Note: Review copy supplied by MVM Entertainment
Title: Chivalry of a Failed Knight
Anime Studio: Nexus / Silver Link
Publisher: MVM Entertainment
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Harem
Released: August 26th, 2019
Language: English / Japanese
Extras: Clean OP and ED, Japanese Promos, Trailers
Ikki Kurogane may have come from a long line of Blazers, people with the ability to create weapons or devices manifested from their souls, but as far as the Hagun Academy is concerned, he’s been a major disappointment in the magical powers department. He is so disappointing, in fact, that he’s earned the unfortunate nickname of the “Worst One”. However, things change for Ikki in the most surprising way when Princess Stella Vermillion, the most promising Rank-A Blazer to come along in many years, decides to transfer to Hagun. When she challenges him to a duel where the loser must obey the winner for the rest of their life, the last thing anyone expects is that the Worst One might prove to be a match for the Crimson Princess… and the unforeseen consequences will push the boundaries of society itself.
Chivalry of a Failed Knight is an adaption of the ongoing light novel series written by Riku Misora and illustrated by Won. Having not read the source material, I can’t make any direct comparisons in content, and so am viewing the series on its own merits in terms of how it’s set out. The interesting thing is, though it does do a few things that I’m not fond of, the series is actually enjoyable overall.
Visually, the series is mostly decent. The character designs are good, if mostly familiar, and I didn’t spot any scenes that were noticeably shorter on frames than others. In the general setting, the characters move well, facial expressions match up with their lines, and nothing feels out of place. Meanwhile, the battles are flashy enough to fit with the magical knight concept, while still adhering to some base rules attached to each combatants’ powers. The only time that it fell apart for me visually was during the battle with the stone golems late on. Here, the slow, jerky CG effects sat uncomfortably against the rest of the action.
I absolutely loved the soundtrack. From sweeping, epic orchestral tracks to quirkier pieces and emotionally driven slower tracks, Kotaro Nakagawa’s (Code Geass, Kamen Rider) score hits all the right marks to be both memorable and fitting. Meanwhile, both the Japanese and English voice casts do a splendid job with the script, and all come across well in their roles.
From a character standpoint, the series offers a slightly mixed bag. Of the two primary leads, Stella Vermillion is perhaps the most consistent. She’s capable of proving herself a badass fighter, but at the same time offers more than that in terms of how she acts around others. In particular, her relationship with Ikki Kurogane is generally done pretty well, balancing some realistic awkwardness with some sweetness. In that respect, it’s a shame that Ikki can be a little variable as a lead. His backstory is decent, and when he’s fighting to prove himself in one way or another, he’s absolutely fine. There were certainly times that he felt like a bland generic lead though, which really detracted from his overall arc. It’s a real shame because when he’s at his best – such as during the Ayase arc – he’s a genuinely interesting lead that’s easy to get behind.
Ikki’s sister Shizuku and her roommate Alice were the only other two characters to get large amounts of screen time. Shizuku immediately launched into little-sister-that’s-madly-in-love-with -her-big-brother mode, which I hated. That Ikki didn’t really do too much to stop her also didn’t help. However, I do give the series credit for at least giving some time to explaining why she felt that way. I’d also say that her powers were really cool, and her development from start to finish, culminating in her accepting Stella as her brother’s partner, was well done. Alice, on the other hand, was wonderful from the get-go. While she didn’t have the same level of character development as Shizuku, she is about as positive a representation of a transwoman as you can hope for in anime. She wasn’t ridiculed, wasn’t made the butt of poor jokes, and her calm headed kindness was really vital to the main cast.
Outside these four, most other characters come and go over a couple of episodes. While this did have some downsides – the battles featuring Renren and Ikazuchi were far too short for example – I was impressed with how well the supporting cast was treated. We actually got to see enough backstory for most of them to make them sympathetic, or at least explain their motivations. It made them far more interesting than I was expecting going into things.
The main story itself felt like a mix of two tales. The obvious one is the romance between Ikki and Stella which, as I mentioned, I thought was well done. The other was Ikki’s journey to self-acceptance. He had a rough upbringing, and school life obviously hasn’t treated him any better. Despite this though, he still keeps pushing forward and is able to prove himself when he needs to. In a way, his fights become almost philosophical battles, pitting the ideals of particular techniques and overall strength against the idea that you can win without being an overpowered master of one style. This is prevalent as a theme throughout too, from the initial battle with Stella to the three-episode arc with Ayase, and his final battle both in the arena and on trial. It’s all presented as a battle of wills and determination for him, and even has some nice visual effects thrown in towards the end. The overall message that those who are not naturally gifted can reach the same heights as those that are is a good, positive one too.
The fan service in the show wasn’t particularly overwhelming in most cases. It did feel like Stella was the catalyst for the stuff that wandered further into ecchi territory than needed though. If the interactions between her and Ikki weren’t so well put together, it would have risked derailing the story, but as it is, it remained unnecessary rather than show-killing. In a way, that’s a theme that runs throughout the series too. The whole ‘master-servant’ thing that was set up with Ikki and Stella had the potential to become terrible but didn’t stray beyond being a little groan-inducing. Despite being listed as a harem show, most of the girls falling all over Ikki don’t really stand out and end up feeling superfluous to proceedings. Despite this, because it’s clear from the start that Stella is the only real potential for him, and Shizuku’s role is so clearly defined, the series avoids falling into the usual trappings.
So, how do I rate this one overall? Well, it’s not without flaws, but these are generally either not too intrusive, or at least combated by other elements of the story. The main themes run throughout the full run, but at only twelve episodes, they don’t’ have enough time to get dull or repetitive. Though it could have easily been better -or indeed worse – Chivalry of a Failed Knight offers up an effectively executed tale of love and perseverance. It looks good, sounds great, and hits its key points well. This gets a solid 3.75 out of 5 from me.