Hidden Gems: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushi or The World is Still Beautiful in English, though I think a better translation might be “Still, the World is Beautiful” or “However the World is Still Beautiful” but whatever, I’m going to call it Soredemo from now on; is a shoujo manga adaptation from the Spring 2014 anime season.  In case you don’t know much about me, I don’t like shoujo manga adaptations very much, it’s just not my genre.  However Soredemo is one of the rare exceptions that really caught my attention, and if you’re a bit iffy on the shoujo genre or love it and just want another one to watch, this is a show I would actually recommend.

Soredemo follows the story of Livius and Nike.  Livius is the king of the Sun Country, all the countries in the show are just “insert noun” Country and there’s not much detail on the setting at the global level.  Anyway the Sun Country has conquered the lion’s share of the world since Livius took over the throne and he’s considered this big intimidating figure across the world.  Nike is the fourth princess in some poor, backwater country at the ass end of the world called the Rain Country.  Rather than conquer the Rain Country, Livius allows them to remain autonomous but in return he wants one of the princesses to be his bride.  Which is where Nike comes in, she has been forced to marry Livius after, no joke, losing a game of rock-paper-scissors with her siblings.  The show doesn’t actually tell you all this when it starts, it begins with Nike arriving in the Sun Country after having deliberately avoided the Sun Country group that was supposed to escort her to the capitol of the Sun Country.  And all of this revealed later in the episode.  The first episode starts the way it does for a few important reasons, one, it establishes that Nike is from a poor country, two, that not everyone in Sun Country is happy with Livius and his decision to marry a princess from some country in the middle of nowhere, and three, that Nike is a force of nature both figuratively and literally.  Anyway moving right along.

At the end of episode 1 we finally meet Livius and he’s a child.  According to the wiki he’s 15 in the anime, though it felt like he was portrayed as even younger than that while I was watching it, in any case he is younger than Nike.  Livius looks like a younger, shorter Lelouch, albeit with more normal and rounded face instead of Lelouch’s chin-so-sharp-it-could-cut-bread and angular face.  He has some of the same personality traits as well, though Livius is a genius at basically everything, falling firmly into the anime trope of “pretty boy who’s literally the best at everything.”  However Livius does have some major flaws, he’s amazingly arrogant, and reasonably so, but more to the point he has hard time feeling things like a normal human being and by extension struggles to trust people.  In fact the reason he only wants to marry Nike because the Sun Country is dry as fuck and he wants her to summon rain for him, which is something she and all the princesses of the Rain Country can do.

Nike is a great foil to Livius though, she’s not a perfect genius but she’s by no means stupid or weak.  Where Livius is calculating and manipulative, Nike is passionate and straightforward.  Where Livius has major influence on everyone’s mind, either by way of being worshiped for his brilliance or feared for the same, Nike sways everyone’s hearts with her passion and magic.  Where Livius has worked hard to understand international politics, Nike works hard to understand the people of any given country.  The point is that the two are designed to butt heads all the time but also to help the other grow.  So Nike flatly refuses Livius’ request for rain, telling him it’s a sacred rite to summon rain and it will require some work on both their parts.  Livius is interested by this because no has seriously refused him since he took over the world and his response is to throw Nike in a dungeon in an attempt to take some of the fire out of her, Nike’s response is to use her wind/cloud/rain magic to break out immediately and sneak up on Livius with basic intent of knocking some of the arrogance out of him, but all that really happens is that Nike ends up eating Livius’ dinner.  But while this is mostly silly slice of life comedy, albeit with a more medieval and royal slant, amounts to little action it establishes that Nike and Livius are one another’s match in many ways and this will be the basic building block of their relationship going forward.

So why is this show any good?  The main characters mostly.  There are some interesting side characters but the show is mostly all about Livius and Nike and how the two end up being the right partner for the other.  Between Livius cleverness and drive, and Nike’s passion and magic the two of them can and do overcome every obstacle that comes their way, so the plot isn’t all that important.  But watching how each of the characters grow individually, and together as a couple, to overcome each obstacle is far more important and fortunately pretty damn satisfying.  Both Livius and Nike have a lot of work to do in order to well and truly fall for the other and thanks to their various trials, they put in the effort to see that work get done.  This lends a lot more weight and believability to their romance moving forward, which is something makes the show much more enjoyable.  The other important thing about the main characters is just that they are in fact good characters.  Nike is particular is very easy to like and get invested in, which is huge.  My biggest gripe with shoujo shows is not that they are about romance more so than action, it’s that I so rarely give a shit about the main characters or main girl especially.  And because I don’t give a shit about them, I find their romantic struggles boring.  Ao Haru Ride was a fine example of this problem, the main girl just bored me to tears, she had no real personality, no interesting life struggles, no nothing except for blushing and getting worked up over her childhood friend turned high school crush.  By comparison, I am a big fan of Nike as a person and so I’m interested in watching struggle, grow and fall in love, which means I’m invested in the romance.

And the show delivers.  It has some genuinely sweet and heart-warming moments and one spot where it even brought a tear to mine eyes.  It’s also pretty funny in the down time between major story events, dramatic moments and romantic bits.  This is especially true because it’s not the usual high school fare, the humor has a lot more room to be a bit more unique and memorable because the setting is a bit more unique.  What’s more the show concludes nicely, it finishes a major dramatic arc, brings our couple quite firmly together and still leaves itself open to further story developments.  I think the biggest draw for me was Nike, so many shoujo manga shows have these quite, cutesy girls who get flustered over minor shit and just lack confidence and in many cases character.  Nike is a strong, fiercely independent leading lady, and while she too gets flustered over pretty minor romantic developments, she brings a lot more to the table than your typical shoujo heroine and I know that helped me enjoy this show a lot.  Overall Soredemo is a good show.  It’s makes for nice romance story, it has decent comedy, some very good dramatic moments and it’s still low key enough to feel like a refreshing break from all the hype and intensity of action shows.  And I want to reiterate, if you’re not into shoujo manga adaptations, I would encourage you to give this show a shot because it’s not like a lot of shoujo shows, so I think it makes a for a good way to ease into the genre.  But regardless of anyone’s tastes I do recommend this one and I hope some people go out there and enjoy it.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one.