Image source: 「ナイツ&マジック」TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

This season, a certain anime is unexpectedly piquing my interest for two main reasons: the people involved in the animated adaptation and the origins of the property itself.

One of the things that catches my eye is that the Knight’s & Magic anime is actively being billed within Japan as one project that forms part of the anniversary celebrations marking 100 years of “Shufu no Tomo.” Originally a women’s magazine, “Shufu no Tomo” (literally meaning “Wife’s Companion” or “Wife’s Friend”) ran from 1917 to 2008; its owner, the “Shufu no Tomo Company,” now runs an expansive line of publications that mostly center on women’s interests. There are wide ranges in the topics of fashion, lifestyle, cooking, novels, and comics, diversifying into various age groups within each. For instance, one other anime starting this summer season, Isekai Shokudou (Restaurant to Another World), is another property that began life as a light novel under the Shufu no Tomo Company umbrella and now runs in manga form both in print as well as within the Shufu no Tomo Digital Books platform, “Comicawa.”

Image source: 「ナイツ&マジック」TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

Much like Isekai Shokudou, Knight’s & Magic itself was also a light novel before it became a manga and is getting an anime adaptation at the same time. Both are stories of young protagonists whisked off to alternate universes. But while Isekai Shokudou concerns itself with serving customers’ culinary delights, Knight’s & Magic is more traditional in the heroes, monsters, and fantasy sense—the title alone says it all.

Now, normally this type of fare would not grab too much of my attention: Very similar concepts have been done many times, both back in the day (Aura Battler Dunbine, The Vision of Escaflowne) and in recent memory (Konosuba, Re:Zero).

But most of my interest in this particular project comes from the pedigree of staff that has been gathered for this project. Talents such as Hidetaka Tenjin (credited with mechanical design), Kazutaka Miyatake (concept design), and Ken’ichi Katsura (character design) are all very exciting to me due to their prior involvement in the Macross franchise (Tenjin has done mechanical art for various Macross projects since the late 1990s, Katsura was animation character designer on Macross 7, while Miyatake was a co-creator of the franchise and has been involved with almost every project so far in its 35-year history), which I have always thought of as being a testbed for new talent.

In the original promotional video, however, few details of this lineup were revealed. In fact, comparing the first and second videos, we can see that very little details are given in the first with regard to staff credits. Moreover, the credit of “mecha design” was given to Kurogin, and rightly so, having been the original illustrator for the novels. No mention of either Tenjin or Miyatake were made. There was, however, a lot more information in the second trailer’s credits, with the title of “mechanic design” being given to Tenjin, while Kurogin is credited as “Silhouette Knight design.” What this means, presumably, is that Kurogin is recognized as the original creator of the designs, while Tenjin seems to be more in charge of the styling and visual appearance of the Knights themselves for this anime version. After following his work for many years as he refined his craft for much of the mechanical art within the Macross franchise and also in dynamic illustrations for Gundam and Star Wars merchandise, Tenjin has developed an unsurpassed level of detail with regards to the texture of various mechanical surfaces that give a reality and character to these designs, bringing them to life within their respective universes.

Image source: 「ナイツ&マジック」TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

He describes in a recent tweet how the show has something of a personal angle for him. “Knight’s & Magic is not merely a robot anime,” he explains. “It is a story about how Eru, the main character, gradually builds his/her own robot.” Tenjin goes on to say that he designed and drew many, many instances of internal mechanical detail, and enjoyed it very much because of his background in robotic engineering during high school. My interpretation is that he sees something of his own development as an artist, designer, and creator within the themes explored in the show. One of these themes, going by his description, promises to be that of the virtue of “trial and error.” I think we can all relate to this on some level, and connect it to some moment of our lives.

So if Tenjin and Katsura are in charge of bringing those designs to life and making them fit into this alternate universe, “concept designer” Miyatake, then, is most likely in charge of giving character to that universe itself. Not knowing the details yet, it is hard to say precisely in what way he will do this, but rest assured that it will be something fascinating.

As a member of SF design agency Studio Nue, Miyatake has been involved with some of the greatest science-fiction properties to come out of Japan, including Mazinger Z, Space Battleship Yamato, Gundam, and many more. In fact, his work is based more on “speculative fiction”—conceptual designs that take into account various real-life scientific facts and theoretical hypotheses, plus the situational changes in society that would be natural outcomes of these, and he has even drawn up many conceptual futurist designs for educational purposes, not just entertainment. 

What better team to present to us what may be the “another world” story to bring some fresh energy into the genre?

Image source: 「ナイツ&マジック」TVアニメ公式 on Twitter

To summarize, color me intrigued as to what these individuals, coming from a hard science-fiction background, are going to bring to a “Shufu no Tomo” property, a playing field originally centering on fashion, home economics, and women’s interests. At the very least, it is a fascinating observation as to how some of these intellectual properties develop and change forms.

Knight’s & Magic begins its Japanese TV broadcast on Sunday, July 2. English-language streaming details have not yet been announced.

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