Anime Picks: Knight's and Magic

I think we got a hit.

 Our story begins in the "normal" world, following a man named Tsubasa Kurata.  Kurata is...well, it doesn't matter because he gets run over by a car exactly one minute, twenty-five seconds into the show.  But he was a genius programmer and mecha otaku, and when he passes he reincarnates into a vastly different world as a boy named Ernesti Echevalia.  Still capable of remembering his past life, when young Ernie is saved from a massive "demon beast" by a giant robot, he decides he'll do anything to be able to pilot one, and thus begins training to become a "Knight Runner", pilots of the kingdom's Silhouette Knights.

I was a little concerned when I started this series, as research had raised a couple red flags: It was based on a light novel, and while some great stories have come from them, more than a few are the equivalent to the most lazy, self-insert fanfiction you've ever hated yourself for reading.  Then it was compared to Mahouka and I thought that would be it--halfway into the first episode they'd do or say something that would royally piss me off and I'd have to delete the episode without even finishing.

To be fair: no, the story doesn't make sense when approached from a "realistic" perspective.  The world is vaguely medieval but also has giant robots.  The robots themselves haven't changed in over one hundred years, which is absurd when you're essentially at war with giant monsters, and war causes technology to evolve faster than anything.  Plus from what I understand, this first episode rushes through a lot of material from the manga and adaptation and light novel source material.

But having said all that...I enjoyed this first episode.  Yeah it moved fast, but coming off of Hina Logi I was happy to have a series that didn't move at a glacial pace and actually got shit done.  We started with Ernie at like...5 or 6 or so when he first learns about Silhouette Knights, then skip ahead to him training and becoming good at magic, then him meeting his friends and teaching them magic as well, and finally getting to him being thirteen and trying to get himself into classes with older students so he can learn how to build his own robot because he's too small to pilot the ones that exist.  By the end of the episode, we're watching older kids from his school pilot their mechs against a small army of demon beasts, backed up by some spellcasters.   Basically, a lot of shit goes down in this first episode.  But so long as there's plenty of material to adapt I don't see that as a bad thing.

Now the big problem with Ernie is that he was rumored to be a Mary Sue, which is what generated the Mahouka comparisons in the first place.  Not only talented at magic, but engineering as well, and being an all-around nice person, he was called "perfect" by some of the series' naysayers.   There's probably some truth to that, but there are some caveats: to start, for all his "perfection", he's still relatable.   He's a geek who really wants to pilot a robot, and any mech-head can instantly identify with that--at some point, many of us have dreamed of that very same thing.  Second, he's really only got a couple of skills, and they all come out of him being a programmer in his past life; magic spells have similar logic to them that programming does, and being a programmer obviously gives him a leg up over other people for engineering.  He's still small, and couldn't hold his own in any kind of physical confrontation without casting a spell...and can't even pilot a mecha yet, so calling him perfect is a stretch.

Still, even if I acquiesced to that accusation...the guy's just too likable for it to bug me much.  He's a slightly socially awkward goof who makes friends easily and supports them in whatever way he can.  Despite being vastly superior to people his age, he's not arrogant or aloof at all--he just knows what he wants and goes after it.  After being stuck in a world of assholes and well-meaning idiots, Ernie's a nice change of pace that I haven't had since Log Horizon's Shiroe.

If you can't tell by now, I'm actually a pretty big fan of this episode so far.  The characters are likable, the animation is mostly beautiful aside from annoying (but necessary) CGI-looking monsters, and I'm really into the way the world is set up.  Usually series that add the sci-fi of a mecha try to stay relatively grounded but Knight's and Magic has giant monsters that breathe fire, and humans who cast complex magical spells in addition to their 'bots.  The only thing I need now is a bit of a mech arms race in the mix--right now the robots look more like the "iron knights" from Iron Blooded Orphans.  That's fine, but why not lean all the way into your ridiculous setting and go more Gundam 00/"laser death robots"?

This show is a definite keeper though, and if anything I just hope it runs two cours instead of just one. 


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