#1 A card-game isekai
Though its title doesn’t state this clearly, Mon Colle Knights is actually a tie-in anime for the now-discontinued Monster Collection card game. It tells the story of Mondo and Rokuna, two elementary school kids who play the original TCG. Rokuna’s father is a brilliant scientist, who one day discovers that the world of Monster Collection, The Six Gates World, is actually real in a parallel universe. He invents a way to travel between the worlds and enlists the youngsters to help him on an important mission there.
While Mondo and Rokuna aren’t exactly stuck in this alternate universe—which was a trope even in retro isekai anime—Mon Colle Knights does feature the usual appeals of the genre. Characters from the real world exploring a strange, fantastical realm, interacting with its inhabitants, and getting swooped up in its conflicts. Six Gates is divided into realms that match the 4 elements, with the addition of Purity and Demonic domains. On their adventures, Rokuna and Mondo venture freely between these realms to discover all kinds of wondrous places and the fascinating people that live there.
Its card game origins lend a fascinating touch to the Six Gates world and actually end up playing a major role in the story. As Rokuna and Mondo go on adventures, they acquire the cards of the friends they made along the way. These cards can then be used to summon these friends at any time, either to help the heroes resolve a problem or to battle with other monsters.
#2 Fantastic monster designs
The art for the Monster Collection card game was originally provided by Dragon Half creator Ryusuke Mita, which was a major selling point for the newly-launched franchise. While both the card game and anime adaptation draw on a lot of traditional fantasy elements for its inspiration, Ryusuke’s art give them enough originality to make the Six Gates world feel like its own thing.
Mon Colle Knights doesn’t stick to Ryusuke’s designs 100%, but does incorporate the most iconic details. The goose-riding Valkyries, the surf-obsessed Gillmen, bodybuilding ogres, it’s all there, even if the characters aren’t always 1:1 copies. In fact, I think that some of the anime designs are improvements on the originals. For example, the Forest Giant used to look like an old man, but was changed in the anime to have long, golden hair and be quite a ways younger.
What also helps these designs become even more memorable are the fantastic adventures in which they become involved. I actually forgot what Mon Colle Knights was called some years ago and was only able to find it again because I could so vividly recall the monsters and what happened to them.
#3 Villains to rival Team Rocket
Though I dislike Pokémon as a franchise, I have to admit that Jesse and James of Team Rocket were massively influential for anime as a whole. They are iconic characters, more beloved even than the heroes they are meant to oppose. Many anime have since attempted to capture this same appeal with their own nefarious villain teams, of which Mon Colle Knights is one of the few actual successes.
During their mission in Six Gates, Rokuna and Mondo are constantly in competition with Count Ludwig Presto Von Meinstein Collection. “Count Collection” for short. He is a German nobleman and inventor, as well a scientific rival to Rokuna’s father who has, independently from him, also discovered Six Gates. Whereas Mondo and Rokuna want to bring peace and order to both worlds, Collection wants to attain phenomenal power and become Six Gates’ absolute ruler.
That may sound properly evil, but just like Team Rocket, Collection and his two henchmen soon establish themselves as funny and likeable antagonists for the heroes. Collection’s intelligence and cunning are only matched by his eccentrics. He is foppish and flamboyant, as well as more than a little childish. This makes him capable of forming brilliant plans, only for them to fail because of the dumbest mistakes imaginable.
Collection is always flanked by his two assistants: the rowdy tomboy Bachi who desperately wants to be a more successful villainess and the ladylike airhead Guuko, who often forgets that’s she supposed to be evil. This group clicks together wonderfully, which made following their misadventures throughout the story one of the anime’s greatest appeals. I even found myself rooting for them at times.
#4 Postcard reads
Mon Colle Knights is, to put nicely, a very economical anime. It has 51 episodes to fill and limited resources to do so with. Sacrifices were going to be inevitable, so while a lot of effort goes into realizing the fantasy world and its creatures, this comes at the cost of the anime being severely padded.
Almost every episode kicks off with a short introduction, after which all the characters head off to Six Gates for the actual adventure. This sequence of events is the same every time: Mondo, Rokuna, and the professor enter their ship and get an elaborate take-off sequence, followed by Collection and his assistants doing the same on their end. This takes up several minutes of each episode and is supplemented by several shorter clips that are reused between episodes too, mainly for running gags.
That may sound like a bother, but Mon Colle Knights puts in a lot of effort to make these repeat segments more bearable. The launch sequence for Mondo and Rokuna is often shortened when there is enough content in the actual adventure, and Collection’s crew uses theirs to read fanmail and answer questions. Collection, Guuko, and Bachi are already such lovable characters, so giving them even more room to let their personalities shine and tell jokes was a fantastic decision. It turned what was otherwise blatant padding into a segment that I was looking forward to in every episode.
The English dub changes this to the crew having random arguments, which fits well with the characters’ rewritten personalities and still achieves the same goal of livening up this repeat content.
#5 Romantic touches in a kids’ show
Mon Colle Knights wasn’t just an adaptation of the card game, but also a bid to make the game more appealing to children. As such, the anime’s contents are primarily aimed at a younger, 4-12 years old audience. Typically, shows aimed at this audience eschew romantic relationships because girls are icky and all that, but Mon Colle Knights actually embraces romance fully.
Mondo and Rokuna are unambiguously stated to be a couple, which comes with plenty of cute scenes of them hugging, holding hands, and complimenting each other; often to the frustration of their eternally-single teacher and Rokuna’s divorced father. While Mondo does have some skirt-chasing habits on the side, having any romance at all is already quite a surprise for such a boyish show. Even the English dub reluctantly sticks with this romance, though it cuts many of their more touching scenes.
Another remarkable twist is that Count Collection is openly stated to be homosexual as early as episode 1. For a show directed at a young audience, it is pretty amazing to have such a likeable gay character in the main cast. Admittedly him being gay does lead to some awkward stereotyping, but it usually feels like the writer’s heart was in the right place when deciding to add this detail.
More anime & manga like this
Dragon Half: A hit fantasy manga by the man who designed Mon Colle Knight‘s monsters.
Escaflowne: Retro isekai with romantic and sci-fi elements.
Magical Circle Guru Guru: Fantasy comedy series about two young kids that have romantic feelings for each other.