First things first – or last things first, if you like. As with Mairimashita! Iruma-kun, the announcement of a continuation for Kingdom was not too much of a surprise. In this case you’re taking about a series that’s never going to make a fortune as an anime – disc sales and merchandising and concerts are not its thing. But Kingdom is a true titan as a manga, one of the top 20 of all-time in sales, so if it makes sense to do three seasons it makes sense to do four. And with this one being both a cour shorter than the first two and delayed by an entire year, the wait figured to be a lot shorter this time. It’s certainly nice not to have to worry about it, though.
It was an interesting move to save the Qiang Lei stuff for the very end after not showing her for most of the season. I get the reasoning, and I’m not sure what the alternative would have been – you’d have had to interrupt the Coalition Invasion arc to insert it, I suppose. But this didn’t totally work for me, if I’m honest. The arc itself was fine, but at two episodes it felt very weird sticking it at the end. I’d have sooner seen it earlier in the season even if it meant a change of venue, and just end with Qiang Lei walking into the Feixin camp.
In the final analysis it doesn’t really matter that much, though. The point was that we end up where we ended up, and for that to happen Qiang Lei had to finish her revenge story. You Lian proved to be quite a formidable foe – which she should as the Chi You, I suppose. A title she earned after killing her own sister in addition to Qiang Lei’s sister Xiang. As she lectured Quang Lei, having survived the ritual makes her stronger in and of itself, and for a time that looks to be the case.
The turning point for Qiang Lei comes when she follows the path her sister took, deep into the “Yin Realm“. To be honest this part of Kingdom has always been a bit muddy for me – I know these tribes are based on real assassins of the period, but the whole business with deep dances and such gets pretty far out there into the metaphysical realm. I like Qiang Lei as a character and the Xiang story has traction, but I’m kind of happy this subplot is over with. At least for now…
After having gone deeper than she’s supposed to be able to go and still come back (as Xiang did, looking for a way to kill her), Qiang Lei is able to best You Lian despite having what I assume are fractured ribs and a punctured lung. It’s the light Xin provided her (heh) that guides her back. She tells Qian Ming to hide the body in the hope that You Lian’s death will remain a secret and the ritual not be held – a position I fully support, as it’s pretty damn barbaric.
Qiang Lei’s return to the Feixin Force is certainly an interesting development in all sorts of ways. First and foremost I’m assuming she’s the first of her clan to serve with outsiders, but her friendship with Xin is even more interesting. Kingdom is certainly not a romance series but Xin is a soldier, not a monk – Zheng got a gal and fathered a child, so I don’t see why Xin shouldn’t follow suit. And there are undeniable sparks between those two, though I don’t know if they’ll actually be pursued. She’s also a devastating weapon for the Feixin to have at their disposal, another X-factor to make them stand out as a unit in the wars to come. And there are always wars to come – this is the Warring States era, not the backgammon and Pu-erh tea era…
We’ll find out next spring, I suppose, assuming there are no production delays this time around. I think there’s a pretty good chance that Kingdom will eventually be adapted in its entirety, but that’s gonna take a while – the manga is already at 62 volumes with no sign of ending any time soon. From humble origins as a truly ghastly production almost a decade ago, Kingdom the anime has come a long, long way – to the point where it’s now something close to the adaptation this epic story deserves. However many seasons it takes to finish the job, I hope they happen.
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