Rakudai kishi no Cavalry is an ongoing light novel series from Misora Riku. Near the end of last year an anime adaptation aired. It was handled by Nexus and Silver Link. Silver Link being the studio behind WataMote & Baka To Test. Yeah, that’s not an auspicious sign. Then again, those are the only two series that they did the main work on that I’ve reviewed or even seen. Their studio probably has some really good stuff of their own. I know that some of the stuff they’ve done in-between animation for has been quite good. So, let’s look at this thing and see if the third time will, indeed, be the charm.
Ikki is the worst magical knight. He’s at the bottom of his class in ranking and can’t even get proper lessons because his stats are so low. One day, he returns to his room to find a young lady changing her clothes. Not knowing what else to do, he apologises for seeing what he saw and takes off his clothes to make up for it. He later finds out that this is his new room mate. Princess Stella Vermillion, a high ranking magical knight exchange student. The two have a mock battle to decide who gets to make their room’s rules. After the obvious upset, the two and the rest of their school begin competing in a tournament to determine who will represent them at some big magic knight battle event.
Let’s talk about the comedy in this series for a moment. I know, it’s an action fantasy romance and not a comedic work. However, it does try to inject quite a few comedic moments. The problem is that these comedic attempts are just poor. They all seem to be based on something being unusual. The perky teacher who constantly vomits blood or Stella’s entire body turning bright red in a slightly over the top way. Misora doesn’t seem to understand that unusual does not equate to funny. I could sew newsie caps onto the shoulders of my coat and it would be weird but it wouldn’t really be funny and the same can be said for these moments. They’re odd and, at times, out of place but they aren’t funny.
Let’s move on to the main narrative. We have an underdog hero in a tournament with a bunch of other teens who all have special powers. It’s a very trite, very done to death type of story. I’ve reviewed two series that used the same premise, at least as far as I can remember ff the top of my head, four if you count the tournament arcs in Dragonball and Yu Yu Hakusho and there are quite a few more out there. Rakudai kishi no Cavalry takes this very over-used, standard premise and does nothing unique or original with it. It follows every cliché with no surprises which just serves to make it incredibly predictable and pretty boring when it comes right down to it.
That brings me to the biggest weakness of the series, the romance. Like the main narrative, the romance is very trite and standard in terms of its arc. However, it also suffers from there being no chemistry between the leads whatsoever. They barely know each other and have been nothing but antagonistic and then, suddenly she has a thing for him. All in the same episode. No explanation or motivation behind it. It’s just contrived and weak. Then she starts acting tsundere towards him and then the obvious arc is obvious. Granted, it could be worse. His younger sister could be introduced as a romantic rival.
(Ikki with his sister…)
This romance is utter shite.
So, with such a standard plot do we at least get strong characters? After all, Nanoha Vivid managed to do something pretty good with the same story just by virtue of having strong characters. So, what do we get here? The bland protagonist who acts like basically every generic nice guy protagonist ever, I’m going to call him Blandon from this point on. The tsundere princess, I’m going to call her OA from this point on because it amuses me to do so. The creepily devoted little sister. The supportive trans-girl and a bunch of archetypical characters on the side. The closest you get to any character arcs are the standard doubting yourself for reasons and having to get out of it thing that Blandon undergoes near the end and OA’s spontaneous romantic interest in Blandon. And even those character arcs are ones that are often associated with the tropes the characters embody. I will give the series some credit for not using the trans-girl for a bunch of really tasteless jokes, they do have one, when so many series would have but that’s not saying much. Save that the series could have been tackier.
The artwork in this is a bit mixed. On the positive side, there is some really nice background design The battle between the little sister & the student council President is pretty decent. The character designs also look mostly okay if a bit standard, except that their eyes are done in such a way that it looks like they’re all constantly wearing heavy eye-liner. On the down side, this is a series with really tasteless, really tacky uses of fan-service. There’s also an issue with most of the action sequences being really weak. So, not only do you have this bog-standard plot but there aren’t even good action sequences to make it worthwhile. Instead, we get these very quick matches that end before anything exciting can happen or these kind of standard hero gets knocked around a bit before winning matches. The final match in the series is the absolute worst offender. They build it up quite a bit and then it’s over in ten seconds. What’s the point of a super-powered tournament plot if there aren’t even going to be good fight scenes? Then, we have the “artistic” art choices. We’ve seen some of these in other reviews, the odd slanted shots in Phantom and such. Inn this one, they use mostly black and white with little colour during Blandon’s doubting arc. To be fair, they do actually need to do this for practical reasons. There’s nothing to the character beyond the trope so the art has to try and convey the emotional tone that the character himself can’t carry.
The acting in this is not very good. It suffers from the same issue as a lot of anime with weak characters, the vocal cast is very limited in what they can actually do with them. You can’t give a complex performance to Blandon or OA or any of these other characters because they have no complexity. Instead, we get the actors doing the standard performances that go with the tropes. They may not be strong, emotional performances but they’re the best you can expect under the circumstances. The music is pretty forgettable. It’s not Nakagawa Kotaro’s best, certainly but it’s not bad. Remember, he did work on the music for Code Geass.
There really isn’t any in the series.
Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry is a bad series. The plot is trite. The romance is outright atrocious. The characters are weak with acting to match. The action is mostly pretty bad, culminating in an unforgivably short and disappointing climactic battle. If you’re looking for a series where super-powered characters battle one another, you’d be better off with Nanoha Vivid, Shaman King, Dragonball, Yu Yu Hakusho or even the Law of Ueki. That being said, I have seen worse series. At least the backgrounds are nice and most of its flaws, though glaring, veer more towards stupidity than they do towards painfully terrible to watch. As such, my final rating is a 3/10. Next week I’m going to look at Boku dake ga Inai Machi. Hopefully, it will be better than this was.