Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of Silver Link and Sentai Filmworks
Every now and then, a series manages to catch me off guard with how good it is. Usually, I look around Reddit or MyAnimeList to see if there are any shows that I should check out. Typically, out of these recommendations, only a few manage to catch my eye and even fewer get me to actually commit to finishing a series. That’s a shorthand explanation for why my reviews tend to be positive, I only finish watching shows that I like. So when I came across Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, also known as Chivalry of the Failed Knight, I was hesitant to even start the series. By all accounts, everything about it gave off an impression that it was just generic. There have been so many generic light novel adaptations lately that it all seems to blend together after a while, especially when the show takes place in the frequently used setting of a high school. Sprinkle in some magical abilities and a harem for the main character and you probably have the most generic anime imaginable. Rakudai starts off generic, but quickly manages to set itself apart and it is worth giving this show a chance. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.
The world of Rakudai possesses humans with powers known as Blazers who can manipulate their souls into weapons. A large variety of academies train Blazers in their arts in order for them to become Mage Knights. Mage Knights can be described as a police force used to counteract rogue Blazers. Rakudai follows the adventures of Ikki Kurogane as he attempts to become a Mage Knight. However, due to familial interference, Ikki is the lowest ranked student at his school. Winning the Seven Star Sword Art Festival, a tournament between the various academies of Japan, is the only way he will be allowed to graduate. Early on, Kurogane meets Stella Vermillion, a foreign princess that decides to study abroad in Japan. Stella is a high ranking blazer, considered a genius by many. Through some shenanigans, the two become roommates and the main focus of the story.
At first Rakudai appears to be very generic. I know that the initial synopsis does not exactly sell the show as anything but typical. For the first three or so episodes, this impression is actually fairly correct. Ikki faces an uphill battle to proof himself, while a variety of girls begin to take an interest in him. It starts off really as a typical harem anime. However, after episode four, the show manages to evolve immensely. There is a confession of love and the harem aspect of the show is almost completely eliminated. Rakudai is rare in that it creates the romance that many harems show fail to address at all. It also helps that this romance is very satisfying, as the two characters being to learn more about each other and their relationship. After this confession, the show places a large amount of time on the preparation for the Sword Art Festival, while developing the motivations of the characters. Rakudai takes a bit of time to reach this change, but the payoff is great. This one development sets Rakudai apart. This plot focus on the romance aspect is satisfying because it really does not happen a lot in this type of anime. This leads to a plot that is largely focused on exploring motivations of the major characters.
The bulk of Rakudai involves a focus on character motivation and development. The two leads, Ikki and Stella, are two of the most interesting characters of the show. Much like the overall plot of the show, the two characters experience a change after the confession in episode four. Ikki Kurogane is a member of the famous Kurogane family, known for their powerful Blazers. Unlike his family, Ikki does not possess the same level of natural talent and was ultimately abandoned by his family for that reason. As a result, he manages to acquire all of his skills through hard work and determination. That is one of the more interesting facets of the character. He is one of the most hard-working characters that I have seen in an anime. This is one of the more refreshing aspects of his character. Everything that he has accomplished is the result of his own hard work. Ikki isn’t the natural powerhouse like Kirito from Sword Art Online, and this sets him apart from the typical overpowered protagonist. Every facet of his skills is the result of dedicated training. From his ability to read enemy techniques to his sword technique, everything is the result of hours upon hours of training. To complicate matters further, his family actively attempts to get him expelled from school. Ikki is a character that faces an enormous amount of adversity, but maintains his hard-working persona despite the problems.
Stella, the main female protagonist, is similarly interesting. Initially, she appears to be a typical tsundere, but that quickly changes. She possesses a strong desire to be acknowledged for her hard work, a fact made difficult due to the perception of her being a natural genius. This is even further troubled considering her position as royalty. Her drive to be acknowledged led her to study abroad, so that she would not be surrounded by a symphony of yes-men. When Ikki acknowledges this in the first episode, she pretty much immediately falls for him. Despite the initial chorus of “Bakas”, Stella is not the typical female protagonist. I already mentioned her insecurities and desire to be acknowledged, but her differing personality shines in the romance aspect. With some initial nervousness, Stella actually makes a significant number of moves on Ikki. She actually attempts to ask him out fairly quickly in the anime. By the end of episode four, the two end up being a couple. I really enjoy the overcoming of the typical innocent anime female as well. She’s not perverted, but carries a heavy desire to be intimate with Ikki. This is very refreshing because she really acts like a normal person would in a relationship. Since the show is largely focused on their relationship, it is very important that this relationship is handled very well. It is fortunate that Ikki and Stella’s relationship dynamic is different from the relationships normally portrayed in anime. It happens very quickly, and the characters possess an attraction for one another that goes beyond just the usual blush and BAKA.
Overall, the animation quality for Rakudai is good. The animation during many of the dialogue scenes is fairly typical for a series, but does not stand out as bad in any way. It fits rather well. Rakudai really shines in its presentation of the fight scenes. Seriously, the fight scenes in this show are absolutely breathtaking. Ikki’s fights especially are visually impressive. Ikki’s combat ability of Itto Shura is perfectly represented as well as his visual abilities. Every fight scene with Ikki is also choreographed very well since he lacks a crazy magic ability. In terms of other characters, their fights are animated moderately well, but are not as interesting as Ikki’s fights. Stella’s fights are rather uninteresting which is a shame. She has one of the cooler weapons, basically a fire broadsword. Besides her first fight, she really does not get time to shine in terms of fight scenes. That is my one criticism of Rakudai’s animation. Stella’s fight scenes are rather uninteresting, but everything else is very well done.
I am beginning to appreciate my lack of words regarding sound. Unless anything manages to stand out, good or bad, the sound design mostly goes unnoticed. Hopefully as I continue to review many different series, my appreciation of sound design will increase. However, as of now, I will continue my normal critique of sound design. Rakudai’s sound design works as it should. The music fits the mood of every scene appropriately, while the sound effects do so as well. I especially like the slowdown sound effects as Ikki alters his physical abilities in the middle of a fight. Overall, I don’t have a lot to say about the sound design other than it fits the show. Nothing manages to stand out, but that is not a negative because it doesn’t detract from the show in any way.
Rakudai managed to surpass every single one of my expectations. While it starts off rather generic, it actually manages to set itself apart fairly quickly. The story is very interesting, managing to overcome the typical harem anime tropes relatively quickly. The two main leads, Ikki and Stella are equally interesting and the romance between the two is very well done. The animation quality is great as well, especially during the many fight scenes. The sound merely fits the show, but that is perfectly fine. Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry earns my Watch Rating. It’s an highly entertaining watch that I am sure a lot of people will enjoy.