Sometimes there is one aspect to a show that can save it from pure mediocrity. It may not try to propel it into the status of “classic” or “greatness”, as there are still other aspects to it that are either okay or bad, but it can still garner it some admiration for trying. Rakudai Kishi no Calvary has the distinction of being one of these shows. As much as my expectations were shrouded in apathy when I started, by the time I was halfway through Rakudai, that apathy dissipated from just one aspect of it that kept me coming back.
The aspect I’m talking about in Rakudai is how the show managed to form what could have been a generic romantic comedy plot and woven it into something that is quite unique, both in tone and writing. The plot involves our two main heroes, Ikki and Stella, that slowly develop a bond at the beginning of the show after they are forced to share a room together at a knight academy. Strangely enough it starts out like your generic romance where the girl acts tsundere towards the male lead, with your standard cliches involving humorous ecchi moments. At that point it’s just okay, but then around the middle point of the show it starts to morph into something very remarkable to say the least. We see our couple start to actually act like a real couple would act once they confessed their love towards one another where they would argue constantly and share their feelings through physical or verbal needs. It was a breath of fresh air to see something that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. To see an anime couple that actually felt like a couple with an intense love for another. An adorable couple that could be the best anime couple in the past year or so.
Too bad everything else about the plot couldn’t quite follow up on how great the relationship building was for Ikki and Stella. It isn’t just because it is something we have seen before, the “set in an academy holding a fighting competition that our protagonist participates,” but also the fact that everything just feels so superficial and bland from how it is structured. It’s almost as if the writers didn’t know what to do to make this scenario anymore interesting, so they just tried to create these subplots involving other characters that felt one-note and not thought out well enough. Every time there was an match going on between two characters, all I felt was complete apathy from the whole experience by how badly they built up the plot for me to feel any tension on what the outcome would be. Does not help the fact that the action sequences are not anything to write at home about; not anything terrible or bad, just average to my eyes.
While the action is not groundbreaking, that has nothing to do with the quality of the art and animation. I have to admit that the character designs are nice and colorful to look at. From the beautiful red hair of Stella that gives a devilish/cuteness aura around her that matches her personality to the supple bodies of all the girls, the art design makes a ton of effort to create a nice distinct look for Rakudai. Even though the animation is not always on point, it is good enough to warrant a passing mark to create a decent framework for the action sequences, despite my under-enthused mood towards them.
Like I said, Ikki and Stella are the hallmark of Rakudai and made me keep coming back to the show every week. The other characters, however, don’t necessarily have a similar response from me. Most of them ranging on the mediocre to forgettable spectrum of quality characters. Shizuku is one such example that felt like was tossed on the wayside through the majority of the show in favor of Stella. While that does make sense since Stella is the main girl, they still touted Shizuku up as a love rival but they don’t really follow up on her much once Stella became Ikki’s girl. Again, might seem logical in that respect, however they still attempt to give Shizuku a much needed climatic moment near the end, but by the time I get to that point I completely forgot what the point of her character was. So I was quick to show no interest in anything she did up until the end, just like the rest of the other cast.
This is an ecchi anime as well, so for those that are still worried of Rakudai steeping closer to generic territory, don’t be alarmed. While most of the ecchi fanservice involves our main heroine Stella, that is all the woman you need to tickle your ecchi bone fellas. I found it quite enjoyable to see a girl like Stella, a tsundere at heart, starting to open up, as she and Ikki start forming a romance, to him as a naughty girl. You often see girls like this in hentai saying something this straight forward, not even in the most raunchiest ecchi anime you could get your hands on do you often hear something as blunt as that. Besides the typical washing the protagonist back scenario, some of the ecchi moments come off as borderline heartwarming as they involve a romantic connection between the two main leads. It adds a new flavor to the ecchi mix that made me hoping for more in the coming episodes.
Despite many of the issues I’ve had with Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry, I still thought it was a decent anime to see, oddly enough. I guess you could chalk it up as the relationship plot arc as being so highly regarded by me that the flaws of it aren’t terribly huge as it would have been if the Stella and Ikki relationship arc was not as strong. At its worst, it is mediocre. At its best, its good. Its an above-average middle of the road show that will enlighten some and detract others. For me, I just want more girls like Stella-chan to exist in the anime spectrum. Please?