Mamiko NotoSayaka SenbongiRie KugimiyaKengo Kawanishi
The Genius Prince's Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt
Also known as: Tensai Ouji no Akaji Kokka Saisei Jutsu
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2022
Director: Masato Tamagawa
Writer: Deko Akao
Original creator: Toru Toba
Actor: Akio Otsuka, Daiki Hamano, Kengo Kawanishi, Kenichiro Matsuda, Mamiko Noto, Nao Toyama, Rie Kugimiya, Rie Takahashi, Ryuichi Kijima, Sayaka Senbongi, Soma Saito, Takayuki Sugo, Yoko Hikasa, Yuki Nakashima, Yuki Sakakihara
Keywords: anime, fantasy, favourite
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Website category: Anime 2022
Review date: 8 March 2024
tensai ouji
If its protagonist hadn't been a goofy brat, this show might have been like a non-SF Legend of the Galactic Heroes, i.e. clever, dry and boring. It's about international politics in a fantasy-ish world... but it doesn't really have magic, monsters or anything like that. It's realistic, except that its international map, religions and ethnicities are fictional.
Personally, I thought it was great.
Our anti-hero, Prince Wayne, is a brilliant strategist in a bad situation. He's the de facto ruler of an impoverished northern country with untrustworthy neighbours and few natural resources. He's a bit of a bastard, but no more than is necessary from anyone who wants to stay in power in this ruthless world. War is a sensible policy choice. (Any ruler who disagreed with that statement would get eaten alive.) What's important in a marriage isn't love, but politics. A wife is her husband's property. Religion in a pain in the neck. Racial minorities are liable to get treated as slaves or meat sacks. Wayne kills a few people personally, but only because they're racists who triggered his personal berserk button.
(The official subtitles give his name as "Wein", incidentally, but I'm using "Wayne" because it's funnier.)
Wayne's achievements are amazing. He rescues his country from dreadful scrapes and they'd be dead without him. (Mind you, I reckon he messed up in ep.11. He's completely in the wrong about fraudulently trading mislabelled goods, but his treatment of the prime minister who'd come to protest about it was insulting and could easily have created a new enemy. Then, in ep.12, his claim of having sold poisoned clothes is both silly and dangerous, only achieving its aim because the prime minister had forgotten to plug in his brain that morning.)
Wayne's speech, manners and conduct in public are impeccable. You've never seen so much elaborate politeness. Privately, though, he's a brat who wants to sell his country to the highest bidder and then live in luxury. (I'm expecting him never to achieve that, by the way.) That's fun. It stops the show feeling dry and gives life to Wayne's misdemeanours and setbacks. It also helps a lot that the only person who really knows him (his aide Ninym) is as intelligent as him and genuinely dedicated to the goals he supports in public... but they're devoted to each other. They're a great team and she'll tell him when he's being a twat. (Also, their banter can be funny.)
Wayne's yet another all-conquering light novel protagonist, of course, but his personality flaws make him more interesting than that. Also, crucially, his opponents are often as clever and dangerous as he is, making his victories feel earned. (Lowellmina is his female counterpart, while King Gruyere Soljest is unexpectedly cool.) Yes, there will be multiple hot women who take an understated interest in Wayne... but that's realistic, given his status in this world, and an actual relationship can't happen for political reasons.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show. I've seen it compared to The Irresponsible Captain Tyler, a Legend of the Galactic Heroes parody that became famous in its own right, but personally I preferred it to that old series. Every so often, some foolish character will be a little too cartoonish, but conversely even the most unlikely character can end up impressing the hell out of you with unexpected brains and resourcefulness. Wayne's sister even explores the unlikely concept of democracy. His public facade inspires people who mistakenly (?) believe in him and leads them to great deeds. I'm hoping for a Season 2.