The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Chivalry of a Failed Knight
How would you rate episode 1 of
Chivalry of a Failed Knight ?
Ikki Kurogane dreams of being a magic knight, despite the fact that he utterly fails to fulfill the “magic” part. He attends one of the magic schools of chivalry where magic students fight one another in competitions. He accidentally peeps a red-haired princess in her underwear who threatens to kill him with her fire powers.
I think I already wrote this summary this morning. I can't help but wonder if the production committees behind Chivalry of a Failed Knight and Asterisk War talked at all before airing these shows in the same season, as they're indistinguishable from one another.
Some words are swapped out. “Genestella” become “Blazers,” “Festas” are “Seven Star Sword Art Festivals,” etc. Ikki is another milquetoast protagonist who carries the title of “Worst One,” meant to represent inadequacy, but he's actually really good because of course he is. He substitutes his lack of magic with being able to learn and replicate an opponent's fighting techniques in an absurdly short amount of time regardless of how skilled the foe is. He gets in a practice match with the Class A magic user/fighter Princess Stella over sharing a room and suffers nothing more than an abrasion and energy exhaustion, even though she has magical fire dragons blowing holes in the ceiling.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight only exceeds Asterisk War by a hair, and I credit that to its characters being just a tad more likable. Yes, Stella's personality is dime-a-dozen in harem shows, but by the episode's end she does try to be likable instead of doubling down on her haughty “commoners” attitude. The battle sequence itself was more entertaining insomuch as it wasn't just two people standing at opposite ends of the screen, throwing magic at one another.
On the other hand, Chivalry of a Failed Knight has some atrocious CG artwork blended into it, and Stella becoming Ikki's servant after losing to him is pretty cringe-worthy. Overall, I couldn't pick a frontrunner unless I retroactively lowered Asterisk's score by half a point.
The airing of both these shows this season only illustrates that this sub-genre has duly run its course, and it's time for the industry to get a smidgen more selective about what magical high school shows it pushes onto anime viewers each season.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight is available streaming at Hulu.
The modern anime production model is a complicated machine, and like most machines, it gives off certain waste byproducts. However, unlike machines that produce energy or physical resources, the anime machine's waste generally comes in the form of light novel adaptations. Chivalry of a Failed Knight is just such a byproduct - it is a concentrated capsule of hoary cliches and tedious fanservice, one in a long line of such shows that the continuous operation of the seasonal anime mechanism apparently demands.
If you stick to the premise, there's actually little difference between this show and The Asterisk War, which falls in pretty much exactly the same genre space. There's a male lead entering some kind of magical fighting academy, a tsundere redhead there to yell at him and challenge him to fights, and a general dusting of fanservice and escapism over the whole scenario. But it turns out that even within this very predictable genre space, execution really, really matters.
In Chivalry of a Failed Knight's case, that execution makes it a tedious and often highly abrasive watch. For one thing, the fanservice here is just tired and inescapable, consuming a good half of the episode. Our protagonist Ikki Kurogane begins the episode by walking in on the princess Stella Vermilion changing, and that “plot event” consumes the rest of this entire episode. The scene itself is played out over several minutes, and it leads directly into another sequence of Stella first trying to kill him for seeing her underwear, and then getting flustered when he compliments her. Stella basically spends this whole episode moving from “oh no, a man, gross” to “how dare you compliment an unmarried women” and eventually to the point where she's humping his chest while he's unconscious. I guess you could call that a kind of character development.
Beyond the overplayed and character-demolishing fanservice, there's also the problem that basically nothing in this episode invites further viewing. The big setpiece here is a duel between Stella and Ikki, but the tepid direction and the characters’ tendency to monologue all their attack ideas at each other keeps that from generating any real sense of energy. Additionally, that major fight scene also includes the reveal that Ikki is essentially the least compelling type of light novel protagonist - the guy who's considered worthless according to their society's arbitrary metric, but is secretly super awesome at everything. It's essentially the Mahouka situation - all the sympathy of being the underdog without any of the tension of actually, you know, being the underdog. And by the end of this episode, both Stella and Ikki's teacher are already speaking solemnly about how sad it is nobody appreciates him. I can accept this is an appealing fantasy to some, but when there are no hooks beyond “watch this awesome guy be beloved by girls” and no execution merits to speak of, the bare bones of this sort of adaptation really does come off as, well, a waste product.
