shots from the show that plays up the comedy and fanservice whiel the right has a straightforward breakdown of the premise in a clean and easy to read fashion. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and technical grid that lays everything out cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release keeps things simple as we get the main static image along the left side that has Nike and Livi together in a decent half-body shot with a blue sky behind them. It’s not a bad image but it also doesn’t do much to really engage or set the mood. The navigation strip along the right uses the framing elements from the cover artwork with some blues mixed in that fits well while the navigation itself is fairly standard as it works the episodes by number and title. Everything loads quickly and easily and we had no problems during playback or as a top-level menu.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii by Dai Shiina that began back in 2012, The World is Still Beautiful is a twelve episode series that aired during the spring 2014 season, relatively early on in the manga’s life. The series is still ongoing in Japan and has ten volumes as serialized in Hana to Yume, though you can hazard a guess as to how a lot of it works based on this season adaptation. Animated by Pierrot, the show is one that didn’t attract a heck of a lot of attention during the season it aired because, well, shojo shows rarely ever do unfortunately. I hadn’t seen this show during its simulcast so my viewing of the series was my first real introduction to it.
The premise is relatively straightforward as we get a kind of historical piece that takes us back to a feudal style world where there are a whole host of kingdoms and principalities that exist with various rulers. Amid all of this, the Sun King has gone and conquered a whole lot of the world and is the defacto leader of much of it at this point through his force of will. Of course, said king is a young man named Livius who is probably all of thirteen years old, if not a bit younger, and did all of this after his mother Sheila was killed. He used his power in ascending to the throne of his father to conquer much of the known world and has done so rather easily. It’s not really said if it was bloody or violent as they go more for it just being an event without the details. As befits the Sun King, he gets what he wants and what he wants for his capital city is a wife from the Rain Principality.
This is because his capital area is pretty dry in general and a little bleak in a way, even for a seaport capital, as there’s little rain there. Those of the royal familiar of the principality have the ability to sing and bring rain to the lands and control it, hence his ending up with the slightly tomboyish Nike, the youngest of the four princesses there. Nike’s a pretty fun character overall, coming in a couple of years older than Livius and really interested in having a say in the world herself, charting her own path. So much so that the series opens with her arriving ahead of schedule and jumping from the ship without anyone coming with her so she can get a sense of the land and its people without interference. Nike has that sense that she’s been raised as the right kind of royal class that really does think of the people and their needs while also just having a good head on her shoulders. With a small principality that likely didn’t face much problem with war, it’s no surprise.
Naturally, there’s that bit of a problem that gets touched on with the age difference when the pair meet, though that really didn’t bother me much. When you factor in the rough kind of relative time period that it would exist in within the real world, what kids of royalty were raised to do and become alongside education and regents, there’s enough “realism” here to work with it. Nike doesn’t treat him like a kid, though she gets fairly protective of him along the way and even a bit maternal after learning about his mother’s fate, but there’s also a solid element where you can see the growth of respect and love that comes between them, particularly from her. The show is focused on bringing these two together in a romantic way, but not one mired with sexuality or overt fanservice antics. It’s more interested in presenting a slow burn kind of relationship that would happen in this situation of an arranged marriage and discovering the feelings that can exist when you know someone.
I was certainly wary of the show early on when it introduced the two and the (minor as adults) age difference that they have and all that’s involved. But as it progressed and worked through their stories, together and apart, I bought into it a good deal more and quite enjoyed it since even a real kiss is kept few and far between even after the early marriage is put into play. That means the focus is more on a getting to know you angle, moving past the false masks that are put up and discovering who they really are. Livi is definitely interested in her, especially when Nike grows more confident in her rain singing abilities, and Nike’s confidence grows well with the way that she sees the impact she’s having on him and others in the area. There are natural challenges along the way, from former players in the kingdom to those from her home that are trying to end the relationship without asking Nike about it, but as interesting and well done as they are, they are secondary to the main story of Nike and Livi. And admittedly, if you can’t buy into it, the series is not going to work.
The only non-ordinary aspect to the show is the rain invocation through singing angle and it’s a nice bit of color that works well for the show. Though the song is pretty much the same and marathoning the show can make it a bit of a drain, the real result is that it adds a nice bit of color to the show. Admittedly, my mind wanted to go more to seeing the impact of her calling in rain as often as she does and how it would mess with people in the area and all, but the show isn’t about that. The rain and the song is about giving Nike her chance to grow, become confident in herself and find a way to help others that only she can while also helping Livi along the way. It brings them together in a great way and even when she uses it a touch maliciously it still has a greater goal about it. It’s an easy gimmick to use to be sure but it’s well used here for the most part.
I had little idea what to expect going into the show because I hadn’t followed in detail before when it was simulcast. So getting something semi-historical in an alternate world with a pair of older/younger characters was a bit of a surprise. There’s a natural cringe that comes into play but as the show established itself and went for the right kind of romantic elements as opposed to big fanservice or silly comedy it ended up defining itself a lot better. It’s a very fun shojo series that has a look that I like a whole lot, character designs that click and a premise that’s certainly fun even if it skimps on the world building details that I normally crave from a lot of shows. I had a whole lot of fun with this series and while I don’t ever expect a second season, I’d totally be up for it in a heartbeat.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 6th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.