Chivalry Of A Failed Knight Collection (Cert15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 296 minutes approx.
This review is going to break protocol and open with a spoiler: the character front and centre of the above cover artwork is NOT the main character of this show. Yes, she is a prominent figure in the story but she is not the titular “failed knight”. Then again, this anomaly is indicative of the show itself in promising one thing and delivering another.
Stella Vermillion is a princess from a small European country arriving in Japan to attend Hagun Academy, where specially gifted humans called Blazers capable of wielding weapons made by their souls train for interschool combat. As an A-Rank Blazer, Stella is a formidable fighter of some repute but on her first day, she gets a huge shock when male student Ikki Kurogane enters her room just as she is undressing.
Academy Director Kurono Shinguuji explains mixed room sharing is normal at Hagun and if they want to dispute their living arrangements, Stella and F-Rank Ikki must face off in a mock battle, the winner being the other’s servant for life. Stella naturally thinks she has victory in the bag, but Ikki defeats her and has one request for Stella – be his roommate.
I imagine by now you are thinking “tell me something new” and can already predict how the rest of Chivalry Of A Failed Knight will play out. If you are imaging a harem set up, fan service, nudity, ribald humour and lazy tropes then you are correct – however, there is more to this show than the opening episodes suggest, which makes it such a shame it didn’t focus on the drama of the last few chapters.
Based on a light novel series by Riku Misora and Won, Failed Knight shamelessly goes out of its way to tick off every harem cliché in the book hoping to appeal to casual anime fans when in fact it has a perfectly robust and promising dramatic plot which could have drive it from the start and made it a substantially better series. As it stands, from the opening chapters, this is no different from similar shows like Asterisk War, Armed Girl’s Machiavellism, et al.
One early notable difference is that Ikki is not your normal harem protagonist. He isn’t a charmless cipher for prurient shenanigans to revolve around, he has a personality and a goal, to become a good enough fighter to enter and win the win the Seven Star Sword Art Festival. Ikki however, doesn’t have any magical abilities like other Blazers hence his F-Rank but his innate power is enough to make him a skilled fighter.
The expected romance between him and Stella actually settles by the third episode, after Ikki’s younger sister Shizuku arrives at Hagun, kissing her brother full on the mouth. Yes, she has incestuous desires for Ikki which is a concept Japan REALLY needs to drop from its art ASAP. But, it brings Stella and Ikki together, thus we don’t have to endure 12 whole episodes of “will they won’t they” nonsense.
Unfortunately, other genre habits are harder to drop, so we get the trip to the pool/bikini episode and a revolving door of female admirers – and a transgender male – looking to learn from Ikki and his unconventional Blazer abilities in order to up their game during the qualifying battles at the academy. Thankfully, this isn’t overplayed, and each new face heralds the start of a new mini-arc in which of now happy couple and friends are put to the test in and out of the battle arena.
Maintaining a sense of nobility at all times, Ikki refuses to take advantage of the busty and shapely Stella, instead puts all his energies into improving his fighting which makes their relationship comparatively chaste compared to most in anime. Stella is often the one with the burning desires but not with any real promiscuity and seems to get more from Ikki’s reticence than if he gave her what he wants.
Instead, Ikki’s promise to represent Hagun at the Seven Star festival alongside Stella is their equivalent of betrothal, again a refreshing change from the male’s usual aspiration of popping his cherry. But it is in the last few episodes where things take a darker turn as we learn Ikki is being targeted by someone and that person just happens to be a member of his own family – and it is not Shizuka.
Whenever antagonists are forced to explain themselves in anime, their motives usually end up more as ill-thought out sophistry for being a jerk; the same could apply in this instance only it is made worse due to the family ties, thus is decidedly harder to parse and certainly colder in its cruelty.
This development brings not just a tonal shift to the show but also a visual one – in depicting Ikki’s experience during this dark period it looks like SHAFT have taken over production from Silver Link, switching from the detailed artwork and vivid colours to surreal black and white with every changing flickers of colour to create an nightmarish mood of austerity and insurmountable odds for our hero. Sounds crazy, but it is very effective though had this been established earlier in the show it might not be so jarring.
And therein lies the ultimate problem with this series – the potential was there all along for a different and provocative story to be told that might have been the battle tournament equivalent of Evangelion. We could have seen the inner emotional struggle and search for validation from a young man trying to overcome his shortcomings and setbacks from his own kin; instead, we get boobs and panty shots.
Chivalry Of A Failed Knight had all the elements to be a show fans would talk about for the ages, but in going for base appeal, regretfully has to settle for sitting in the shadows of all the other easily forgotten generic, derivative titles never to be heard of again.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animations
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black