There’s nothing really new here, and yet there’s something charming about the first episode all at the same time. Well, up until the ending, anyway. The story centers around Nike Lemercier and her impending marriage to Livius I, the ruler of the Sun Kingdom. This is essentially a diplomatic marriage as it ensures her country’s continued autonomy. Y’see, even though Livius has only recently ascended to the throne, he’s already made a name for himself across the lands as a ruthless but efficient conqueror. As a result, Nike thinks she’s about to marry herself to some sort of beastly, beer-swilling warlord. But this is anime, and nobody wants to watch a romance between a cute girl and a fat, balding middle-aged warmonger. In any case, we’ll get back to Livius soon enough. This episode is primarily about Nike and her connection to both the land and her (soon-to-be) people.
You typically know Nike to be the Greek goddess of victory, but in Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii, our Nike has the power to call forth the rain. At times throughout this episode, she seems to have a connection with the wind as well. Nevertheless, her raincalling powers imply such things as fertility, nourishment, growth, etc. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that when she first arrives at the Sun Kingdom, she dispenses with her retinue. Instead, she opts to explore her new kingdom on her own so that she can get to know its people from the ground level. Is this true compassion or just plain stupidity? Eh, a little of column A and a little of column B. Apparently, our princess from the far east is not only rather ill-prepared, she can also be dangerously naive.
First, Nike brought nowhere near enough money to even sustain herself for a single night in a harbor city of the Sun Kingdom, much less the capital city. Granted, she comes from a poor country, but you’d think she would’ve planned out her trip a little better. Secondly, she’s incredibly open and trusting with everyone, a quality that sharply contrasts her country roots with the wide variety of people of the Sun Kingdom. To think of it in another way, imagine a young girl from Nebraska attempting to fend for herself in either Los Angeles or New York City for the first time. Oh yeah, she only has about twenty bucks on her. So all in the same night, Nike gets scammed by Dumb and Dumber, a pair of doofuses, but she also manages to befriend a simple working man and his two daughters. Without the latter’s help, who knows if Nike would’ve eventually made it to the capital city in order to marry Livius. As the story progresses, I imagine the clash between Nike’s simple, down-to-earth nature and the cynicism of the Sun Kingdom’s “big city-esque” people will be played up even more as the story progresses.
But in any case, this is a rather common story. Even if Nike is technically a princess from another country, it is a self-admittedly poor country. Relative to Livius and his Sun Kingdom, our heroine thus comes from humble roots. So again, you have the story of a wide-eyed country girl marrying herself into royalty, which seems to be a recurring theme in shoujo storytelling. The same formula can even be found elsewhere. I’m instantly reminded of Goong, a rather famous South Korean live drama from a few years ago. So anyway, our social and outgoing “commoner” will soon become the king’s liaison to his people. As a result, it’s the romance where the girl gets to have her cake and eat it too. She is no doubt royalty at the end of the day, but she can still go to bed easy because she’ll feel as though she’s one of the people.
So where’s Livius in all of this? Why has everything in this post been about the heroine of the story and not the man she’s destined to marry? That’s cause it’s no man. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii‘s twist on a familiar tale is that Livius is actually still a boy, a fact that we don’t find out until the last few minutes of the anime. Then the credits starts to play, which offers the audience a complete look at a young boy’s ass as he wakes up in the morning. How cheeky. Well anyway, this all depends on your definition of a boy, but to me, a teenager is still a boy. To be fair, thematically, Livius’s young age makes sense, y’know? Remember how Nike is connected to the rain, so therefore she represents nourishment, growth, etc? When she first stepped foot in the Sun Kingdom, she remarked that the wind was rough enough to sting both her skin and her mouth. Yes, the capital of the Sun Kingdom never gets any rain, so scientifically, you can blame the rough-feeling wind on the fact that the arid climate is causing sand to be carried away by the wind currents. On the other hand, you can also think of the wind as an extension of Livius himself.
When Nike discovers later in this episode that she can nevertheless command the wind in the Sun Kingdom, she seems pleasantly surprised: “I can use it… the air of this land. Maybe we can get along after all.” This foreshadows our heroine’s future relationship with Livius. She will nurture him, help him grow, and learn to get along with the rough edges of his presumably immature personality. Where I have my misgivings, naturally, is the king’s age. We may potentially tread a fine line here between romantic love and maternal love. As usual, the love interest in a shoujo romance is a fixer-upper. Overall, a fixer-upper’s a good person with flaws that a girl can work with. And her patience and understanding conveys to the audience that what they see is true love. But y’know, those flaws-to-be-fixed have often belonged to a love interest who’s usually been older than the shoujo herself. Here, the flaws are attached to Livius’s maturity or lack thereof. So while his age makes thematic sense when one considers Nike’s raincalling powers and its implications, the romance itself can help but feel less romantic because our lovers don’t appear to be equals solely because of the age difference and the age difference alone.
Hmm, will I be covering Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii from start to finish? I will tentatively answer with a yes for now. Again, I found the first episode to be charming overall, and I’m not exactly sure why that’s the case. Livius’s age, however, has me somewhat wary.