The Kingdoms of Ruin is a dark mix of futuristic science fiction and high fantasy built on an intriguing premise that pays off in a jarring way in Episode 1, “And So Our Story Begins.” Animated by Yokohama Animation Lab, directed by Keitaro Motonaga, with series composition by Takamitsu Kuono, The Kingdoms of Ruin is one to watch this Fall anime season.
The series, based on the manga created by mangaka Yoruhashi, takes place in a world where Witches have blessed the human race. They’ve saved them from plague, famine, and war. But with their vast power, the humans became insecure, to the point that fear ran rampant, leading to the hunting down and eradication of every Witch. With the witches running for their lives, the Redia Empire has used rapid “Gear Expansion” to push science and technology to a point where they don’t need Witches anymore. Science versus magic all in the pursuit of power is the crux of The Kingdoms of Ruin Episode 1, and we get to see how the Redia Empire gets there and the cost of it all.
For this premiere episode, we get to know and care for the Ice Witch Chloe (Ryoko Shiraishi) and her young apprentice Adonis (Kaito Ishikawa), who are on the run from the Redia Emporer Goethe. When they’re captured by the technology they had no idea existed, Adonis, who was raised by Chloe watches his beloved mentor die in front of him. After a violent display of humiliation and violence, Adonis swears to get revenge against humanity…and that’s just the first two acts of the episode.
A set-up for the future, The Kingdoms of Ruin is a strong world-building experience that drops the viewer directly into Adonis’s perspective and tells the story of “Gear Expansion” and the brutal inhumanity of the Redia Empire. While the tonal shift of the episode from what seems to be a mentor and mentee adventure to a child scarred by watching his found family murdered in front of him is jarring, it pays off in spades. The stark shift in both visual direction and color palette manages to disorient the viewer without losing them.
That shift also mirrors the two genre aspects of the series that stand in an uncanny exposition to each other. Seeing blue jeans paired with metal greaves and a fantasy king holding a gun to the head of a Witch shouldn’t work, but for some reason, it actually does. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m a fan of The Kingdoms of Ruin Episode 1’s use of a tired homophobic trope or the threat of sexual violence it poses to the new character Droroka (Azumi Waki) introduced in the last five minutes of the episode.
As a whole, Yokohama Animation Lab is able to capture both genre aesthetics and do each one justice. When we see Chloe use her magic, it’s astounding. Specifically, the use of light and the details were chosen for the emotion on her face and how different that animation style looks compared to the moment in which Adonis and Chloe are digitized and transported to the dias to be executed. Even more interesting is the choice to use silhouettes with a red background for Chloe’s execution. It’s a sequence that goes from bad to worse, and the switch to the silhouette accentuates the way her body is being blown apart.
The Kingdoms of Ruin Episode 1 is a doozy. It’s dark and mean and has taken the time to drop the audience into the Redia Empire with a clear understanding of its inhumanity. With Adonis seemingly being set up for his Elfen Lied freed from being a captive moment in Episode 2, there is going to be a lot more action coming, and I’m excited to see how it unfolds.
The Kingdoms of Ruin Episode 1 is streaming now on Crunchyroll with new episodes every Friday.
Kingdom of Ruins Episode 1 — "And So Our Story Begins"
Kingdom of Ruins Episode 1 is a doozy. It’s dark and mean and has taken the time to drop the audience into the Redia Empire with a clear understanding of its inhumanity.