Welcome to our 2017 Summer Anime Reviews. We’ll be tackling a few of the new shows airing this season in fairly brief reviews. The shows were selected by lottery, and these reviews will only cover the first episode of each series.
Ever since the
horrific glorious hype train following Sword Art Online (itself being preceded by the much more interesting .hack) there has been a ridiculous influx of “Another Life” light novels, manga and anime trying to cash in on the simple formula of:
Seemingly Normal Person + Alternate Reality = BOATLOADS OF CASH
Many of these series do not even try to innovate and stick with the fantasy MMO setting provided by Sword Art, and this has actually succeeded for some stories (Log Horizon being a standout). Others instead have opted for some sort of reincarnation scenario to plop the protagonist into a strange new land, good examples of this being Konosuba and Re:Zero. Unfortunately, for every few shining stars in this genre that use this trope for good storytelling, there are many more that fail to have any identity of their own whatsoever. Take a wild guess which category Knights & Magic fits into.
This first episode starts off with an extremely brief view of the life of Tsubasa Kurata, a genius computer programmer who is generally well liked and spends his free time obsessively collecting mech figurines. After spending just over a minute with this young man, he is promptly killed off as his spirit laments over not being able to enjoy the figure he had just purchased prior to his demise (this dude had a riveting life let me tell you). Following this snippet of exposition, the focus of the show shifts to Ernesti Echevallia, a small child in a noble family living within your typical fantasy land filled with magic and demons. After a scene where he and his family are put in danger and show off some of the monsters and sorcery in this series, a giant set of armor arrives to save the day. It is revealed that the armor is called a Silhouette Knight, a suit powered and controlled by the magic of the pilot within.
In all honesty, this is a pretty cool concept. I like the idea of magic based mecha, and the whole “knight” theme applied to them is welcome as well (Code Geass is my favorite anime series after all). Admittedly, the designs of the Silhouette Knights are pretty bland, but there is much teasing of potential future “models” of the suits as the series continues onward. This ties directly into how magic supposedly works in this universe, utilizing a system of formulas and mathematics to control your mana. While not wholly original, as I have seen “scientific” magic before in shows such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Legend of the Legendary Heroes, it is definitely an idea that I can get behind. All of the action concerning the Silhouette Knights and magic is fortunately well animated as well, being pretty entertaining to watch despite not having any particularly standout qualities (and some really dumb looking monsters). To sum it up, the show does not suffer when it comes to concepts or visual quality. Where it fails spectacularly is in providing a cast that has more to it than the loaf of Sunbeam bread sitting on top of my refrigerator.
As soon as Ernesti sees his first Silhouette Knight, we find out that he is in fact Tsubasa reincarnated (without any explanation as to how he’s suddenly a prepubescent boy). Due to his past life obsessing over mecha, he is enthralled by Silhouette Knights (calling them “robots”, a word nobody in this realm understands) and wants to pilot one himself. From this point on, Ernesti is nothing more than a self-insert power fantasy. There is no struggle to learn magic or the mechanics of Silhouette Knights, because his past life’s knowledge of computer programming and mecha models somehow carry over. In fact, he is such a ridiculously unbelievable prodigy that before he is even old enough to enter schooling he meets two other children who he in turn teaches magic to. A brother and sister duo, they are so bland both in character and visual design that it is apparent right off the bat that their only purpose is to be Ernesti’s sidekicks. For goodness sake, Ernesti’s grandfather is the dean of the school they attend and he manages to design custom gun-based wands for only himself and his wonder buddies.
The worst part of all of this is that in all honesty, if the writers got rid of the whole “Another Life” aspect and just characterized Ernesti as a hard working and passionate child that purely studied his way to where he is, the character would at least be somewhat palatable. But as it stands, there is never an instance where it’s possible to actually buy into Ernesti being incapable of surpassing obstacles thrown his way due to the sheer strength of his plot armor.
So is Knights & Magic a standout in this summer’s anime season? Not even remotely. But while rip into it quite a bit for its spectacularly dull characters, at least it has a somewhat unique world and eye pleasing visuals. So if you’re someone who just likes to watch mecha of any sort in cool fight sequences for your entertainment, maybe give it a shot. I myself am a sucker for mechs and will probably stick with the show for at least one or two more episodes, but we’ll see where it goes from here.
P.S. Ernesti is also a trap if you’re into that sort of thing