If this was supposed to be a boob show, it wasn’t. If this was supposed to be school action/fantasy, it wasn’t. If this was supposed to be romance, it wasn’t. If this was supposed to drama, comedy, underdog tale, harem, I don’t know, it wasn’t. In short, this show wasn’t much of anything. A little bit of everything poorly done means not enough of anything. Such was my experience with Chivalry of a Failed Knight.

I’m pretty displeased with this show for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that above: it has no focus or direction. Another big reason is this show feels like just another show a studio churned out and didn’t put its best effort into. That bugs me a lot. Art should always be great. If an artist simply accepts it as ordinary, that’s not art anymore. I’ll leave it to your creative imaginations to come up with a pejorative appropriate to you. I won’t say the ones that come to my mind.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 2

Instantly we’re introduced to the most tsundere-st of tsundere types in Stella Vermillion (green star? Some vaguely sexual Japanese myth? I doubt it). I know some people love love love tsundere girl characters. But this character type is the most overused stereotype in all of anime, right behind the diminutive male MC. For more than half of this show Stella assaults our senses with fake outbursts of rage, the most annoying pouty faces, flying twin tails, and Freudian slips of jealousy, all while lusting–lusting—most heavily for Ikki Kurogane. Yeah she loves him, but we all can tell she’s not really shy on the inside. The spoiled foreign princess tsundere who falls in love with the ordinary guy main character. I can only take so much of it.

Oh yeah, Ikki Kurogane. The “Worst One,” as we’re regularly told in heavily Japanese-accented English. He’s the outcast. His family rejects him (sister excepted—ugh). The school won’t let him participate in combat (right, another combat school). So he has to work really hard on his own to improve. Which, of course, he has accomplished. The school ranks him as lowest of the low (“Worst One”), but the man never loses a fight from the moment he starts fighting. He beats Stella immediately, and without any extraneous grunting or screaming at that. His sword skills and his innate ability and his training make him superior to every opponent he encounters. He doesn’t have to work through these fights. He just wins them easily.

This is clown ass dumb. The child obviously has skills that should be apparent to anybody other than the blind. I’m serious when I say he never loses a fight. He’s rarely challenged, even in his final fight of the series with the voluptuous—voluptuous—Student Council President. There is zero reason for him to be an outcast. Except the simple reason that the author decided that was the case. D-U-M-B.

I mentioned his sister. Shizuku is the Kurogane family’s wunderkind. Or so they mistakenly believe. She’s strong, skilled, loli—loli—and obsessed with her brother. Damn it, not another one of these, really? You bet your arse, as my Scottish friends would say, another one of those. It’s ridiculous. She clings to Ikki, she’s jealous of every girl he gets within eyeshot of, and she pretends it’s normal to go around kissing him. It’s so annoying and stereotypical, possessing none of the good parts of stereotypical and all of the bad. She doesn’t even maintain character, getting lost as a character in the attempts at seriousness in this less-than-serious anime.

Tsundere Alert: Massive waves of fake outrage headed your way.

The only reason I even started this series was because Yuu Kobayashi (Rio in Sound of the Sky, who I passionately adore, and poor Sasha from Attack on Titan) plays Ayase Ayatsuji, the raven-haired third year who of course also seems interested in Ikki. But to tell you the truth, other than contributing to the attempts at seriousness in this less-than-serious anime (I said it twice now), I’m not really sure why this character is in this story. And she isn’t around very long. She appears, plays her limited role, then fades into the background. So that was a disappointment, as I wanted to hear Kobayashi-san’s voice more.

I kind of like Alice, Nagi Arisuin. He’s a good friend to Shizuku when she needs a friend, and usually has caring and good advice for his friends. He’s a quality side character, even if he doesn’t get a ton of screen time. But even his role is a little undefined. At the end we find he qualified for the Seven Star tournament, the preeminent combat event in the uninterestingly bizarre world of this show. So out of the blue we realize he’s actually quite a strong fighter, having seen nothing about this up to that point.

My favorite character got only two scenes! She made the best of them, but it was only two! Poor Yuuri Oriki-sensei looks and behaves oddly similarly to one of Izumi Kitta’s best known character roles, Tomoko in WataMote. She’s really funny in her extremely limited screen time. I wish we could’ve seen her more! Seriously, she’s the only character interesting to me in this series.

The antagonists are uninteresting. They appear out of nowhere, fulfill their roles (failing in their evil schemes), and then disappear. Their inclusion is baffling (beyond simply having antagonists) and their purposes are unbelievable. Kuraudo Kurashiki, the Sword Eater, has picked a fight with the aforementioned Ayatsuji-san’s father, a famous swordsman and teacher, killing him in a fight and randomly taking up residence in his dojo. Once Ikki more or less defeats him, he just walks away, and everybody’s happy. Then there’s Akaza Mamoru and his stupid role of trying to derail Ikki at the request of Ikki’s own father, Itsuki. That man doesn’t like his own son, why I don’t know, so he works really, really hard to keep him from being successful because of that. I don’t get that whole silly display through there at all. 

