Knight’s and Magic aims to celebrate everything that makes Mecha anime great, but just what is KnM’s view of what makes the genre great and how does it execute it?
Mecha anime has been around since the 50s, from kid-friendly shows like Gigantor and Mazinger Z to the more severe and thematic stories in series like Gundam or Evangelion. It’s a genre that’s been featured in every spectrum and garnered a lot of fans worldwide.
Knight’s and Magic is an adaptation of the light novel of the same name written by Hisago Amazake and adapted by 8Bit Studio. The story revolves around a genius Japanese programmer who’s caught in a car accident and dies, only to be reincarnated in a fantasy world as genius kid Ernesti Echevalier. In this world, countries fight using mechs called Silhouette Knights. Their pilots, called Knight Runners, must use their magical energy to man them and fight to protect their kingdom against the giant magical creatures and rival kingdoms that threaten it.
Having been a huge fan of robots as well as a programmer and mechanic during his past life, Ernesti has somehow brought over his past knowledge with him (even though he doesn’t remember who he used to be), and takes full advantage of it to accomplish his dream of creating and riding his very own mech.
Knight’s and Magic is a show that wears its heart on its sleeve and its love for the mecha genre is at the core of everything. It’s a show that’s more focused on creating cool mecha fight scenes that people can cheer at as well as coming up with new mech designs that any fan would love to pilot.
On that end, it’s able to get its intent across exceedingly well. Knight’s and Magic’s animation is of serviceable quality, but the thing that stands out the most is the CGI. Anime CGI (much like any CGI) has come a long way, yet we get way more misses than hits, Pixar movies notwithstanding.
Luckily, Knight’s and Magic overcomes that hurdle excellently, with mechs that are 3D but don’t clash with the 2D backgrounds or characters, and their movements are believably robotic without seeming janky. There’s a lot of weight to every clash that ensues as well as a real sense of speed once battles ratchet up into extremes.
The fights themselves can get pretty crazy as well, and Knight’s and Magic knows how to direct mecha action scenes, with even the most lacklustre fights managing to make somehow you smile and call out to how cool what’s happening on screen is. The fact that the show invents new ways to have the characters fight in every episode adds to that as well.
Its cast, mainly the older characters, also ends up becoming endearing and you can’t help but root for them once the story starts focusing on them.
Unfortunately, Knight’s and Magic has quite a few issues that drag it down, the most noticeable one being its protagonist, Ernesti. From the start of the story, Ernesti is seen as a genius both in our world as well as in the fantasy world he’s taken to. He’s able to figure out and master magic in only three years, and can correctly understand how Silhouette Knights work in three more years, and even correctly pilot his mech during his first test run (all things that others can spend their whole lives learning without succeeding).
One could justify Ernesti’s magic ability due to his knowledge and skill as a programmer in his past life, but two issues arise from that. The first one is that Ernesti has no memories of his past life and he only retains his genius skills because his love for robots is so big it apparently transcends reincarnation (!?). The second is that, while him being a great programmer does mean he can understand and figure out his way around problems; the series wants viewers to tie magic and programming together, but their foundations are completely different, and the metaphor just doesn’t shine here.
We’re also not shown the process for which Ernesti learns these things; instead, we just skip around in time in the first episode until we get to a point where he’s a genius at them, thus removing our chances of seeing what little he did struggle with.
This wouldn’t be a massive issue if it weren’t for the fact that most of the characters are either one-note or don’t get as much focus as him during the series’ first half, with the majority of them serving directly as spectators while he does his work. This improves later on as Ernesti’s called out for his borderline-sociopathic dedication to mechs and his nerdiness, however.
The story also improves once it starts focusing more on the supporting cast, thus allowing their personalities to bounce off each other more. Unfortunately, the majority of them don’t get to have proper character arcs, and even if they become more entertaining as we see more of them, they still end up feeling like tropes.
Another big issue that plagues Knight’s is how it spends its time. Knight’s and Magic is a series that relies a lot on exposition and explaining what’s going on directly to the audience, whether by the characters or by the narrator who is always giving us information about the world’s history, culture and sometimes even hints of the plot’s future. This wouldn’t be so bad in small doses, but the series overdoes it to such an extent, it ends up feeling like it’s too lazy to show us whatever it’s trying to tell us.
Because of it, most of the series’ first half ends up as an unneeded set-up for the second half, and at that point, it all feels dull and uninteresting. The foundation for the world is also confusing, as characters live in a medieval world even though they have technology as intricate as mechs, and other countries are shown to live in more advanced societies.
We’re told that the reason for this is that no one’s capable of fully figuring out how to create new mechs and how they work, only expand on them. But that explanation has a plethora of problems and, even if you follow it, it feels like a flimsy excuse to justify its setting and how Ernesti ends up figuring it out in a few months anyway.
Lastly, Knight’s and Magic has some tonal issues. While the series emphasises the action scenes and how fun mechs and mech building are, the story still tries to play around (and we mean “play”) with political themes such as whether countries should intervene in matters of other nations or not. Coupled with the fact that protagonists kill their opponents without a second thought and still act as nothing happened, it all clashes with the overall fun and active approach towards the mechs.
There’s also how the series fails to establish any form of tension. Even when we focus on everyone instead of just Ernesti, it’s evident the good guys got it in the bag, and it’s only in the first part (when they’re still separated) and the last couple of episodes where it even remotely feels like they’re in danger of losing.
Overall, Knight’s and Magic is a show that prides itself on its love for mechas and how fun it can make its fights. It’s cast of characters eventually become good enough to carry the show, but it never manages to overcome its issues fully. It does stand out as a show for all ages, as it doesn’t rely on violence or fan service, but kids will probably have a lot more fun with the story’s tone.
Outside of that, if you’re a fan of mecha anime, specially action-based ones, and the always-surprising-to-find, well-done CGI, then you should give it a try, just don’t expect the story to try to manage anything besides giving you a high dose of action.