Magic. A concept that has become a commonly used technology by the end of the twenty-first century. With users wielding these supernatural abilities, the world has formed various Magic High Schools to train people in the ways of magic. However, some people acquire the abilities more naturally than others and are given ample magic education, such as the brilliant Miyuki. But as a result, those who less capable to use magic unfortunately are neglected from equal treatment, such as her older brother Tatsuya.
From the moment they enroll in this prestigious magic high school, they are not equal. Even if they are brother and sister.
Magic is often regarded as some sort of mysterious and supernatural element or force of nature, but here magic is given a very definite concrete form, right down to its base structure. Magic here in this series is defined as a type of science or technology, and the story spends quite a lot of time developing the theory and the mechanics behind it. Unfortunately, those details slow down the process of the story, making events unnecessary too long; like a scientist preoccupied with his work, unable to notice what’s going on around him.
The Irregular at Magic High School or Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is a magic sci-fi action series about two siblings and their life as students, training at a prestigious magic high school. The main character is Tatsuya Shiba, and like the title states, he’s a “different” type of student at First High, looked down upon by the honor students there. At the start, the story establishes a clear discrimination: people who are talented magic users and those people that are inferior to those gifted individuals. This story develops that mentality and how that conception causes trouble for our characters.
If we look past the details that highlights this series, it’s actually pretty bland. It’s like the subtitle states, it’s the Enrollment arc where the two main characters enter in high school and the orientation that happens during it. Nothing in particular stands out, just basic high school events such as meeting with new people, club gatherings, and rising tension with other classmates. Considering that this volume is the first part of a two volume arc, there’s more emphasis on the introductions but as a result the first volume appears flat and dull.
Our two main characters are the two Shiba siblings: Tatsuya and Miyuki. These two are very close together, each having a sister complex and brother complex respectively. While these two are linked by blood, the curriculum separates them from each other. Both siblings are very capable students, albeit almost too powerful,but due to the education system, one is regarded as a honor student (Bloom) while the other is looked at as an inferior being (Weed).
The story is told from the perspective of Tatsuya Shiba, the irregular at the Magic High School, but for being “inferior” he’s quite competent as we are shown through his actions and thoughts. If we were to give him any faults, it’s his lack of emotions. Tatsuya is stoic and impassive most of the time and the only time he gives any sense of feeling is towards his sister. He just comes off as cynical in most social situations, but has a sense of self-control in order to avoid future complications. When Tatsuya isn’t talking with other people, he observes them, in a very calculative way. He’s very perceptive when it comes to people and details that define them, and at time he regards them with a bit of hostility as they were a possible enemy later on.
We only know Tatsuya’s specs, if you want to describe his characteristics as such, but there are small details that infer a much deeper history to him. Miyuki also alludes to more issues around Tatsuya and their relationship with each other.
“He had become a living, breathing machine, constructed to observe, analyze, and record.”
Like I said earlier, Irregular is very heavy on their system of magic and just details in general. In fact, there’s a glossary, informing readers on the characters introduced and definitions on certain terms. Words like the Casting Assistant Device (CAD), Psions, Pushions, and Eidos, get ample amount of pages just characters discussing those concepts and other related ideas. It’s quite a double edged sword. There’s lots of interesting thought put into these mechanics and those who will intrigued by it will love this book; but to those who simply want to move forward with the story, not so much.
For example, there’s a mock fight that happens later on the light novel. The actual fight ends in about a page length. However the initial set up for the duel takes about three pages and process on how the victory was carried out took about the same length. There are other instances that this happens. These particular examples was just the most effective to list as the scene appeared battle oriented. It feels like someone overly instructing how a magic trick was carried out for a simple action (Magical theory behind walking two steps forward). It’s worse for the much slower parts and it drags the scene too long. Another case is the ending to the first volume as it concludes in the middle of a fight.
The illustrations were created by Kana Ishida, an individual working primarily as a key animator but she has done other related roles such as character design, animation director, and even as a chief animation director. Irregular’s illustrations is all done by her and it’s no surprise that her artwork looks rather refined. The linework is crisp, the colors are highlighted nicely, the character designs are consistent with each picture, and it looks very good overall. Additionally, the artwork could easily transferred and relayed to an anime production-which it did, with Ishida being the chief animation director for the show.
The Irregular at Magic High School has a lot of care and effort put into it, but it does need polishing. The amount of details put into the story is both its appealing point and its drawback. With the right amount of balance between all of the elements that make up this story, Irregular has the potential to become a good series.
Afterword: ALL HAIL ONII-SAMA
Author: Tsutomu Sato
Illustrator: Kana Ishida
English Publisher: Yen Press