Guilty pleasures. We all have them: Something you like but feel that you shouldn't. Walkure Romanze is one of those for me. It has more than a few tropes I normally hate in anime, but these are combined with other aspects I truly love to create something I am embarrassed to admit I like.
Good — The Chosen Route
Games like Walkure Romanze, while having a selection of possible girls to date, usually have an obvious "main girl" who the protagonist is supposed to fall in love with. Thus when games like this are made into anime, that is the story that the anime follows — while dipping somewhat into the events and backstories of the other girls as well. However, Walkure Romanze does not follow this pattern.
The whole plot of Walkure Romanze is that Takahiro, an accomplished teenage jouster, has left the sport after an injury and has elected to become a begleiter — a coach/assistant to another jouster. Famous for his skill, the various (female) knights-in-training at his school want to recruit him as their begleiter and win the upcoming jousting championship.
[Skip to the next section to avoid spoilers.] There is an obvious main girl, Mio — his childhood best friend and biggest fan. But as the series goes on and he continually refuses to choose a girl, it becomes obvious that the route we are seeing is not the childhood friend route — or any romantic route at all. Rather, we see the version of the story where he chooses no one. Instead of being a story about him finding happiness and romance on a new path in life, it is a story about him overcoming his fear through friendship and returning to the sport he loves.
Good — Knights, Jousting, and Gas Power
The world of Walkure Romanze is a puzzle — and one I had a great time trying to figure out. While a story about knights and jousting in a European setting, it is not set in medieval times. There is clearly electricity judging by all the lights, and a car even shows up in one of the later episodes. But lest you think this is a world other than our own, several of the characters are stated as coming from Japan.
Thus, the setting for the anime seems to be an early-to-mid twentieth century Europe where knights still exist and the most popular sport in the world is jousting. And considering what must not have happened in their world, it is a most interesting setting indeed.
Good — The Armour
When speaking of knights and female armour, I (like many, I suspect) think of the ever-so-impractical chainmail bikini — armour that covers nothing but the naughty bits. Thus I am always happily surprised to see relatively realistic-looking female armour in anime. The jousters in Walkure Romanze all wear solid, face-covering helms and breastplates that lack a cleavage window.
Only one character in the series wears truly impractical, revealing armour — and the rest of the cast makes fun of her for it. In fact, the only concession to fanservice on the main girls' armour is that their upper legs are bare — which is relatively forgivable as the saddles have a built-in shield to protect their thighs.
Mixed — A Fanservice Anime
Of course, outside of the jousting, there are reams of fanservice in Walkure Romanze. Make no mistake, this is a harem anime that gets as close to being softcore porn as it can without having actual nudity. There are more than a fair share of panty shots, bathing scenes, and even a whole episode where two of the girls are either butt naked or covered in nothing but a thin layer of clay. So if gratuitous fanservice is something that you can't stand in anime, you'll probably be turned off by Walkure Romanze from the start.
But as for the harem aspect of the show — that is to say one boy with scores of girls after him — it's actually rather well done. After the first short arc, it really seems that all the girls have an equal chance of winning Takahiro as their begleiter. Each girl has her own deeply personal reason why she feels she has to win the next tournament — and learning about the female cast and their motivations is the most emotionally captivating part of the show.
Bad — Cool Moments, Little Common Sense
Walkure Romanze has more than a few cool moments that sadly fall apart the moment you really start to think about them. Take the picture above for example. Takahiro breaking the two lances of the respective girls in a single thrust of his own broken lance is no doubt awesome, but also incredibly stupid. After all, if something like this were to happen in the real world, it would end with several dead horses and probably a rider or two as well after the collision that is clearly milliseconds away from happening. Of course, the anime just hopes you don't notice this as it cuts from this frame to several dozen seconds later where everything is perfectly fine.
Another cool (but flawed) moment involves a girl taking a lance to the helmet while jousting. I don't care how breakable the lances are or how padded your helmet is. When over a thousand pounds of charging horse and armoured knight are all focused into the point of a wooden stick hitting your head, it's not something you can just grit your teeth and shrug off.
In any other anime, I probably would have been turned off by the overused harem setup and copious amounts of fanservice. However, with an intriguing setting, a cast of strong female characters, and a plot centered around knights jousting, I couldn't help but love Walkure Romanze. So if you like/can tolerate fanservice, have a soft spot for jousting, or just like the idea of a romantic tale centering around a group of female knights, be sure to give Walkure Romanze a try.
Walkure Romanze aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be watched for free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.