Whether you’re a fan of the royal family or not, there’s no denying that the Coronation of Charles III is a monumental time in recent local history. Not only will Charles and Camilla be the oldest to be crowned King and Queen in British history, but this will also be the first coronation of the 21st century (the last, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, was in the 20th century). And no matter how you feel about real royal people, fictional royal people are way more fun. Not only do we get a look into their personal lives and struggles of coping with daily royal duties, but the reader can live vicariously through them via their luxury lifestyle OR have fun with a different set of stakes that only royals deal with (throne room politics, arranged marriages, warfare, and more). Anime and Manga are no stranger to such stories, and so, on this special bank holiday, the Anime UK News team share their favourite royal characters.
My pick for my favourite anime royalty is one of my childhood favourites; Princess Serenity, the past incarnation of Sailor Moon. Being a Moon princess doesn’t just mean having a lovely wardrobe and overseeing her Kingdom, but also protect the Silver Crystal, preventing massive power from falling into the wrong hands. We all know the iconic Sailor Moon, but it’s telling that when she enters a powerful state at the end of each season to face the evil that threatens the world, she normally transforms into her Princess outfit to channel her magnificent power. She’s also a loving, benevolent leader; in the 30th century she becomes Neo Queen Serenity of Crystal Tokyo, where she not only bestows long life and health to her Kingdom but also protects everyone from evil across space and time, whilst sacrificing her ability to transform into Sailor Moon. Growing up, it’s easy to see why kids loved seeing Sailor Moon power up for the final fight, and have it come not just from her Crystal but the love and loyalty from her team. But also, because through all her hardships and battles, she grows up to be a compassionate, loving Queen who protects everyone. The series is full of other beautiful princesses in shape of the other Senshi, from Mercury to Pluto, all having beautiful princess outfits and power-ups, based upon their past lives as Princesses of their own planets. So, there’s plenty of royalty to admire and pick up every detail of all their dresses, and wonder what each of them are like whilst being royalty in their own castles on their home planets.
I also want to give a shout out to an Egyptian royalty: Atem from Yu-Gi-Oh!. Not only for sacrificing himself to save the world form an evil force and sealing himself within an ancient artifact, but also being the ‘King of Games’ in the future when he possess the body of protagonist Yugi, and also for being able to keep such magnificent hair before the invention of hair gel. Whether past or future, Atem does look badass and powerful.
Perhaps unsurprisingly my pick has gone down the isekai route and the royalty that springs to mind for me is King Kazuya Souma from How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom. Souma is originally summoned from his peaceful life in Japan to the Kingdom of Elfrieden to fulfil the role of hero, someone who could go and fight the Demon Lord. Upon his arrival, Souma is brought into a discussion with the current king, who quickly realises that Souma is better suited to rule the country as king than on the front lines facing down danger!
Souma’s rule is a peaceful one. Thanks to his knowledge from Japan, he’s already spotted several ways he can improve everyone’s quality of life, but there are plenty of problems that his past-life experience can’t help him with. In these times he must lean on Princess Liscia, who he’s engaged to, and the politicians and nobles who support him. Together he always aims to chart a course forward where the kingdom can work with the surrounding countries to form a united front against the Demon Lord, who poses a threat to not just Elfrieden but everyone else as well. Most importantly, Souma is kind to everyone no matter who they are or the country they came from. That’s not to say he’s a king who won’t make tough decisions, because he will, but he’s a kind-hearted ruler who listens to those around him to prevent making rash decisions. He’s no fool either, so if someone is feeding him incorrect information, he will quickly figure it out and root out any troublemakers who might be trying to undermine his rule.
Is he the perfect king? Maybe not. Using his past life knowledge means he’s not entirely ruling on his own merits since he’s introducing plenty of improvements and policies that already exist in the modern society he comes from. But it’s hard to deny that the decisions he makes have a positive impact on the Kingdom and its residents, which is the most important thing.
For me, anime and manga depictions of monarchs are some of the best around, as they tend to have one of two qualities I look for in a monarch: they’re either fictional, or no longer alive. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the monarchy in general, but there are plenty of good stories about them. See The Rose of Versailles and its depiction of Marie Antoinette, widely regarded as a manga classic.
In terms of British monarchs, there are a fair number who crop up. The late Elizabeth II is in horror manga Hellsing, Queen Victoria regularly appears in Black Butler, and the future Charles III, along with then-wife Princess Diana and their children William and Harry, make a cameo in CLAMP’s Man of Many Faces.
However, the most in-depth look at a British monarch in anime and manga recently is Richard III in Requiem of the Rose King, a manga based of William Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses plays, and thus also featuring Henry VI, Edward IV, the Princes in the Tower and Henry VII. The series is most noted for the way it depicts Richard III in a way that is different to Shakespeare’s play. Rather than being a hunchback, Richard gives off goth vibes with heterochromic eyes, lank hair and dressing all in black. There is also one other big difference in this version of Richard III – he is intersex.
