Happy holidays! Guess who’s on winter break and is ready to get back into anime? What better way to start than with the anime that has been on my backlog for ages, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei? This is one of the few anime series I actually followed weekly as it came out. Unfortunately, this weekly following stopped because life is hard. When I first saw the series, I loved it quite a lot to the point where my first ever cosplay was the uniform from First High. Now, after finishing the 26 episode season, I am happy to say I am most likely going to scrap my cosplay entirely, because I seriously want to make another one, this time much better. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is easily the smartest “dumb” anime I’ve seen. It fits an interesting niche in anime where everything is explained to the minute detail in scientific and fantasy terms (smart), yet deep down it’s a high action battle between overpowered characters (dumb). Not everyone will love this formula, but I quite loved it.
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is a genre I love, sci-fi fantasy. In this world, magic is widely accepted a growing and powerful technology. From combat to renewable energy to transportation, magic is used in many aspects of life. However, magic is available only to the select “magicians” with the innate skill. Young students with magic capabilities are sent to a Magic High School, where their talents are honed and tested.
Introduced at the beginning is the bloom and weed system. The best magic users are branded as blooms. Everyone else is a weed. Needless to say, this hierarchy belittles the weeds. The two main characters, Tatsuya Shiba and Tatsuya Miyuki, are siblings who enter opposite classes; Shiba, the older brother, is a weed while Miyuki, the younger sister, is a bloom. Shiba, however, is very early on established as super powerful and Miyuki absolutely adores her older brother, almost to the point of incestuous romance (yeah. pretty weird stuff in this department). In fact, everyone loves Shiba. It’s understandable as Tatsuya Shiba is the most badass protagonist this side of anime. Shiba is a genius able to perform the most advanced magics, like magic nullification, but is quite average in the basic magics, the only reason why he is a weed.
It’s a superbly interesting situation that’s unfortunately not fleshed out enough. Shiba is so powerful that the entire system is thrown out the window. It could have easily been a battle of social standings between the weeds and blooms with Shiba representing the weeds. But instead, Shiba is so powerful he’s in a league of his own, above even the most elite bloom.
The most interesting part of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is easily the magic. First, the art of these magical spells looks amazing. CG particles alongside the anime’s already well-drawn art makes this a pleasure to watch. In addition, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei loves to explain its magic with tons of tech jargon that sounds smart but is overly complicated. It honestly breathes life and interest into what could have been simply shrugged off as magical powers. A nerd like me delighted in the techno babble. At the same time, I can easily see the dialogue being excessive and boring for some people.
If the world and setting is the most enjoyable part of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, the under-development of characters are easily the least. The main protagonist, Tatsuya Shiba, is super cool and super badass (it helps he’s voiced by the sweet bass voice of Nakamura Yuuichi, voice of Nozaki from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki Kun)... and that’s it. He’s stoic and emotionless. He does everything right, super powerful, and never fails. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei should really be called the Tatsuya Shiba show. While watching Shiba kick ass is fun and all, his overpowerness pushes every other character out of the picture. Every female, including his own sister, turns into one of his fanboys. It’s a shame the sister is simply there for the fan service (there’s plenty of that in this anime with her… i mean there’s a scene where she’s just in lingerie). Well, I guess with maybe the exception of Saegusa Mayumi, the ever so trolling student council president (though Shiba teases her a fair amount himself).
Luckily, the male characters aren’t as pushovers. Saijou Leo is a tough knucklehead who is quite lovable. Juumonji Katsuto is the epitome of manly manliness. Yoshida Mikihiko is shy, meek, and soft-hearted, one of the most pure characters in the cast. Then there’s the two from Third High School, introduced in the second arc. First, there’s Kichijouji Shinkurou who’s smart and ambitious, rivaling Shiba in intellect. Finally, there’s Ichijou Masaki, the calm, cool (except when his love interest’s around) combat war veteran who rivals Shiba in combat prowess. Can I just say I really really wanted more of Masaki? He’s a great foil to Shiba and pretty awesome. For God’s sake, his introductory scene is a shower scene. He oozes more sexy than Shiba.
