Kingdom is a series I’m really torn on as a blogger. I kick myself for dropping it, because I did so just when it was getting really good and mostly missed out on talking about one of the bravura seiyuu performances in years, Koyama Rikiya as Wang Qi. On the other hand it’s an incredibly frustrating show to cover because its release schedule is so irregular. The best I can about this season, I guess, is “we’ll see”. We’ll see how regularly it’s released and how insistently it compels me to cover it in the absence of what was its best character.
Then there was the matter of the incredibly ugly animation, full of bad CGI and the main reason a lot of viewers never gave the show a chance. It did improve towards the end of the first series, and I’m happy to say the premiere of the second looks just fine – nothing exceptional, but Kingdom is so well-written that all it needs to be is average in terms of art and animation and it’s solidly in the black. The only CG is where CG should be, in some big action sequences and panorama shots, and the character animation is solidly adequate. That’s certainly an encouraging sign for the second series.
Another encouraging sign is that the first episode is a cracking good one, despite containing a fair bit of recap. It felt OK to see that here, given how big the story was and how many folks there are to keep track of (confusingly referred to by the Japanese and Chinese readings of their names at various websites). There’s plenty of new footage too, as the show checks in with all the major characters (and some minor ones) who survived the first season. A year has passed: China is in a state of perpetual war, with Qin under threat from all sides with the news of the demise of Wang Qi spreading like wildfire. Xin is now a 300-man General, trying to make himself a general worthy of carrying Wang Qi’s lance and beating up on small fries in the company of Qiang Lei (less and less convincing as reverse trap #2, though the nimrods in Xin’s unit don’t seem to have picked up on it). Reverse trap #1 Diao is now at a strategy school with her bishounen friend Meng Yi, son of Buwei’s General Meng Wu (and who reveals that he has an older brother Meng Tian, who seems ticketed for an important role).
Zheng meanwhile is making peace with traitorous adviser Shi-si (Takase Akimitsu), who aided his younger half-brother’s rebellion but whose brains Zheng now needs desperately with Qin facing external and internal threat. That internal danger comes in the form of Lu Buwei, still manoeuvring behind the scenes to seize power for himself. Zheng has also assigned himself a pretty little maid (Nakatsu Mariko) to keep him company in the bedroom – though at this point, all he has her do is sleep next to him. Meanwhile Zhao continues to consolidate power under its new Prime Minister, master strategist Li Mu – who appears to be paying a surprise visit to Qin. It’s a big, complicated story chock-full of blood, politics and personal drama – exactly the sort of story Kingdom excels at. I’m looking forward to the second series.