In Chivalry of a Failed Knight episode 1, "The Worst One I," Ikki Kurogane is preparing for a new year at school -- where despite his near constant efforts, he's ranked last. His life takes an unexpected turn when he walks into his room to find Princess Stella Vermillion in the middle of changing her clothes. It didn't help that he offered to take his clothes off so they'd be even. Why was she in his room? Why is school Director Kurono Shinguuji seeming to enjoy their conflict -- so much that she suggests they settle the issue with a mock sword battle? And what can the battle possibly prove with Ikki literally the worst student in the school and Stella literally the best?
Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious.
What's in This Post
3 Favorite Moments
Moment 1: Ikki the Gentleman
Wasn't it surprising that she didn't accept his offer to get naked, too? No? Yeah, I guess you're right. He's doomed. Capture from the Hulu stream.
Of course, Ikki walked in on Stella as she was changing. Of course, she was terribly embarrassed. The situation was such an embodiment of the trope that it almost felt cliche. Then two things happened that made me realize I was watching something interesting. Before Stella could actually scream, Ikki threw up his hand and said he wasn't going to pretend he didn't see what he just saw (2:39). Immediately after that, he did something that in retrospect made some sense. Not a lot of sense, mind you; but you could see where he was going with it. He offered to take his own clothes off so they'd be even! See, it made some sense because he knew he was in his room, so his whole perspective was different from hers. And that's the second thing -- Director Kurono seems to have set him up. Stella, too. Neither of them knew that they were actually room mates! Ikki wasn't a pepping tom; Stella wasn't a wronged young woman trying to protect her modesty. I liked how their introduction was just a little different than the trope. Points for effort!
Moment 2: Stella's Prison
It would have to be hard to take: Working your butt off, only to have people lament that you were just too talented. Capture from the Hulu stream.
When I first start watching a series, I look for moments that hook my attention or fire up my imagination. For the first 10 or 11 minutes, this show kept my attention. You can see from my first favorite moment that the show was fun in a sexy way, and there's zero wrong with that. But as up-beat as I try to be, I am always looking for something extra, something special -- something that elevates a show. It doesn't have to be something huge, and this moment is a perfect example. Stella is preparing to face Ikki in the mock battle (9:24). She recalled how her previous opponents lamented that despite their hard work, her talent beat them. They couldn't see past their own limitations; even the other students had the same perspective. She arrived in the arena and taunted him, asking if he thought his hard work could possibly stand against her talent. When he cheerfully said that was his plan, she was angry. In a furious low voice, she said (11:48), "Like I don't work hard. Who the hell do you think you are?" In the sub, she said, "As if I don't work hard." That hooked me. Through her flashbacks, we saw that she worked hard. Now in her attitude, we see that the prison of expectations placed around her chaffed. She's not just some random tsundere. She's a tsundere with personality! That's the best kind!
Moment 3: Respect Earned and Respect Given
Stella wanted to beat him solely with her sword skills. She didn't want to resort to her magical talent. But by pushing her to power up, he earned her respect. Capture from the Hulu stream.
The mock battle between Ikki and Stella started strong. Like, really, really strong. Someone spent their animation budget wisely! It's tough to introduce new characters in a realistic way that still conveys their abilities and temperament. My second favorite moment set the stage: Stella seriously wanted to prove she had the skills that only disciplined practice could produce, so she fought only with her sword technique. She didn't anticipate Ikki's Blade Steal talent, though, and she soon found herself on the defensive -- against her own technique! It was only when Ikki landed a blow that should have ended the match that the truth came out: His sword, wielded simply with talent, couldn't defeat her (14:40). This is where Stella gave us another glimpse into the quality of her character. She was furious with herself for not defeating him with her skill alone; and she blamed herself. But she could not allow herself to lose. So she powered up and prepared a magic attack. Even as she did so, she told him that what she was about to do was with "the greatest due respect" -- and she meant it. What came next was kinda awesome, but it was her willingly granted respect that impressed me.
Thoughts: A Very Dark World
Let me start by giving the translators a good-natured ribbing. Well, before I do, let me say that I watched both the dub and the sub, and you know what? I loved both! I prefer the sub, because I like its feel and tone. But the dub is just delightful! Take, for example, how Ikki called her "Miss Stella." At first, I thought it was a fun little detail. But do you know what it did? It let the dub keep the punch line to the last scene intact! In the sub, he kept calling her "Stella-san." She demanded he call her just Stella. By keeping Miss Stella in the dub, they were able to keep that touching little moment intact. Good work!
That being said, there are two phrases -- one starting the mock battle and one in the OP -- that made me sit up and say, "Huh?"
Before the mock battle in this episode, there was a three second countdown. Then, the announcer said, "Let's go ahead!"
In the OP, near the end, Ikki thrusts his fist triumphantly into the air as the lyrics in English say, "It's time to take a top?"
Take a what, now?
Stella lost the battle. But do you know what was cool about it? She didn't freak out. She didn't cry and pout and pound the table. She cooly asked the director what was going on -- because if Ikki really was the "worst one," there was no way he could have defeated her. Capture from the Hulu stream.
One more off-topic note, then I'll get into the meat of this section. Remember when Ikki said he used his skill Blade Steal to mimic (actually learn, it seems) Stella's technique? Was I the only one who thought of Kazuma Satou from KonoSuba? I guess Stella should be happy she got to keep her panties...
Did you notice how this episode didn't give us a major information dump, yet somehow managed to paint a picture of a dark and almost nihilist world? I'm talking about Stella confronting the Director (17:09). Stella seems to have a clear, realistic picture of her own abilities, and they are formidable. She basically called Shenanigans on the idea that Ikki was rank F, because despite her abilities, he had just kicked her ass -- fair and square.
Kurono's reaction was subdued, but it told us everything we needed to know without an info-dump. The system was not designed to measure things like "mere" combat skill or prowess. You know what that implies, right? It implies that those in power -- those who determine what things they schools do measure -- rigged the system. Kurono's a Director, but her power only extends so far. She's able to offer Ikki the chance to graduate, but only if he wins the tournament.
Kurono was as much a prisoner of the system as Stella. But the Director seemed to have learned some ways to maintain her integrity while also maintaining her independence. Capture from the Hulu stream.
In other words, only if he proves, in a profoundly public way, that the system is unfair and biased and -- most importantly -- fragile. If a rank F wins the whole thing, even someone who's not paying attention could see that there's a problem!
I know the show's most famous for its ecchi aspects, and I'm in no way downplaying those. To be clear: I have no problem with Stella in her lingerie, and I would likely have watched the show if it offered mild entertainment on that level. Would have enjoyed it, too! But I'm a sucker for social commentary. I'm an even bigger sucker for the underdog poking a stick in the eye of an unjust society. Throw in interesting characters and subtle twists on the normal tropes?
What did you think of the fight between Stella and Ikki? What were your favorite moments? Let me know in the comments!
Other Posts about This Series
Other Anime Sites
- Reddit: [Spoilers] Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry - Episode 1 [Discussion]
- Random Curiosity: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 01
- TheAnimeYoungin2nd -channel: Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry Episode 1 ( Live Reaction ) - Loving This Series (YouTube)
This Site (Crow's World of Anime!)
- None Yet! This is just the first episode!