Welcome to the 2nd entry into the Fall 2015 Harem Challenge and this time, we’ve got Rakudai Kishi up next on the chopping block. The series is well acclaimed but I feel like it is that way for mostly the wrong reasons. I actually read the series beforehand, albeit, in manga form until I went off and read the actual novels so I do have some hint of knowledge on the series.
So let’s not waste any time and get right into it, where does Rakudai stand in the Fall challenge?
Rakuda Kishi is set in a world where Blazers, humans can materialize their souls into weapons called Devices, are trained in combat in their respective academies where they battle each other and gain admittance to attend a higher competition. This event known as the Seven Star Sword Festival grants its winner endless prestige and crowns them as the Seven Star Sword King. The story focuses in on the efforts and struggles of Kurogane Ikki who, by the discretion of his family, has been branded a failure for his lack of magical aptitude. He hopes to prove himself in the upcoming competition to rise to the top while having been forced to the bottom before he had any chance to prove himself.
So just from the start, a slightly better version of Asterisk. We have the main character actually having his own motivation for us to keep caring and at least the series doesn’t make itself out to be COMPLETELY about tournaments. I should also mention that in this world, Japan actually won WWII with magic and swords, I won’t even begin to comment on that. Tournaments however will always be tournaments so it isn’t that much better where the settings are involved.
Ikki is a decent protagonist and while the entire show is based on his “chivalry” and general niceness, Ikki’s generosity kind of irks me at a lot of points in the series. But overall, he’s an alright guy and the story does really revolve around him but I’ll get to what problems that may arise from that. Forming the main duo dynamic with Ikki is the usual foreign, red-twin-tailed, fire-based princess, Stella Vermillion. From what I’ve seen from multiple discussion boards, Stella was praised beyond belief but from the first time I ever read the series, I despised their introduction and the samey fashion in how she addressed Ikki like every other character like her acts. Granted, they actually befriend each other and get into the status of an actual couple, which very few series can boast about, but I felt that the dynamic was actually more flawed.
The side characters had Shizuku, Ikki’s sister, and her partner, Arisu. Shizuku was the quintessential imouto character but she came out more likable than I thought. Her affection for her onii-chan wasn’t based off the regular incestuous imouto types go for but because of his actual character in being a decent person irregardless of his family’s stature and prestige. I’ve got nothing to say about Arisu, you could remove him from the series and you’d only lose slight amounts of Shizuku development. Other than those four (rather, three) literally no one else really mattered. The blood vomiting teacher, the loli, and the chairman only added small details and once again, provided commentary on the side. Kirihara, was a loser, Ayase was pitiful, and Toka was only there for some thematic contrast. Actually, shout outs to Kirihara though, Matsuoka made him way more scummier in this adaptation, which is probably what they were going for. I will say that his manga counterpart was a bit more intimidating, with his entire schtick being light instead of wood.
And guess what? I didn’t mention someone there because he deserves his own section.
In every medium I experienced the series in, Kuraudo was the best goddamn thing to come out of this series. Never mind that Ayase not only rigged her match and forced Ikki to use his trump card outside of the battle, the fact that Kuraudo was the actual opponent during her arc was the most entertaining portion of the series. While a decent nod to the whole “samurai pride” thing going on, I felt that it was one of the best fights that edges out against Shizuku vs Toka, only because magic fights like that are admittedly impressive but I’m always up for a near-even match up in skill. Plus Ikki laughed and was badass for like 2 minutes. Plus he’s voiced by Hosoya. FUCKING.HOSOYA.
