As we take the measure of Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii, I think it’s becoming more and more clear that it approaches telling a story from a quite different perspective than the traditional manga-based anime adaptation (yes, even shoujo). Of course the haters have slapped the term “Disney” on it as a pejorative, but let’s not forget that Disney didn’t invent its princess-based genre – nor does it have a copyright on it. Soredemo Sekai is very much a fairy tale at its heart, with elements of Disney and Ghibli of course because much of what they do springs from the same source. That’s not a common guise for TV anime, though, which I believe is causing some turbulence with the viewership. It is what it is.
Mind you, this certainly isn’t a perfect series, and pacing has been one of the bigger issues thus far. It’s par for the course in an era when shoujo adaptations are lucky to get one cour, which is why, I think, we see pacing problems in so many shoujo shows. The Bardwin arc is interesting in that it seems as if Pierrot and Kamegaki Hajime front-loaded much of it into last week’s episode, which felt quite rushed. I think it was a conscious decision that the really important stuff in the arc was what we saw this week, and that’s what needed time to be fleshed out. In hindsight it’s hard to find fault with that thinking, even if it did effectively turn Episode #7 into a sacrifice – with short series that have no hope of sequels, sacrifices have to be made, and I’m glad this ep got the treatment it did.
I won’t say a whole lot of what we saw this week was a surprise, but it did play out in pretty believable fashion. Essentially we have a scenario where the conflict was Livi and Bard loving the same woman – and it’s not Nike. And Sheila’s death was hard on more than just Livi (though of course it was hardest for him). Bard, being a relatively weak man, turned to meaningless sex as a substitute for lost love, and eventually removed himself from Livi’s circle altogether when he decided that would be best for both of them. I think he’s neither a hero or a scoundrel, just a fallible man capable of both noble and base instincts.
Again, believability is a key to why all this works. Nike is quite believable as a canny and determined but inexperienced girl caught in the middle and determined to be more than a passive factor. Livi is like Bardwin a mixed bag – a child capable of preternatural maturity and infantile peevishness, a ruler capable of nobility and compassion as well as spite and petty cruelty. And since Bardwin represents an essential reminder of everything he isn’t, both as a male and as a noble, he’s quite conflicted in that he has paternal feelings for him as well as hostile ones. Throw in the fact that Bard is clearly unable to resist the urge to taunt Livi and rub his face in everything that he has over him, and you’ve obviously got a powder-keg.
All that factored in, I was quite satisfied with the resolution of this odd triangle. I don’t completely buy Bard’s argument that he only wanted to feel out Nike to assess her worthiness for Livi (if he’s said “feel up” I might be more inclined to acknowledge his sincerity) but I do think his concern for Livi’s welfare was a motivating factor in his return to the palace. Nike’s role in their reconciliation was very much an in-character move for her, and I liked the little touches (like showing us that Livi still has sloppy schoolboy handwriting).
Fundamentally it’s always going to come back to Livi and Nike, and I think we see again here why they’re such a good fit. He’s never going to be the sort of mate who humbly prostrates himself in apology when he crosses the line, but he does acknowledge his errors in his own tsundere way – and Nike is secure enough in herself that she doesn’t need the ceremony as long as she can discern the intent (this dynamic is very strong evidence that this is indeed a shoujo romance). One interesting twist on the horizon is that the Narrator (the wonderful Yokayama Chisa) may actually be emerging as a factor in the story, with a possible major role in the next arc.