I've played my fair share of games. I will fully admit that I have played games since I was 4, and I managed to git gud at some pretty hard games, like the Megaman Zero games and Robotech Battlecry. Now, I must confess:
I am not a pro or competitive gamer.
I've never done any E-Sports, nor have I done any real competitive gaming. The closest I've gotten to is dabbling in some online Pokémon battles and some "For Glory" on Smash Bros. 3DS. So, this was certainly an interesting series to look forward to, as while we've definitely had some game-oriented anime in the past that ended up being popular (namely SAO and No Game No Life), we never had one that showed the competitive side of gaming, since other game anime merely used gaming to basically flesh out a fictional game by putting players in it or have them celebrate them. This anime, made in China, shows a true badass in the realm of E-Sports. Given that China is more passionate about E-Sports than any country in the world (if World of Warcraft is any indication), it's no surprise that they would make the plunge into this before the japs would. I'm sure that plenty of E-sports players find this show to be great since it seems to really understand the terminology and what makes a good MMO game that is capable of E-sports. As for me, this show is, for most part, will adequate, if not amazing. Again, if I were someone who dabbled in E-sports, I’d probably be even more fond of this show but nonetheless, it's still a good series to have come out, and is proof that even a Chinese anime can be not only popular but good as well since those have been getting a lot of bad rep recently with titles like “Cheating Craft” and “Bloodivores”. So, how did this series do it? Well, let’s find out, shall we?
Ye Xiu (formerly known in-game as Ye Qiu) has just been forced into retirement of the team and of the game “Glory” by his old team “One Autumn Leaf”, and interestingly and refreshingly enough, we see a protagonist (him) keep a level head in all this as opposed to the traditional angry retorts we’d normally hear from a situation like this. This 25 year-old man is a bit rusty, but given that he is still basically a gaming god, it's frustrating to see his team just discard him and lock him into taking only one approach for his contract. Afterwards, he simply goes “oh well” and begins like working at a café. Even though he starts a new account (Lord Grim) and decimates everyone, we still see a really human touch that is somewhat prevalent in this series. After all, like any real-life sport, people take it very seriously, and people do have to retire earlier than with most jobs. We see moments of true, civil familiarity that doesn't remotely touch the realm of melodrama like most anime do, like when he and his old friend Mucheng meet up again in episode 5 long after he was kicked and she had to watch, or when he and one of his old rivals square off in the finale, only for us to see their battle history in the middle of this to really sell us on their relationship. It's refreshing to see all of this. To add onto how refreshing this show is, I should make note that every single character here is a full-fledged adult, which is insanely rare nowadays.
I don't have any major problems with the story to speak of in terms of any plot holes or inconsistencies or major leaps in logic, and in fact, any and all worries I began having were actually addressed. When I began wondering “how come no one realizes that Lord Grim is Ye Qiu”, we see veterans hypothesize and come to that exact conclusion. After I thought “man, you'd think more people would be apprehensive to his assholish behavior and start turning him down”, we see him fail to score a bargain in episode 9 for demanding too high a price. I really like when a story can assuage our worries of it. I'm not gonna spoil anything much, but the story does pick up after the first 4 episodes and we really get to see all sides grow tensions and even some members in many teams grow as people,and the finale, while not really giving a sense of finality, even for a season finale that will segue into a sequel, it still builds character and shows up a pretty well done human side to this whole thing. The story isn't grand or anything, but it is really solid, do I have to give it that much credit, especially since it actually assuages certain fears we have. Plus, it's very in touch with E-sports culture given how they properly use terms like “aggro”, “PK”, etc.
