If you were ever wondering how not to do a lighthearted high-fantasy title, this is probably as good of an example of any.
While I can’t really say I had high hopes for this one, I do have a soft spot for high-fantasy anime and works targeted at the shoujo demographic. Sadly, Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii’s first episode hit all the wrong notes for me. There was definitely potential here, but I felt almost all of it was squandered due to the staff’s amateurish handling of the screenplay and script – the latter of which is especially important when it comes to fantasy anime; it can make all the difference between one that’s engaging and one that simply lulls you to sleep.
Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii certainly doesn’t look like it will be winning any awards for its storytelling, despite that aspect being the least offensive part of this episode. The show opens with the princess of the Rain Dukedom, Nike, landing in the port of the Sun Kingdom (brilliant country names, I know) because she is set to marry its king. An extremely archetypal setup for its genre, though as any good viewer knows, originality isn’t the defining factor of a title’s success, so long as other aspects of the production are solid.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case here. While Nike herself had qualities of a likable lead – playing the spunky but naïve shoujo heroine that we’ve come to love (or hate), the characterization of every other cast member in this episode left a lot to be desired. Although there weren’t any major characters introduced (save the Sun King at the very end), the way in which minor characters were handled worries me greatly. For instance, the two thieves in this episode were portrayed entirely as sleazy figures, without a single shred of humanity; the overacting from their seiyuu probably not helping matters either. Likewise, the two village girls that Nike befriends in this episode are completely innocent, helpful and naïve so that they become easy targets for the above bandits. Already, it seems as though Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii is painting a black and white picture of its cast; it’s clear who the writers want you to root for and who should be demonized. Certainly, just because we’re watching a show in a medieval setting, we shouldn’t be forced to adopt a medieval view of the cast.
While I didn’t think much of any of the characters introduced in this episode, what really drove the nail in the coffin for me was the subpar screenplay and script. I feel as though many of the people involved with anime productions haven’t quite caught on to the idea that adapting a manga by using its paneling as a storyboard is a poor one. What I mean by that is there are certain techniques that come natural to the printed medium that come across as completely unnatural or forced in the visual one. An example of this would be characters in a manga speaking their thoughts out loud via a speech bubble, and having that literally adapted into an anime – the end result being a character who is speaking his or her thoughts out loud while not addressing anyone. In this case, there were a number of scenes in this episode featuring Nike monologuing her feelings to thin air, which was silly considering simple gestures would have been enough to get the point across.
Of course, the entire episode wasn’t like this, as there were a number of scenes of Nike interacting with the Sun Kingdom’s residents. Sadly, most of these exchanges just weren’t scripted that well, and you could tell that the staff was really struggling to provide exposition to the setting. Although this can be an effective method of world-building, when the dialogue between the characters feels entirely artificial and unbefitting of said character’s age, it feels really tacked on – why is it that 5 year-old girls are more eager to talk about their country’s king and political system than flowers or pastries?
By far the worst aspect of Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii were its attempts at lightening the mood with some humour. While Nike had a couple of snarky retorts, the bulk of the “comedy” (if you can even call it that) came from those two thieves dropping gratuitous video-game lingo like “levelling up” and trying to be clever by breaking the fourth wall a number of times. Sadly, all of these jabs lacked subtly and they felt so painfully out of place that it seemed like the writers were patting themselves on the back for being “clever”.
Although what I found the most insulting is that the staff is using the comedy to pander to the male otaku demographic, in a shoujo work of all things. During a flashback, there were a number of scenes of Nike’s sisters in scantily-clad swimsuits, which wouldn’t have been so bad had the show not made a point of flashing text across the screen that read “flashback, not actual image” – trying to crack a joke out of their deliberate attempt at sex appeal. Though that was nothing compared to the two thieves talking about raping the village girl they kidnapped and then turning around and saying this was service for their male audience. An extremely low and despicable hit if you ask me, and this was easily the point in the episode where I stopped caring.
So what can I say? Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii’s first episode really flopped. It was universally poor in all aspects of its production and writing, from its characters to its screenplay. Sadly, this isn’t one that I see getting better with time either, as its issues are pretty chronic. It’s hard to really recommend this one to people, especially fans of high-fantasy and shoujo titles.