Out of the three challengers this season, it goes without saying that Rakudai has the best animation. The combat portions were the best parts but it was a crying shame some of the fights weren’t that exciting minus Ikki vs Kuraudo and Shizuku vs Toka. Kirihara’s fight was completely one-sided and it ended with the power of love spiel. Ayase, as we previously mentioned, still lost after she rigged her match to oblivion. Toka’s fight is a special case and more thematic than anything but I didn’t find her all that amazing in terms of a character outside of fights. The music was pretty nice too, but of course, only for the fight moments. The looks however made me somewhat irked. Either I watched something messed up for there was this slightly grainy filter on some of the episodes. The radical color palettes in the last few episodes were pretty jarring. I understand its significance but it’s a hit or miss type of thing for me. The pacing itself, thank Christ, is nowhere as slow as Asterisk and moves along at a favorable pace, except for the last few episodes of Ikki being imprisoned which was a lot more gruesome. Overall, however, on an adaptation level, it pulled through the best out of the rest. On a technical note, there’s not much for me to complain about. Quick word on the opening and ending, the former is pretty cool but it’s actually way cooler than the actual series. The ending has that godawful screeching noise it starts out with and I don’t like it all that much.
But my true gripes lie within the main duo, Ikki and Stella, particularly their dynamic. I call this the One-Sided Syndrome. For at least the first arc, funnily enough, they were the best before they formally entered a relationship. During those times, the two interacted plenty in arguably some cute yet overused set ups that did show them off to each other pretty nicely. But even then, I don’t feel like there was too big a chemistry between the two. Granted, it was the first time the two ever got into a relationship like this but they “fell in love” at breakneck speeds and they just “loved” each other, pretty much like SAO, only Asuna actually “changed” her character, even if we barely saw it. To make matters worse, this relationship route pretty much blocks out every other character interaction in the series and focuses solely on the two, except it stops right after their mutual confession. Stella is side-lined to battle commentary and she herself doesn’t really do anything for the next few arcs. The relationship route is a double edged sword as this wouldn’t have been a problem if Stella was prominent but that didn’t really happen. Shizuku was ironically the most “developed” character in regards to Ikki in having admiration for him for teaching her to treat people as they are, and not by their status and power. Unfortunately because of her side character status, Shizuku jobs in order to hype up Toka. At the most, I felt that Stella should have struggled with Ikki to make them feel more as a growing couple but she’s so far ahead that her fights barely last more than a few seconds.
As I said before, the contrived feel of the romance, which was the pulling factor that pushed Ikki through til the end didn’t work its magic on me so the last half was especially questionable (minus the ITTOU SHURA shout and Ikki finally pulling off what he did in the opening) for me. That entire bit with the cookie-cutter, oh so evil fatass with the hat didn’t help in making me laugh at the otherwise cruel and unusual treatment Ikki got. That’s another thing I need to address, Ikki’s family. Not that I’m going to complain about what’s wrong with the entire committee having this much power over stupid shit like tournaments (because Ikki’s father prioritized the rest of his family and his work at the cost of one person) but over the fact that Ikki is constantly played as the underdog. Without a doubt, he is one, but this is so because of the stupid ranking system instead of actual skills since he’s that much better than everyone else and his entire stigma of WASUTO WAN is practically gone after Kirihara’s fight. Ikki pull through each fight with little problem and the underdog feel is pretty much gone.
All of my complaints on why the tournament style is annoying still applies but while I have my complaints, Rakudai Kishi is however the best of the three series where most of the important factors are involved. The setting can be forgiven for its fights carry varying amounts of impact because some background knowledge is given on who the opponents are instead of absolute nobodies that Asterisk made me sit through. On near equal terms, the animation and music were pretty nice but once again, impact is Rakudai’s higher points.
But for the sole fact that the series rode on the “relationship” between Ikki and Stella and for the points I made, it wasn’t as great as people said it would be. But these are probably the same people who yell about how Asuna and Kirito were the best anime couple in existence and if they found that relationship to be god-tier, they’re predictably already on Ikki and Stella’s relationship being one of the best and I respectfully disagree. I don’t feel like I need to make more comparisons but I think I can make a fair closing statement on this series:
Better action than SAO but nearly the same romantic development.
With that done, we’ve got one more left. Stay Tuned.
Rakudai > Asterisk > Y
Y > Rakudai > Asterisk