Black Knight Review
Posted By: Shweta Khandal
Posted On: May 14, 2023
Netflix’s Black Knight has sparked comparisons to the Mad Max franchise, but it shares more similarities with post-apocalyptic anime such as Desert Punk or Gurren Lagann. The series features spectacular action, a messy yet engaging storyline, and charmingly familiar characters. While it may not reach the heights of Squid Game, Black Knight offers a lot of fun and entertainment.
Writer/director Cho Ui-seok has been a renowned filmmaker in South Korea for over two decades. His fourth film, Master, gained international acclaim as a star-studded detective caper, amassing over $50 million at the box office. Black Knight marks his foray into the world of streaming television.
Set in the year 2071, Black Knight takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a meteor strike has wiped out 99% of the human population. Survivors are forced to wear masks outdoors and rely on oxygen tanks indoors due to the continuously polluted air. The Korean peninsula is isolated and heavily divided, with the wealthy residing in fortified cities while the impoverished struggle as refugees, barely able to afford the means to breathe. In this world, oxygen, known as O2, is the most valuable resource, and only the most skilled couriers undertake the perilous task of transporting it. These courier knights navigate dangerous conditions and battle armed bandits to deliver their packages. In true anime fashion, these knights possess almost unreal levels of competence in various skills.
The standout knight among them is 5-8, portrayed brilliantly by former model Kim Woo-bin. 5-8 is the type of character who nonchalantly smokes cigarettes during an oxygen shortage. The show grapples with whether he’s the central protagonist, as he embodies the Kamina-esque mentor figure—capable, cool, and impossibly handsome, seemingly out of place in the live-action world. 5-8 encounters Sa-Wol, a refugee seeking training to become a knight after losing his sister and memory in a confrontation with corrupt police. After numerous requests, 5-8 agrees to mentor Sa-Wol, who aspires to become a knight. Coincidentally, the government organizes a brutal tournament to determine the newest member of the elite courier group. Around half of the season delves into the classic anime trope of a seasoned pro instructing a newcomer on the path to heroism. However, beneath the surface, there are intermittent hints of a sinister undercurrent.
A skilled editor could transform this streaming TV season into two cohesive films. While not a clean break, the story feels like two distinct parts. One part focuses on Sa-Wol’s training and participation in the fighting tournament, which is both enjoyable and charming despite its violent nature. Simultaneously, the wealthy and governing bodies conspire to oppress the lower classes, and 5-8 leads an armed rebellion to dismantle the system. This odd mixture of tones can be jarring, as cartoonish comedy abruptly clashes with scenes reminiscent of Black Hawk Down. The action remains stellar throughout, albeit affected by the tonal shift. Additionally, the weaponry transition contributes to the change in stakes. Despite occasional imperfections in special effects, the vivid imagery effectively sells the scenes. While neither part is lacking in quality, they feel like separate shows.
Black Knight won’t captivate everyone, but it’s an absolute delight for a specific audience. Live-action adaptations of manga or webtoons often either deviate significantly from the source material or fail to capture its essence. However, this series manages to strike a rare balance. It preserves the spirit of the source material while introducing key narrative changes. It’s intelligent, entertaining, charming, fast-paced, and provides a satisfying and conclusive story. Thankfully, fans won’t be left wondering if Netflix will abruptly cancel their beloved show. Black Knight tells a complete tale
with a fulfilling ending. While there is potential for further exploration, the series stands as a solid Netflix production that avoids unresolved cliffhangers.
Black Knight bears resemblances to various other projects, yet it possesses its own distinct identity. The influence of Mad Max is evident, as is the impact of decades of anime. However, the show manages to carve out its own unique personality. Its premise teeters on the edge of madness but finds a way to work cohesively. The cast fully embraces the absurdity, and the action sequences are remarkably well-executed from start to finish. The series strikes a delicate balance between seriousness and lightheartedness, never becoming too grim or overly silly. Black Knight ultimately delivers a remarkable six-episode live-action anime series that will undoubtedly resonate with fans of this distinctive cultural niche.
In conclusion, Black Knight stands as a testament to the potential for live-action adaptations to faithfully capture the essence of their source material. It combines elements of post-apocalyptic storytelling, anime tropes, and engaging characters to create an exhilarating viewing experience. With its clever narrative, endearing cast, and stunning action sequences, Black Knight will leave a lasting impression on its audience. While it may not cater to everyone’s taste, those who appreciate its particular blend of perplexity, burstiness, and unpredictability will find themselves thoroughly enthralled.
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