Summer 2017 First Impressions – Knight’s & Magic

A Japanese mecha otaku dies in a car accident and his soul is reincarnated into another world as Ernesti Echevarria. Eru inherits memories and interests from his previous life, and aims to be a pilot of a Silhouette Knight, a large humanoid weapon that really exists in his world.ANN

Copyright 2017 (c) 8-Bit

Streaming at: Crunchyroll

Number of Episodes: TBA

Source: Web Novel/Light Novel

Summary of Episode 1: Kurata is a programmer who always gets the job done, even when it’s crunch time and it doesn’t look like his team will meet their deadline. He’s also a big fan of mecha anime and has an entire room in his apartment devoted to his model collection. Unfortunately, once he’s killed in a hit-and-run on a rainy night, his model-making hobby is over for good. Or is it? As luck would have it, Kurata’s spirit is reincarnated into the body of a child noble named Ernesti “Ernie” Echevalier. Better yet, the world in which Ernie lives is one filled with magic, as well as mecha-like apparatuses called “Silhouette Knights.” With his adult-like maturity and interest in mecha, Ernie manages to work his way into the top of his class and eventually positions himself to become a pilot. But demons are starting to run amok. Will Ernie’s cleverness and penchant for inventing things be the factor that turns humanity’s luck around?

Impressions: First of all, let’s get this out of the way and then never speak of it again: what is up with the apostrophe in the show’s title? It’s been causing me a lot of heartburn. Maybe Japanese creators could just agree to employ the services of a native English speaker from now on so that we can all avoid any future hair-pulling punctuation flourishes.

Kurata’s last moments. Copyright 2017 (c) 8-Bit

Just like every other storytelling trend, the fantasy subgenre of “Isekai,” in which a modern day individual is transported from their home into another world (the word literally means “another world.” It makes sense!) has been expressed in so many variations lately that it’s beginning to seem a little bit stale. More often than not, it feels like the trope is used solely in the service of stroking the male ego – “I’m an otaku who knows how these alternate worlds work through my extensive knowledge of fantasy media and games, so the elves, demi-humans, and other female denizens of this realm will certainly fall in love with me!” There are obviously many variables in both specific details and relative quality, and it’s not like this is a new phenomenon or one solely limited to male characters (in fact, some of the earlier examples I can think of featured young women drawn into worlds with groups of hot bishounen suitors), but it’s been very one-note as of late. So what does it take for something with a stock premise to stand out?

One good example I watched some of within the realm of recent memory was The Saga of Tanya the Evil, which reincarnated its adult male protagonist into the body of a young girl and turned its story into a philosophical debate about the existence of God. For every high-minded and creative attempt, though, there are several Sword Art Online clones, as well as wildly-popular but ultimately unsatisfying and problematic examples like Re:Zero. More often than not the genre is used as a setup to portray a teenage male power fantasy, paving the way for the protagonist to experience undeserved privilege (due to his knowledge of fantasy and/or video game tropes) and the adoration of an endless parade of cute but vapid female suitors. So where does this example seem to fall?

Ernie gets the opportunity to see a cockpit up close. Copyright 2017 (c) 8-Bit

The answer, for now, seems to be that it’s somewhere in between. There are several good things going for the show from the get-go, the primary one for me being the protagonist’s seemingly bottomless enthusiasm regarding his new and strange situation. Kurata/Ernie, for his part, seems to be so thankful to have been reincarnated into this brand new world that the loss of his previous life, job, and faithfully-curated mecha model collection, doesn’t haunt him too badly. It’s presented as if whatever deity running the universe has presented Kurata with some kind of consolation in exchange for cutting his life short. Rather than be all entitled about it, he interprets this chance as a gift to live a life that he’s dreamed of. Ernie might be unnaturally talented for his age due to his soul’s fortuitous foreknowledge of technology and ability to solve problems quickly and creatively, and this could easily have been used to portray him as arrogant and superior. But he’s so gosh-darned thrilled to learn about the Silhouette Knights and to study magic that it’s difficult not to get caught up in the whirlwind of his joy. His relationship with the Alter siblings and their shared penchant for learning, increasing their magical skills, and using them to aid others is nice as well.

The age of the primary characters also helps to set the tone of the show – the protagonist and his cohorts are all about middle-school aged, which is helpful in keeping them from seeming too self-important. They’re not yet concerned with looking cool and pretending that the issues of the adult world are somehow also their burdens to bear. They’re just kids – precocious ones, certainly, but also enthusiastic and guileless. They’re not yet concerned with the opposite sex in a way that makes many anime feel skeevy. Cool toys and friendships are paramount; other responsibilities can wait.

A Silhouette Knight puts down an evil creature. Copyright 2017 (c) 8-Bit

The show’s attitude and presentation could definitely carry it forward for a while, but it will certainly need to be coupled with other compelling elements and whether that part will be successful is difficult to predict from this episode alone. The building blocks of the story seem pretty typical so far – monsters are starting to show up more often, in greater groups, and much closer to human civilization than is comfortable, and our heroes will likely play some part in finding a unique way to put them down and thus save humanity. The show takes place in a vaguely medieval fantasy setting, its one distinguishing factor being that this world is inhabited by giant magical sets of armor – ambulatory due to magic and a human pilot inside, of course – that resemble the mecha that the protagonist is so fond of. Obviously one unique feature does not a memorable TV anime make, so while the mecha twist is kind of fun in and of itself it will have to reach further eventually.

I do like the overall look of the show so far, even the extreme shininess of Ernie’s hair (seriously, so shiny…). At this point it seems almost a given that mecha elements will be created through the use of CG, and I’m okay with that; the CG elements mesh well with the 2D portions pretty well. There are also some examples of really good traditional animation in the character acting during the episode’s fight scene between the evil creatures and students. Going in I had expected this to be a more simplistic and generic production, so it was a pleasant surprise to me that it was well put-together.

I might sound a little curmudgeonly at times when it comes to popular anime and anime trends, but one thing I like about myself is that I’ll still give something new a try even if I might not expect it to be all that interesting. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised when I do. I don’t think this is AOTS-material, but it might be something fun to watch and it seems to have its heart in the right place, at least.

Pros: The show has a good visual presentation. The enthusiasm of the protagonist is infectious. The show puts a slight spin on the isekai model.

Cons: The majority of the building blocks are pretty typical; it will have to do everything really well to stay compelling.

Grade: B

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