Knight’s & Magic Series Review: It Is Going To Take More Than Duct Tape To Fix This Mess

Overview:

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Girls’ Last Tour Episode 1: Deceptively Charming

Okay, I kind of decided to give HiDive a go given it has a couple of series from last season I want to watch and this season it picked up a few titles I wanted to try. Not sure if I’m keeping the subscription long term but we’ll see how it goes.

Overview:

Civilization is dead, but Chito and Yuuri are still alive. So they hop aboard their beloved Kettenkrad motorbike and aimlessly wander the ruins of the world they once knew. Day after hopeless day, they look for their next meal and fuel for their ride. But as long as the two are together, even an existence as bleak as theirs has a ray or two of sunshine in it, whether they’re sucking down their fill of soup or hunting for machine parts to tinker with. For two girls in a world full of nothing, the experiences, and feelings the two share give them something to live for.

– From MAL

Review:

I’m not big on slice of life, but slice of life post apocolyptic style had a certain appeal and so I’m kind of glad I got to check this out. The first episode, while bringing you face to face with the horror of civilisation being dead, is utterly and completely charming.

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This is kind of helped along by the two leads who are adorable and their interactions, while fairly sparse considering they are the only two characters we see, are fairly grounded and yet both sweet and revealing. At times the themes seem to hijack the dialogue with some heavy handed anti-war statements but all and all, this is a pretty solid first episode.

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I’m looking forward to watching a bit more with these characters.


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Drifters Series Review: Was This Worth The Wait?

Overview:

Toyohisa is injured in a battle and as he starts to die finds himself in a mysterious corridor facing a man in a suit reading a newspaper. A door opens and Toyohisa finds himself in a new world where he is called a Drifter. Uniting with other Drifters, they begin to fight, well, everyone.

This obviously came out last year but due to lack of access, it was only very recently I was finally able to watch it (thanks AnimeLab for brining it to Australia). So after reading all the reviews as it aired and series reviews of people who finished it after that, I had a fair idea of what I was getting into. So the questions is, was it worth waiting for?

Review:

Drifters is one of those stories where it could be really cool, but at the moment we’re very much feeling like we’ve read the prologue to a much grander story and we still don’t really know what is going on. The obvious is the confrontation between Drifters and Ends except that the Ends don’t seem to be exactly what we’ve been told and the Drifters aren’t overly concerned with fighting them unless they happen to directly be in the path of what the Drifters are currently trying to do.

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Also, the Drifters aren’t all exactly united. It is clear some have been in the world for a long time and have their own plans and ideas and the three Japanese Drifters that are freeing elves and dwarves and generally going on a mission of conquest are really just out for their own ideals and don’t really seem to care much for the grander scheme (or anyone else’s plans). This makes it really hard to know what the actual end game for this whole story would be particularly as we don’t know the deal with the guy and the girl in the tunnel (other than a clear binary opposition though why we don’t know).

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Despite a lack of answers or real sense of urgency in any of the actions, Drifters manages to be pretty entertaining as we lurch from conflict to conflict. The time periods the various characters come from shape their fighting styles and philosophies and this allows for the action sequences to not get dull. The humour is at times crude but it actually works quite well and adds to the overall entertainment of the show.

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Visually Drifters is interesting. I’m not going to say I particularly like the character designs but it is striking and the characters are distinct and memorable. The art style very much suits the story being told and contributes to the overall tone so it is successful in that respect. Okay, I found it ugly, but that didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of this series and it definitely stood out from a lot of other shows.

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The opening song is also quite distinct and again the visuals work. They aren’t what I would call pretty, but the opening very much gets you ready for the feel of the show and that is what it is supposed to be doing.

All and all, unless you don’t like the subject matter, which is pretty much various characters thinking of ways to more effectively kill and conquer other characters, with quite a bit of crude humour thrown in, Drifters is quite a nice action anime. I wouldn’t outright recommend it due to the narrative feeling like it barely got started but there is certainly some fun to be had in watching it. Basically, don’t think too hard, enjoy the gore, don’t even begin to try to figure out whether a character is actually supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy because that’s a lost cause.


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Knight’s & Magic Episode 13: Some People Are Just Sore Losers

Review:

Well, this ended pretty much the way everyone predicted and managed to be pretty pointless right to the end. Ernesti fights the drake and shows off a few new tricks (though I’m not certain splattering it with oil and setting it on fire counts as a new trick).

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We then get the engineer from the otherside (name has totally escaped me at this point) and Ernesti having an argument which may have only been occurring in their heads or may have been broadcast, I don’t know as it was unclear, about the aesthetics of robot design. Because that’s super important in a life or death battle.

