The Fall 2020 Preview Guide
KING'S RAID: Successors of the Will
How would you rate episode 1 of
KING’S RAID: Successors of the Will ?
What is this?
A hundred years ago, King Kyle defeated the Demon King Angmund, leading to an age of peace for the kingdom of Orberia. Now, the fate of the apprentice knight Kasel takes a turn when word arrives of demons appearing in his region. Klaus, a fellow trainee who is like his older brother, goes off to investigate and never returns. The Great Sage Dominicus sends Kasel, along with a team of trusted allies, to find his friend and to seek out a sealed holy sword that can save the land.
How was the first episode?
What did I just watch?
No, seriously, I can't remember. I had to take a break between watching KING’S RAID: Successors of the Will and starting this review, and pretty much every single thing about it has flown out of my head. There's a… knight who likes to eat bugs? And dark elves who are up to no good?
The nicest way I can think to describe this episode is, “traditional.” It's an old-fashioned swords-and-sorcery story, like the kind that lines the meager bookshelves of hobby shops. It doesn't bother with such tomfoolery as a protagonist who comes from another world, or video game mechanics becoming real. It's just a scrappy young knight, living his life in a pseudo-medieval European world and dreaming of becoming stronger. He has a mentor who he's known for most of his life and is helping him train. He has a female childhood friend who is, of course, a priestess who presumably has healing skills, like all women in high fantasy stories. Meanwhile, some people in the royal palace are scheming.
I know it's based off of a South Korean video game, and apparently a popular one, but if you pulled a bunch of random pre-written Dungeons and Dragons modules off a shelf, at least one of them would have exactly this plot.
The art and animation feel strangely dated as well. The colors are a bit muted and outlines a bit fuzzy, as if it were an 00's digipaint show that had been hastily upscaled. The knights are all wearing identical armor and almost impossible to distinguish from each other. The action is uninspired, especially the beginning scene where Kasel just runs around hollering with his sword over his head.
Oh and at the end of the episode, there's a second woman. You can tell she's evil because she's wearing black and, unlike Frey, is showing a lot of skin. You know, because sexy ladies are bad and scary unlike the demure and ladylike Frey.
The highlight of the episode was the ending theme, which featured the dark elf Riheet and a young girl, who I guess is his sister, looking sad and scared and fleeing from something. In those one and a half minutes, they established a more compelling narrative than whatever the entire rest of the episode tried to set up.
King's Raid isn't bad, it's just kind of nothing. If you were really into Dragonlance as a kid… well, so was I, and I still don't want to watch more.
Inevitably, every new season of anime is going to feature at least a couple of shows that just slip off your brain once you're done watching them. These are the kinds of shows where nothing is particularly wrong with them – in fact they're often perfectly serviceable for whatever genre they're a part of – but are just so flavorless that when you're not actively perceiving them your brain cells just can't retain any information. Such is King's Raid, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series that I finished watching 10 minutes ago, and am already struggling to remember what happened.
I think part of this is just the character designs. Fantasy (and fantasy-adjacent) anime have codified such a singular design aesthetic that it takes some sort of idiosyncrasy in the individual designs or outfits to make them stand out, and that's not present here. Every character looks like the default selection you'd get in an MMO when you select your class or fantasy race, with nothing to set them apart. Kasel is nominally distinct from his other knights only because he has brown hair instead of blond or black. The Dark Elves are so interchangeable I get them mixed up when they're not on screen together. Frey picked out her priest robes from the non-sexy versions at Spirit Halloween. The worldbuilding is equally generic, with prophecies and century-old demon wars and fantasy racism that I have 0 faith the show will do anything interesting with.
There's nothing out-and-out bad about King's Raid, but the act of watching it is like chewing untoasted white bread. It's not actively unpleasant, but you're left with the impression that, outside of dire circumstances, there have to be better options for consumption.