While there are the obvious court intrigues and bloody battles regarding control of the crown, the more interesting aspect of the series is how Richard deals with his own personal problems. He is ashamed of his body, with his mother constantly calling him a demon. Meanwhile, he later falls in love with his great ally the Duke of Buckingham, and Richard even worries about becoming pregnant. Richard is voiced by Ciarán Strange, a non-binary British voice actor (you can read an interview I did with them for AUKN here). This story does fascinate me, partly because I wonder how the country would react if we did have a monarch who came out as intersex, or in some other way outside of the usually-perceived gender binary. Would the public welcome the news, and be more accepting to such people, or would they attack a transgender monarch just for being transgender rather than for any political reason?
For those interested in other manga based on British monarchs, there are other titles currently being written. Last year, a new manga by Ai Kozaki entitled Cecil no Jo-o (Cecil’s Queen) debuted, focusing on the Tudor dynasty, and follows 12-year-old future chancellor William Cecil’s devotion to the future Elizabeth I. There appears to be no news about whether this series will get an English translation.
In The Royal Tutor (manga 2013-21, TV anime 2017) mangaka Higasa Akai conjures up an alternative 19th century Vienna, naming it Wienner in the kingdom of Grannzreich. This alternate historical version of the Austro-Hungarian empire is ruled over by King Victor (looking astonishingly youthful in the manga) who has sired five sons and one little daughter (his queen, Titania, when we eventually meet her is also astonishingly youthful but then it seems as if she’s left the raising of her sons and daughter Adele to her mother-in-law, so…) King Victor decides to hire a tutor for the four younger sons: Kai, Bruno, Leonhard and Licht to prepare them for potential kinghood, should the crown prince, Eins, not be up to the task. The diminutive Heine Wittgenstein, named royal tutor and an old friend of his majesty’s, arrives at the royal palace of Weisburg and – after some initial confusion, caused by his stature and youthful looks – goes on to prove that he is possessed of a formidable intellect. He’s soon got the measure of his four teenaged royal charges and having discovered their strengths and weaknesses, sets out to challenge them to make the most of their very different abilities.
What to make, then, of this portrait of nineteenth century mittel-European monarchy and its entitled princes? Of course, the mangaka shows us that tutor Heine is not the dutiful teacher/servant he seems to be but first met the king when they were much younger and Heine was one of an anti-monarchist group of insurgents. Then there’s outward-going Prince Licht who moonlights as a waiter in a café in the city, concealing his identity as he enjoys learning how to make and serve good coffee from the café owner – and, of course flirting outrageously with the female customers. Studious Prince Bruno idolizes Heine, so the royal tutor encourages him to consider pursuing his studies at university and going abroad to learn more about the world. The historical background that inspired this story is little more than stage setting and the costumes etc. are not terribly historically accurate although very pretty – the repressive and formal courts that Princess Sisi inhabited and drove King Ludwig of Bavaria to madness are not in evidence here. Only the later chapters featuring dark and brooding Prince Eins hint at something much more tragic (these are only hinted at in the anime which stops at Volume 6). So even though there are hints of rebellion in the kingdom, some troubling persecution of ethnic minorities, and the disturbed state of mind of the crown prince leads to some of the darkest moments in the story, it’s hard not to suspect that the mangaka’s editor was encouraging her to sustain her idealized portrayal of court life where there’s endless supplies of sacher torte and benevolent, loyal servants and bodyguards constantly in attendance. All in all, it’s a very enjoyable story, attractively drawn, whether in anime or (longer) manga form (Yen Press) as long as you switch off your inner historian and just enjoy the fluff! (Or would that be whipped cream on your coffee?)
While there are plenty of monarchs across the many anime I’ve seen there is only obvious answer to “which is the best”:
In the world of Dragon Ball the entire planet is governed by a single man-dog King, only referred to as “The King” in the original Japanese version though later given the name “King Furry” in the dubs. He is dedicated to peace, is loved the world over and when Goku was fighting the Demon King Piccolo, he wanted to help, despite being clearly incapable of fighting, just because the fate of the world being placed on a young boy wasn’t fair. He’d get my… well, I was going to say vote but that’s not how monarchy works, but you know what I mean! All hail the King!
It felt as though we had a bit of a drought of classical royal families in anime after the 80s and 90s were stuffed with runaway princesses, dashing princes, crazy kings and treacherous queens, but the isekai format has definitely revived interest in the old archetypes recently and I’m interested to see what comes out of more modern takes on the setup. It was tricky to choose a favourite when I have fond memories of both modern heroes like Prince Bojji (Ranking of Kings) and free-spirited alien princesses like Lum (Urusei Yatsura), but in the end I’m plumped for another classic anime with no shortage of royals jostling for attention: one of my personal favourites, Slayers.
The most interesting elements of royalty-themed anime are usually the complicated political shenanigans but in Slayers the central royals are probably the simplest characters in the early plot. Despite some family tragedy in their backstory, the inimitable Prince Phil and his daughter Amelia are a pair of zany powerhouses who lighten the mood of every scene they’re in, hurling punches and one-liners around in their eternal pursuit of pacifism and justice. They’re not the brightest at times but it can’t be denied that the rulers of the Kingdom of Saillune have a lot of heart, and sometimes a good inspirational speech punctuated with a flurry of fists really can solve problems. When it can’t, of course, it’s necessary to call upon powerful spellcasters instead, and I often feel that our own royal festivities would be more fun with a little magical flair. Thank goodness for anime and its artistic license!
What are some of your favourite anime royals? Let us know in the forum!