The World Is Still Beautiful
Crying in the Rain
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
This anime is based off of the manga Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (それでも世界は美しい, Even So, The World is Beautiful, or The World is Still Beautiful) by Dai Shiina. This is a romantic story of Princess Nike's rain and love-filled destiny after she is sent to marry a distant king. Yeah, that's right, rain, not reign. She doesn't rule of anything, but she does make it rain.
Sometimes we are given romance stories so deep and impactful that they leave a mark on our soul forever. Although, when the world corrupts the story to the point that you feel disgusted, even the best characters and romance can't save it.
The World is Still Beautiful reminds me of a typical Disney princess movie, only without the charm. It has the cheesy love story, men that discriminate against women, the typical "what a princess should be" stuff, and all. The only difference is that instead of telling a story that pushes girls to dream of being a princess, it does a fine job at showing them why being a princess sucks. How so? By bringing a down-to-earth girl and forcing her to cliche junk that doesn't interest her, pushing her to love a hateful brat, and giving us a mild taste of what those cruel rulers did to wives who angered them. Definitely nothing to fantasize about.
This series took me a very long time to watch. It wasn't because it was a long series, it's actually just 12 episodes, but I just couldn't get into it. After my negative experience with Your Lie in April, I thought maybe it would be better to space out the episodes, but that didn't help either. It felt like the more I watched, the more I disliked it. At first, I didn't know what was so off-putting about the series, but by the time the seventh episode was over, I realized that there wasn't much that I did like.
Above all else, it was the endless discrimination that pushed me away. Men discriminated against women, women discriminated against men, citizens discriminated other nations, rulers hated one another, the church and crown's relationship was one of pure intolerance, favouritism ran rampant, and it seemed like bigots were everywhere. Sure, some of it was caused from prejudice, but that didn't make it any easier to swallow.
In fact, I only enjoyed one episode in the single series - the ninth one. Only then did the characters really seem to be allowed to flourish without being tied to the ugliness of the world and story around them. The romance finally felt sincere, the plots that I disliked were nowhere to be seen, the endless discrimination that disgusted me disappeared, and the endless whining and/or threatening was put on pause, which allowed the happy couple to actually appear happy. Sadly that didn't last and I soon continued to hate the series again. It doesn't help that the ending felt rushed and pointed the viewers to the manga to continue the story.
Despite my feelings for The World is Still Beautiful, I know that this is a very popular series. Of course, so is Game of Thrones, which tells me that many are completely fine with cruel people being loved. So, if you can stomach the things I dislike, there will still be plenty of things to love in this anime.
One of the most memorable parts of this anime is the music, mainly "Tender Rain," which is repeated throughout the series. Although, the song is never really the same song since it is sung differently, with slight changes in its tone and/or lyrics, each time. These changes allow the song to feel special each and every time you hear it, and allows the emotions of its singer to be expressed in unique ways.
To match the beauty of the song, the series is also filled with amazingly beautiful scenes that tries to tug at your emotions, especially when it accompanies the star song. It truly makes the world feel beautiful, almost like we are seeing the world through the Nike's eyes as she absorbs the best parts of the world. These vast views into the world also do an amazing job at showing how different the two nations are.
Thanks to the vast differences in these nations, we are given some of the most diverse characters in anime. Nike and Livius are essentially polar opposites. She comes from a land where it always rains and he rules over one where it never rains, causing them to form very different ideals. Definitely not a great pairing, especially at first, but it all that fighting does seem to pay off later in the series as it pushes both of them to become something better.
Although, thanks to this rocky beginning, I almost stopped watching this series. Their relationship reminded me of a certain relationship that pushed me away from Game of Thrones involving a brat king and a certain wife who was forced to love her husband. We're shown that Nike is a strong and resourceful character on her own, yet she is willing to stay with a brat who is constantly threatening her, yelling at her, and locking her in her room or a prison. One of the lines in this series says it just like it is: "He throws people in prison like toys into a toy box." He treats everyone like disposable toys, especially Nike, and yet she keeps fighting for his love anyway. It isn't love if you have to fix the other person first! People aren't objects that need to be fixed.
I absolutely despise any story built around the whole "love me or I'll destroy everything you love" plot. In a way, it's really just a story about a slave who is forced to love her master, so she tries to picture their relationship as wonderful landscapes and rainbows, which she inevitably believes as the truth. Yes, we are shown glimpses of what may be passionate feelings between them, but I still have a hard time believing that the story doesn't eventually end with the death of one of them and a war that destroys both nations. Although, like I said, this is like a Disney story, so that will never happen.
The other characters in The World is Still Beautiful are also very well written. Almost every character, regardless of how minor of a role they may take, feel unique, making the world feel real and natural. Very few stories accomplish this, especially in anime. This doesn't mean that all the characters are likable, though; in fact, I hated many of them since there were so many villains that it felt like everyone in power was evil.
This lead to the primary message that I felt this series shared: People should fall in love with cruel jerks just because they have a few redeeming traits. Yeah, that is what I got from this series. Sadly, it's obvious that so many people still believe this is acceptable (look at Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey), which is probably the reason we still have an ever-increasing amount of discrimination and hate in the world. If this type of story is one that makes you happy, you will most certainly find enjoyment in this series.
So, based on my feelings toward this anime, I can't give a strong recommendation for The World is Still Beautiful. Although, not everyone likes the same things, so you may really enjoy this series if you can get past the parts I dislike. It certainly has its good and bad points, but so do most series. If you watch it, just don't expect a perfect ending.
The Best and Worst Parts of The World Is Still Beautiful
(This area contains more detailed spoilers.)
The Top 5:
- A princess that isn't afraid to get her hands dirty: Most princesses are so oblivious to the world that she cries when she gets a little dirty, but not Nike. She enjoys getting dirty, cooking, cutting wood, and even exploring dungeons.
- Tender Rain: This song is one of the main attractions of this anime, especially thanks to how it changes each time it's sung.
- The World IS Still Beautiful: This series is filled with so many awe-inspiring images of beautiful and vast views of the world. Even though the characters may be doing some extremely ugly things, these scenes successfully push away those horrible thoughts, for a time.
- The 3 perverted "gods": The three advisers are hilarious! Actually, they are responsible for almost all the comedic moments in this series. Too bad this series didn't revolve around them instead.
- Episode 9: This was the episode that all the annoying clashes between Nike and Livius finally bore fruit. Everything I hated about the series was finally put on pause, allowing the story to finally focus on the budding romance.
The Worst 5:
- Constant "Pink for the Princess": Aren't we past the whole pink for girls and blue for boys? Not in this series. The colour differences are only accented by the strong belief that the women should just look pretty and the men lead the world and save the girl.
- The prince's childish attitude: Yes, he is a child, but that didn't make him being a spoilt brat any easier to swallow.
- A very slow story: It felt like it took forever for the story to go anywhere. Yes, the characters did things, but they hardly advanced the plot at all. It wasn't until about midway through the season that the events actually felt important.
- The constant barrage of cruel people trying to destroy love: This really peeved me off. Every time things started to advance, a new annoying villain would come along to interfere with their relationship. The first couple actually made a bit of sense, but they just kept coming in waves.
- Endless Discrimination of Everything!: It felt like everyone hated everything in this series. Sexual discrimination was rampant, but that was only the beginning. There were a few kind hearts in this series, but their voices felt like whispers amongst the massive crowd who hated everything, and weren't afraid to spread that hate to others.