China’s Warring States period, a raging dragon that would raze the land for 500 years, saw many kingdoms rise and fall, making way for the next generation of kings and generals to fight for supremacy. Eventually, seven powerful states emerged from the endless cycle of warfare.
In the kingdom of Qin, Li Xin, a war-orphaned slave, trains vigorously with fellow slave and best friend, Piao, who shares his proud dream of one day becoming a Great General of the Heavens. However, the two are suddenly forced to part ways when Piao is recruited to work in the royal palace by a retainer of the King.
After a fierce coup d'état unfolds, Piao returns to Xin, half dead, with a mission that will lead him to a meeting with China's young King, Ying Zheng, who bears a striking resemblance to Piao. Kingdom follows Xin as he takes his first steps into the great blood-soaked pages of China's history. He must carve his own path to glory on his long quest to become a Great General of the historic Seven Warring States.
On December 12, 2012 the manga won a Guinness World Record for manga written by the most people. The record was made possible due to its "Social Kingdom" Campaign where artists, fans, and voice actors redrew the entire 26th volume. Each of them picked 1 frame and redrew it and the top 100 would be given a special edition of the manga. Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Masashi Kimimoto (Naruto), Hirohiko Araki (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken) and many others were among the participants.
"War educates the senses, calls into action the will, perfects the physical constitution, brings men into such swift and close collision in critical moments that man measures man." – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1882.
Yasuhisa Hara’s Manga takes place in the warring state period of China, as the country is divided into seven smaller nations, each trying to conquer the other. It follows a young war orphan named Xin from the Country Qin, who one day on his way returning to his village with his best friend witnesses a battle between two armies, inspired by the spectacle before him, he vows to one day become one of
the greatest Generals alive. The first arc of the show serves as an introduction to the warring times, demonstrating the harshness of living in such times and the brutal power struggles. At this time Xin meets the young king Ying Zheng and after offering his assistance and proving himself, gets drafted into the army and given a chance to turn his ambitions into reality.
Kingdom showcases some extremely large scale military battles and for the most part does an outstanding job in capturing the atmosphere on a battlefield. Kingdom doesn’t always revolve around the fighting, but on the different strategies the Generals implement to try to gain the upper hand over an opponent. The strategies remain diverse and differ depending on the general and may change at a moment’s notice depending on the situation on ground, showing that adaptation is an important factor. While it does contain an abundance of strategies, it does well in the fact of not overwhelming us with too much of it, the ‘brain vs. brawn’ argument is also laid bare and the series hints at reading the flow of battle, anticipating what your opponent will do and knowing the right strategy to apply always wins the day.
Kingdom also demonstrates that a battle is never a one man mission, it requires co-operation between several squads and sub-squadrons given different tasks to carry out that ensure victory. Our protagonist, Xin, is indeed powerful when compared to a normal soldier, but the series carefully makes sure not to depict him as over-powerful, and it never tries to make the mistake of making him take center stage in a battle, as of course an overpowered MC from the get-go would indeed be boring. At every battle Xin’s squad is given a particular task to perform on the battlefield, this task may mildly or adversely affect the whole state of the battle and after which he withdraws to a supporting role as other squads and different part of the army take the center stage. In the rare cases Kingdom does shy away from the battlefield it deals with simple character interactions or matters of Diplomacy and state.
The emotions the show throws at you are also immense, battles get so tense it may literally have some people at the edge of their seats and just writhing in agony at the prospects of what may happen next, more so when characters find themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation. Survival is of course the main objective but the soldiers also display a sense of chivalry about them, in the sense of even when greatly outnumbering an opponent, once their commander is killed, they usually withdraw. The pacing remains almost flawless all through, never dragging on but also not moving too fast for audiences to lose sight of it. The script is also very well written, while not too simplistic or psychological, characters engage in smart dialogue that doesn’t seem redundant and is always straight to the point never beating around the bush. Even those pre-battle speeches a commander gives, serves as more than just a morale booster.
3DCGI has always looked wonderful in games and full CG animations, why? Because these forms of animations have always been aimed at making the art of the show look as close to real life as possible. However, when incorporated in anime, which takes its pride in being different from real life, it’s a completely different story. Its plastic appearance and mechanical motion has made a great number of anime that incorporate heavy use of CG to be assessed as mediocre.
Kingdom makes extensive use of CG animation, first of all the CG actually has varying qualities, there are times when it looks as terrible as it’s known but other times it’s truly a spectacle to behold. I find myself most frustrated with the quality of the CG at the start of the show, the quality of the first couple of episodes was quite poor and did nothing but chase away any potential viewers who might have wanted to stick with it to the end.