In short, there’s a lot of supporting characters who have the potential to be really cool but is overshadowed by Shiba. While a powerful protagonist is fine and all, there’s a such thing as too much power. This series could have been way better had Shiba been relegated to a strategist role and the other characters’ talents been able to be fully presented.
As stated in the introduction, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is pretty dumb. In other words, most of the story is an excuse to get these powerful high schoolers into combat. Naturally, that means the pacing of the plot is atrocious. The twenty-six episode series splits up into three arcs, the Enrollment Arc, the Nine Schools Competition Arc, and Yokohama Disturbance Arc.
The first arc, the Enrollment Arc, is well paced. It sets up the way magic works and who the characters are relatively quickly. The real action doesn’t really happen until a couple episodes in, but the beginning isn’t so dragged on that it’s boring. The first episodes feel slightly slice-of-life in this magical setting. It becomes obvious that the series is anything but as the action spins into overdrive. The combat is fast and gruesome. In fact, this is one of the few action anime I’ve seen where humans kill other humans, as opposed to monsters, robots, etc. Blood is readily spilled, limbs are severed, and bodies explode. The common antagonist in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei are terrorists, who seek to use magic to… terrorize. That justifies them killing civilians and magicians. That also justifies magicians brutally slaughtering them. Yikes.
The second arc, the Nine Schools Competition Arc, is more light-hearted for the majority. The nine magic high schools compete in sporting events ranging from target shooting to mock combat. It’s an interesting concept with a lot of techno jargon thrown around everywhere to explain all the ways magic is used to fire a magic gun, but it gets tedious very quickly. None of the actions have any impact whatsoever and the arc seems to try to flesh out the magic world and everyone else’s talents, yet this has already been done in the first arc. In fact, seeing the characters’ magic first hand in actual combat is far more interesting than them using neutered versions in friendly sport.
In fact, after Masaki is introduced, the arc is pretty much skippable until about episode 14, where Shiba and Masaki meet for the first time. Then enter a battle between these two monsters in friendly sport, the Monolith Code. The rules are short. Aside from lethal spells and physical combat, anything goes. The objective is to read and enter in a code that is located on the enemy’s monolith. It’s an exciting ending to a rather dull arc. The ending, however, is quite dark with some brutal murders and a sudden dark atmosphere.
Then enter the third and best arc, the Yokohama Incidence. I was thoroughly surprised at the overall rise in quality. This arc is violent, fast, and full of action. There’s still bits of techno jargon, but that’s Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei‘s style at this point. Throw in some powerful enemies, cool mechas, and baddass equpiment, and you’ve got a final arc that’s got me excited for a new season.
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is a power trip. The protagonist is powerful and there’s no doubt about it. The fun of the series is watching Shiba crush the insects around him as they are and enjoying the slice of life moments he shares with his friends. Besides Shiba, who’s cool but as dull as a rock, the characters are varied and quite likable. Past the poor pacing (I really don’t need another five minutes of this incest love Miyuki feels towards Shiba, Mahouka, please stop) and lack of challenge the characters face, Mahkoua Koukou no Rettousei is my favorite action anime so far. Though, to be honest, that’s a category shared by anime such as SAO (#shamelesslinktomyotherSAOreview), so I can’t say the anime is top-notch.
Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is probably the most fun to watch anime I’ve seen so far, but that’s really it. It fulfills a very specific niche but does nothing more past that. In short, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is very good on the surface level with little depth. If you’re looking to pass the time, this anime’s a good way to do it. The first arc is a good indicator of whether you’ll like the entire series or not. If you can’t stomach the wordy techno babble, annoying incest flirt scenes, or super bloody fights, don’t bother.
Now let’s see if I can’t remake that First High uniform.