Anime: K: Return of Kings
Original Run: Oct 3, 2015 to Dec 26, 2015
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Supernatural
(Spoilers for the first season and the movie)
The death of the Gold King has put the Dresden Slates, the mysterious device that grants the Kings their powers, in danger of going out of control. The Blue King, Munakata Reisi, steps up to exert control over it but his Sanctum is already unstable and any more stress might put him as well as all of Japan in danger of a tragic history repeating itself. To make matters worse, the Green King has his eyes set on the Plates and will stop at nothing to get them.
One clan alone is not enough to stop the Greens but the orderly Blue Clan and the chaotic Red Clan are unthinkable allies, and the Silver Clan is still missing its King.
But there’s more than one King who has yet to enter the fray and the outcome is nothing short of unpredictable when such immensely powerful individuals tangle.
Return of Kings is a sequel to the 2012 anime K, featuring the majority of the characters from the first series as well as similar situations. It’s better to watch K and Missing Kings before watching this as the full impact of the story will be missed otherwise. Plus it will be extremely confusing otherwise.
Return of Kings returns us to the world of the Kings and their clansmen, individuals with great powers that can harm as easily as it can help. The familiar Blue and Red Clans are as prominent as ever but this series also sees a new clan, the Greens, coming into prominence as their King attempts to use the death of the all-powerful Gold King to try and take control of the device that is capable of bestowing powers on humans. The Silver King, Shiro, who vanished at the end of the first season also returns, aware of the danger and determined to stop it. In short, we have a mess of clans and its various members all with their own agenda duking it out with the world’s fate on the line. It sounds quite interesting and the series certainly delivers in that regard.
The concept of Kings is expanded, their history filled in and their roles fleshed out in Return of Kings. Familiar characters return in roles both old and new. The plot becomes far more convoluted than a straightforward conflict when past enemies with clashing personalities are forced to work together against a common enemy that threatens to be stronger than all of them combined. It’s not original per se but the series manages to execute it with more than enough skill to keep one interested. Some twists are predictable but no less entertaining for it and on the whole, this show is the kind of hot mess that’s extremely engaging, especially on the first watch.
There is a lot of focus on interpersonal relationships as well and while these aren’t as developed as they should be, ostensibly due to time constraints, they still have enough substance to be worthwhile. A lot of the characters in this series are driven by bonds both old and new. Friendships of all sorts bloom across divisions of class, clan or age. Everything from power of friendship to unwavering faith gets a moment in the limelight in a manner that manages to be pleasantly sentimental rather than cliché. The ending in particular illustrates this nicely, with those on both sides of the battle reflecting on the people in their lives and what they mean to them.
The only criticism I have is somewhat insignificant when you consider the bigger picture. But still, I have to say that Neko’s antics got old fast. I get that she’s more feline than human in mind but when the end result of that is a teenage girl who acts like a particularly bratty child complete with an irksome high-pitched voice, it becomes grating. Otherwise, everything’s fine. Though Return of Kings never manages to be exceptional, it’s still a really good show.
There are so many of these that I don’t even know where to begin. The first season did have a sizeable cast but most of them were nameless nooks. Here, those same guys become more significant, the already important characters get more development and several new key players are introduced. But I’ll just stick to a handful of the most prominent ones.
The orderly upholders of law, the Blue Clan, play a central role in the story. The Blue King, Munakata Reisi, is an odd mix of stern and eccentric. He gets a fair bit of attention when the story explores his less calculated side as an incident from the last season turns him into a walking timebomb. Fushimi Saruhiko is as unapologetically crazy as ever but in his case too, we see glimpses of his softer side as he struggles with a broken relationship that he has clearly not let go of. Awashima Seri remains more or less the same in terms of character but we do get to see her deal with the unenviable possibility that she might have to kill her King, a man she immensely respects, in order to stave off disaster.
The Red Clan, which gained a new King in the events of the movie, is as wild as ever but their actions are a little more tame this time around. Their previous King Suoh Mikoto’s presence is felt throughout the story on multiple characters despite the fact that he’s dead. This is most evident in the case of Kushina Anna, the current Red King who’s just a young girl but is nonetheless powerful and also strong enough to shoulder such a great responsibility. Anna’s interesting enough to warrant a great deal of thought – everything from her abilities to her mentality is mysterious and fascinating but unfortunately, not a lot about her is known. Then there’s Yata Misaki who remains loud and hotheaded but grows noticeably as the story progresses.
The Silver Clan, though it contains the main character, is sidelined during this season. Not to say they’re not important but they’re somewhat overshadowed by the rest of the clans. That said, it is great to see the difference between the clueless Shiro of the first season and the Shiro who remembers his true identity as the Immortal Silver King. He’s a blend of endearing silliness and sharp intellect, and is quite a dynamic character in his own right. His clansmen Neko and Kuroh remain much the same, though the latter does seem to have learned to let go of the past he’s held fast to in favor of living in the present.
Finally we have the antagonists, the Green Clan, whom are far more compelling than the first season’s Colorless King. Their intentions are clearly stated and are even understandable to an extent especially when considering the Green King’s reason for wanting to possess the Dresden Slates. Not a lot is known about them as individuals but they are a quirky lot whose group dynamics never fail to entertain.
Art and Music:
This sequel takes the animation up a notch from that of its predecessor. The visuals are far more polished and the colors are as vivid as ever. On the whole, the art is crisper, brighter, better and…weirder. Most notable are the flight sequences with their excellent choreography complemented by vibrant bursts of powered attacks.
The opening theme, Asymmetry by Yui Horie, doesn’t quite measure up to the first season’s Kings but is pleasant enough nonetheless. The ending theme is Kai by CustomiZ and it’s an energetic piece that suits the anime well.
A good sequel that builds on the strength of the original story and ends in a proper conclusion that ties up the story threads well.