So, one preview writeup ago, I said that The Asterisk War would easily win this season's prize for "Best Infinite Stratos-flavored light-novel anime." (I also gave it a 2.5 out of 5, so that's not exactly a prestigious award.) Of course, this begs the question: "If The Asterisk War is the best forgettable magic-high-school show, what's the worst one?"
I love it when the show does my job for me. Saves so much time. I'd much rather be watching Haikyu!! right now.
As several preview entries for both shows have already pointed out so far, Chivalry of a Failed Knight and The Asterisk War are exactly the same premise, except the latter looks and sounds much nicer than the former. Production values aren't the only thing setting these two mediocre piles of slush apart, though! Chivalry of a Failed Knight is also soul-suckingly lame on a story level. Where Asterisk War focused heavily on its heaps of exposition and lore, Chivalry pitches an underhand softball from the bottom of the barrel with its perfect irregular-at-magic-high-school MC-kun and a twin-tailed tsundere princess who must be thoroughly sexually humiliated for her arrogance and shallowness. One magical duel later, she's been put in her place, and now the two boring high schoolers must cohabitate, oh no but the hormones!
If you want to be thoroughly underwhelmed by generic pabulum this season, go with the better generic pabulum title. Chivalry of a Failed Knight is absolutely pointless garbage that you would have to watch with interstitial commercials even with a paid subscription because it's only on Hulu. Not only the worst light-novel anime this season (so far), but easily the worst show I've seen this season (so far). Don't worry, I'll keep myself braced for something even lamer to come along. I do it all for you, dear readers.
So, I'm pretty sure I've watched this episode twice before in this preview guide. The first time it was called Lance N' Masques and it felt kind of different. The second time it was called The Asterisk War and I was a little fed up. Now it's entitled Chivalry of a Failed Knight and I am 99% positive that somewhere out there is software that will write your magic school/teenage knight light novel for you if you plug in the names and magic terms. (Or maybe it will provide the latter if you select “randomize.”) There was a rumor that such a thing existed for romance novels a while back, and I have to tell you that one for light novels is feeling much more plausible.
Long story short, yep, it's another story about a future version of the world where somehow vaguely sciencey magic has become an inherited trait and students attend prestigious academies devoted to training them in its usage. There's a pink-haired princess with a firey temper matched by her fire-based magic and a hapless dude who walks in on her in her underwear before she goes crazy and challenges him to a school-sanctioned duel. He then surprises her with his strength and crushes are born. This honest-to-god happens in both this and The Asterisk War in exactly the same order.
The difference is really in the details. Chivalry of a Failed Knight is definitely the more fanservice-oriented of the two, with a naked scene and heroine Stella being actively curious about hero Ikki's body. That part's actually kind of nice, as it helps to make her less of an irritant and shows that perhaps her attitude comes from her upbringing as a pampered princess rather than any natural nastiness; in fact she actually says that she's transferred to Hagun Academy in order to grow as a magic knight since no one at home will allow her to practice enough to achieve her full potential. Unfortunately this character work gets lost in the requisite shrieks of “pervert” and her tsundere ranting; hopefully this will back off as the story gets going and is comfortable enough to leave such stereotypes behind. Ikki, for his part, is more laid back than his Asterisk counterpart, and his face might best be described as “open.” He's easy-going about his status as a “failure,” secure in the knowledge that he's cobbled together to overcome the world's flawed ranking system. He appears to take everything in stride, but he's also got a keen sense of honor, even if he doesn't always chose the most appropriate way to show it. (Ripping his clothes off so that he matches Stella in the initial walk-in scene may not have been a great plan.)
There's really nothing that stands out about Stella, Ikki, or Chivalry of a Failed Knight's first episode in general, and it is really very generic. I suspect it might fare better if you don't watch it right on the heels of other similar shows, because it's fairly harmless. But in this case “harmless” means “been there, seen that,” so the appeal of this story is worn thin. In this over-played genre, “harmless” isn't quite enough anymore and the abundance of this particular plot is as thin as that one T-shirt you've had for two decades and can't bring yourself to toss – comfortable, but no longer really fit to be worn in public.
Rating: N O P E
I'd sit here and summarize the plot of Chivalry of a Failed Knight for you, and then talk about whether or not the show had any good points, and likely complain it's another cookie-cutter light novel magic high school harem action dramedy. Then I'd give it a really low score because the animation is awful and the story came from the same uncreative computer software that's apparently writing all these extremely generic magic high school light novels, and that it isn't worth your time.