It’s just really ordinary, bordering on terrible. From mains to supports to protagonists to antagonists, almost everyone is underdeveloped and either cookie-cutter stereotypical or completely lacking in character. It’s like someone through a bunch of poorly conceived characters into a bag, mixed them up very roughly and therefore breaking important parts off, and then threw them all randomly kind of where they needed to fit in this show. I was not pleased.

Artwork

Rating: 5

This show styles itself as action, fantasy, and ecchi. It’s barely any of these.

The action is the most prominent. But I can’t say anything for its quality. It feels ordinary, looks ordinary, and is ordinary. Hell, most of the fights at the qualification tournament don’t even make it into the anime. We just see that Stella or Ikki or whoever is the victor, and we move on. When they do fight, there’s nothing special about it. They all have overly large displays of power, typical of action, but it isn’t interesting. Each person’s display is unique: Stella uses fire, Shizuku uses water, and Ikki uses—I don’t know what his power depends on. That part of him is never developed much. Anyway, the action sequences are unremarkable.

It’s not very fantastical either. And where it is, it’s just stereotypical again. Multiple varieties of hair and eye color (though less than I’d expect of fantasy), impractical uniforms for the female students, massive displays of magical power (aforementioned), all in a visually typical school setting. We get all that. That’s the bare minimum to qualify for this genre label. There’s nothing visually special about any of it here.

And it’s just barely ecchi too. Ecchi exists on a spectrum of course, but I hardly expect it to just disappear in an ecchi anime. And for long periods of time, it is totally AWOL. We get Stella in her underwear right away at the beginning, but that’s probably the only ecchi moment we really get until Toudou Touka shows up later and can’t keep her top-heavy and short-skirted self vertical. Well, count the ending credits and you have more ecchi, but still. Maybe the stereotypical nature of everything else in this show led me to expect clothe-slippage and convenient tearing, pensive moments viewed through shower glass, or loads upskirt shots during combat. But we see little of that, if any. We don’t even see shirtless guys! So as far as drawing and artwork goes, it’s minimally ecchi, just enough to be more than simple fanservice and nothing more. The only thing we see throughout that reminds us that this show is ecchi is the girls’ figures. Most of the female characters are—stereotypically—busty and thick-thighed. Except Shizuku of course, who has stereotypical loli flatness. But that just barely qualifies this as ecchi. If it weren’t for the occasional egregious fanservice, you’d hardly say this show was ecchi at all.

While ecchi-ness is not important to me, something should be what its genre says it it. If a show says it’s ecchi, then why isn’t it ecchi? It’d be like saying something was isekai and the characters spends only five minutes in another world, or horror and having just one scene with a dead body. Nobody wants to see genre treated like that. It stinks of poor effort in the production, and you know how I hate that scent. And if they’re trying to subtly channel the infamous queen of ecchi, Rias Gremory, into Stella, that’s a poor excuse an effort, and a weak attempt to enhance the show’s ecchi status.

Between its lack of adherence to genre and ordinariness otherwise, the artwork is just that, ordinary. It’s minimally what I’d expect of a major production, but doesn’t excite—excite—my senses in any way. 

Story

Rating: 1

I have lots of problems with this story. 

So I’ll start with the one and only thing I actually like: Ikki and Stella get engaged at the end. It’s sweet. Or, I should say I think they’re engaged. There was some ambiguity in the dialogue and Stella’s interpretation of what Ikki asked her. But, assuming they really are engaged, that was a nice moment in this frustrating show. I like it when people get engaged in anime. It doesn’t happen very often.

The rest is bad.

First, the story shouldn’t be there in the first place. Yeah yeah, High School DxD, Ikkitousen, etc., have stories, but those stories (usually) simply exist to create an environment to show off the buxom—buxom—ladies. It should know its place. Instead, the story here tries to be a big boy. It wants to act tough, and pretend there’s some dramatic, serious shit going down here. It has the effect of seeming ridiculous. Why is an ecchi show trying to tell an underdog harem tale of an overpowered and misunderstood main male character? It takes itself way too seriously. It tries to be a feel-good story, neglecting a different part of us that’s supposed to feel good watching this genre. The tenor of the story is a mismatch with the intent of this kind of genre.

Genre is a big problem for this show. That sentence above kind of says it all: “an ecchi show trying to tell an underdog harem tale of an overpowered and misunderstood main character.” How many genre stereotypes did I just touch there? Isn’t it ecchi? Why a feel-good story? Why the underdog-not-underdog angle? It doesn’t have to be that serious. Is it romance? We have a fair amount of that in this show, and it ends nicely in that sense. But it’s not supposed to be romance, is it? And harem? Sure, ecchi can overlap with harem, but not with a hyper focus on the male character. If it’s ecchi, the less time the male characters spend in the frame, the better. Ikki’s prominence makes this show feel more fantasy/harem and less ecchi. 

