Review: Mahōka Kōkō no Rettōsei (The Irregular at Magic High School)


In a bold move, I did a search of the web for well rated anime released in the last year. Bold because it almost certainly meant a season of sub, shock horror. I ended up with The Irregular at Magic High School. So, what did I think of it?

Background:

The show focuses on two siblings set in a world where magic is used as modern technology and, more importantly, as a weapon. We’re introduced to the pair as if the younger sister, Miyuki, is a prodigy and her older brother, Tatsuya, is a failing half-wit. It doesn’t take long to realise this is plainly not the case.

For the most part, as you might have guessed, the show is based in the First Magic High School. One of nine magic high schools in Japan, it accepts only those that have shown the gift of magic. However, on arrival entrants are divided into course 1 and course 2 students. Miyuki is a course 1 student while Tatsuya is a course 2 student.

Miyuki's love for her brother is cute, when it's not being weird
Miyuki’s love for her brother is cute, when it’s not being weird

Plot

The first arc of the show focuses on the inevitable prejudices that arise from splitting students so categorically at the start of the studies. In the first episode we are introduced to the terms Blooms and Weeds. Pretty nasty. It doesn’t take long after this for Tatsuya to show off how not-bad his powers actually are. After joining the disciplinary committee (says enough about his power in a school with magicians, doesn’t it?) and taking out 3 upperclassmen (for good reason it should be said), he becomes a bit of celebrity. At this stage, his ‘prodigy’ sister isn’t doing too much, apart from the scenes where she is loving her brother a bit too much.

The arc finishes off with the student council president saying that everyone should be equal and then the issue, pretty much, goes away. Realistically it would have been difficult to talk about inequality for 25 episodes, but the arc felt a bit rushed and it only served to allowed Tatsuya and his better than average power legitimacy for the rest of the show.

Tatsuya can do pretty much anything with that thing, apart from the practical school entry exam. Convenient, eh?
Tatsuya can do pretty much anything with that thing, apart from the practical school entry exam. Convenient, eh?

The second, and longest arc of the show also seems the most pointless. Essentially it’s sports day but for all the schools in Japan and everyone uses magic instead of doing athletics. I won’t go through the nitty gritty of all of the problems but it is here that the real problem of the show reveals itself fully; a group of terrorists are out to get something from the magic users. Tatsuya, after not originally being involved in any of the events ends up being involved both as an engineer and as an athlete, and of course, it goes without saying that he is great at whatever he does.

It’s worth saying before I move on that there are ongoing themes ongoing throughout the whole of the first 20 episodes. Tatsuya is a military special officer and cutting edge engineer.After going through the first two thirds of the plot I can’t imagine that comes to you as much of a surprise. The siblings are also in the main line of the strongest of the 10 lead houses in Japan, but, Tatsuya at least, has been made an outcast.

Maya Yotsuba: the head of the most powerful family in Japan and our central character not-so-dear aunt
Maya Yotsuba: the head of the most powerful family in Japan and our central character not-so-dear aunt

The final arc of the season is largely based on fighting off the terrorists (who are from mainland Asia) who are looking to gain information on magic in Japan. Tatsuya suddenly becomes a monstrous, callous, killing machine. Until this point we knew he had few emotions, but now we see that he has no remorse at all.

Character Development:

Despite writing largely on Tatsuya up to this point, there are several characters in this show that are very well written. It has to be said that most of them do fall into the same trap of being labelled as incompetent and turning out to be otherwise. 

That said I will continue to stick with our MC. There are two main traits you can attribute to Tatsuya: a deep caring love for his sister and a total lack of emotion towards everyone else. Besides traditional sibling affection, there is never any real explanation for the emotion he shows towards his sister. If he showed some other emotion I would consider it odd, but he doesn’t… The lack of explanation on this front is another problem, though I’m led to believe there is an explanation in the light novels, so we can only expect an explanation in the second season (if it does arrive as expected).

One of Tatsuya's only attempts at emotion. And this is meant to be a joke.
One of Tatsuya’s only attempts at emotion. And this is meant to be a joke.

Miyuki has potential to be a bit more interesting than her one track brother, if only through virtue of her social skills. In addition her use of magic in anger is genuinely shocking and is a lot more effective than her brother’s. Other characters of note include student Erika and her oldest brother, Toshikazu, with Erika in particular adding a degree of both humour and action.

Sound, artwork and animation

This is the section where The Irregular at Magic High School really excels. The artwork is exceptionally crisp and some of the action scenes look magnificent. On the whole the animation is also very good, with only small falters in (oddly) basic movements. The soundtrack for the show is generally good as well with the first opening being particularly good.

Favourite Episode:

Episode 25: Yokohama Disturbance Part VI

There isn’t really an episode throughout the show that stands out in anyway. I went for the imaginatively named episode 25 (they’re all like that), because Tatsuya’s power gets stronger, Miyuki’s power gets stronger. The animation is great and does the action scenes great credit. But then I could probably say that for a lot of the episodes.

Best piece of music:

I’m going for the first opening, LiSA’s Rising Hope. It’s just a great anime song. Given Tatsuya’s lack of emotion you could say it doesn’t really fit the show. But I’m not going to say that, so listen to it.

Overall:

The Irregular at Magic High School is a bit of a difficult anime to judge. It’s heavily focused upon one character who isn’t all that likeable and for that it does fall down. However, the actions scenes are imaginative and are animated really well. The artwork and character design is good and there’s a lot of potential for some of the other characters. The plot is developing well but a lot there are a lot of holes that need filling. If there’s a second season, this could turn out to be an excellent first season, if not think along the lines of my opinion of Deadman Wonderland, but worse.

The Irregular at Magic High School

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