Content Warning: Depictions of ableism
What’s it about? Prince Bojji is the Deaf firstborn son of his powerful father, King Bosse. Bojji dreams of becoming the greatest king the world has ever seen, but because of his disability everyone treats him like an idiot and doesn’t believe he can become a great leader. Despite all the negativity in his life, Bojji still hasn’t given up on his dreams and with his newfound friend named Kage, he believes he can achieve anything.
Wit Studio has certainly been on a roll lately. While Great Pretender and Vivy -Flourite Eye’s Song- received mixed reviews, their animation quality is consistently gorgeous and I’m happy to report that Ranking of Kings is also a good looking show. The animation style creates a fairytale setting and overall has a delightful atmosphere, which is desperately needed considering how almost everyone in Bojji’s life treats him horribly.
It isn’t pleasant seeing how everyone makes fun of Bojji for being deaf and it doesn’t help that he’s constantly called “dumb” because of his inability to verbally communicate with anyone. I would think that being a royal would be enough to protect him from the insults of his subjects, but even he isn’t viewed as worthy of such respect.
Everyone assumes he’s just all smiles, but he’s really trying his best to hide his feelings by putting on a brave face. Honestly, it was heartbreaking seeing Bojji cry alone in his room and it was at this point, I really wanted good things to happen to him or else I was going to throw a tantrum. Thankfully, my prayers were answered in the form of a swindler named Kage. Sure, he’s a sketchy fellow and a member of a famous assassin family, but considering the awful things Bojji has to put up with, he needs a friend like Kage in his corner.
I was pleasantly surprised to see sign language exists in this world and that Bojji’s swordsman teacher also works as a sign translator for the royal family. I don’t mean to be cynical, but they could’ve easily omitted that completely to make this into a game of charades until the clueless able-bodied characters figure out what Bojji is saying. Disability representation often isn’t handled well and is frequently seen as a challenge able-bodied actors can use to advance in their careers.
This is why I’m really hoping Bojji’s deafness is going to be handled with the sensitivity it deserves; but at the same time I also want this show to explore how difficult it is for deaf people to navigate spaces that are inaccessible to them, and what can be done to create an actual inclusive society.
If being Deaf wasn’t enough, Bojji also has to deal with the fact that he doesn’t meet his society’s standards of masculinity. He isn’t big nor strong like his father and there are serious concerns he will never live up to his father’s legacy. Even his sympathetic swordsman teacher is frustrated with him and wants to teach the second prince instead–what a jerk.
While I can’t predict the end game, it would be nice if the series focused more on what Bojji’s strengths are and how that can help him become a capable ruler. If history can teach us anything, it is that there are other ways to be a better leader and that Bojji doesn’t have to follow the rigid macho path his father laid out for him.
It’s important to mention that I don’t know sign language so I can’t assess if it was done correctly (though it apparently appears to draw from real-world JSL). I’m really counting on the experts to call the shots on this one.
In the end, I liked this premiere and I think it’s worth checking out a few more episodes.
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