Chivalry of a Failed Knight
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Chivalry of a Failed Knight ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Chivalry of a Failed Knight ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Chivalry of a Failed Knight ?
On the surface, Chivalry of a Failed Knight looks suspiciously like a lot of other light novel-based high school set urban fantasies: the protagonist is a seemingly ordinary guy who lacks traditional power, has a doting younger sister, and a very powerful girl who is crushing on him. Because of his apparent lack of power, he is looked down upon by his family and community, but we viewers (and the ladies of the show) know that there's much more to him than meets the eye. Based on this description, I really could be talking about almost series, from this season's Asterisk Wars to The Irregular at Magic High School and an abundance of others.
That's just the surface, of course. All of these shows do have their own unique elements under the layers of tropes, and based on these first three episodes, it looks like we may not have to excavate quite as deeply as it at first appeared to find the good in Chivalry. In this story's world, there are people with supernatural abilities, generally linked to combat, known as “blazers.” Blazers are essentially people who can, via items materialized with the powers of their souls known as “devices,” use elemental powers. Although this part hasn't been explicitly laid out yet, the Blazers we've seen in these episode appear to follow the elemental powers path: fire, water, and void, or dark/shadow powers have been revealed. Ikki, our hero, is from a family with a history of great Blazers, descended from a great samurai Blazer named Ryoma Kurogane, but despite having met Ryoma in a vision as a child, Ikki's powers are considered very unimpressive. Because of this he has been shunned by his family and given an “F” ranking at his school. Instead of just giving up, however, Ikki discovers ways to work around his handicap, honing all of his other skills to compliment his Device, and he is determined to move forward under his own power. This throws him into the path (and a roommate contract) of Stella, the second princess of the Vermillion Kingdom. Stella is outrageously talented and quickly learns the error of doubting Ikki when the two fight a duel.
Naturally Stella quickly develops a crush on Ikki, and since she lost the duel, she's supposed to become his servant. Ikki really isn't comfortable with this, but Stella is clearly even less comfortable with the idea of liking him, so somehow decides that playing the servant is a less embarrassing way to handle her emotions. This is actually kind of interesting, and while I'm not a fan of relationships where one half is subservient to the other, I can see where she's coming from: Stella's a princess, raised with servants who presumably showed absolute loyalty to the royal family, and maybe even love, or what appeared to be love. Therefore in her mind, “serving” is a way of showing devotion safely, whereas admitting her crush would be putting herself in a position to be rejected. This way if he tries, she can always remind Ikki that she lost the duel and is therefore obliged to act as she is, thus saving herself from the sting of rejection.
It does have to be admitted that in episodes one and two Ikki doesn't show a whole lot of personality. He has a moment in the first, when he offers to strip to make Stella feel better about him accidentally seeing her in the altogether, but by the second episode he's pretty cookie cutter. In fact, episode two is the weakest of the three so far, unless you're watching for the fanservice, because that's the one where Stella presses her breasts up against Ikki's back in the bath. It also introduces Ikki's younger sister Shizuku, who has a very unhealthy fondness for her brother and seems to think that Frenching your brother is an acceptable greeting. Her roommate Alice, a transgender girl, is much more interesting, particularly when she reveals her powers in episode three, which thus far is the winner of what has aired.
Episode three gives everyone a chance to really show what they're made of when a trip to a café turns into a hostage situation. A rogue Blazer and his band of thugs attack while Alice and Ikki are in the men's room, separating the group. Each demonstrates both their powers and their strategy in the ensuing fight, and the imagery of Stella's fire powers is really terrific, with some good scenes for Alice and Shizuku as well. While the visuals aren't always great, and there is definitely something wrong with the way Stella's body is put together, the action scenes do seem to make up for it, and Ikki's budding feelings for Stella seem to be starting to come through. Although more than one girl likes him, right now it seems pretty clear that Stella is the only one who sparks his interest, and he's more than a little creeped out by his sister. This gives me hope that this will be more a romance than a harem in terms of the romantic subplot, and the fact that he and Stella already have a good rapport bolsters that hope. Also promising is the introduction of his nemesis (or at least his self-styled nemesis) at the end of the episode: clearly Ikki's not always been this confident and his nervousness at learning who his first official battle will be against shakes him up.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight is still pretty average at this point, but it also has the potential to be more than just another urban fantasy light novel adaptation. I'm not fully sold yet, but between the hints of more to come and an opening theme that's seriously growing on me (I'm a sucker for grayscale + random bits of red as a color scheme), I'm also not reluctant to keep watching. So come on, Chivalry. Show me I'm not crazy to stick with you.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight is currently streaming on Hulu.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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