Apparently, there are a number of people sort of upset about character development, or lack thereof, namely for our protagonist. Let me tell you why, in this particular instance, this isn't that much of a bad thing. The main character, Ye Xiu has already grown into an expert, and it's not only about seeing him deal with new situations in his already grown state as opposed to most characters growing while dealing with their problems, but it's about seeing how he makes others develop, not only as people, but often as rivals that team up to try to surpass him. It's not like Mahouka in which the show is about GodSuya trouncing everyone and no almost no one developing as a result of trying to reach his level since everything is all about him and how “badass” he is. We see Ye handle things in a way that actually forces others to grow. Also, he is a total dick, often making witty trash talk comments at anyone and everyone, or exploiting people for his own personal revenge in episodes 1 and 4. He is still a good person at heart, like how he encourages Yi Fan to grow by changing styles. That's what this show is all about: seeing a cocky bit usually well-meaning badass adapt and force others to grow, which more shows that have OP protagonists should focus on instead of the usual “look at our main character, he’s so cool that he dominated everything effortlessly and everything revolves around him” like that other show I brought up.
Admittedly, most of the characters here aren't inherently very memorable, even if I like how they bounce off each other. That does become a problem given how many characters there are to keep track of, so I'll say that they are all pretty decently characterized despite not having much to them, and leave it at that for everyone but the major protagonists that Ye recruits for the second half of the show (and onwards). Mucheng is a beautiful badass who seems almost romantically interested in Ye, and is almost as playful as him in some regards, even if her role is more minimal than the rest of the team. Guo is the manager who has the most banter with Ye and is probably my least favorite, since honestly, after the initial episodes, she hardly provides anything to the story, bit even being part of the major team. Rou ultimately had to nod to learn since while she was powerful with hand speed, she was beyond unskilled for her talk, but ultimately, she became one of the more prominent characters to the team, even if she doesn't have that much to her personality, even less so than most of the characters. Rao Xing (Steam bun) is definitely a more nooblike, almost idiotic character who has muscle, but he actually provides some amounts of cleverness that save him from truly falling to that dreaded archetype. Ultimately, Ye carries the show in terms of the characters since we don't really see much nuance to them, but we do get to see some of them grow, whether it be these guys or some of Ye’s rivals, even if I'm not showing the full extent of that (for brevity and spoiler reasons).
To be honest, I’m aware that this one of G.CMay Animation and Film’s first anime projects, but there are some things I’d like to see them improve on. The character designs are pretty good, and the flashy animation is well, flashy, but the choreography isn't anything really great. Their use of CGI is...interesting. On the one hand, when doing establishing shots and first-person perspectives on certain things in their real world, it can look pretty good, sort of like a trailer at EA for a PS4 game (especially in the first few episodes), but when they get to using character models or other objects in either stock-footage or CGI, it all looks terrible, and honestly, a lot of the techniques here, especially the ones that don't work out well, remind me of Hand Shakers, which is frightening. It doesn't do any of that anywhere near as badly as that show did, so that's a plus. However, there is an unnerving amount of reused animation, particularly when Ye switches his weapon to gun mode or when he is battling goblins (namely him throwing them and them colliding and falling in CGI “glory”). Certain CGI models either look pretty bad or look like bad claymation models that were simply painted on to the point where they look melted. Overall, the series isn't badly animated, at least for a newer studio, but I hope they can tweak the CGI and improve on the choreography.
The OP, “Xin Yang (信仰)" by Zhang Jie (张杰), is just an eh OP to me. Maybe it's partially due to me never hearing Chinese music before, but it's just rather meh to me. Same applies to the ED, "Rong Yao Zai Lin (荣耀再临)" by Da Dan Yin Zu (大胆音组). In fact, the OST, while it does fit everything, it's rather meh and unmemorable, though the alternate rendition of the OP in the later moments of the final episode was pretty nice. Not a bad OST, and both the OP and ED were simply ok, but overall, it's just meh.
Ultimately, this first outing of The King’s Avatar has more substance than some people might give it credit for, but despite the relatively entertaining humor and action, the characters and production values don't hold up all that well, even with the surprisingly solid story. Again, I imagine that E-sports players (or MMO players in general) on the whole, probably find this show more enjoyable than I do, but that doesn't mean it's not a pretty decent show, because it is. I just hope that when the next outing of this show arrives, some of these issues are ironed out and that we get to have more reasons to invest in the characters. Either way, I'm really looking forward to what the rest of the series has in store if they choose to keep animating it. With all that said, I bid you adieu.