Knight's & Magic
Episode 5

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 5 of
Knight's & Magic ?

There's an interesting sense of progression to Knight's & Magic. The demon beasts that were the main threat back in episode two attacked a village in the cliffhanger last episode, but this week the story rejoins the situation after they've been beaten off-camera. Another group of them pop up at the end of this episode, again to be taken out with just narration telling us how easily they were beaten. This all seems in line with the show's escalating levels of conflict and technological process, as the mecha become more advanced and powerful. The opening animation features a flying, multi-armed super-Silhouette Knight breaking through the atmosphere of the planet itself, and it's becoming increasingly clear how we might be headed there. It's a little like Gurren Lagann, but with less of that show's ideas on overcoming your limits and more about an already-strong kingdom becoming super-awesome just because they can.

That said, in spite of the hobbyist-fueled militaristic grandstanding that started the mecha-development we've been following so far, Knight's & Magic does finally initiate a conflict with a genuine enemy in this episode. After a couple of episodes that were mostly montages of R&D, this one is an all-action affair like the second, focusing on a good old-fashioned mecha-jacking by a rival nation's operatives, and our main characters' efforts to get their robots back. As the series has been improving for the last couple episodes, the character-focus is nicely spread out, with Ernie only being one element of a full ensemble who gets to shine. We're even introduced to a couple of new characters who broaden the scope of the show well. At the very least, it's nice to know there are other ‘ace’ pilots out there besides our immortal Ernie.

After a few testbed teases, this episode features the largest amount of hot mech-on-mech action in the series by far. Maybe it's a little disappointing that such a love-letter to enthusiasts of classic mecha anime has to forgo 2D animation in favor of CGI, but that's just the state of the industry these days, and what we get looks quite good anyway. Those extra wand-wielding arms on the robots see a ton of clever usage this week, making me pretty optimistic about the cool stuff we'll see from more advanced robots moving forward. The Silhouette Gear mini-mecha are also incorporated smartly, using their small stature in way that make sense without having their defeat of the larger Knights come off as too overpowered (even if Kid's over-the-top accidental takedown is just a little too improbable). It's also probably the most engaging application of Ernesti's talents I've seen in a while, as I was immediately able to believe that he would know the weak points of the mecha he built. His commitment to aesthetics is also a decently enjoyable character quirk, even if I do question how much it would drive him to let his creation be blown up in such a spectacular manner. But this is a series that puts momentary mecha-spectacle just a little ahead of banal resource-conservation.

Even if I'm fine accepting certain elements as they improve, other ongoing problems of the series still persist. That narrator is still doing her thing, and she's maybe a little too enthusiastic about her job this week. After glossing over the defeat of the monsters in the village and reiterating the point of Ernesti's allies rolling out to the Capitol to meet with him, they do the unthinkable halfway through and tell us about that team meeting the enemies on the road as we are watching it happen. Maybe this is a storytelling conceit that comes across better in the light novels, but it's almost laughably absurd in animation.

There's also the issue that simply having villains now doesn't mean they're developed enough to be engaging yet. We learn pretty much nothing about the team of robo-jackers this week, other than they're apparently from a rival nation and like to act cocky despite their risky brand of guerrilla warfare. The one mecha they already have, a neat ninja-looking stealth model, is quite cool, and I hope that variation on aesthetics expands as we meet more from their side of the conflict. The other problem is that, without any knowledge of this rival nation's motives, we're left with no investment in why our main kingdom should be fighting them. Are they oppressing this other nation? Are they just an ambitious upstart wannabe-empire? There's history here we aren't being given yet, and for a series that's otherwise played out like a history book, that's a surprising and frustrating shortcoming. You can't define all the details of your world's school system, political processes, and in-depth robot development, and then just expect us to accept that the bad guys are bad because you said so. Having just a little more context for them would have given this otherwise decent episode-long fight some real weight.

At least it is an exciting fight that uses a lot of characters well. It's nice to see Dietrich redeem himself effectively after his cowardice in episode two, and the increasing variety of mecha types and weapons bodes well as the series expands. The episode concludes with Ernie and friends getting assigned to their own special squad, so the directions that takes could be interesting as well. Knight's & Magic is a fine show at this point, but there are several places where you can see it could become great, so seeing it always stop short of its potential is simply frustrating.

Rating: B-

Knight's & Magic is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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