Growing up, I didn’t really have the opportunity to witness accurate and positive representation of persons with disability in media. Whenever a character with a disability was present in a show or movie, they were usually a side character with no real character development or were often portrayed with negative stereotypes that were presented as a joke. Media has come a long way in the past couple of decades, and representation for persons with disabilities is becoming more normalized and is moving in a more positive direction. I wanted to focus on one particular show that I have been watching and its unique representation of disability.
The show is called Ranking of Kings, and it is a Japanese anime that is set in a fantasy world that is ruled by kings and queens. We are first introduced to one of the main characters, Prince Boji, who, despite being born to a family of Giants, was born with a form of Dwarfism alongside being deaf and non-verbal.
From the get-go, Boji is a happy and loveable character who exudes positive energy and takes his role as being the next in line to inherent his father’s throne very seriously. We then get introduced to the deuteragonist, Kage. He is the lone survivor of his clan of the Shadow People, who are often labelled as thieves and are disliked by the kingdom.
The story follows these two main characters and how their friendship develops through their mutual respect and care for one another. What I found most interesting was how these two are portrayed in the show. Because of his disability, Boji is viewed as being inadequate to take over the throne despite it being his birth given right. He was passed over for his younger brother, who is later crowned as the new king.
This feeling of being overlooked is unfortunately something that a lot of us can relate to. Similar to Boji, we have negative assumptions placed on us despite how capable we truly are. The show puts this idea on display, where Boji feels frustrated and upset that no matter what he does, people always assume that he needs to be protected and can’t take on the role he was meant to. I found these to be real feelings that I felt while growing up where, despite proving myself, I was always put in a box or needed to be protected from the world around me.
And this is what I love about the story. It gives a real insight into how persons with disabilities face a lot of hardship, and not in the way that people assume. Often times, it isn’t the fact that we can’t do things that make us disheartened, it’s the unfound assumptions that people place on us that can weigh us down.
But despite all of that, the show demonstrates how limitless Boji’s potential truly is. He finds new solutions to make his goals a reality and shows how his disability is an asset through his great level of empathy, problem-solving, and determination. To me, the central theme of the show is the idea that things are not as they seem. From the central story to the child-like animation portraying serious themes, this story challenges so many assumptions that we have going into it, and this is what I truly love seeing. Assumptions about disabilities need to be challenged and broken down into a more accurate representation, and I believe the show was helping to work towards that change.