Have you ever had that feeling of disappointment that comes along after you’ve read a really cool premise or a story seems to have an incredible setting and then literally nothing is done with it?
Well for me, 2017 really delivered a lot of these sorts of shows where you had to wonder why they even bothered. While many anime are set in the generic school type setting or average Japanese city/town, others try for a more ambitious set up, but if the story doesn’t utilise it basically all the show ends up doing is waste its time trying to explain concepts that don’t amount to anything.
This was a major issue for Knight’s & Magic. Forget the fact that the majority of the show takes place in a fairly generic fantasy setting that is largely indistinguishable from any other. Also, forget the fact that we’re introduced to monsters that need to be fought off (the justification for the Knights’ existence in the world at all) but by about three episodes in you’ll never see another monster (okay, slight exaggeration). No, Knight’s & Magic just had an overly complicated premise which fizzled into nothingness more or less the instant the show actually started.
Now, I noted this in my series review of this, but Knight’s & Magic isn’t a straight fantasy but rather an isekai story. Meaning the main character is transported into another world. But Knights Of The Incorrectly Used Apostrophe isn’t satisfied with just opening a portal or whatever. Instead it feels the need to kill off Joe Average computer programmer (in a fairly uninteresting manner) and then have him reincarnate as a genius in the magic world due to his memories of programming. About all we learn of him prior to him dying is that he programs and is kind of respected by his colleagues and he likes robots.
And that sounds fine. You want a character to be exceptional in a fantasy land so give him advanced knowledge of programs. Only, other than one or two comments about magic being similar to a program, you could almost forget this was the premise after about half an episode. Which means the show wasted precious time establishing a premise that it never used. And given there is at least one other character in the fantasy world who seems to be almost equally a genius, unless later developments claim he was also reincarnated, the entire point seems pretty trivial given the amount of set up time it ate early on in the series.
Now the obvious direct comparison of this premise would be the currently airing Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody. While there are plenty of things you can criticise about the show (and believe me, I have been in my episode reviews thus far) one thing I appreciate is that Satou never lets us forget he is a visitor in the world he has found himself in.
He reacts with surprise to information that is surprising to someone from modern day Japan, complains about things like bathing outdoors, and he uses his working knowledge of the games he was assisting with in his life before getting transported into the game to essentially cheat the system. So while I would argue that Death March is in any way a better show than Knight’s & Magic (both shows have plenty of other issues), I would argue that the premise is actually better utilised and so the set-up actually feels meaningful.
Essentially, if we cut out all of the other world stuff from Knight’s & Magic, you would barely notice the difference, whereas if you cut it out of Death March, you’d have to be confused as to what the main character was thinking.
But Knight’s & Magic wasn’t the only show last year that had me scratching my head about it’s premise. Sengoku Night Blood (another show that wasn’t exactly a genius work either) really has me wondering about a few points. Specifically, why an alternative history take on the warring states era?
It isn’t as though this era is new to anime premises. It may in fact be the most overused era for historical anime. But alternative history by turning the warlords into vampires and werewolves? I’ll admit, I was kind of intrigued about what they would do with this.
However, I’ll save you the anticipation. They did nothing. other than two of the vampire boys biting the girl, the only consequence of the characters being vampires and werewolves was that they had pointy ears or dog ears. Literally the only thing that changed was cosmetic. All the plot points were essentially identical even if they had left the characters human (about the only thing that would have changed I guess is they wouldn’t have bitten her but maybe given her a kiss for that power up at the end).
It is almost as if they had a planning meeting to discuss how to make their generic warring states anime feel fresh and new and someone plucked the word vampire out of thin air. But then they did nothing with it. The characters run around in daylight, they eat a normal diet, they are all perfectly pleasant human beings, and essentially this is the single most throw-away premise that 2017 delivered.
The problem with shows that do this is that it makes them feel worse than they are. Because they had ideas, and they threw those ideas in front of their audience, and then the audience was forced to watch them just sit there and have nothing done with them episode after episode. And it begs the question of why include these elements if they don’t want to use them or don’t have time to develop them? Why not trim your show down to the parts that matter and deliver them well?
I don’t exactly know the answer to that but I’m going to turn this over to you and ask if you’ve ever been let down by the premise of a show?
Thanks for reading.
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