The setting and magical description bog down an actual interesting concept, killing any long term interest.
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.
Official The Irregular at Magic High School Light Novel Page Here
Official The Irregular at Magic High School Anime Page Here
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.