The Summer 2017 Anime Preview Guide Knight's & Magic
How would you rate episode 1 of
Knight's & Magic ?
What is this?
How was the first episode?
I'll get the bad out of the way first: story-wise, Knight's & Magic is nothing you haven't seen many times before. This particular spin on the crowded isekai genre opens with Kurata, a programmer otaku in our world, dying in a car crash. Kurata is sent off to a fantasy-mecha world whose mix of high fantasy worldbuilding and mechanical suits seems roughly reminiscent of Escaflowne, and reborn as Ernesti, the grandson of the headmaster of a robot-training academy. This first episode sees our hero Ernie rising through the ranks of that academy as quickly as possible, intent on achieving his understandable dream of piloting a giant robot.
Knight's & Magic's first episode rushes through plot beats so quickly that it unintentionally acts as a somewhat damning indictment of light novel storytelling conventions. Our hero Ernie amazes his friends and admirers with some new trick every four minutes, demonstrating remarkable magical prowess, absurd inventiveness, and even overwhelming cuteness. He jumps several grades at once, invents magical guns, and saves middle school students with his sheer awesomeness. It is a little hard to take Ernie's story seriously.
That said, pacing aside, this is a very competently executed episode. Knight's & Magic features lovely color work and very appealing character designs, and its use of CG for both robots and monsters is actually very well-integrated into the overall production. This first episode also concludes with a brief fight scene that demonstrates some absolutely spectacular animation. It's not a lengthy sequence, but it's fluid and dynamic, marrying strong direction and great character acting to exciting action theatrics. The mechanical designs of this world's robots are also very appealing, offering the same steam-and-pulley charm of Escaflowne's steeds. If it weren't so rushed, this would be a pretty exemplary version of this story.
In the end, I'm guessing this episode's breakneck pacing was intended to power us through the obvious and not terribly interesting introduction of the source material. The bigger issue here is that Ernie is a Kirito-styled invincible awesome dude of infinite victories, which makes it very hard to care about his merry adventures. Still, if you're a fan of the genre, Knight's & Magic certainly has the aesthetic chops.
First of all, someone find me the grammar teacher of the person who came up with the title of this show. I need to have Words with them. That pesky misplaced apostrophe actually turned out to be an indicator of the way this episode left me feeling – it just doesn't quite work. In large part I suspect that this is because the series is trying to reach a specific point in the light novels the show is based on, one where all of the explanations and world building is finished and the real action begins. That's fair in terms of a goal; we all remember the Fate/Zero episode that mostly consisted of guys pacing on a rug while spouting explication. The issue, however, is that we're thrown into the story with the bare minimum of information, and that makes it a little difficult to really get into the plot.
Not that everything needs to be fully explained at once, but in order for us to care about little Ernie, the child the Japanese otaku programmer was reborn as in the requisite fantasy world, we need to have known him better pre-demise. About all we've got is that he was a good guy and a major robot model otaku; his regret upon dying was that he wouldn't get to build his models. While that does explain his instant love of the Silhouette Knights in his new life (basically giant mechs), it isn't much to base a character on, especially not one we're supposed to sympathize with. When his reintroduction and the threat to his (new) life makes him recall his previous existence is over, we quickly go into two time-skips, which once again only builds on the mecha-specific part of Ernie's personality. Everything about him that we know is wrapped up in the obsession that carried over from his other life, which makes him far too one-dimensional for a protagonist.
It also doesn't let us get to know the world very well. We do find out that Ernie is unusual in that by the time he starts school he's already well-versed in magic and that casting spells requires a catalyst, and we also know that there are at least dwarves for other humanoid races. But again, this isn't quite enough to draw the viewer in. The fact that the Knights are less-than-stellar in their animation doesn't help, although I do like the way they all look battered, as if they've seen some heavy use; it's a nice little detail. Likewise the blacksmith dwarf looks like he spends all day at the forge – he's scarred and dirty and heavily muscled.
If Knight's & Magic can get itself to where it wants to be in the story and slow things down a bit so that things like character development can happen, it could become a decent fantasy story. Let's just hope that it reaches that point in the next episode or two.
Another season of new anime invariably means some new variation of the “Average otaku guy transported to a fantasy world” premise, and it seems like Knight's and Magic is the series to fit that bill this summer. Aside from having a title that kills me a little inside every time I write it out, it certainly ticks off all of the boxes in the Checklist of Tropes. We have the smorgasbord of complicated fantasy names, the giant robots and magic systems that conveniently align with the skillset of an otaku/tech nerd, a seemingly endless amount of exposition, and most important of all, a nondescript protagonist that excels in everything they do and is the number one super special hero that impresses everyone.
Really, the somewhat original thing about Knight's and Magic's execution seems to be its somewhat unique framing device. Having the main character not only die in order to be transported to this new world, but be completely reincarnated as a new person as well, is something I can't say I've seen a lot of. The specifics of the process have been left vague, though, and throughout this first episode I found myself distracted by questions regarding Kurata/Ernesti's new life. Was he born here naturally, or did his soul take over that of an already existing young child's? He clearly remembers the robots and coding skills of his earlier life, but does he remember everything else? Is he supposed to be a fully-grown man in a child's body, or just preternaturally gifted? I'm sure a lot of these mysteries will be addressed In future episodes, but for a premiere that was composed entirely of exposition and info dumps, you would think that the nature of Ernesti's new life would at least be brought up more than once.
