“In the village, the quiet village, the lion sleeps tonight…”
Its 1977 in the miniscule village of Yonaki (population: thirty two) in King’s Game: Origin, and cousins Kazunari and Natsuko are in love despite the strong objections of Natsuko’s family and many of the other villagers. They’re also starring in a survival story, so life sort of sucks for the pair. One day, one of the teenagers in the village finds a letter in his family’s mailbox that states that the “King’s Game” has begun, and everyone in the village between the ages of ten and twenty must touch a corpse by midnight or they will be hung. Suspecting a prank, almost all in the age bracket follow the directive nevertheless. In the morning, two corpses greet the town, and the letters continue to arrive, upping the nastiness of the punishment with each successive letter.
King’s Game: Origin is the perfect junky read. It’s got the depth of a dog bowl, and the characters receive all the fleshing out of a desiccated tree frog. However, it’s got a breakneck pace that allows no chance to slow down and notice that all the characters are archetypes and some of what occurs doesn’t make much sense. I’ll also give it points for starting off with the slaughter by picking off a ten year old, something that even many of its brethren don’t have the stomach to do, sticking firmly to killing the thirteen and overs. It does wobble a bit by the fourth round of challenge and death, as an attempt at horror ends up simply going into the realm of the amusingly absurd, but if it can maintain the rapid pace I am confident it will remain an entertaining if disposable read.
If there’s anything to really pick at here, it’s the boring utilization of the Madonna/Whore dichotomy in the characters of Natsuko and Michiko. Natsuko is a veritable yamato nadeshiko, excepting that whole wanting to hold hands and make kissy faces with her cousin despite her mother’s objections deal, so of course our other primary female character has to play the harlot. It’s a bit sad that I’m not bothered so much by how regressive a depiction this is as with how utterly predictable and dull it is. It plays out pretty much exactly as one can predict from the first appearance of Michiko, who as the resident harlot also fills the role of the somewhat amoral character who’ll force resolutions of issues where other characters are too timid to, since to do so might corrupt our image of them as noble somehow. I suppose we’re meant to be somewhat disgusted with some of Michiko’s actions and her forwardness but even if her general stance is as expected, she’s more compelling than the milksoppy Kazunari or Natsuko. Doubtless she’ll come to a horrible end, but not before putting Kazunari into some more sexual situations.
I read King’s Game: Origin on Crunchyroll, and it was the first series on the site where I noticed some editing errors. They’re pretty minor, but it is irritating to come across them nevertheless. Otherwise, it’s a perfectly fine release – the art is crisp and clear, and the translation reads smoothly. I will note that there are no translation notes to speak of, but it doesn’t negatively impact the overall enjoyment of the story.
It’s worth noting that King’s Game: Origin is the prequel to the manga King’s Game. There is a sequel to that series as well. In King’s Game, the action takes place in a high school class of thirty-two, surely why in Origin the village is of thirty-two.
A solid read for survival story fans, particularly those who prefer a game aspect to the proceedings. It doesn’t do anything new ultimately with the basic premise, but it executes it sharply, and that alone puts it slightly ahead of the crowded field.