What’s it about? Oliver Horn is a new student at Kimberly Magic Academy, a school legendary for its 80% survival rate. During the entrance ceremony, he makes a bunch of new friends, including a mysterious samurai named Hibiya Nanao, who seems to hold a mysterious power called Innocence Color. Will they be able band together to survive, or will their magic destroy them?
When I took this show, to be honest, my expectations were not exactly high. I thought it was going to be a Harry Potter look-alike, with the same kind of magical school shenanigans that we always see. I suppose this is just because fantasy light novels have become synonymous with isekai–in other words, synonymous with boring power fantasies completely devoid of character.
Color me wrong! This was a treat–a show with thoughtful worldbuilding, a dose of self-awareness without dipping into edgelord irony, and compelling characters that were a source of great comedy.
The moment I knew the show had me was when the Headmistress was giving her opening ceremony speech, outlining just how dangerous and deadly the school’s approach to magic education is–and Nanao raised her hand to ask if she’s having a headache, because she seemed upset. It is such a perfect moment of self-awareness, gently acknowledging the way that these kind of edgelord fantasies relish in artificially deathly stakes to the point of absurdity. It also establishing so much about Nanao in hindsight–that she is used to life-or-death stakes from her samurai life and thinks very little of them, and cannot read social cues to save her life–while also leaving her character enough of a mystery that we are left wondering whether she’s asking in earnest or is trolling the headmistress.
This clever approach to both characterization and worldbuilding is present in much of the rest of the episode. While Oliver himself is somewhat of a potato-kun, the people who surround him are all interesting enough, with their well-written bantering often revealing meaningful political and interpersonal fault-lines that will be interesting to see explored. Of particular interest is the contrast between the social justice-minded Katie, who believes that trolls are an oppressed, colonized species being put through slavery, and the more contrarian Guy, who has a mean streak he other characters have to gently reign in at multiple points in the episode.
It will be interesting to see if the show follows through on the abolitionist threads that Katie is laying out–whether we will see the ways trolls are oppressed, and what side our heroes will choose. I’m slightly nervous that given the way the troll was presented as a monstrous murderous creature after Katie did all that work to defend it the show may end up reinforcing the ideas that Katie was critiquing–or this may be a rehash of the house elves from Harry Potter. That would be a shame! Nanao’s complete lack of care about being seen naked also leaves room for some fanservice; so far the nudity in this episode but was extremely minor and character-driven rather than designed for titillation.
The animation itself was quite pretty, with the magic looking, well, magical, and much of its uses actually feeling innovative themselves. The creation of the wind dragon sequence in particular had beautiful effects animation, and during the banquet scene there is a very clever twist in architecture that made me smile.
Overall, Reign of the Seven Spellblades is looking to be an reasonably enjoyable fantasy show. I look forward to watching more–especially if it follows through on the kinds of critical lens that the show seems to be taking to the genre.