The World is Still Beautiful
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Posted 5/29/14 , edited 5/29/14
by EyesOfTheScarecrow

“You own the world, but you've never looked at any of it. What a waste.”

The World is Still Beautiful begins with Princess Nike of the Principality of Rain, having lost a four-person game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to her glamorous sisters, being escorted to the Sun Kingdom to marry the Sun King Livius I. Neither Nike nor Livius have ever laid eyes upon the other, and their domains are so distant that they know virtually nothing about their prospective spouses. Livius has selected Nike to be his wife because of her family’s power to control the weather. Specifically, their ability to make it rain, since the Sun Kingdom, as its name implies, is a dry state. Nike complied in order to retain her country’s autonomy.

The King demands that Nike summon the rain, but she explains that she can only do so by seeing the beauty in the world through the one who wishes for the rain. It’s here that the anime reaches its thematic beginning; King Livius is incapable of seeing the beauty around him. Thankfully, while the subject matter is taken seriously, the series itself retains a sense of light-hearted fun. The humour is multi-faceted, sometimes its slapstick, sometimes it’s a little more adult. Surprisingly, the series occasionally breaks the fourth wall, which is a delight for fans of meta-humour. It also shows an awareness on behalf of the creators that while they are trying to appeal to the cynical, post-modern world, they also respect it.

The World is Still Beautiful has no illusions about its own sentimentality, and its honesty is refreshing. The series is about enlightening cynicism with simple beauties that lie everywhere. The Sun King is not a trope-based character; he is fully rounded, both experienced and immature, and perfectly recognisable as someone who has endured great hardships. When initially described, Nike imagines him as something of a demonic caricature, punctuated with her exclamation that “he doesn't even sound human!” The tragedy of the Sun King, however, is that he is human. His feelings and motivations are all too easy to relate to, especially for the pessimistic generations of today. The King is more interested in controlling the world in order to compensate for the voids within him; than he is in actually seeing the world he has conquered. In Nike’s own words, it’s a “waste.”

The protagonist of The World is Still Beautiful, Nike, stands out from other anime protagonists in one defining aspect; she is far more interested in experiencing the beauty of whatever place she is currently in, rather than journeying and adventuring to see more of the world at large. It’s a rare trait in anime protagonists to find someone who enjoys remaining in one location. It’s a relatively simple idea in terms of character motivation, but it’s unique and perfectly complements the central ideas found in the series itself.

Perhaps it’s the majestic music that makes The World is Still Beautiful such an inherently charming series. It perfectly suits the atmosphere of the anime, and it’s difficult to believe anyone would be disappointed by it. It’s uplifting and carrying with an ethereal quality that lends the entire Sun Kingdom a gentleness that’s missing from its Monarch. The animation is gorgeous and is clearly given appropriate time and attention by Pierrot. The Sun Kingdom has a suitably weighty sense of scale, from the huge, overlooking castle to the smaller residential areas near the docks. Were the Sun Kingdom rendered poorly, or simply presented in a way that felt generic, the entire story of The World is Still Beautiful would have suffered. As the environment itself is so central to the story; a dull, lifeless world would have left the viewer confused to the actual merit of Nike’s claims. Thankfully, this pitfall is avoided completely, and the anime is so much the richer for it.

In an era of High Fantasy that leans heavily on the darker aspects of the genre, filled with extreme violence, sex and monsters, The World is Still Beautiful feels like a return to yesteryear, when the idea of magical worlds and giant kingdoms was romantic and joyful. If you’re looking for an optimistic anime with charming characters, lovely animation and some of the most majestic music you’re likely to hear on an anime soundtrack, then The World is Still Beautiful is definitely worth your time. Check out the Simulcast at 5:00am EST on Crunchyroll!

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