Once you get past the bad quality of the initial episodes, the animators reward us with some high quality CG that certainly impresses with some great choreographed action sequences. The studio also didn’t fail to take full advantage of the CG on the battlefield, the number of characters drawn on the screen was indeed much but they always made sure these characters moved independently for the most part and not the ‘Foosball table’ combat one may have anticipated. 360 degree camera rotations and different camera positions are also plentiful.
Despite the shows seemingly low production values, it had a number of very popular seiyuus, the likes of Fukuyama Jun and Morita Masakazu grace us with some very powerful performances, almost all the seiyuus left powerful impressions on their characters. The soundtracks in Kingdom mostly comprise of orchestral pieces and the sound director did a great job of adding the right track to suit a situation, be it a dramatic, comedic or tense moments. Kingdom also spans an OP and three ED songs.
Kingdom features one of the greatest character growths I have ever witnessed in any anime. Our protagonist Xin, not only grows physically in his strength and sword fighting skills but also grows mentally, when we first meet him, he is your everyday brute that solves all his problem with the throw of a punch or the swing of his sword but as he gains experience in battle he starts to use a bit of intellect to his duties. One can’t help but feel proud of the young lad who rose from obscurity when we see him gain accomplishments on the battlefield and one can’t help but do a victory dance every now and then when he succeeds with all the odds seemingly stacked against him. Even simple events like Xin receiving his first ever payment or him buying his first ever piece of armor are events that truly warm the heart.
The supporting characters also receive a decent slice of the pie, their personalities of most of them are unique and also at the same time enjoyable, the show has no shortage of standout characters and you may have a hard time picking a favorite. The majority of the female characters in the show in particular, although few and far in between, were all great, they never act weak, play the damsel in distress or used for profane fan service and actually are capable of single handedly dismantling a large number of their male counterparts. Despite the large number of cast, Kingdom does a great job in developing most of them in very enjoyable fashion whilst keeping the pacing near flawless, I was honestly shocked by the amount of content that went into 38 episodes and the show never beats around the bush with needless flashbacks and dragging themes but always stays precise and straight to the point.
Kingdom has indeed for me been a diamond in the rough, it had a lack luster opening but slowly grew into something impressive. The CG may bring it down a notch or two but it more than does enough to cover for it in with its vibrant story and great characters. The decision of the author to put character growth ahead of everything else has indeed proven a perfectly worked out formula. While the large, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding battles will receive the most attention, we can’t deny that it was a show that attempted to impress in all departments.
To create a show with such a large world that almost accurately captures the principles and aesthetics of ancient warfare is indeed quite a feat, but to execute it with so very few flaws, absolutely boggles the mind.
In episodes 20–38, a few episodes deserved 7-8 scores, noticeably the penultimate episode.
Comments on plot and characters
Comments for episodes 1-20:
The plot is garbage. It just relies on cheap cliff hangers and plot twist to keep the audience watching every single episode.
The characters are bad. They are superficial, so little is known about them which obscures any possible affections for them. Their dialogue is also atrocious.
The protagonist is illogically over-powered, and he incessantly spews cringe-evoking dialogue.
The humour is forced and inserted wherever possible.
The execution is subpar.
It is difficult to take this show seriously when its logic is
The characters have logic defying strength and super jump. The problem is the show offers no explanation for the unnatural strength of the characters, so it cannot be accepted as anything but a flaw. The only exceptions are the clans that call upon God’s strength because there was at least a modicum of explanation.
A myriad of plot conveniences run rampant, especially in battle spoiling the mood. Also, the protagonist Xin receives special treatment because he’s the main character as opposed to any logical consequence of the plot.
A few plot holes are apparent: Xin buying armour and never using it in combat; the absurd battles throughout the anime—a tiny group against thousands; the part where Wei, Ping elected to be a decoy by leaving a blood trail, yet he was able to escape. That must mean they never followed him or caught up which is near impossible; there are also those preposterous premonitions that frequently occur.
There were no redeeming factors until episode 20.
Pass that, it’s actually enjoyable. Wang, Qi and his army became likeable despite previously being loathsome. Xin is still annoying. The only other likeable characters were the brothers that helped Xin out.
Some of the negatives mentioned above are experienced to a much less degree or are unrealized. The major flaws are still present, so this arc receives a 6.
It should be emphasised that armour cannot be easily penetrated with generic swords. A specialised weapon or sword suited to combating each specific armour is needed.
Most characters were ridiculous and/or unlikeable. These ratings are based on the character design and how well they were used.
