Jun 16, 2017
Danielle (All reviews)
**TL;DR at bottom* *Spoilers are clearly marked*
The fact that this series is getting rated so low really saddens me. To put it simply, the King's Avatar is great, and hopefully, in this review, I can provide a reason to convince you.

Before I begin, however, I want to preference this is NOT an anime about eSports. This anime does not deal with, nor care about the struggles of, eSports players. It has eSports elements to it in order to logically and naturally bring in the topic of video games and how the main character Ye Xiu is so good at them. Elements of this are glorified quite often, if nothing else as a love letter to eSports in general. It is not about the struggles of players and the industry. If you're looking for something like that, I suggest Valve's eSports documentary Free to Play.

So, if TKA doesn't deal with eSports, what does it aim to do? The answer, quite simply, is to watch a likable character and his friends be good at video games. That may sound boring, but it's really not, due to the sheer quality of TKA.

The only real and only main character is Ye Xiu, who is, like many of his contemporaries in video game anime, a total God at this universe's most popular game, Glory. The justification for this is that Xiu is a former leader of one of the best professional teams of the game, and after a decade of leading it, is maliciously kicked off from the team and is forced to make a new account and grind his way back up.

If the fact that he's spent a decade playing this game confuses you, then let me inform you on one of the bigger selling points of this anime -- all characters are adults. Xie is said to be between 25 and 26 in the series, and he only plays with adults throughout. That allows the majority of the annoying, overused anime tropes such as excessive fanservice, stupid love triangles, a high school setting, etc. to be totally vacant from the anime. This really helps the series both focus on being about games and also have a fresh feeling to it, as it's not super interested in feeding into the wish-fulfilment teenager crowd many video game anime target.

Ye Xiu, (Western order Xiu Ye) is a really well written character, which is important since he's the only one who gets a major amount of screen time. A big element of the series is watching Xiu grow from replaying the game out of spite (and simply not knowing what else to do with his life) into loving it once again, which is done very subtly but ends up being satisfactory in the end.

A big element of Xiu's character is subtlety, primarily considering the air of "I am better than you" he frequently puts on, however, the series shows time and time again that he has doubts about his own skill, fears, and goals of his own, even if he could easily wipe the floor with anyone he battles.

A fantastic example of this, and a great example of the amount of care put into the show, is Xiu's smoking. Both a symbol and an indicator of his stress, the cigarettes always come out when he is put into a situation that upsets him, notably when he's reminded of his eSports past.

**MINOR SPOILER WARNING** In episode five, he does just that -- Xiu, a character still keeping this sense of superiority around him, makes some remark about a professional event going on, before leaving the net cafe he's in to take a smoke outside. The way he does it in private, and the stance he takes, including his expression, show simply how upset he is about the whole thing, and that he's not the one up there in the tournament.**END SPOILER WARNING** It's subtle--quietly great--but tells so much more about Xiu's character than any dialogue saying "he feels this" could ever do. TKA has so much of this sprinkled throughout, and it works great to really make the audience sympathize with Ye Xiu.

I've spent so much time talking about the lead simply because the series focuses on him, but for anyone interested in both interesting side characters and fantastically animated fight scenes, TKA does both well.

No supporting character gets as much development as Ye Xiu does, but some do grow quite a bit from the introduction to the conclusion, notably Rou Tang, a friend of Xiu's. All of these side characters are still very likable, and none are some dumb anime trope designed so heavily to be liked, they just come across as artificial.

As for the animation, TKA's is both experimental and well done. Many of the smaller scenes are where the series falters, having to opt to use 3D models for background characters to allow for room to the incredible animation during in-game fight scenes. Absolutely all of them are extremely well done -- great fight choreography, framing, and extremely detailed animation, especially during the bigger fights. If you're the type of person who loves good fight scenes or animation, this series will more than please you.

Regarding the voice acting, yes, this is a "Chinese anime", more properly referred to as donghua. Donghua has a bit of a bad name to it, considering it's known as both invasive to Japanese anime and lesser quality, to which TKA is neither. Yes, the people in the series speak Chinese. If you can get past how odd it's going to feel initially, the voice acting is very good, albeit different, than Japanese. Rather than the bigger, more campy style voice acting that tends to come out of a series like this, the Chinese opted to do something a lot calmer and natural sounding, which definitely helps the series stand on its own and makes the entire show seem more grounded.

Overall, the King's Avatar is a fantastic series about skilled video game players. It uses a logical setup, interesting and developed characters, and well done but easy to miss symbolism and character development, while not slacking on the action and animation in the slightest, to bring a great story about adults who love games. While it may not be the best representation of the eSports scene, it doesn't aim to be, and still manages to have compelling characters and growth.