‘Kingdom: Season 2’ DVD Review
Season two of Kingdom sees Zheng returned to his throne as the rightful ruler of Qin, and he and his allies move to unite all of China under his rule. It’s a story of war and politics as Zheng struggles to maintain his power against political enemies at home. His friend Xin, the leader of a 300-man squadron, fights to bring rival kingdom Wei under Zheng’s command and also rise to become the greatest general.
Kingdom is very reminiscent of HBO’s Game of Thrones. The anime is a fictionalized telling of China’s Warring States Period. It balances subversive political intrigue in Qin’s capital with the battlefields of Qin’s war and the neighboring kingdom of Wei. There’s even a nasty, power-hungry queen mother willing to supplant her own son for control of Qin.
However, unlike Game of Thrones, it’s just not very interesting. The plot could be intriguing with the political maneuverings and war, but it has a hard time finding balance between the two parallel plots. The characters are also rather bland, making it difficult to care about the plot’s outcome.
The young ruler Zheng (Jun Fukuyama) is robotic and stiff, which might work if the anime had not spent several episodes detailing a backstory that indicated he had healed from the trauma that caused this. Zheng may be a morally upstanding ruler, but he’s not a very interesting one.
Xin (Masakazu Morita; Justin Cook) is more fun to watch, being the hot-headed ambitious leader of the Fei Xin Force, but he quickly reveals just how immature he really is. It is very clear his strategist Qiang Lei (Hikasa Yoko) would be more well equipped to become the world’s greatest general.
Xin does show promise as an inspiring leader, but his friendship with Zheng makes him entitled and had me rooting for his competitors, Wang Ben (Hosoya Yoshimasa) and Meng Tian (Nojima Hirofumi). Xin’s character arc, however, is more interesting than that of Zheng’s as we see this immature boy grow into the military leader he is destined to become.
Lu Buwei (Genda Tessyo) is a slippery, nasty villain for Zheng to face off against in Qin’s own capital city. Lu Buwei’s cunning and heartlessness is formidable enough that I wonder if Zheng would be able to overcome him without the luck and aid of others he encounters along the way.
Kingdom does have the benefit of excellent Japanese voice acting. Each actor delivers an honest performance, from the Fukuyama’s stoic portrayal of Zheng to Morita’s emotional outbursts and joviality of Xin. The dubbed English performances, however, fall incredibly flat. This is an anime to watch with subtitles.
With 39 episodes on six DVDs, there is no space for special features. If you’d like to see whether Zheng manages to hold onto his kingdom and if Xin is able to unite China under his rule, streaming the anime makes more sense because the DVD has nothing more to offer.