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All of this is interspersed with the side characters storming the fortress below and one final fight with the sword mecha which ends as expected before the captain of the drake decides to ram the Princess. This is where my mild irritation with the generally stupid writing decisions in this show blew up into full of rage as the Princess stubbornly insisted she wouldn’t move because she believed that she would be protected. Lady, there’s a giant robot dragon falling out of the sky about to land on you. Would it kill you to take three steps to the right? No, instead Kid has to have a moment to jump from one airship to the drake to fight the captain and then jump out of his mecha and into Ernesti’s hand because I guess Kid hadn’t done anything useful in a few episodes because wasn’t his mecha powering the airship? Oh yeah, his mecha was powering the airship. His and Ady. So why is it still flying given he’s just abandoned ship? So frustrating.

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Anyway the war wraps up, we get some more Kid and Princess stuff before they all head home. But this is my favourite part of the episode. The Smiths that actually build the machines that have made everything possible finally get official recognition for their effort. Then Ernesti begins plotting his next steps and we end the show. Of course nothing is resolved because opposing designer guy survived and is looking for a new hire, the King or whatever of the country that started the war hasn’t been defeated, the sword guy is still alive and heading home, and there’s new tech coming out everywhere changing political and economic landscapes, but sure, let’s just end the story here. Why not at this point?

I’m kind of looking forward to a full series review of this show. I think it is going to be fun to write.


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Princess Principal Episodes 2 + 3: Intrigue Has Never Looked This Cute

Review Episode 2:

So after starting with the girls all working on the same team, we’re now going back in time to find out how that happened? At least that’s how I see it. I wonder why they felt the need to do that though given this episode would have been fine as a first episode and been more than interesting enough as a start to the series.

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Political intrigue, infiltration, murder, conspiracy, it’s all very interesting and while it isn’t quite as fast paced as episode 1, I feel much more at home with the characters this episode.

Review Episode 3:

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I wonder if they’ll ever tell us what is with Ange and the whole planet of the black lizard thing? While it is a cute character quirk it would be nice to know if there was some deeper meaning behind it.

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Primarily this episode focusses on Beatrice, or she of the squeaky voice. Which is odd considering that apparently her voice isn’t her voice so I wonder why she leaves it sounding like that and all, but anyway, minor nitpick. There’s some great character moments, some more secret spy business, and the group are becoming more cohesive. I guess we’ll soon find out how the other girl from the first episode joined the crew but I’m really enjoying this series so far.


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Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 47

Review:

This is like watching a collision in slow motion. You know the impact is coming and you know it is going to be bad but you’re just kind of inching toward it. This episode saw them finally arrive back on Mars but with no allies and no money, Tekkadan really has no chance. Zack is about the only one with a brain for bailing but even then I think he’s going to have trouble given they seem pretty determined to wipe out Tekkadan.

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And I love how they threw this line in from Kudelia but then backtracked and said they weren’t sure. Though it kind of seems like they are doing everything possible to raise a death flag for Atra.

Anyway, my emotional investment is still gone and this episode didn’t do much to bring it back. Tekkadan willingly threw themselves at this conflict naively believing things would work out because they did before. It kind of just seems like a logical consequence of that and while its tragic and all it isn’t as though they couldn’t have avoided this whole mess with some smarter decision making earlier on.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.


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Chain Chronicle – The Light of Haecceitas Episodes 2 + 3

Review Episode 2:

Chain Chronicle picked up directly where we left off with Yuri and Aram defeating the soldiers who were attacking the village. After Aram faints and then wakes up, Yuri gives him a talking to and attempts to recruit him into his volunteer army which by the end of the episode he’s decided to change the name of. This show does not do subtle.

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These are the bad guys in case you couldn’t figure that part out. This is generic fantasy without any surprises so far and to be perfectly frank I’m enjoying it. It’s felt like a long time since someone just did a steep the world in darkness kind of story without trying to throw some massive over-complication in to make it seem more clever. There’s very little to recommend it, it doesn’t stand out from any of the other generic fantasy out there nor does it seem to be trying to at the moment. The writing is okay, the characters generic, the fight sequences passable, and basically if you just want to switch off and do fantasy for awhile this is working.

Review Episode 3:

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Is this the characters admitting they have no clue where to go or what their next step is so we’ll just kind of aim for this group of people and hope they can exposition us out of nowhere? Okay, it’s a fairly standard plot development in fantasy but it doesn’t make it any better. The Princess has gone to round up some allies and Yuri and his group are off to see the sages and then… I don’t think any of them have thought any further than we want to win. There are some cool moments this episode with Aram and Burckhardt (predictable but cool) and the final minutes give us a bit of excitement before the episode ends.

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This remains a fairly generic but decent enough fantasy so far.

Chain Chronicle is available on Crunchyroll.


