Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 14

maho141

Mahouka’s second cour picks up right where the last one left off: in the midst of a magic high school competition procedural. While ending the NSC at the midpoint would have been a bit cleaner, as things shook out there was still some things to take care of before closing the book on the arc. Perhaps most important among those is also the most predictable development: Tatsuya being asked to compete as a player.

maho142

First, the less predictable developments: Honoka wins in the Battle Board finals with a nice bit of shadow-casting magic that confuses her opponents, turning the dark shades they wore to avoid her optical magic against them. First High’s rookie girls placed one-two-three in Ice Pillars, eliminating the need for a final, but Shizuku decides to take on Miyuki anyway. Shizuku loses decisively, and it isn’t really a fair fight, nor did she ever think she had a chance. Note to everyone else: never challenge Miyuki to anything.

maho143

Another act of probable sabotage by the No-Head Dragons takes out First High’s three-man rookie Monolith Code team. Thanks to the girls—and Tatsuya—the First High rookies are assured at least a second-place finish, but Saegusa wants to take first. When the stewards allow her to form a new team to compete, she choo-choo-chooses Tatsuya, who now gets to go up against Third High’s Crimson Prince and Cardinal George, the first people to come around who actually resemble real competition.

maho144

In a nice move, he picks Mikihiko and Leon as his teammates, meaning if First High is going to win the NSC, it will be thanks to Weeds. Those two (and all the guys, for that matter) have been on the sidelines for a long time, so I’m looking forward to seeing them in action. By giving their second course ringer so much leeway, Saegusa and Juumonji are asking the rest of the students to bottle their pride and outrage for the good of the team, which is a lot to ask a bunch of emotional teenagers.

6_mag

Stray Observations:

  • Little Miss Muffet Azusa seems to have pretty much figured out that Tatsuya is Taurus Silver. So yeah.
  • Ichijou Masaki was killin’ Commies and Kichijouji Shinkurou was teachin’ college courses when they were both thirteen. Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint in giving Tatsuya a run for his money.
  • I wonder who the third member of Third High’s team will be? Character #678…
  • We also finally see some Mirage Bat; definitely the silliest-looking of the events.
  • New OP and ED! New Tatsuya+Miyuki imagery, too.
Advertisements

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 13

maho130

Whether it’s Shizuku in speed shooting, Honoka in Battle Board, or his own sister in Ice Pillars, this week even the First High rookie ladies dominate their NSC events, thanks to Tatsuya’s engineering prowess and personal attention. That, in turn attracts both envy and derision from the struggling guys, and the attention of his rival-in-waiting, Ichijou Masaki.

maho131

As one girl remarks at a banquet, giving your CAD over to an engineer for close inspection and calibration is akin to bearing your innermost feelings to that person. In that regard, Tatsuya is quickly developing into the school ladykiller, having already “won the hearts (i.e. CADs)” of so many. At that banquet, for instance, he is literally surrounded by girls.

maho132

But Tatsuya isn’t one of those happy-go-lucky school anime leads who has a mission to collect as many lambs as possible for his flock. He has other reasons. He was called upon to do a job, and he’s going to do it to the absolute maximum level. And we still have yet to see the Shiba Tatsuya whose time his sister promises “will come without fail,” pledging herself to him in the coming fight against the Yotsuba clan. All of this is a means of honing his magical skills in preparation for that fight.

maho133

One could say he’s using the girls as test subjects for his new magic methods.. That sounds…a bit underhanded, but the girls obviously don’t care. It’s an equitable deal: they get to win due to their full potential being optimally exploited, while Tatsuya gains valuable data and gets to watch his magic being used the way it’s meant to be, something he couldn’t pull off himself. The ladies’ success also motivates Hanzou Morisaki, who still wants to prove blooms are superior to weeds; a seemingly outdated position to be dusting off at this juncture…until you realize the girls Tatsuya is helping are all blooms.

maho134

Still, none of this is really news; it was already established in the last couple episodes. Rather than make a big bang at the midpoint of the series, Mahouka chose to keep things in cruise mode, reinforcing Tatsuya’s impact and letting First High bask in the gleam of victory a little longer before their enemies come down on them, whether its the bookies who need First High to lose to save their own skins, or the ever-ominous Masaki.