The tsundere tsurrenders eventually, much to my relief.

Confusion in genre causes just that, confusion. It’s distracting. The show feels like it’s all over the place, focusing randomly on multiple aspects of different genres, and none of it fits together very well. The result is a feel that the story feels like a poor fit for a show that should be visually stimulating.

Why the hell does his family dislike Ikki? Why is he disliked so much that his father pressures this combat school to not allow him to participate in combat, therefore giving him nothing to do at the school and of course placing him at the bottom of the class? It’s ridiculous, even in the anime world, to imagine a school refusing to teach one of its students the very thing everyone’s there to study in the first place. They could just refuse to admit the student, right? It’s way too convenient. The convenience is compounded by the obvious combat strength Ikki displays. Ikki’s highly informed yet highly absent father surely is aware of his son’s ability. Even if some weird politics were involved, it doesn’t make sense in this story for people to not acknowledge Ikki’s skill.

Oh, he doesn’t have any natural talent, and that’s why Ikki’s father doesn’t want him to succeed? This is about talent? Huh? Even if that’s the case, along comes a new principal at the school, and suddenly Ikki gets to participate in the Seven Stars tournament qualifier, no questions asked. So either way, his ability does its own work. It can’t be ignored. So why was it ignored up to this point? If you can find the logic in all of this, good for you. It seems ridiculous to me, simply designed to conveniently setup the story’s unbelievable scenarios.

While unbelievable scenarios often occur in anime, using them to make a sloppy storyline fit together is just an excuse for bad writing. This story amounts to little more than an exposition of characters and their skills all while trying to seem dramatic and interesting, but failing in all of those regards. It doesn’t support or showcase the characters when that’s mostly what you expect in this kind of anime. It tries to do too much, and fails on all fronts.

Overall: 2

I made several attempts during this review to highlight the ecchi parts of this anime. I can tell you, I made more effort here to live up to the ecchi title than this show did. That’s frustrating.

Think what you will about ecchi, it should always do a few things consistently. It should be titillating, exciting the primal urges to either a very light or very extreme degree. And it should do this fairly consistently with scenarios, visuals, and dialogue. It should have a slight discomfort to it as well. Viewers should feel like they have to keep in mind who and what’s behind them at all times! Even if the ecchi aspects are not constantly on the screen, we should expect them to pop out—pop out—at any moment. Yet it’s so rare in this show, I could easily name a handful of other shows that are more “ecchi” than this one, and they weren’t even supposed to be ecchi!

And the hits keep coming. The dialogue in this show is almost laughably bad at times. As the show progressed this improved a little, but from beginning to middle it was a joke. I almost gave up on this show after the mini-arc that focused on the Ayatsuji sword school and the Sword Eater, the dialogue was so idiotically trite. This contributed a lot to the misplaced drama in the story, the feeling that the story was trying to be serious in a relatively non-serious genre (ecchi) show. I was glad it improved a little. Perhaps even the writers cringed at how their production was developing halfway through.

What does this show have to do with chivalry? Ikki is a nice enough guy, for a harem/ecchi protagonist. But he’s just ordinary. He’s not outstandingly “chivalrous” no matter how you interpret that word. Maybe that’s just a word the authors decided to insert into the English title. The Japanese title emphasizes the “failed knight” part and includes some allusion to “hero,” but I doubt it has anything to do with “chivalry.” Another confusing, seemingly out of place addition to this anime.

So here’s a question that cuts harder than any stroke of Ikki’s sword: is this whole show built off High School DxD’s success? Whether High School DxD is the quintessential ecchi anime or not, it’s certainly the most recognized ecchi show of our time. Did those bastards at Silver Link (hard cut: the light novel came first, but let’s simply accuse the anime studio for simplicity and funsies) try to copy High School DxD? Given how light the effort put into this show seems everywhere else, I could easily agree with this possibility. An overpowered red-haired female MC. A male underdog/harem MC with a similar name (Issei/Ikki). Hell the author didn’t even work very hard for “Ikki,” which brings to mind the aforementioned Ikkitousen, another famous ecchi show. A loli white-haired imouto-type. A ravishing black-haired beauty. The school setting. Fantastical weapons drawn out of thin air (Shakespeare again?). I could go on.

Kids pointing things at each other in the school hallway. When they’re not kissing their brothers that is. And they thought running was bad.

Copying from a successful external source is a lame attempt to gain success. I start to think about unhappy things like mass-produced materials, bloated production companies, profit margins, and the rage sets in. Don’t you pollute art that way. Ecchi is close enough to the boundary between art and trash anyway, but to simply play off the success of a decently artistically interesting series is yurusanai. Silver Link has produced a ton of great shows. They don’t need to do stuff like this. Yeah yeah, the light novel came first. But they didn’t have to produce it.

So there you have it. A show that should get the juices—juices—flowing instead ends up putting me in a massive fury. You can’t fail much more than that as an anime. We’ve all seen some failures, all varieties of them. This one is right up there. Or right down there, I guess I should say.

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