Heine Wittgenstein has been called to tutor four of the royal princes with the task of training them to be future kings (the implications of potentially five candidates clamouring for the throne are hinted at but never dealt with). On arrival, Heine has his hands full winning over the four princes who aren’t exactly welcoming a new tutor with open arms.
I reviewed this show week to week so if you are interested in my individual episode thoughts, click here.
Going in to this review, I should probably admit I only even tried the first episode of this show because it seemed like the kind of thing I could quickly learn to dislike, drop and move on from. Then the first episode, while it didn’t totally defy my expectations, certainly made me rethink my position. While most of my joy from the early episodes comes from watching the stoic Heine interact with the fairly over the top Princes, I soon became quite attached to most of the cast and as the show continued I really found myself looking forward to each new episode. As a result, this anime became one of the most pleasantly surprising views I’ve had in awhile.
However, just because it wasn’t a stupid comedy filled with empty headed pretty boys swanning about a palace doesn’t mean it was actually going to be good. I know that other reviewers actually ended up not liking the direction this anime took because while the comedy is clearly apparent in early episodes, this anime transitions from a comedy with some more dramatic moments to a drama that occasionally remembers to throw some comedy in. Given my preferences in viewing, this fit me perfectly and I found myself enjoying the show more and more as the season went on, except for the final episode but I’ll get back to that later.
What I think worked with the transitioning tone is that it seemed to match where the Prince’s were in their character journeys. At the start the Princes were quite immature in their views and actions and the comedy was pretty fast and frequent. Then there was some growth and the comedy started tapering off a little to be replaced with more serious conversations about the future and what the Princes actually wanted from their future. Finally, the story looks at the Princes taking independent action and at that point the comedy pretty much gets tossed out the window (though there are still some moments that will make you smile as the Princes ‘investigate’). Because the tone always seemed to match the events in the story, I didn’t feel that this was a jarring change but rather a more organic one and it meant that the series didn’t feel like it lacked cohesion or like it was suddenly taking an unexpected turn.
Of the cast, Heine is definitely the stand out. As the characters around him change in response to his presence, he is the absolute rock. His personality is set from the get go and he faces each situation in an expected and determined manner. This works because Heine is rarely at the forefront of the action or the solution to the issues. He offers a word of advice or encouragement, teaches a lesson when needed, and generally watches over his charges so that they don’t go too far out on a limb. One of my favourite moments was the flashback to childhood Heine as his personality was still pretty much identical. However, after a certain incident, we see younger Heine in one moment of actual vulnerability and it really makes you wonder how much he is hiding beneath that deadpan face of his.
The four princes, Licht and Leo initially irritated me, Bruno started out arrogant, went through a weird overly servile phase before finally finding himself (and if one of these four ever becomes King and not the elder brother, please let it be Bruno). Kai remained fairly enigmatic for a large part of the opening due to his laconic nature so I couldn’t really make a judgement on him until well into the season, but like all the others, Kai goes through some excellent growth and by the end the four of them work together fairly effectively and all demonstrate some great characteristics.
As this is a story about Kings and succession, there is of course a darker side to the story and in this case it is essentially the efforts of someone to remove Heine from the role of royal tutor (apparently he’s a bit too good at training future kings). There’s also the eldest Prince who we don’t see at all until the end of the show who one would suspect is actually the one who is going to be King one day. The conspiracy is basic enough given it really only gets a handful of episodes focussed on it, but it does keep things moving after we’ve gone through the initial teaching the Princes phase.
So, onto the final episode so spoilers below though I’ve tried to keep it fairly generic.
The final episode is just cheesy. I didn’t much like it on first watch. It wraps up the story well enough and the Princes supposedly get to show off their new and improved ability to deal with things in a Kingly manner, but basically the writing fails them. If you are going to have four Princes deliver and impassioned speech then it really needed to have a bit more affect as what it ended up sounding like were four spoilt children whining because someone took their toy away and making grandiose statements and half-hearted arguments in a desperate plea to get it back. If the show was trying for a dramatic final moment and wanted to hit us with the emotions, it kind of missed its mark for me.
Despite that, I really did enjoy watching The Royal Tutor during the Spring season. It isn’t the most memorable show and I doubt I’ll revisit it, but it was most definitely pleasant viewing for the season and you could certainly do worse.
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