I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when you are reviewing the quality of anime, I think it’s important to have watched and rated both good and bad shows. If you only watch good shows, it may be harder to figure out when a show is doing things badly because you haven’t seen a bad show before. Even if you know it’s bad, you may have trouble figuring out how bad.
Because of this, I want to review shows that I haven’t heard a lot about in addition to shows that have a lot of fans so that I can give the proper context to my reviews. If all my reviews are 8, 9, and 10s, it would diminish the value of those numbers.
Try Knights is one of those shows that I basically decided to watch on a whim. Hopefully if I watch a lot of sports anime, people can trust my opinion on that genre.
This review is basically spoiler free aside from some small stuff. If you want to have a very quick spoiler-free summary and rating out of 10, then skip to the paragraph in bold at the very end.
Try Knights is a sports anime about rugby. Our protagonist Haruma Riku is a first year high school student at Soran high school. He likes rugby but did not join the team because his brother was mean to him in the past and told him that there was no place for him in rugby.
Haruma was like hmm that’s probably true because Haruma is small and weak. He quit rugby to try chess for a bit before deciding that chess wasn’t for him.
One day, he saw another student playing rugby and corrected the student’s form. This student, the tall and strong Kariya Akira, decides that he needs Haruma on the rugby team with him. His rugby style is the antithesis of Haruma’s — while Haruma focuses solely on tactics, Akira focuses solely on physical play. Akira bothers Haruma over and over until he successfully convinces Haruma to join the team.
Enough of the set up, let’s get to the review now.
Let’s start with the main character. The alleged genius Haruma comes off as kind of a dick. He is always asserting that his “tactics” are superior and thinks he knows better than everyone else. For instance, he scheduled a scrimmage against another team without the captain’s input. However, the fact of the matter is, not one tactic he came up with in the entire series was impressive at all or beyond the critical thinking level of the average person. His genius tactics always consisted of something basic such as a single pass or a single dodge. It made me wonder if the series took place in some sort of parallel dimension where only the main character is capable of conscious thought. When a show has a “genius” level character like this, it’s important for the person writing the story to establish that the character is, in fact, a genius. This is done by coming up with complex plans and deductions for these geniuses to use to outsmart their opponents and leave all of the other characters in awe. This series seriously failed at doing that.
This is a major problem, because the entire series is about Haruma’s genius and the use of this intelligence in combination with teamwork. The series prominently features chess metaphors — there is even a chessboard in the opening. This chessboard is a great metaphor for the series, because it is set up incorrectly and missing several pieces. With a main character and major theme that fall this flat, the series is set up for failure and can’t succeed.
The main character is also boring aside from this because his entire personality is supposed to be about being smart, which he is not.
Let’s move on to the rest of the team. Surely they have some redeeming qualities?
Not many, no. The rest of the team is never given a shred of meaningful development and attention aside from one or two uninspiring characters. The team captain is extremely bland, which is an issue because the team captain is supposed to be charismatic or skilled in some way that justifies their position as team captain. The team captain in Try Knights is neither skilled nor has any sort of exemplary skill or authority, which is a disappointment. Team captains are a huge opportunity to create a cool, strong character capable of leading the team to victory. This opportunity was wasted.
A third year character who quit the team due to an injury was given some development, but the pay off on this development, without spoiling anything, was pretty weak. That time would have been better used on a different character.
The character Akira, mentioned before as the character who recruited Haruma to the team, is the only other meaningful character on the team. He and Haruma constantly clash with one another due to their polar opposite styles of rugby. Haruma proclaims that he will “put a collar” on Akira and get him to use tactics instead of purely focusing on his physical prowess. These interactions are always very surface level. The characters don’t feel like real people and mostly speak in unrealistic cool-sounding anime dialogue.
