Kingdom 2 – 08

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Knowing how this storyline is probably going to end isn’t making things any less painful to watch.

Zi Xia may be one of the characters that Kingdom invented for dramatic purposes – if she exists historically I’ve found no trace of her – but she’s fulfilling her role in the story quite admirably.  And it’s certainly becoming clear just why Zheng finds the notion of an alliance with his mother such a disquieting thought.  For all the physical abuse he suffered in Zhao (we’ve been spared the worst of it), the emotional abuse he took from her has clearly left a much bigger scar than the one on his arm.

It’s an interesting move, taking such a long detour into Zheng’s past at this point in the story – one that only a series with as much time to play with as Kingdom has the luxury to make.  Zheng has actually been a largely forgotten character after the war of succession arc with his half-brother played out, but of course historically he’s the most important person in the story.  We’ve always known he was a hard and determined youth, but I think it’s good that we’re seeing the extent to which he was pushed to it by the sheer ruthless angst of his childhood.  Given what he’s going to have to do to achieve his goals, an understanding of just how hard a man he is makes sense from a dramatic standpoint.

Knowing that it was Lu Buwei who planned Zheng’s rescue (and that of his mother) is certainly interesting, given the rumors about Zheng’s parentage.  It makes the three-way power struggle in Qin an even more fascinating one, though Kingdom still might take a pass on that aspect of the story.  The practicals of the story are still focused on the rescue mission from Zhao, a suspenseful and nerve-wracking journey through a succession of gates where Zi Xia shows just why Lu Buwei chose her to lead this rescue (I especially liked her use of the Osaka-ben “Maido” at the second gate).  Zheng’s struggles with his ghosts are perhaps a bit too heavy-handed, and his recovery due  to her words to him in the mountain stream a bit too quick, but the basic emotions at play are portrayed very effectively.  Zi Xia is literally the first person in Zheng’s life to show him any compassion at all, as far as we’re aware of.  It’s no wonder he’s broken.

Sadly, it seems very likely the reward for her kindness is going to be the loss of her life.  And even more sadly, it could be Zheng’s last breakdown that’s the cause – the delay that resulted from his leaping off the carriage allowing the mounted patrol from Zhao to catch up to the fleeing party.  If that’s true I’d suppose he likely blames himself for her death, which would be yet another burden Zheng is carrying with him for all these years.  In a sense I think this extended arc is the anime’s way of preparing the audience for what’s to come with Zheng, so that the character’s actions don’t seem completely out-of-character later.  Seeing him as a boy incapable of feeling and unable to cry out even when pierced with an arrow changes the way we see him, even if Zi Xia managed to drag him back from the abyss with her kindness.

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3 comments

  1. R

    Darn, I am just plain stupid…I watched Watamote and this episode of Kingdom back-to-back…

    Anyway, even though I know Zheng's gaiden is heavily fictional, it's still painful to watch how this kid suffered and got severely traumatized. It also explains why Zheng was emotionless when he first came off in season 1.

    Yeah, there are lots of different tales and controversies about Zheng's background and his relationship with Lu, adding richness and colours to Zheng's story as a historical figure. This is just my interpretation to Kingdom's "version" — I think the sole purpose of Lu smuggling Zheng and his mother to Qin is just to solidify his political position, but somehow he miscalculates the insanity and greed of the Queen Dowager and the resolve of Zheng. Just my two cents.

  2. e

    Oh my, Zheng is ticking all the boxes. I agree the execution could have been better for the same reasons you've highlighted in your review and for me at least there were no surprises but the episode still worked pretty well emotionally. And it does make sense in laying the fundation for his actions later in life – the historically 'true'/officially recorded ones at least – .
    Zi Xia is a beautiful character inside and out, but the death flags are strong with this one. We'll enjoy her presence until it lasts I guess…

    @Ronbb: eh, due to my forcedly barebone anime schedule atm this was the one episode I watched after the latest HxH and among my first reactions was 'it's the quality of mercy and broken kids week or what?' Oh my Killua oh my Zheng :,D
    About your two cents make them four. To spare the kid further trauma if anything.

  3. R

    Agreed…Zi Xia is a beautiful character…really don't want her to die. Yeah, I was like what's with it that there are many shows carrying the dark undercurrent, but watching Watamote and this episode back-to-back was like getting my heart broken in pieces. We have quite a number of pretty good shows this season. Hope that you can find time — or steady internet connection — to enjoy some of them :).

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