Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii makes its return after a soccer-related hiatus last week, and it picks up with an episode that displays elements of both the charms and challenges of the series. Not for the first time the show suffers from trying to do much in too little time – this was yet another interesting storyline that would have benefitted from having more time to play out than the two episodes it seems likely to be given. But given the rarity of shoujo anime on TV at all these days, I suppose we’re lucky to have gotten this adaptation at all.
After last ep’s dance with the loli osananajimi tropes (literally) gears are switched this week, and it’s Livi’s turn to stare down a potential rival and his own jealousy. This time around it’s Prince Bardwin Cecil Ifrigiyah (Sakurai Takahiro) – Bard for short – the former King’s brother, Livi’s Uncle and his first Prime Minister. Bard is a classic shoujo figure, a blonde bishounen all the ladies swoon over, and it’s a part Sakurai-san could obviously play in his sleep – though to be fair he doesn’t, he’s undeniably very good at it.
More so than the Luna storyline, Bard’s entry into the plot feels like more than simple service – his presence is contextually relevant and he can play a real role in the main couple’s character development. As a man of royal blood who would seemingly have a strong claim on the throne himself (Nike alludes to this, but it remains a mystery for now) he presents a practical threat to the boy king. As a handsome adult who likes to play the field, he also presents an obvious threat romantically for a boy barely into puberty who surely – for all his bravado – worries about his inability to fulfill certain aspects of the husband role for the moment.
This is indeed how the story plays out, and there are strong elements here. But again, it really moves too fast to be as effective as it could have been. There’s a bit of a rote feel to the way things develop because we aren’t given much insight as to who Bard really is, and because Bard moves in on Nike so quickly. It also feels rather abrupt and shocking when Livi turns violent at the end – but that’s not because it’s not feasible. I find it quite plausible that this child ruler could lash out in a childish fit of rage against the man who threatens everything he treasures, and against a woman he loves but hasn’t fully brought himself to trust. The problem comes in how quickly we get there, without fleshing out the emotional underpinnings of these developments.
This is a recurring theme with Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii – potential left untapped, but lots to like in what we actually get. I find Nike’s behavior throughout this entire episode to be pretty on-point, and she’s very believable as an inexperienced country girl who has good instincts about people. I quite liked the way she immediately saw through Bard’s grandiose declarations of love as the load of pish they were, transparently a cover for some sort of political ploy. And it’s good for the story to be given a reminder of Livi’s dark side, and to see how precarious his position – both emotional and political – really is. Hopefully the concluding episode of this mini-arc will fill in some of the gaps and come closer to delivering everything the plotline has to to offer the series.