Instead, we get little more than those info dumps and expositional scenes, laid out in excruciatingly linear detail. Over the course of twenty minutes we meet our main character, who is killed and then reborn as a new main character, who is then introduced to the concept of Silhouette Knights and the use of magic. After this we meet even more characters, which we watch they accompany Ernesti to school, and passively observe years of their lives fly by as Ernesti proves to be amazing at everything. As far as laying down the pipes for a story goes, its functional, but it also makes for a sterile and mechanical viewing experience. We barely get to know any of the side characters, and Ernesti himself is a complete bore, and so there's no reason to be emotionally engaged in anything that's happening on screen. It's paint-by-numbers otaku wish fulfillment – all of the colors are filled in to all the right spots, but there's remarkably little soul or artistry on display in spite of it all.
Ironically enough, the artistry is Knight's and Magic's one saving grace. The show looks quite good, with fluid animation and pleasant design work put into the characters and the world around them. The Silhouette Knights and the demon beasts they battle are all capably rendered in CG, so the action sequences themselves are pretty entertaining. Outside of pure spectacle, though, I have a tough time seeing what Knight's and Magic has to offer that a dozen other series haven't already done before it.
The rogue apostrophe in the title of Knight's & Magic annoys me. I just needed to get that off my chest before saying anything coherent about the story. This series mashes a bunch of different genres together: mecha, magic high school, and reincarnation in a fantasy world just to name the obvious ones. While there's nothing inherently wrong with blending things together, in this case it results in a first episode that seems to lack focus. All of the different storylines seem to be competing for screen time instead of working in harmony, and too many basic questions go unanswered.
Out of all the plot points, Kurata's death and subsequent reincarnation as Ernesti is in the most immediate need of further explanation. Kurata's love of giant robots and his technical talents have clearly transferred directly to Ernesti, but things start to get muddled after that point. The audience is led to believe that at least some of Kurata's consciousness remains, but the extent is unclear. If he's just a grown man zapped into a kid's body, then he spends too much of this episode acting like an ordinary kid to sell that idea. If Ernesti is a separate individual and Kurata is just backseat driving from somewhere in the corner of his mind, then how much control does he have over Ernesti's actions? The show's ambiguous treatment of the situation is an unnecessary distraction, and it makes a strong case for isekai shows that just toss the protagonist into a new world as-is.
The way in which the series blends its mecha and fantasy elements also seems odd to me. Are we really supposed to believe that the people of this world can repair and operate their giant robots, but for some reason Ernesti is the first person in a century to come up with the idea of improving them? Maybe there's a backstory that will help everything make sense, but for now it just seems like all of this show's pieces were thrown together without much thought. That would be tolerable in a series focused exclusively on action scenes, but Ernesti's character suggests that Knight's & Magic is aiming more at hardcore mecha otaku. If that's the case, then it will have to get its fictional technology sorted out sooner rather than later.
If you can overlook all the shaky plot points, then there is at least some potential for entertainment here. Ernesti's boundless enthusiasm makes him an amusing protagonist, and most of the supporting characters fit easily into their roles. The mechanical design work is generally decent, and the blend of technology and magic inside the robot cockpits is a definite visual highlight. It looks like the series is trying to rush through the early years of Ernesti's life, so it's possible that we haven't even reached the meat of the story yet. Given a couple of weeks to get its act together, Knight's & Magic could grow into something worth watching. For the time being, however, I'd hold off on diving in.
While this may be an oversimplification, Knight's and Magic can be looked as a version of Saga of Tanya the Evil where optimism and exuberance rather than cynicism and metaphysical debate reigns. Like its predecessor, it features a somewhat older man who dies in an accident in the real world but is reincarnated in a fantasy world. Also like its predecessor, the reincarnation is on the small side, quickly learns to master magic, and uses some of his knowledge of the modern world (in this case, applying programming principles to magic use, which is an entirely sensible notion) to aid him in this new world. That's about where the comparisons end, though. Despite the rampaging monsters early on and near the end, this is a vastly brighter and more lighthearted story so far.
The first episode also moves along pretty fast, with a minor assist from some narration by Ernesti's mother. It shows Ernesti befriending the twins (?) Archid and Adeltrud, who are the bastard children of a nobleman, as well as the dwarf son of a Knightsmith, one of the people who works on building and maintaining the Silhouette Knights. It also shows him developing a new gun/sword combo weapon to deliver magic and tinkering with spells, all of which allows him to jump grades. He also looks to have ingratiated himself with upperclassmen (including the twins' elder half-sister) and assisted in fending off a horde of demon beasts, all in the span of about 15 minutes. There are hints that the latter is part of some bigger threat, which provides a solid plot hook going forward.
While the rapid progression of events gives the first episode a frenetic pace, I didn't find it to be a problem. Clearly the storytelling regards what's being shown here as merely the foundation necessary to set up the series rather than the actual story, so speeding through it is fine. In fact, the first episode as a whole was surprisingly likable. It doesn't do anything special on either technical, storytelling, or conceptual fronts, and nothing is standing out about any of the characters at this point, but director Yusuke Yamamoto (Shōnen Maid, Welcome to the NHK) has put together something here that can win audiences over with its cheerful spirit. I've also always liked stories where characters do novel things with magic through creativity rather than just sheer power/talent, so this series has that going for it, too.
And oh, yes, there's also that brief, funky shot that looks like a Mayan rendition of one of their warriors in the cockpit of a mecha. Can't forget that!
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