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Saga of Tanya the Evil Episode 1

Overview:

Tanya is part of the imperial (totally not German) army in 1923. She’s a mage who can fly and blow things up. Apparently they are under attack from the allies.

Review:

I’m pretty much going to pass on this one. Between the really ugly character designs, the focus on alternate version of the world wars, and the truly annoying voice of Tanya, this just actively put me off from start to finish. While it isn’t fair to compare, the timing makes it inevitable that this will be compared with Izetta, also an alternate history story that featured magical intervention in warfare. I was amazed last season when Izetta grabbed me during episode 1 because I don’t like war stories and I really don’t like things that focus on the world wars. I generally prefer sword fights to guns. However Izetta’s first episode was beautiful and filled with characters that intrigued me. Tanya is full of characters that don’t really seem to have any character and it is ugly to look at. All and all, I’m probably passing on this.

Saga of Tanya the Evil is available on Crunchyroll.

 

Izetta: The Last Witch Series Review

Overview:

In a world torn apart by totally not WW2, soon to be Archduchess of a small European nation Fine travels to find allies for her country against Germania but instead finds an old friend of hers who happens to be a witch. I reviewed this week to week here.

Review:

Here’s the thing, after episode 1 I genuinely expected Izetta to be one of my must watch shows for the season. The first episode was dramatic, interesting, tiny bit of fan service but mostly a spunky young girl in a horrible situation and then we threw some magic in because who doesn’t want a world war with magic in it. It was perfect. Or at least as close as you expect from a first episode of an anime really.

So imagine by disappointment when by episode 4 any sense of tension or drama and been leached out of this flat story about a witch and her friend playing at war (and dress up and politics). Izetta has a fantastic setting and a great premise that it utterly fails to utilise to create anything of note.

Midway through a character is sacrificed. He’s kind of shown up a couple of times. He’s sweet. He’s loyal. He conveniently overhears something he shouldn’t, hints this to a friend who turns out to be a spy, is attacked by said spy, saved by his own people and then mercilessly shot through the head to preserve a secret that is found out less than two episodes later anyway. Sure it makes us realise lives are lost during a war and it paints a bleak picture but the execution (no pun intended) is dreadful.

We don’t care enough about this character for this to have that kind of desired impact. He’s a background, face of the common soldier kind of character who raises that many death flags for himself you are just wondering who will pull the trigger and when. The way in which he ‘overhears’ the conversation is the usual contrived nonsense that is really just plot convenience and his blurting this out to the one spy in his unit is ridiculous. Yep, he’s naive but he isn’t painted as a moron so why? The shooting itself is pretty dramatic. We get a nice lingering show of his face as he realises what is about to happen and that’s probably the most affective moment of this sequence. And as a positive, they use this later in the final episode where his killer faces another soldier who he sees with the same face. Then the aftermath of this drama is entirely washed under the bridge and we move on because there are more important things than actually building an emotional connection apparently.

Actually, my biggest issue isn’t the wasted potential of every possible dramatic moment but the introduction of Sophie. Seriously? Let’s just throw a clone of another witch at Izetta and they can fling things at each other while screaming about their personal philosophies. That will be fascinating. Not.

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Pretty much from the minute Sophie arrives the story falls apart. No more care for the soldiers, the spies, the alliances, the technological differences, or anything else. Just two overpowered juggernauts having at it while a few of the other characters scramble around trying to maintain relevance. It’s all just very trite. Plus, Sophie is a crazy lady with nothing but revenge on her mind so even if they wanted to go this way, she doesn’t carry her weight in the story. She’s boring and predictable.

Okay, positives. It is pretty. Very pretty. Good music. Some great action pieces scattered throughout. It just could have been better so while what is here isn’t broken you’ll just feel cheated of the better story you could have had.

Recommendation is to watch if you watch more or less anything or are just mildly curious but I’m not going to seriously recommend this to anyone is you haven’t watched it yet. Let it disappear into the vast vat of forgotten mediocre series.

Iron Blooded Orphans Episode 36

Review:

Seriously, Iok is getting my vote for dumbest character ever and there are some really stupid characters in the Gundam universe. Other than that, this episode picks up exactly where we left off last episode, races through different dialogues with various groups of characters before going straight for a disaster bordering on tragedy. I thought they were going for a full tragedy but they didn’t knock off the Tekkadan member yet so maybe they are waiting for next episode or maybe they feel we’ve wiped out enough Orphans until we get closer to the end. The real issue is that this enemy is a wild card. It doesn’t really fit with any of the pre-existing factions and while the mobile armour falling into any of their hands might be bad, essentially its a man-made force of nature acting on instinct rather than any plan. That makes it difficult to really be all that concerned about and it doesn’t feel like it really fits with everything else Orphans has presented up until now.

Iron Blooded Orphans is available on AnimeLab.