Pang=bad (Too little is known about him, and he defied his own logic when he didn’t beat Wang with his own strength. Also, how the army found him to begin with is rather dubitable.)
The animation style (3D and high detail) complemented the war and action theme of the anime. The 3D aspect evoked a vibrant experience. However, seldom are the wounds shown upon contact of the blade. This detracts from the show’s realism.
Most of the sounds were appropriate, and the sound tracks were superb. However, one absolutely detestable thing was that song or tune that played every time Lei danced. It was abject cringe.
Have you ever wandered why Dynasty Warriors was not an anime? Well, Kingdom is pretty damn similar. Kingdom is an anime that amazingly and almost perfectly portrays strategic war in medieval China.
At first, I was a bit sceptical about the idea of an anime based on medieval Chinese war. I thought that there would be a lack of a protagonist, that the whole anime would revolve solely around the strategy involved in medieval warfare. However, I was amazed with the layout and structure of the story, and how it caught my interest from the first episode. Kingdom's protagonist, Xin, is a young, but vastly
strong boy, whose goal is to become 'the greatest general under the heavens'. The anime brilliantly shows his progression as he participates in battles to obtain achievements, and seeing him edge closer to his goal makes the anime that much more enjoyable. It may seem strange that an anime based on war in medieval China would revolve around a boy, when one man may seem so insignificant to whole wars, but Xin upholds his protagonist aspect as he makes large differences everywhere he goes.
The three dimensional art of Kingdom may put some off, however, it enhances the sense of Chinese war. Seemingly unique, this art style looks very similar to some Japanese style games, such as Rogue Galaxy. I was a bit sceptical of it at first, but as I breezed through the anime I grew to like it, as without the strange style, it would seem more like a Japanese war, which clearly is not Kingdom's intended style.
The soundtrack of Kingdom is simply amazing, and it is always timed right where it needs to be. Uplifting music when a general is shouting a morale lifting speech, intense and fast soundtrack when a battle is commencing, it all holds the anime together and makes it all the more enjoyable.
The voice actors starred in Kingdom are also spectacular. Morita displayed outstanding voice acting in this anime. After hearing him voice Ichigo's calm, soothing tone for so many episodes of Bleach, I could hardly believe it was him voicing angry little Xin in Kingdom. But not just the protagonist has incredible voice acting, every single character does, including the minor foot soldiers that only speak one sentence.
Each character is developed incredibly. Xin, being angry and blunt. Piao, being intelligent and modest. Zheng, being high, mighty and fair. All of these aspects are conjured brilliantly by each character's reaction to different happenings. Each general has his own strengths and weaknesses, and no two of them are the same, or even remotely similar. Some may ignore strategy and go full on attack, while others may spend nights dreaming up new tactical defences to best their opponents. While some characters may seem a little useless (yes, that's right, I'm looking at you, Ten), they too of course have their strengths. Some surprising aspects may emerge from some characters occasionally, which of course is necessary for every anime, and each character has a personality that is finely clipped and demonstrated perfectly.
I wasn't sure I could enjoy an anime based on medieval Chinese war. The most I've looked into this topic is playing Dynasty Warriors 4 on my PS2 for a few hundred hours. However, the strategies displayed in Kingdom are carefully demonstrated to the audience in a way so that anyone can understand, and be a part of. Having a protagonist like Xin in an anime like this gives the watcher another reason to cheer at their laptop like an idiot, and a few other ridiculously overpowered characters bring tears of joy to the audience's eye.
Through an overwhelmingly well displayed storyline, art that strongly creates an atmosphere of medieval China, soundtracks that bring shudders to your spine and incredible enjoyment, Kingdom has earned itself a place in my top 10 anime. If you don't like the concept of the anime - Chinese warfare, strategic battles, etc - then there is still a high chance of you loving Kingdom.
The Art and Animation in this Anime can make anybody think twice about watching it, i even dropped it half way through the first episode. But when you actually sit down and just watch the Anime it's a whole new level.
The MC, Story and Character development is Amazing, they way it builds up, the fighting, Character Relations you can't get enough of it. It makes up for the terrible Animation and makes you just want to watch more.
The MC overall is someone most people want in a Protagonist. Strong & Ruthless, He doesn't care about his own well being and relies on brute strength but
can also be quite cunning.
The story revolves around a lot of Strategy type war over Land across China, I'm really looking forward to see what direction the creator takes this Anime, The upcoming battles & Struggles is full of Hype and Anticipation.
It's time to get medieval in this article! If you're a fan of European style medieval anime then this is a must read. Anyone who loves knights, nobility, peasantry, and grand battles should watch these shows.