Knight's & Magic
Episode 1-3

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Knight's & Magic ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Knight's & Magic ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Knight's & Magic ?

There's so many weird factors just in the introduction of Knight's & Magic, that inexplicable apostrophe in its title included. If you aren't already familiar with the 'otaku gets transported to a wish-fulfillment fantasy world' isekai story concept, then the lead-up where our main character is introduced, killed off, then reincarnated as a new character in a new world will be downright head-scratching. The mechanics of this rebirth are so vague and obtuse, even by the standards of the genre, that it really comes across more as an act of gatekeeping against a series that firmly exists for the pleasure of a subset of dedicated mecha anime fans.

Once the actual fantasy robot story does get under way, it's mostly a by-the-numbers tale of our main character going through the world, learning about it, and revolving his life around his singular goal of piloting one of those magic robot mecha. The first episode gives us a montage of Ernesti's early life in the world, while the second settles into the main time period it seems the show will focus on, seeing Ernesti's first direct battle with monsters and giving him the chance to make a name for himself, while giving us the most mecha-battling action so far. The third episode shifts gears again, showing the process of upgrading and constructing Ernesti's improved variety of Silhouette Knight in procedural-style. This episode has a well-encapsulated single story, but still suffers the main problem this series has, which is its unrelenting focus on Ernesti and his talents.

Theoretically, Ernesti's past life as a programmer and mecha enthusiast gives him an edge in progressing toward this goal, but that's an element the series is frustratingly coy on. Is Ernesti literally the adult programmer Kurata from the intro, fully aware of his situation? Has he only inherited some vague understanding of his talents and passions that drive him? The show never makes it especially clear, which consequently makes Ernesti a difficult character to get a handle on. He's not a very forthcoming in personality, simply being ambitious in his goals and supernaturally skilled enough to achieve them. As a result, three episodes into the series, we still don't really know who our main character is, and that's a major storytelling problem.

It raises the question of why the otaku-reincarnation angle is present at all (nothing about Ernesti's character so far couldn't be explained simply by him being a prodigy). The way the world bends to his successes throughout the story makes the audience-embracing concept apparent on its face. The magic system is based on the programming he's so skilled at, the primary combat method revolves around piloting anime-style giant robots, the whole thing seems set up specifically to cater to Ernesti's existence, and by extension, those of the otaku viewers who identify with his past life. It makes the whole exercise too transparent in its pandering escapism, a problem that seems to follow the isekai genre.

The main problem with this approach is that it undercuts the substance that would be possible in the larger story. The other characters have almost no agency at all; they exist entirely to be wowed by how awesome Ernesti is. In the case of the female characters, they exist especially to fawn over Ernesti romantically. Characters like the Knight Runner that Ernesti rescues/hijacks in episode two are only there to give our hero a chance to get in a robot and show up the other mecha pilot characters. Everything in the show is only here for the benefit of the main character, and as established, he's not terribly compelling.

The strain these storytelling choices put on the show's world are also apparent in the third episode. As implied in the first episode, the main incredulity is the idea that the government and military has owned these robots for generations and regularly repaired them, but never thought to upgrade them in any way. Everyone responds to Ernesti's concepts, such as making stronger strands out of multiple strands, or mounting extra weapons on the back, with disbelieving wonder and praise. Even more confusing is the circumstances surrounding these upgrades. Other than the monsters in the outer world, the central country doesn't appear to have any active enemies, but they still push, at Ernesti's behest, to upgrade the combat capabilities of their weapons. It's incongruous at best, with Ernesti mostly doing it because he's a robot otaku who thinks it's cool, and everyone else going along with it because he's Ernesti and obviously knows best. At the end of the episode, a group of presumptive enemies does make themselves known to the audience, but we don't yet know their reach or intentions.

For all these issues inherent in its structure, Knight's & Magic isn't all bad. In fact, it's quite solidly put together. The production values look good, a lot of the action is very strong (even minor proceedings like young Ernesti taking on some bullies in episode one). If the programming-style magic only exists at the behest of Ernesti's success, it's still a neat enough system. It also leads to some interesting moments, particularly one in episode two where Ernesti compensates for his small stature by essentially programming macros to pilot a mecha for him. The invention of the gun-style magic rod also leads to some cool visuals, especially with Ernesti dual-wielding them for flight capabilities. (It's also nice to see that he made some for his friends.) The most awkward part of the storytelling is an occasional narrator who explains things that happened over montages or outlines some of the worldbuilding. The oddest moment of narration is in episode two, where they helpfully explain to the audience what a brain is and how it works.

At this point, Knight's & Magic isn't necessarily a bad show, but it is a hollow one. It's simply a holder, a receptacle for the escapist fantasy for a particular mecha-otaku audience that Ernesti represents. It's fine as that fantasy, but with nothing else to it, it could find itself hard to sustain over a full series. Hopefully the introduction of actual antagonists provides the series with a challenge that's more interesting to watch Ernesti overcome or give the other characters something to do besides fawn over him. It remains to be seen if the series can become anything other than well-designed wish-fulfillment.

Rating: C+

Knight's & Magic is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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