When it comes to anime reviewing and other nuances of the weeb world, it becomes second nature to detect things. One of those things being anime that are clearly the stereotypical dreg that have been peddled out of studios for the last couple years. Following the complete domination of Sword Art Online, more and more manga and novels that got adapted into anime followed the same formula. Main character of massive strength and willpower has a well-endowed female companion and a harem of girls that want to get in his pants simply because he looked at them for a solid 2 seconds. Throw in a couple panty shots and the character falling on girls, and call it a day. One anime that followed this formula to a T is Chivalry of a Failed Knight. In fact the first two episodes of the anime had some of the most telegraphed and forced contrivances in this formula period. And for some ungodly reason, I decided to keep watching it to see just how bad it would get. But the funny thing is…it actually kind of got better. Not only did the bullshit that happened in the first two episodes come to an immediate halt at the third, but it surprisingly had a couple twists and turns, and most shocking of all… character development.
Before explaining the hidden gems in this otherwise lackluster excuse for fanservice, I’ll give a short synopsis of the series. The whole anime takes place in a school that trains students to be Blazers, a modern type of Knight that can summon a blade to their side. The school is strictly for entertainment purposes, as Blazers take part in battle tournaments across the globe, the top of tournaments being the Seven Stars Festival. The main character Ikki Kurogane has the aspiration to win the coveted tournament, but not for simple reasons. Blackballed by his family for having almost no real talent as a Blazer, the school puts a vice on Ikki and tells him the only way to pass after flunking out of every class is to win the tournament. Enter Stella Vermillion, a princess of her country and now sudden roomate to Ikki in the school. Being everything Ikki isn’t, the two come to butting heads eventually ending up in a duel where Ikki somehow wins. Although he has no talent or special sword ability, Ikki somehow managed to acquire the ability to both replicate someone’s sword style and to select one of his five senses to power up at the exchange of another. This is the basis of Ikki fighting through the ranks and Stella slowly coming to understand him.
Some of that sounds confusing, I know, but that’s because the story doesn’t do a very good job of explaining certain things. First off, I have absolutely zero clue of how the Blazers actually work. Their swords apparently come from a device that they carry, but how it works or how its activated is never really specified. It also doesn’t help that the anime tries painting Ikki as having no talent, but his sensory selective ability seems to pop out of thin air. Although a really cool concept, I have no idea how he acquired it. I can buy the fact that he can successfully deduce and counter someone’s sword style in the middle of battle, but the sensory thing is a bit off the end. It’s something that bothered me throughout the entirety of this anime, but thankfully that’s the only part about this that is left unexplained.
What you get here is a fairly straight-forward plot, and from the first two episodes, it’s very easy to plot out in your head how it’s going to go. At least, where you think it’s going to go. Just as quick and unexplained as Ikki’s abilities, Chivalry manages to grab onto a tiny semblance of competent story-telling and hang onto it for dear life. It doesn’t break boundaries or even end in a completely different manner than what you expect, but there are little touch-ups to the plot that I honestly did not anticipate and the anime got a bit better.
One of these areas where it managed to improve is the characterization. For one, Stella isn’t a complete tsundere-type. In fact, instead of this anime wasting time for some bull harem that you know will just end in no one actually hooking up, by the fourth episode Stella and Ikki actually end up in a steady relationship. Considering they already spent the imouto card by episode 2, I was flabbergasted when the anime actually had the main character and the main love interest hook up early on. The hooking up is usually an end-of-anime gimmick, so seeing it integrated and then expanded on early is something a bit fresh. Not only that, but they also have something unheard of in the anime romance world. Relationship problems. Shocking, I know, but keep with me, there’s more to talk about.
Secondly is everyone having some sort of deeper side to their characters. I remember the specific moment when I realized that Chivalry was onto something, and that’s when Alice, a friend to Ikki’s imouto bait, shoots down Ikki’s supposed display of humbleness as a form of just misplaced blame. Rather than having the character oogle at the main character’s almighty selflessness, Alice pretty much tells Ikki to stop being a bitch and stand up for himself for once. From here, Ikki has multiple altercations that test him on his willingness to put up with life giving him the middle finger. At one point, the story decides to go full-throttle on complex emotional strain and feature a revelation involving Ikki’s father that is actually kind of depressing. While this show features some of the worst and most bleak types of drama, it also somehow manages to nail a complex exchange of emotions at the same time. It almost gets to the point where I sometimes think that the beginning of it was just parody and then the story decided to actually be a story. But unfortunately, there’s a lot more wrong with it than the opening episodes, so I’m afraid I have to take all of this as scripture.
Also, the battles in the series are frankly really cool. There’s a certain level of polish and choreography that leads to some great action scenes. Hell, even the characters drawing their swords to fight are interesting to say the least. The tempo of each and every fight keeps rising and rising, and the mere clashing of swords in this show is enough to bring a smile to your face. Not to mention the animation is actually quite fantastic. Although I’m not too much of a fan of the character designs (Stella’s bust is ridiculous) and the coloring is a bit over-saturated, the overall look and flow of the show is fantastic. Even one match containing a single strike becomes a very impressive spectacle from a technical standpoint. If you watch this show for anything, watch it for the fights.
Unfortunately, all this doesn’t save it from subpar dialogue and relatively standard story direction. While the characters achieve a deeper personality, it doesn’t go much deeper. While the story takes some unexpected turns, the rest of the way is pretty foreseeable. And while the anime tries to emphasize how weak Ikki is, it just highlights how much the story isn’t very good at explaining its meta. What you get from Chivalry of a Failed Knight is the typical boob show of the season with an extra layer of complexity and really awesome fight sequences. It seems like Chivalry was on some sort of track when it ended, and since the story supposedly continues afterwards, a season 2 is a possibility. I wouldn’t be wholly against the idea, but Chivalry still has a lot of ground to make up to become an anime that I can actually recommend whole-heartedly. But with what we have, Chivalry of a Failed Knight has the roughest of all starts to end in a surprisingly entertaining way. So it was sort of not terrible, and almost became an actual show. Just shy of the mark, though, so get ready for a lot of blandness to wade through before getting good.