A guy who is apparently a genius programmer (the synopsis told me so) is killed but then is reborn in a fantasy world where he can use his somehow remembered understanding of programming to use magic and build robots. Now he wants to build his dream robot.
Review – Some spoilers:
I was watching a video review of this anime the other day (sorry, cannot remember which blog I was on or I would link) and they said (heavily paraphrased) that they didn’t know why this was even an isekai story as the fact that the guy was originally a programmer in our world literally added nothing to the story. This was something that kind of bothered me while watching the show as well. Other than eating up precious minutes in the first episode where we meet our robot obsessed programmer and then watch him die, there is zero mention of him coming from another world ever again in the anime. He does weird things occasionally and certainly a lot of his ideas are derivative of things he could have seen in his former life but he could just as easily have been a genius ahead of his time. There was no reason to add the extra complication of reincarnation. It added nothing to the story and it wasted set up time on a set up that wasn’t needed.
And basically that explains a lot about what is wrong with Knight’s & Magic. It has a lot of things in it that aren’t necessary and what it doesn’t have is any clear or focused narrative. The premise is super cool. I love that they decided to mix mecha and fantasy. The mix of robots and magic is perfect because for once I’m not rolling my eyes at giant robots being able to move and jump or do anything that they are doing because they are powered and moved by magic so they can do whatever they like. The initial setting in the fantasy world where people are attacked by beasts and the robots are needed to fight them gives a fairly wide range of possible story lines and works well enough even if it is pretty standard, and the weird main character who doesn’t understand the concept of impossible could have been really fun.
This show should have been amazing.
The final battle takes place between a flying robot and a mechanical dragon. How do you manage to make that lame? Well, let Knight’s & Magic teach you.
I guess we all should have been tipped off by the unnecessary apostrophe in the title. That bugged me all season but now that I reflect on the show it kind of matches it perfectly. It has an idea but wants to make it look even cooler than it is so it goes just that one step too far. Genius kid develops robots for his kingdom? We can do better than that. That kid is a reborn programmer from Earth who loved model robots. It adds nothing but it sounds cool.
While I’m being petty I’ll also take aim at the opening song. There’s actually nothing wrong with the opening as it visually works and the song, while fairly generic, is entertaining enough, but for some reason each week (and I’m not sure if they did this from the start or it if came along later on) they felt the need to break the song up with dialogue from the upcoming episode. Kind of jarring and a little spoilery. Right up there with those previews they used to give us for Sailor Moon back in the 90’s and then Serena would tell us to stay right there because they’d show us what happened. Only, we just kind of saw it in the preview so doesn’t that take a lot of the fun out of it?
If I look at this more objectively, my biggest issue with Knight’s & Magic is the story. Or maybe it is the lack of story. A story implies that things are building toward a climax where as this is a series where stuff happens, the characters react, they overcome the challenge (which mostly doesn’t end up even seeming like a challenge) and then in the aftermath of the previous event, something else happens. So there’s a few issues.
The first is the reactionary nature of the characters. Ernesti wants to build his own mecha. Great. That’s a character goal and something to work towards. And he does work toward that goal but he does a lot of stuff that seems superfluous to that goal along the way and seems to take great delight in the destruction of enemies even if they never stood a chance. The other characters however, don’t seem to have any goal. Kid and Ady are hanging with Ernesti. Because they made friends with him when he was young? Because they have zero ambitions or goals of their own? What do these two want? It is never made clear, they just kind of hang around as Ernesti’s entourage for the entire series. Other characters also seem to just get dragged along in Ernesti’s wake and even the villains for the most part have very little in the way of actual motive or vested interest in anything that is actually going on. So no one is driving this plot. Except maybe the narrator who is literally dragging the audience through months and years of development in a matter of a few minutes of perfunctory narration.
The second is the lack of a clear antagonist. Ultimately the series chooses the war with some country whose name I don’t remember (it started with a Z as mandated by all derivative fantasy writers – close second if it started with an X) and we get a bit of a face off between Ernesti and another designer who is also a genius. This had me wondering whether other genius was also reborn in this world and that’s the only way someone shows any signs of intelligent thought (because the side characters sure didn’t) or whether he was this world’s version of a real genius and Ernesti just stomped out the evolution of an entirely different kind of technology for his own amusement. Yet other than one early encounter where technology is stolen from Ernesti by a character who returns later only to be cut down in seconds, there’s no sign of this Kingdom or any kind of political tension until very late in the series. Instead we see Ernesti handle the beasts (which are what we are introduced to in the first episode as the problem), then they disappear as we see Ernesti challenge another development lab, and then we see new robots fighting beasts, then Ernesti meets some not-elves and learns all the secrets of how to build a robot. All that happens before we get any hint of a war looming ahead. I know we need some background but could the show try foreshadowing.
The third issue is how anti-climactic the climax is. Ernesti never loses. In the penultimate battle he is fought to a draw but even then it isn’t like his robot blows up or anything. There isn’t a single moment of actual tension in this series because you know Ernesti will win. Usually very easily. So even though the final battle works hard to make you think there might be some tension, by this point the audience knows how the story goes and you can almost narrate the story for them. It is an aerial battle with a mechanical dragon and I was bored. There’s something very wrong when a show can’t manage to make you worried that maybe the mechanical dragon might actually be an effective weapon against the protagonist.
I’m not actually opposed to happy endings and the main characters having a triumphant return. But I’d like to feel they worked for it and earned it and to be honest this didn’t do it. Likely this is because not one of the main characters is even crippled let alone killed. Only one of them is even in any kind of danger during the entire final battle and other than some strategic blood on his face from unseen wounds, there’s no actual sign of injury. And after the battle, he’s fine. No recovery period. Okay, the robot broke, as did a few others, but not one main character left with any kind of lasting scar from a full on war that they fought on the front lines of? This feeds well into the idea that this is self-insert wish-fulfillment but it does not make for an interesting story.
Basically, I really wanted to like this show. I kept hoping that the next week would do something with the really interesting premise that caught me in episode 1. Unfortunately this show had no interest in developing characters or plot and ultimately was nothing but a disappointment. A good-looking disappointment with some cool mecha designs, but still a disappointment.
I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.
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