I feel rather conflicted about Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Vol. 1. But first, I should explain what the story is about. Failed Knight is set in a parallel universe where Jedi knights Mage-Knights exist. These warrior-wizards are, as one might expect, a cornerstone of military power and heavily influential (a magic samurai led Japan to victory in World War II, for example). In light of how important Mage-Knights are, governments naturally establish academies to train them.
The story opens with two such students, as Ikki, disowned scion of prestigious and influential magic samurai house, enters his dorm room only to find he’s walked in on a girl in the middle of changing in her dorm room. The girl, Stella, is the princess of a small fictional European nation and a world-renowned magical prodigy. Oh, by the way, it turns out neither of them are at fault because the room belongs to both of them—the recently appointed weirdo headmaster set them up as roommates without telling them, as some kind of stupid prank. Things escalate to a duel, a tournament arc is announced, an obsessed-to-the-point-of-incest little sister shows up, there’s a terrorist attack at the local mall, etc. The title comes from the fact that people consider Ikki a failure. He barely has any magic at all, so his family regards him as a disgrace to their proud house of elite paranormal samurai. After abusing Ikki until he ran away, they learned that he was going attend a knight academy and pressured the school into persecuting him, including changing rules and graduation requirements so Ikki would flunk his first year. Despite his relative lack of magic, Ikki returns undaunted to retake his first year. (The new headmaster, despite being a troll, seems more inclined to give him a fair chance.)
This story has some really excellent moments, Ikki and Stella above all else. First, they are quite amusing. Stella is (mostly) an archetypical tsundere, complete with red hair and literal flames. However, she averts the most annoying trait of tsundere characters (extreme emotional obliviousness), and is surprisingly cognizant of / honest about her feelings. Her behavior is pretty much 100% used as humor, and Ikki serves as her foil to great effect. In addition to the humor, they make for a wonderfully sweet couple. Their relationship is founded on an admirable basis of mutual respect. Each sees the other as someone to learn from, and their relationship is about working together to help each other grow. Thanks to the comedy and the lovely relationship dynamic Ikki and Stella have, I plan to read the next volume.
Or that’s what I wish I could say. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure.
The story also has some issues. First, it’s rather more ecchi than I prefer. I already mentioned the volume’s opening scene. Well, that’s not the end of it. There’s the scene where Stella pulls up the shirt of an unconscious Ikki so she can touch various parts of his upper body, a bath scene, some moments with the incestuous little sister, illustrations for some of the ecchi scenes, etc. Oh, the whole guy-and-girl-sharing-a-room situation is also worth mentioning. While she also has a role in the ecchi-ness, Ikki’s younger sister is a problem in her own right, with a disturbing fixation on her brother. It helps a little that everyone around finds her behavior deeply problematic, but it’s still troubling.
In short, Chivalry of a Failed Knight Vol. 1 is flawed, but not bad. Its excellent features are mixed up with some unsavory ones, and it’s hard to say which should carry more weight. If you have a higher tolerance for fanservice and incestuous little sisters than I do, you may want to check out this light novel, because it really is funny and the leading couple is strong. If the previous paragraph sounds like stuff you’d rather avoid, well, this probably isn’t the series for you.
Grade: B and/or C (depending on how much the ecchi parts bother you)
Chivalry of a Failed Knight, Vol. 1 is available from Sol Press, which provided a copy for this review.