But Chivalry of a Failed Knight gives us a very rare opportunity: less than an hour ago I watched and reviewed the first episode of The Asterisk War, which is so uncannily similar to Chivalry of a Failed Knight that they may as well be the same series, adapted two different ways. Anime has a lot of repeated genres and reuses tropes and characters all the time, but it's really rare that you actually get two shows that are so similar they're almost exactly alike in the same season, literally airing on the same day. Chivalry of a Failed Knight is, for sure, THE BAD ONE – this is from the same dumpster of instantly-forgettable light novel anime that gave us junk like Absolute Duo and World Break, while The Asterisk War is one of the increasingly-rare examples of this genre being done basically as well as it possibly could be at this point.
So rather than rip Chivalry of a Failed Knight apart for being low-energy, wholly unremarkable, poorly-animated chaff, we should take this opportunity to compare these two shows side-by-side and get a really good handle on what it is that actually makes a good show. The Asterisk War is nothing to write home about, but it proves that if you're using these unbelievably tired story elements to the best of your ability and at least putting some effort and resources into the animation, you can make something that even these tired old eyes of mine can recognize as being of a particular quality. Chivalry of a Failed Knight is the sort of thing we complain about clogging up the anime industry, the sort of show that damages your enthusiasm for the medium by highlighting just how depressingly repetitive and samey it can be. In this instance, it's juxtaposed by another show that's doing almost the exact same thing, but it's doing it well, and that is what makes all the difference. It might seem obvious on its face – of course execution is king – but it's nice to have such a stark, immediately appreciable reminder of that very important principle.
In conclusion, Chivalry of a Failed Knight is a total waste of your time, but at least it serves a purpose, however unintentional.
Review: The world of Ikki Kurogane is a modern (or perhaps slightly futuristic) setting where individuals called Blazers exist who can manifest arms and armaments using magical power. They attend “chivalry schools” like Hagun Academy in order to become Magical Knights – although what, exactly, the practical point is to being a Magical Knight is woefully not elaborated upon in this episode. At Hagun Academy, which was once a regular winner at the annual Seven Star Fight Festival but now has slipped to 4th-6th place, Ikki has the nickname of The Worst because he flunked the previous school year and has a much lower magic level than other students, though he still aspire to triumph at the aforementioned Festival. So naturally that means that the female director is going to pair him up as roommates with the sexy Stella Vermillion, who is not only the princess of the Vermillion Empire but also widely-regarded as a genius. Saying that Stella is not thrilled with this is putting it mildly, so an arranged mock battle results where Stella discovers that Ikki is not by any means talentless; the school's grading system just cannot measure his own unusual abilities well. Fortunately for her, Ikki is a nice enough guy to not abuse the “loser is the winner's slave” bet that was on the line and the two come to something of an understanding.
If all of this sounds almost painfully formulaic and generic, you wouldn't be entirely wrong. It is a light novel adaptation, and its premise and characters seems stitched together from a handful of other titles which have been adapted into anime in recent years. Even the director of Hagun Academy, who seems like she might have specific, practical ulterior motive in pairing up Stella and Ikki, is an archetype which has become relatively common of late. The centerpiece fight scene though decently-stage, is not a stand-out, either, and Ikki showing unusual tricks which allow him to go toe-to-toe with an opponent who should utterly outclass him is utterly predictable and nothing about the moves or animation is all that unusual.
The possible saving grace of the series is how it angles Stella's underlying motivations. She isn't a (completely) typical haughty princess, and certainly does not let the “genius” tag go to her head. In fact, she is quite irritated by it, as flashbacks indicate that she is frustrated that people do not acknowledge all of the hard work she has put in herself and that people think she is just skating by on talent. This is hardly an original angle, either, but it is at least a fresher one, and that Ikki acknowledges this about her provides a more reasonable basis than normal for Stella's attraction to him to develop. It also doesn't hurt that Ikki is positively ripped, which seems to fascinate her, too. In fact, Ikki's unusual response to Stella potentially freaking out over him walking in on her changing (you knew that scene had to be here, didn't you?) is to strip down himself, as he sees that as being fair.
Overall technical merits on the first episode are fairly ordinary, although the closer, which is done in black-and-white except for blood-red highlights, makes a positive impression. Although Stella's build immediately suggests that fan service will be a major component, nothing more salacious than Stella in her undies actually comes up. Still, we'll wait and see on that, as Stella is the only girl that Ikki interacts with so far and a couple of others are introduced who seem like they might become regulars.
Thus some potential for a decent series does exist here, and it at least looks like it will not be flat-out awful. Chivalry will have to continue to find fresher angles to stand out from the pack, though.
discuss this in the forum (544 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history