Fantasy Knockout is yet another prime example of how first impressions can be wrong and it’s often worth trying new things at least once. I completely skipped this anime for several weeks before a couple of friends convinced me to pick it up—we ended up discussing it along with another isekai on the podcast. Of the handful of similar shows this season and even the previous year, Fantasy Knockout is definitely one of the more unique and entertaining.
With the amount of Isekai that come out ever single season, it can often feel like we’re just re-watching rehashes of the same base structure and main character. Dissatisfied guy wakes up in a new world, gets to reinvent himself for better or worse (usually as an overpowered schmuck), quickly finds himself surrounded by a harem, and lives happily ever after. The end. Fantasy Knockout opts instead for two guys, best friends, who are actually pretty happy with their lives and are called by a higher being as heroes to another world. Neither of them ends up with a desired result: Tachibana is transformed into an enchantingly beautiful young girl, while Jinguuji watches the friend he adores turn into a walking love potion.
Everything about this premise had me feeling wary; I doubted the show’s ability to handle a forced sex change with any amount of decency. Going into the new setting, it’s pretty apparent that Jinguuji cares deeply about Tachibana and is upset at the physical changes. Toss in the fact that Tachibana’s beauty is so powerful that it charms anyone who gazes at him, and we have a recipe for these friends taking the romance route. Love as a natural result of their time together would have been fine despite the circumstances; love as a fabrication of magic and lost will, however, is less desirable no matter how much comedy the show tries to insert into some of the awkward scenes. Thankfully, the two of them are able to figure out a way past the Charmed status, and we’re free to watch them deal with the often chaotic consequences of Tachibana’s predicament.
Something that really surprised me was how well Fantasy Knockout addressed the importance of praise–not the excessive, overly-contrived kind, but the honest, well-timed phrase. This lesson doesn’t actually show up fully until the final arc of their journey, but it does a great job of highlighting the perceived imbalance in their relationship. It’s clear through their interactions up until that point that they are true friends, but sometimes I wasn’t sure how lopsided the devotion to that relationship was. It’s not uncommon between two people for one of them to put far more time and attention into maintaining the health of the friendship than the other.
In the case of FK (why didn’t I use this acronym earlier), Jinguuji’s strength and intelligence turns out to have long been a point of pride, and later, jealousy, for Tachibana. Similarly, Jinguuji has always admired Tachibana’s natural ability to bring people together with a laugh and smile. Tachibana’s complaint about Jinguuji never complimenting anyone, particularly his best friend, reveals a lack on Jinguuji’s part of experience. When you grow up with no one in your family ever praising you, speaking highly of others obviously doesn’t come naturally. When he’s finally able to confront that side of him and share his true feelings with Tachibana, the moment–which lasts several minutes–is absolutely glorious.
It would be a shame to not point out my absolute favorite character of this anime: Schwarz von Liechtenstein Lohengramm! “Schwartz” is another hero summoned to this world by a different god. Embarrassment of his Japanese name, which we never learn, results in his new name, one that perfectly fits his chuuni style. While Jinnguji and Tachibana as a pair may have my heart, Schwartz brings out that sense of adventure; I can’t help but want to embark on a journey with him to defeat the Demon Lord. Season 2, anyone?
Rating: 1 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.