The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt – Episode 1

By: Alex Henderson January 11, 20220 Comments
A young man and a young woman dressed in stylized fantasy European clothing, sitting in a fancy library, turning towards the camera

What’s it about? Crown Prince Wein has been placed in charge of his kingdom—and he can’t wait to sell the place and move out. First, though, he must increase the value of the tiny spit of wintry land he governs. He schemes to mount a half-hearted “invasion” of the neighbouring territory with the intention of suing for peace, but these plans go awry when his army wins and he finds himself heading a full-scale war.

Do you want to watch a show about an insufferable young man born into money, scheming to make more money, stumbling into success and being lauded as a tactical genius? No? You don’t think a callous rich kid who treats the people under his governance as pawns in his own petty plans sounds like a sympathetic protagonist? You don’t find it relatable and hilarious when Prince Wein breaks down and whines about how much his kingdom sucks because its small population of vulnerable citizens fail to produce any profit for him? You want to throw tomatoes at the screen? No way!

Seeing this show’s title, I was prepared for a power fantasy about a dull, smartypants prince who uses intricate knowledge of economics to save his kingdom. The focus is certainly still on money, but the strategic focus skews more military—thus far, anyway. And the Genius Prince himself skews more “this guy’s the worst” than “boring.” Which… well, the writing got an emotional reaction out of me! That’s something to praise!

Closeup of an awkwardly smiling man against a backdrop of cartoony weapons and suits of armor. Subtitle text reads: Don't they know how expensive it is to wage war?!

He is scripted to have a distinct personality! It’s just that this personality sucks, and I think in our current climate many viewers will find the nature of his suck-ness grating rather than darkly funny. Who is a warmongering “genius prince” who wants to sell his kingdom relatable to? Not the average person, that’s for sure.

The show opens with a scene of Wein talking to his advisors, presenting himself as noble and just and diplomatic. They praise him for his skills and his wisdom, and a panel of grown manly men in stylized fantasy military uniforms blush like schoolgirls when the prince compliments them. Then, when the advisors leave the room, Wein lets the façade drop and starts yelling and whining about how much his kingdom stinks and how he can’t wait to sell the place and bounce (to where? It is unclear at this stage).

His loyal right-hand-lady—who, as you might expect from the genre she’s in, looks generically beautiful and ambiguously young, while all the supporting male characters in the show are drawn with distinct features that show their age—sighs and nods along with him. She’s the only one in on his plans, the only one who sees beyond his diplomatic façade, and I would love to know what backstory they share or what redeeming qualities she sees in him to make her put up with his whiny-baby antics and his complete disregard for the people who inhabit his kingdom.

A top-down model of a battlefield, with the two armies represented by colored dots, their commanders' cartoon faces at the top of the screen

This is definitely an epic of aristocrats and generals wherein the common folk are a strategic talking point and not people. To be fair, it does buck this at one point: when Wein is addressing his soldiers, he calls to several of them by name. Which is nice, though surprise, surprise, it’s ultimately in service of propping up Wein’s character and making him look good rather than granting a sense of character to the troops themselves.

You can tell the common man is not this show’s priority—the best demonstration of this is the battle scenes, which are almost entirely demonstrated through a stylized strategy board with the soldiers represented by little figurines. It helps save on animation, of course, but it also spotlights the ethos of this whole show: this war is little more than a board game for Wein. He’s in charge and he’s the only one for whom the result matters. The peasants are just pieces on a board.

And Wein, of course, stumbles into victory, with the help of his pretty girl assistant, his manufactured charisma, and sheer dumb luck. He deliberately suggests a bonkers plan for continuing the invasion, hoping his generals will back out, but oh no! They see him as such a genius that they follow his dumb plan! And the dumb plan works! Offscreen!

It’s entirely possible a few years ago a setup like this would not have annoyed me so much, but in the midst of a global situation that has repeatedly—relentlessly—highlighted the greed, disrespect for human life, and general uncaring nature of the rich and powerful… well, I’m not in the mood for this prince’s antics. Guillotine the sucker and put that competent white-haired girl in a better show.

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