WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Ranking of Kings Episode 4, "The First Trip," now streaming on Funimation.
The first three episodes of Ranking of Kings did an amazing job making viewers fall in love with the show's main characters, whether they were instantly sympathetic or needed time to grow on you. However, Episode 4, "The First Trip," goes in the opposite direction by giving audiences good reason to hate a character who, up until now, seemed like a decent guy. The swordmaster Domas was introduced as one of the more reasonable and supportive figures in Prince Bojji's life, but as he takes Bojji on his first mission, Domas turns out to be a horrible traitor.
It's all the more shocking because the episode starts off with a flashback, in which Domas reveals his sign language knowledge to young Bojji and offers the deaf boy unconditional acceptance. Based on this opening, viewers are primed to expect Domas to continue being good to Bojji. In the present, however, any of Domas's positive feelings about his student are outweighed by his insistence on following the king's orders -- even if these orders are to assassinate Bojji.
Daida has only barely become king but is already doing a horrible job. His ranking among the various kings is down to 90th place -- in contrast, his predecessor King Bosse was ranked seventh. Warped by his magic mirror, Daida orders Domas to kill Bojji. Daida might be capable of redemption; his visions when he opens Pandora's Box show him that Bojji is a genuine source of hope for the kingdom. However, for now, his power is a danger to everyone.
Bojji's first mission with Domas and Hokuro has its ups and downs. Bojji loses the bag containing his mother's letter that he's been assigned to deliver, but the lost bag mysteriously ends up returning to him (could this be Kage's doing?). He also has a strange encounter with a Tom Bombadil-esque dancing hunter king who teaches him about the cycle of nature.
Twice, Bojji almost meets his end. The first time, he's thankfully prevented from eating poisoned meat. The second time is where the episode ends and everything becomes painful. The mission just happens to take Bojji to the Gates of Hell, where Domas makes his betrayal by shoving the prince down the pit to the underworld. We know Bojji will survive this ordeal somehow (there wouldn't be a show otherwise), but to see Domas attempt to murder the child he cared for because his king ordered him to is a deeply painful betrayal.
New episodes of Ranking of Kings premiere Thursdays on Funimation.