Knight's & Magic Episode 9
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Knight's & Magic ?
I don't know what's going on with Knight's & Magic's openings. Last episode forewent an OP altogether despite not being that big a deal story-wise, and this week the normal intro returns but with sound effects layered over it, like a Jojo's Bizarre Adventure finale. It makes me wonder how K&M is doing popularity-wise, as some of this smacks of trying to drum up attention.
What does get our attention this week is the antagonistic nation from a while back finally being revealed after several episodes of conspicuous silence. They're called the Kingdom of Zaloudek, and they appear to be a former empire looking to reclaim their glory days. They are also hilariously obvious as bad guys. Their capital sits on this ominous spiky plateau, eternally bathed in reds and blacks, and even the moon above them looks evil! Given Knight's & Magic's clear lack of intent to opine on the morality of war and the destruction caused by its weapons, it makes sense for them to fall back on black and white morality in the series' conflicts. However, I can't help but feel it's still reductive for a story that's otherwise reveling in blunt history book details of what happens. As with other elements, it feels like a missed opportunity for more complexity.
At any rate, the first ten minutes of the episode are dedicated to showing off Zaloudek's invasion of the Kingdom of Kuschpercha. They've got superior new mecha based off the one they stole, and they've advanced to the point that even the mighty trebuchet is no match for them! They also notably have flying ships, a technological innovation that hasn't been seen in this series yet and was surprisingly not spearheaded by Ernesti. In fact, Ernesti has nothing to do with this first section at all. It focuses on the Kuschperchan king working to defend his nation while his family escapes, and it's actually impressive to see this much effort expended on a plot line with proper dramatic beats, all in service of characters we've never met before. It genuinely feels like a different show from the last eight episodes, and fortunately the royal family's story links up with the main characters in the later portion of this episode, so that's a good thing. It's not wasted energy, an example of the series using its broad storytelling style in a good way.
Issues with formatting do become apparent in that second half though. As the Silver Phoenix show up to try and liberate the annexed Kingdom, it becomes apparent that this dire war situation was just setup for the proper debut of the Ikaruga. It's a great sequence to be sure; the capabilities of this new ace custom are shown off in appealing detail (though there doesn't yet seem to be a line of model kits for Knight's & Magic, which seems like poor planning), but given my misgivings about the dramatic pacing last episode, this all seems like a missed opportunity to even things out. They easily could have re-ordered the invasion and war-setup with this episode between the tedious learning and construction montages last episode to create a more balanced plotline, which would have lent some urgency to the situation without it feeling so saturated in narrated events. Simply put, the story beats feel out of order in regards to good pacing, and remixing these episodes could have led to better dramatic payoff.
Admittedly, that's more a problem with what didn't happen last episode than what does happen in this one, as things still mostly work out this week. Being in a shiny new robot, Ernesti's easy wins aren't all that grating this time around, and his teammates' “saw that coming” response to his success was a good gag in that respect. There's also something endearing about the small squad of saviors continuing with their obvious Silver Phoenix Merchant's Association cover, and I'm looking forward to seeing how long that Top Secret Military Bakery bit gets maintained. On top of that, you just know Ernie's been wanting to rescue a princess at least once in his life.
Another issue is apparent in the team's reaction to the development of the enemy's mecha. They're simply mildly interested in them, while Ernie is of course ecstatic to get them back to a lab and dissect any advancements they have. I've harped on elements like this before, but it seems too easy to simply have Ernie ignore the part he unintentionally played in the development of the machines used in this invasion. Maybe they didn't need to bring it up right away, but it would be nice to eventually see Ernesti acknowledge the arms race he inadvertently kicked off.
The episode concludes with another strong mecha battle, and at this point the quality of that action is expected. The series makes great use of the freedom of CGI animation, with tons of moving backgrounds, rotating camera angles, and robots using a lot of moving parts. The fight between Dietrich and the Swordman is a particular highlight, with swooping cameras enhanced by some great music. It all makes a compelling case for the future of CGI mecha animation.
So while this episode definitely had some uneven pacing and priorities that suggest it could have used another draft to draw it together with preceding episodes, it was still entertaining all the way through. It's solid setup for the bigger stuff to come (I have to wonder how much of the series this war arc will take up), and at least it delivers on a lot of the action and tension that was missing last week.
Knight's & Magic is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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