Chivalry of a Failed Knight Volume 1 Review

Readers may remember Chivalry of a Failed Knight due to its anime adaptation in the 2015 Autumn Season or thanks to its later Blu-ray release in 2019. Despite the series’ popularity at the time, the original light novel series has been through some struggles in the West, having been licensed by Sol Press who only released four volumes before going defunct. Thankfully, J-Novel Club have rescued it and is releasing it with a new translation. Now it’s time for me to finally find out if the first volume lives up to the excitement of the anime. 

The series takes place on an alternate earth where humans with supernatural powers are called ‘Blazers’ and can use their souls as weapons. Our protagonist is Ikki Kurogane, who has an extremely low aptitude for magic and is known throughout his Mage Knight Academy (Hagun Academy) as ‘the Worst One’ despite coming from a family known for producing powerful Blazers. At the school, these Mage-Knight students are ranked based on their abilities and Ikki, unfortunately, falls into the F-rank meaning until relatively recently he wasn’t even allowed to attend classes and was held back a year! 

Thankfully, this has all changed with the arrival of a new principal who has taken over to improve the academy’s standing before the Seven Star Sword Art Festival, where seven Mage Knight Academies come together for a battle royal. But that causes problems when a new structure is implemented where lower rank Blazers room with higher ranks. The principal hopes that this will cause both parties to improve in their abilities, but Ikki’s roommate is Stella Vermillion a princess from a small European country who is an A-Rank and not at all happy to be roomed with a boy after he accidentally walks in on her while she’s in her underwear! 

The two quickly start bickering over ownership of their shared room and Stella challenges Ikki to a duel, thinking that she’ll win and he’ll listen to her demands. Unfortunately for Stella, although Ikki may not be skilled when it comes to magic, he has trained himself non-stop to be a capable fighter who can copy and memorize his opponents’ moves. His Blazer ability allows him to push his skills beyond the limits of his body, but can only be used for a few minutes per day and has a harsh backlash, so to use it he has to ensure it will bring a match to its end. 

Ultimately, Ikki defeats Stella and causes an uproar among the students as an F-rank beating an A-rank should be impossible, especially a genius like Stella. With that said and done, Ikki begins preparing to take part in a tournament to decide on representatives for the Seven Star Sword Art Festival. Should he fail to qualify then he’ll be unable to graduate, so plenty is riding on this! 

Chivalry of a Failed Knight began in 2013 and in many ways, it’s a product of its time, but not in bad ways. It’s a fantasy series with a heavy emphasis on the battles and supernatural powers, but there’s no sign of Ikki being an overpowered protagonist in the way we’ve come to expect from novels like this one. He has flaws and he’s not unstoppable. His power comes from years of training and it feels like he’s earned it rather than being gifted it or having some kind of cheat ability. It makes sense, too, that people like Stella underestimate him at first, due to the ranking system. He’s an underdog and it’s always satisfying to root for a character like him in these circumstances. 

And Stella as our lead heroine is plenty likable in her own right. She’s a powerful fighter who is certainly no damsel in distress. She has romantic feelings for Ikki, but those feel earned through her respect for the struggles Ikki has gone through, rather than coming out of the blue. Instead of stringing us along, author Riku Misora does advance the romance relatively quickly even in this first volume, which is refreshing after all the harem isekai series of late. 

The other characters we meet are Ikki’s little sister Shizuku Kurogane and Nagi Arisuin (nicknamed Alice). Shizuku I was not best pleased with, given her introduction was her going on about being in love with Ikki,  but having watched the anime, I suspect my opinion will change as the series goes on. Other readers who are new to the series will find her aggravating if they dislike that particular trope, as many do. 

Alice, meanwhile, serves as a great friend for Shizuku and surprisingly for a series like this, is good LGBTQA+ representation as they’re a trans character. I wasn’t expecting Alice to be particularly well-written and figured they might be used as a gag, given the release date and Japan’s poor handling of characters like this on the whole, even a decade ago, but I am happy to report that isn’t the case. Misora shows great attention to detail both with how Alice talks about themselves and how other characters treat them. It has to be said that translator Ningen has also done stellar work here, being very attentive to which pronouns to use and where,  depending on the context. 

Despite having so many characters introduced at once, Misora manages to balance them with each getting some time in the spotlight to develop. Even though it’s essentially a ‘battle royale’, Chivalry of a Failed Knight has a lot of heart with both well-written characters and some excellent fight scenes. It’s easy to see how this ran for 19 volumes overall both because of the quality we’ve seen here but also because there’s quite a lot of scope to expand on the world beyond the academy setting we’ve started with. 

As previously mentioned, Chivalry of a Failed Knight Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to J-Novel Club  having rescued it after Sol Press went under. The series is being newly translated by Ningen with editing by Adam Haffen and released through the J-Novel Club subscription before being compiled into eBook releases. No sign of a print release at the time of writing, but hopefully it will perform well enough for that to become a reality. 

The series ran for 19 volumes in Japan between 2013 and 2023 and at the time of writing, J-Novel Club has only just finished releasing Volume 1 under their membership programme, so it’ll probably be a few months until Volume 2 is out but that’s still pretty fast compared to other light novel publishers. Riku Misora’s other works released in English include High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World! (Yen Press) and I Kissed My Girlfriend’s Little Sister?! (Tentai Books) in case you want to check out anything else. 

Overall, Chivalry of a Failed Knight Volume 1 proves an entertaining read both for fans of the anime as well as newcomers. While battle royale series were ten a penny back when the anime first aired, the market has changed significantly since then and I think there’s room for this one to make a name for itself among the fantasy series we’re seeing now. Whether readers are interested in this kind of content now or burnt out back then is another question, but there are always newcomers. 

8 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

More posts from Demelza...