So far, The World is Still Beautiful a.k.a. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (Crunchyroll) has been delightful. I particularly like the fact that, though it is a shoujo anime, it dispenses with the usual wimpy shoujo heroine.
I can tolerate a wimpy shoujo heroine if she gets a grip and discovers her inner strength, but it’s nice to have one who doesn’t need to do that. This heroine in fact has more than a bit of Lina Inverse in her, though she’s neither as powerful nor as crazy.
The story is mostly set in the Sun Kingdom, a rich an powerful land with a warm, mild climate where it never rains. (Sort of like southern California I guess.) Under its fearsome new king Livius Orvinus Ifriqiyah it has come to dominate the region, forcing all of its neighbors to pay tribute.
The Principality of Rain is a relatively small and poor country. Livius offers to leave it in peace if the Prince will give him one of his daughters to be his bride. (Livius has been intrigued by stories that the members of the Rain royal family actually have the power to make it rain.)
The Prince has four daughters. Nike, the youngest, is our heroine. She’s the redhead in the pink dress, sitting like a boy. She’s brash and tomboyish, though she can play the role of a dignified princess when she feels like it. (Her name is pronounced “Nih-keh” which is the kind of thing that usually happens when anime characters are given Greek names.)
Nike loses a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors and is drafted to be the Sun King’s bride. She’s annoyed by the preemptory treatment but also a bit thrilled by the adventure of it all.
As soon as she arrives in the Sun Kingdom she ditches her escort and sets out for the capital by herself. As one might expect this does not go as well as she had hoped and she has some unfortunate encounters.
But in the end she manages well enough. For one thing she really is a weather mage and she can do some neat things by controlling the wind.
When she finally gets to the palace she is astonished to discover that the fearsome Sun King is actually a boy younger than she is, though with very cold eyes.
King “Livi” rules without a regent (which suggests to me that he must have staged a coup in the manner of Ivan the Terrible.) He’s a workaholic genius, a brilliant administrator but still emotionally immature. He has a definite ruthless streak, though he’s not in Ivan the Terrible’s class.
He is popular with the common people who credit him with bringing stability and prosperity, but he is resented by many of the nobility. He needs to watch his back constantly.
Livi and Nike do not hit it off well at first. He orders her to make it rain–and she doesn’t take orders well. Furthermore she considers rainmaking to be a sacred ritual that is not to be used for mere entertainment. And in any case she can only summon a storm by composing a song appropriate to the occasion. So…no.
This leads to fireworks, but they gradually start to work out a modus vivendi. This is assisted by Neil, the loyal steward, who clearly hopes that Nike will be good for Livi.
Nike also seems to have a bit of telepathic ability. She picks up some of Livi’s troubled dreams–memories about growing up in the palace as the scorned son of a concubine, tinged with sadness over the loss of his mother, who seems to have suffered a tragic fate.
Nike’s sympathy grows as she recognizes the frightened boy underneath the arrogant little tyrant. She doesn’t really see him as a romantic love interest, but she’d always wanted a little brother…
But whenever she starts to feel affectionate he does something obnoxious. This is going to take a while.