Title: The Irregular at Magic High School (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei)
Genre: Magic, Sci-Fi, Action
Publisher: ASCII Media Works (JP), Yen Press (U.S)
Creator: Tsutomu Sato
Illustrator: Kana Ishida
Translator: Andrew Prowse
Original Release Date: April 19, 2016
A review copy has been provided by Yen Press.
There was no escaping the commentary on Mahouka (The Irregular at Magic High School) when the anime aired two years ago. Hailed as another popular light novel based off a web novel, the anime did not endear itself to a number of people, going overboard with details, a broken main character, and that main character’s harem who bowed down to how great he was — which included his younger sister. I mention this since I avoided the anime when it aired, but Yen is bringing over the LN for us all to read. So that means I get to find out how the source material is and see if the criticism was justified.
And unfortunately, I have to agree with those who didn’t like it. That stems from how The Irregular at Magic High School wastes its potential simply by bricking its interesting moments with overly long descriptions at the worst possible times.
Set in the year 2095, magic has been harnessed just like technology. That means those who possess the genes to use it are valued moreso than any other person in the world. In Japan, that means a number of kids are sent to 9 magic high schools, each that focus on different aspects of magic. We are focused on First High School, and on its two main characters that happen to be related, Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba.
Miyuki is the freshman representative of First High School, and a powerful magic user. She’s also a Course 1 student, or a Bloom, while her brother, Tatsuya, is a Course 2 student, called a Weed. Being a Bloom means you can potentially grow into one of the greatest magicians in the world, which means all of the focus is on making Course 1 students the best they can be. A Weed however is not considered to be as important, as they may have limited abilities, limited potential, and that means no room for growth — so there’s barely any effort into training them. So naturally, Blooms look down on Weeds and make no effort to actually hide it. How’s that going to work for Miyuki and Tatsuya, who happen to be family…and may be closer than the normal brother and sister relationship?
The setting is my favorite thing about The Irregular at Magic High School. The way Tsutomu Sato describes major elements, such as how magic has gotten so important in 2095, to even minor stuff, like how because of magic there’s no need to get in large train cars, I found I wanted to know more about every day life living in a world where magic and technology interact with each other. It makes the reason why everyone is still wearing 21th century type of clothing, or at least the style of it, a contrast to a world where you could just get a robot to make your coffee. Some parts, like where Sato goes into detail with how a CAD (Casting Assistant Device) works and how it’s used, are actually interesting, and I feel that’s where Sato’s passion is evident.
The problem is there can be a time where passion can derail what you want to accomplish…which is to actually be a compelling read. It’s disappointing when we can get a fight between a freshman Course 2 student and the Vice President of The Student Council, but then get a moment where an event occurs and then there’s a page of explaining either why this moment is so shocking, what CADs can do for the 20th million time, or random mundane thoughts that could honestly be cut before getting the conclusion to said event that kills the momentum. This isn’t just a one time thing — it happens regularly, which makes getting to learn who these characters are obsolete.
So not surprisingly, only a few characters that show up are consistently developed, and in some cases I’m not sure that’s a good thing. In this first volume at least, I don’t actually mind how Tatsuya is. Tatsuya is clearly not a Course 2 student, but because practical exams aren’t totally his strong suit, he’s been regulated to Course 2 classes. Now he has to deal with Course 1 students thinking he’s a nothing, and he has to find a way to change that with his seemingly boring but grounded personality.
I do mind Miyuki’s obsession with her brother. It’s not all that interesting, which makes any forced attempts for her to show how obsessed she is with Tatsuya mostly annoying. For two students on the Student Council, Mari Watanabe actually seems like an okay character, but I don’t really get Mayumi, the Student President. Every time she shows up until an event later on closer to the end of Volume 1, she seems to annoy Tatsumi. What makes it hard to get is nothing she’s saying seems clearly wrong, so I can’t tell if this was not translated well, if I’m simply unable to just get what’s going on, or if this was the hint that nagged Tatsumi about who she was in the first place — and I would say it wasn’t executed very well.
Whatever the case, these are probably the only 4 that actually showed personality, whereas anyone else who showed up were one note and not memorable, except whenever confrontations happened between Blooms and Weeds. No one else got developed because more words were spent on describing what it meant to be an officer rather than the person himself. This is a volume that then proceeds to make me think that if they cut some stuff here, then this would be a cleaner, more enjoyable read. It’s not.
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I have a feeling this kind of reviews will be par for the course for Mahouka either you will like it or not. At least this was one of more civil reviews. Some of the criticisms online of the series get down right nasty bordering on or fulfilling “Godwin’s Law.”
I actually watched the Anime expecting to hate the entire thing due to the negative reviews on Japanator when it was running (to this day I don’t know if those ever got finished because the whole snarky “Tatsuya is a Marty Stu” angle was funny to me.)
I have since watched the entire Anime all the way through once and the entirety of the Enrollment Arc three times. I can understand if someone does not like the “technobabble” or being squicked out or annoyed by Miyuki fawning over her brother. Or the bland characterization but the amount of weird political stuff that gets heaped at this series has always confused me.
While the allegations of it being “Objectivist” make no sense as it has none of the hallmarks of Rand’s thought (Rational Self-Interest and Egoism as a positive good). I digress though this is a series I really enjoy because it sets up an almost perfect demi-god like being and then asks the question “how does a society deal with such a being?”
Of course, this being only the first volume those ideas have not been fleshed out.
Nor the reasons behind Tatsuya and Miyuki closeness I’ll avoid spoilers but for me, it’s a little deeper than what it first appears to be. I’ve yet to have the novel in my possession I pre-ordered both volumes and expect to get the first volume by the 25th or 29th of April. Also nice to see somebody else take notice of Mari. While Mayumi (see picture below) is my Waifu great to read an even-handed review that doesn’t feel like a political or philosophical “hatchet job”.