By Riku Misora and On. Released in Japan as “Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Sol Press. Translated by Benjamin Daughety.
I have to admit, halfway through the first volume of this series I was ready to trash it to hell and back. It reveled in its cliches, at times even lampshading them so that they could get even worse (I’m thinking of the “yes, we’re blood related, but I still want to do my brother” plotline here in particular). And yes, I will admit it, as someone who has read Asterisk War first, a lot of this felt like something done better somewhere else. (For the curious, Asterisk War predates this series by 10 months.) But then things started to improve, not to the point where I ended up loving it, but enough so that I was able to get to the end and thing “Huh. That got better.” In fact, it almost reads like they fired the original writer halfway through and replaced them. So while it’s not my bag, I will admit that after a shaky start this is a decent light novel for those who enjoy magic academies, harems, and red-headed tsundere princesses – though the tsun vanishes fast here.
Ikki Kurogane is one of THOSE protagonists. You know, he’s strong, brilliant with a sword, his mind is sharp and analytical, he’s handsome (in fact, his face is boyishly cute), and he’s a relatively nice, if reserved, young man. But he has no magic. As such, he’s been abused by his family most of his life, is “Rank F” at the magical academy he attends, a rank which they literally admit later in the book is there just to have students that can be abused, a la Assassination Classroom, and due to his family leaning on the faculty he failed and is a first year student for the second time. But there’s a new school director who will allow him to actually fight and defend himself, and also a new student, Stella Vermillion, who is his polar opposite in most ways – a beloved foreign princess with Rank A fire powers and, ça va sans dire, large breasts. That said, they do share the trait of working hard – in fact, Stella despises people who call her “talented” as if she hadn’t trained for years to get to this point. Now that they’re roommates, can they avoid falling in love? And can Ikki win a fight at last?
I’ve already mentioned most of the things I didn’t like about the first half, but mostly it just felt like it was actively courting the typical LN fan without really trying. Things pick up with the arrival of Alice, who is the roommate of Ikki’s sister. (I’ll just skip his sister if you don’t mind.) Alice is a woman who was assigned male at birth, and this fact naturally freaks Ikki out a bit, as he’s a light novel protagonist, and therefore there’s a bit of “but I’m not gay!” here. But he rapidly adjusts, as does the audience, and the novel uses Alice’s preferred pronouns throughout. I was impressed. It helps that Alice is a “voice of reason” character among eccentrics. The final battle was also good, delving into Ikki’s repressed emotions and showing that, now that he’s allowed to fight, he has to open up or he’ll be crushed. Fortunately, he has Stella. The relationship arguably starts a bit fast, but honestly given most light novel hero and heroines that’s actually refreshing.
Gonna be honest, I read too many LNs these days, so the improvement is not enough to get me to continue this series. But it certainly seems like fans of the franchise should definitely enjoy it, and the presentation is fine. Tempting as it is to end this by saying “for fans of Asterisk War”, I know that would be mean. :) For fans of brooding boys and fiery girls.