|Overall||Art||Animation||Character Design||Music||Series Story||Episode Story||Reviewer|
Kenja no Mago
(All episodes watched):|
This show was looking terribly generic and lame at first, but my thoughts came around before episode one was finished. The old 'Japanese person dies a premature death and is reborn in a video game-like alternate reality' premise is reused here, much like in Slime. I didn't feel much interest as we were introduced to a world where magic is used and to a sizeable cast of simple characters in rapid succession. Perhaps it was the brazen use of unlikely coincidences which tickled my fancy; normally such a thing would annoy me, but it is all played as a joke here as Shin discovers that the people who often visit him and his grandfather are in fact VIPs with connections to this famous magical academy. Perhaps everyone having a secret had the effect of jumpstarting their previously weak personalities. It is mentioned that for all his skill as a magician, little has been taught to Shin about how one should behave in the presence of strangers (especially girls). But he's basically a nice guy, just a bit naive, and, of course, possesses inestimable magical abilities. I almost didn't watch episode two, but ultimately did and it was more fun than I had been expecting. In some ways the show is rather predictable--like the arrogant asshole aristocrat who expects everyone to obey him without asking questions. But Shin's experiences as he enrolls in the magic academy, and quickly shoots to the top of the list of the most amazing and promising students, were amusing. The show is not brilliant, but it's fun to see how Shin thinks nothing of his own capabilities yet never ceases to amaze others. It turns out that the aristocrat was just a proxy of a bigger threat, and I was a bit surprised at what happened to him. The main problem is a mysterious sorcerer, Schtrom, who seems to be dabbling with the creation of 'demonoids'. Schtrom initially didn't excite me much. It was unclear what he was trying to accomplish and why. Would he be an ongoing opponent for Shin throughout the show, or would he be quickly defeated and a new adversary come along? I sort of hoped for the latter option, given how unexciting this guy seemed. Shin was distressed after being forced to kill a person, which is realistic and unusual--but in the next episode he is apparently completely back to normal, which was a slight let-down. On the other hand, he accurately deduces what really happened in a magical battle, which shows he's got some genuine brains in his head. In episode six I was unimpressed by the plot that Schtrom is hatching; it seems that a dozen or so demonoids are more than enough to defeat the army and overthrow the government of a great empire. Perhaps the problem is that I was not all that thrilled by the explanation behind the demonoids and the fantastic powers they seem to wield.
One unusual feature of KnM is that rather than attract a harem of cute girls, and maybe have one who is the male protagonist's preferred girlfriend but definitely go no any farther than that, Shin's romance moves steadily forward to the extent that he actually proposes to his girlfriend in episode nine. That is so unconventional that I found myself wondering why it could possibly be happening. Standard operating procedure is for the protagonist to have multiple choices when it comes to girls (perhaps so male viewers can imagine themselves in a similar situation), not commit to one. Another unusual feature of this show is that the basic story doesn't progress in the normal manner. Early on, I was certain that after a modest amount of training, this team of magical warriors would no doubt take on a series of opponents, each one tougher than the last, and finally vanquish Schtrom himself (much like a video game). But in fact the training is extensive and takes up the bulk of the show. It became clear that these teenagers--the 'Ultimate Magicians', as Shin eventually names them--are preparing for one very important task and are not distracted by minor ones. That was refreshing and original. A lot of attention is paid to magic, how different forms of it exist, and how it can supposedly be mastered. I was amused by a certain training exercise that Shin and his friends take part in. The comedy that comes about when the relatively naive Shin demonstrates his fantastic powers is the best part of this show, indeed, arguably it's backbone. In a way he reminds me of One Punch Man, since he can basically do anything if he wants to. It's not inconceivable that the idea behind this show was to take the premise of OPM and transfer it to magic. The signs are that Shin and the dozen or so friends who he has been training in his style of magic will be the only ones capable of taking on Demonoids and winning. That seems like a pretty serious business, yet the general tone of the show is more humorous than serious.
Yet another original touch was the revelation of Schtrom's background in episode ten. To my surprise, he was once an upstanding citizen who was victimized by corruption and slander, and that was what drove him to the dark side. He is basically out for revenge, and once he achieves that he becomes surprisingly apathetic. I wish the background story had been a little more convincing, but you can sort of feel sorry for him. A strong point of KnM as a whole is its willingness to be unconventional and original. That, no doubt, was what made the show noteworthy amid a flood of dime-a-dozen magical academy anime. I just wish it had pushed that originality a little farther than it did. My revised expectations were that the Ultimate Magicians would go straight to Schtrom and fight it out with him in a climactic battle. Actually, even that prediction was wrong. The plot does progress in pretty much the standard manner as Shin and the other magicians take on the lowest level demonoids first in episode 11. It's very simplistic and predictable, yet I must admit it felt good to see the heartless demonoids get their asses thoroughly kicked. The demonoids are running roughshod over the ordinary soldiers and civilians until the magicians arrive, then they get a taste of their own medicine. I figured that surely the final episode would be the one in which Schtrom got his comeuppance, but again I was wrong: there is no conclusion. Shin and the Ultimate Magicians have stabilized the situation, but Schtrom remains at large and every sign is that a second season will be needed to conclude the story. In the end, KnM was a modestly fun show which could have been improved somewhat, but was ultimately good enough. It has a definite spirit which most magical academy anime lack, as the previously unknown Shin Wolford makes a name for himself and ultimately saves the day. Perhaps the message is that anime that take place in magical academies can sometimes be fun, too.
Last updated Thursday, July 04 2019. Created Wednesday, April 17 2019.