As someone who started reading fantasy in the mid-90s, sword-and-sorcery stories have a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, stories like King's Raid, or at least its first episode, don't do much for those fond memories. This episode suffers from the same thing that bogs down many an introductory phase of any project in the genre: an overabundance of named characters and a world whose mythos isn't well-introduced, making it feel like an exercise in “how many times have I seen this before?”
In this case, we have Generic Fantasy City-State with Sickly King, where Wannabe Hero resides with his two childhood friends from the same orphanage, Sword Guy and Buxom Priestess, and dreams of becoming a knight so that he can protect everyone. Into this situation comes Possibly Corrupt Noble with Suspicious Dark Elf, right around the time Sword Guy is sent out to fight off the first demons seen in one hundred years. Boilerplate as this is, it doesn't have to mean that the story won't be well-told, but as far as starts go, this one does feel shaky. We have no indication why dark elves are so reviled, who the silent woman staring out of the palace windows is, or what's going on with the nobles who appear to be running the show in the king's absence. More importantly, none of our characters have much motive yet beyond the starkest of outlines; I learned more about Riheet the dark elf from the ending theme than I did in the entire episode.
Not that a story has to spill everything in the first episode. There are certainly plenty of real-world parallels we can make with the way Riheet is treated when he enters the city – the way he looks is more than enough for most people to suspect him of being up to no good and his band of other dark elves (oh-so-subtly named Black Edge) do seem to have enough reason to revolt based simply on Riheet's treatment in town. But none of it is particularly compelling, especially the parts with Kasel, who is ostensibly the main protagonist from the opening scenes. He and his story are made to seem so bland here that it's hard to get excited about he and Frey venturing out to see if Clause survived the demon (which looks more like undead) attack; honestly, I'm much more invested in Riheet and his sister (?) after the ending theme than I am about anything to do with Kasel. Adding insult to injury, neither the character designs nor the setting are all that striking either, making the entire episode feel blander than it probably is. I'll give it a second episode to see where it goes, but based on this one, it looks like this is a raid you may want to sit out.
This series is based on a mobile game which originated out of South Korea, though it is supposed to be featuring a different story from the game and a mix of both original characters and new ones. Three of the named characters who appear in this episode – Clause, Kasel, and Frey – are characters from the game, as is a fourth character (unnamed in the anime) who appears at the end. On the other hand, the dark elf Riheet and the female dark elf I am presuming is his sister seem to be new. The Next Episode preview and the opener suggest that more characters from the game will be arriving soon.
So far, the setting seems about as stereotypical as you can get for a fantasy RPG-styled setting. Thankfully no blatant game mechanics element is at work here, though the episode and opener combine to indicate that knights, priests, wizards, archers, and assassins will all be part of the mix. Dark elves are present, and the opener shows that regular elves should show up eventually as well. Undead seem to be classified under the generic heading of “demons” in this world, but that is the only detail so far about the presence of monsters in the setting, and nothing about the magic system has been revealed. The environment is straight European medieval style, with no exotic flair beyond oddly wide city streets. (This is hardly the only anime fantasy series with this design flaw, though.)
The opening scene, which is either a flash-forward or a reference to a battle a century earlier, is one of the blandest epic fantasy battle scenes that I have seen since the days of low-end '90s OVAs, and later fights do not induce much more excitement beyond being somewhat graphic. None of the named characters introduced so far are especially compelling, either. The one thing that the first episode does have going for it is that it seems to be operating with multiple plot threads: the dark elves have infiltrated the kingdom to set up a revenge scheme for an as-yet-unspecified past crime (I'm going to guess the Parents Murdered trope), and the closer – which features him and presumably his sister – suggests that he may be a co-protagonist with Kasel. However, his scheming may have little to nothing to do with the apparent scheming of a noble who thinks he's using the dark elves, a king who may be dying, or an infestation of undead demons into the King's Forest. Seeing how these threads might tie together, or run parallel to each other, could be interesting.
Or not. In general, the first episode doesn't make a bad impression; it just doesn't make much of an impression at all.
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