Haruma constantly uses the word “tactics,” and this gets very annoying because he rarely gets more specific about what “tactics” he wants them to learn. Akira is good at rugby but doesn’t have any special rugby abilities that make him stand out aside from just being strong. I don’t even know what exactly makes him or anyone else good at rugby, because they never bothered explaining it. We are just supposed to accept it.
But that’s so boring. When a character beats another character in a sports anime, I want to know exactly why.
Was their physical strength better? Were they faster? Did they catch them off balance or predict their movements? Did they use their special magic technique that they developed after 6 months of training on a burning log? Rarely does this show bother to explain to the audience why a character or team is winning. But then why should I care?
Without knowing what particular characters are good at, what they can do, or why they won or lost in the past, I have no expectations or thoughts about any particular matchup or the strategy that a team can use to win. For a show that is about tactics, it is really ironic that the audience can’t think at all about the inner workings of the rugby matches. We are given no information to think about. The core of a sports anime is making the sport itself interesting, and this anime just doesn’t do that well.
Let’s move on to the antagonists. They were alright, but suffered from a lot of the same flaws as the main character and his team.
Two antagonists, members of rival teams, were supposed to be geniuses like Haruma. They, like Haruma, also didn’t actually do anything to display this so-called genius to the audience. One of the antagonists decided to devote his life to destroying the main character in rugby after the main character beat him at chess and didn’t seem to enjoy it, which was a really shallow and confusing motivation.
The main antagonist and his team were actually pretty cool in terms of their design and intimidating elitism. Their theme was basically that the main antagonist was the king and the rest of his team mates were his knights. The payoff for this elite team was not very interesting, but it was one of the stronger things in the series.
One of the most jarring things about this anime was the animation. Constantly, there would be inconsistencies or incorrectly drawn characters. The proportions of the characters’ bodies and faces was often very off, and it was noticeable even to someone like me who knows nothing about art. They would sometimes show shots of characters running and it made me wonder if they had ever seen a human being run in real life. The animation was a constant distraction from the action and dialogue of the series, although perhaps that was a good thing.
While we are on the subject of animation, I need to mention that none of the characters look like they have played a single game of rugby in their life. When you think of a rugby player, you think that they have some sort of muscle or beefy build, right? Maybe not all of the players, but surely a few, particularly for teams that are competing to be the best in Japan.
There was not one player that deviated from a relatively slender body type. They all actually looked about the same in terms of their muscle. Even the main character, who was actually supposed to be weak, looked pretty much the same as everyone else on the team aside from being shorter. The players’ builds just didn’t make sense for the sport they were playing and seemed extremely lazy. Also where were these players’ helmets?
Some finishing notes. They pretty much speedran this anime, cramming the entire series, including scrimmages, a training camp, and a full tournament, into only 12 episodes. That is way too short for a sports anime that is trying to introduce a team and develop them into becoming the best in Japan. I think, at the very least, you need 25 episodes for that and ideally far, far more. The main antagonist’s motivation was not adequately explained. It also felt like the rugby matches had very little to do with the inner mechanics of rugby. If the anime, for instance, were instead about soccer/football, you would actually have to change very little.
Ultimately, if I were to make a template for people to build a sports anime from, that template would probably be very similar to Try Knights. They just didn’t build from the template. It is extremely generic and the characters seem like they lack any sort of genuine personality or unique flavor. This is close to the bare minimum that a sports anime could be while still being a sports anime.
Summary: Try Knights is a rugby anime focused on the protagonist’s struggle to use his tactical prowess to lead his team to the top. The protagonist fails to prove that he truly has any sort of impressive intelligence, the main team is poorly developed, and the dialogue is generic and lacks life. The antagonists fail as well, but are probably the best part of the series. Although Try Knights does the bare minimum necessary to consider itself a sports anime, it is never able to stand out in any area. The rugby matches are uninteresting because the battles between the characters are not given appropriate depth. The animation is noticeably bad and distracts from the rest of the show. I cannot recommend watching Try Knights.
Final Score: 3.3/10
Thanks for reading!