Content Warning: Blood, Fan Service
What’s it about? Ray White seems, from all appearances, to be an Ordinary: someone without magic in a world flush with magical abilities. So when enrolls in the Arnold Academy of Magic, a school attended by the elite of the elite from around the world, the student body is shocked, and responds in kind with scorn and contempt. However, Ray’s seemingly unassuming nature may hide a bigger secret: the fact that inherited the title of the Iceblade Sorcerer!
There seems to be more and more fantasy academy series these days. A lot of the vibe the same with their own individual twist to mix it up and add some flavor. The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World, an anime with a title a mile long, is yet another entry to the “black haired kid goes to magic school and secretly has a super strong ability” sub-genre of the fantasy academy trope, starring Ray White, a kid who you definitely know is gonna be special.
And at base, there’s some degree of fun in that: I kind of like it when I can telegraph a story, especially when it’s well-executed. Simple doesn’t have to equal bad. In fact, simple plots have provided some of my favorite series, simply because the twists and foundational world-building are done so well that the simplicity of “black haired kid goes to magic school and secretly has a super strong ability” becomes more than the sum of its parts.
However, I regret to inform you that The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World (hereafter Iceblade) isn’t that. And I can’t even tack on a “not yet” because I don’t know if this anime ever will be that.
Now, let’s talk about this premiere.
Episode 1, “The Boy Who Became the World’s Strongest Sorcerer Enters the Academy of Sorcery” starts off with DEATH and BLOOD, which like… well, that definitely makes an impact, huh? Unfortunately, it’s the only impact that happens in this premiere, as most of the post-opening episode is spent fleshing out the very colorful multitude of students that make up the cast.
And that’s kind of it: the premiere mostly revolves around everyone–really, a plethora of color-coded girls–reacting to Ray White, a commoner and magic-less kid with all the excitement of unseasoned plain white rice that’s been undercooked, getting into their exclusive school. It’s a very simple, straightforward plot, but unfortunately, viewers are going to find that “flat” is the word they keep returning to during their watch.
Iceblade looks like buttcheeks: this anime is so flat looking that I kind of can’t believe it. And I mean, it looks bad bad: I’m not sure I have words and I kind of need to have words about it, but like…it’s just not pleasant to look at on top of being incredibly average when compared to the light novel’s art and the manga, both of which have much more appealing character designs.
Iceblade’s animation style is also stiff, which makes for a lot of stilted scenes where you expect the characters to move a bit more naturally, only to see them largely stand still with the camera doing most of the work to create a sense of movement. On the off chance that it’s not stiff, everything feels like the characters are using heelies to get around: they just kind of float through scenes while being magic-racists to Ray White, a character who’s not a noble nor a sorcerer…at least not yet, because we all know this kid has hella magic.
And like, on one hand, it’s a bit impressive that this looks so bad because…to what end doesthat help this saltine cracker of a premiere? I know Cloud Hearts doesn’t have a lot of titles under its belt but the art here feels so meaningless and jarringly ugly at times that I have to wonder just how long they had in terms of production and how much of a budget they had here.
The soundtrack is equally as dull, and the voice acting is just okay. All of that comes together to make this the longest twenty-four minutes, which is a shame because I like magic and think there’s a lot more that can be done with magic school series than often occurs. I had to do multiple watches of the premiere because it was just so hard to keep focused on the show. So much of the premiere is people bumping into Ray, exclaiming “Wow, you’re Ray White, that one Ordinary kid!” and then summarily introducing themselves. It’s so utterly boring, boring, boring, and really undercuts the opening, which is so starkly different and more action-oriented. It doesn’t help that the premiere ends so abruptly that each time I watched, I was like, “Oh, is this over?!”
That’s not a good sign.
The one thing this show gets is that having lanky dudes take of their shirts and reveal that they’re hella ripped it funny. I think that’s the only laugh this show wrangled out of me, and trust me, I mean the only laugh.
Every time we get a magic school series, my mind goes back to Negima!, a series I hold near and dear to my heart. While it’s creator is very fraught and Negima! likely hasn’t aged well (editor’s note: it has not), it’s a good example of what a magic school series can do, even if it’s isolated to just a single classroom of students. It’s a good example of how to blend action with more mundane, everyday elements while still building tension and characterization that doesn’t feel like it comes out of nowhere.
Unfortunately, Iceblade leans in so hard trying to showcase every character that’s likely to have some impact on Ray and the plot while also trying to be an action-oriented show that it just kind of… fails all around. This is definitely one I’m not going to be sticking around for, largely because my time is finite and there’s just better things to watch this season. And yeah, it’s the premiere, but if it’s this bad, then…how much better will the rest of the series be?
In the end, The Iceblade Sorcerer Shall Rule the World is a show that perhaps, only a dedicated fanbase could love and even then, this feels like a severe disservice. I hope that its established light novel fanbase doesn’t feel cheated because honestly, if I saw this and compared it to the art in the LN or the manga, I’d be pissed. The animation is a slap in the face to what could be a much better-looking show that sadly, will always look like this even if the story improves.