7_mag

First Cour Average Score: 7.00
First Cour MAL Score: 7.75

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 12

maho121

First High’s path to NSC victory grows a lot narrower this week, thanks to what seems to be elaborate sabotage of Mari’s Battle Board semifinal by unknown parties. This episode was replete with detailed analysis and nitty-gritty procedure—bascially geeking out on its own rich magical mythos the whole time.

maho122

Tatsuya also goes well beyond the call of duty as an enginer is gaining a lot of fans, many of them of the opposite sex. First, he’s the first on the scene to help Mari, a fact that makes her blush when she hears it. Mitsui almost loses her shit over the fact he’ll watch her match. He even gains Shizuku as an admirer for working so closely to fine-tune her equipment and offering emotional support. Shizuku doesn’t let him down, posting a perfect score.

maho123

There’s big news for him and his beloved sister, too: due to Mari’s injuries and better-than-expected results from their rival, Third High, President Saegusa has picked Miyuki to replace Mari in the official Mirage Bat tournament, even though she’s a freshman rookie. Knowing what a bad-ass she is, I don’t foresee her having much trouble advancing, but that’s assuming there won’t be any more…sabotage.

maho124

Here’s a bold prediction: there will be more sabotage. Tatsuya figured out how Mari and her rival washed out, and also the strong possibility that the responsible party are members of the NSC committee, someone who had unfettered access to student CADS and a desire to knock out the top contenders. But knowing they’ll strike next is one thing; knowing exactly how and when they’ll strike is another.

maho125

Tatsuya is a very busy and increasingly popular guy. Just as he cracked the conspiracy in the enrollment arc, it’s almost seems a forgone conclusion he’ll succeed in uncovering this plot, and help lead First High to victory. At the same time, the show has yet to throw some serious adversity his way, so if it’s going to start, the next episode would be a good time.

7_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 11

maho111

Mahouka rebounds from a dull episode by being—Shocking Truth—not dull, as the Nine Schools Competition (NSC) finally kicks off and we actually get to see some of the competitive events. Mahouka hums along with its trademark show-and-tell method, in which we’re shown the action of an event in progress while being given play-by-play and analysis from the spectators.

maho112

When executed with a proper balance, as I thought it was this week, the method works well in providing simultaneous education (about the show’s rich magical universe) and entertainment. There’s also a creative, diverse mix of magical sports: Battle Board, Speed Shooting, Crowd Ball, and Ice Pillars Break; all of which First High girls Watanabe, Saegusa, and Chiyoda, respectively, straight-up dominate.

maho113

Interspersed between the official events are an equally diverse array of nice character beats between Tatsuya and several characters, starting with a kind of pep talk to Mikihiko, small talk with Honoka, an informal powwow with his military superiors, Miyuki visiting his hotel room late at night (for an innocent purpose), the whole gang hanging out in his room (which felt very high-school-y), and the most intimate encounter he’s had yet with Saegusa, who seems to be pressing her attack.

maho114

These were all good beats, but I think I liked that last one best. There’s nothing silly or awkward about Tatsuya and Saegusa’s rapport, and like many anime characters of her status, Saegusa seems to be attracted to the fact Tatsuya isn’t intimidated by her and doesn’t put her on a pedestal. She says it feels like having a little brother, but that’s also perhaps what she’s looking for in a boyfriend; something like an equal.

maho115

This episode didn’t solve the problem of how only a handful of the vast ocean of characters seem talented enough to be at the NSC, though it did reinforce the power of the ones who were, nor did it start the impending rivalry between Tatsuya and the Third High kid. In fact, the other school kids were only ever on the losing side of things here. All the success this week suggests First High will face some actual adversity soon, whether from the actions of the No-Head Dragons, or the fact the fellas haven’t been pulling their weight.

maho116

First High can still win the tournament despite the lads’ slacking, but they’ll have to win the majority of the remaining events, and depend on an exemplary performance from their rookies. This may also herald Tatsuya’s entry in the tournament as a competitor and not just a tech. Finally, his fellow Tech Izumin certainly had an ominous vibe about her, didn’t she? I wonder if she’ll also be a source of future trouble at the NSC.

7_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 10

maho101

A good episode hides its weaknesses or turns them into strengths, but this week was middling because it laid bare its weaknesses without any real effort to mitigate them. One of those is a weakness common among school-based shows, magical or not: character bloat.

maho102

Only two characters from one of the other eight schools even get any lines, which is strange, considering this would have been the time to introduce the competition in a relaxed setting. But that was kind a relief, as First High brought nearly every named character along. There are already too many characters fighting for time.

maho103

I actually liked how Erika & Co. were forced by their families to take odd jobs so they could attend and observe; for one thing, it allowed Erika to get the best conversation in with Tatsuya, in which she notes how his coldness can be a comfort. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she likes the guy.

maho104

I also like Miyuki finally saying categorically she doesn’t see her blood brother as a potential love interest—we just don’t like how she’s surrounded by sundry extraneous characters in an tacked-on onsen scene. There’s nothing wrong with slice-of-life or idle banter, but it tends to sap the urgency of an episode that should be trying to build it up.

maho105

Miyuki did get to be a badass in contributing to stopping the errant SUV from hitting the bus, but the reactions of some of the students highlighted another weakness: most of the students outside the core group don’t give off anything resembling an air of competency, as if they need people like Tatsuya around to save their skins again and again, because they’re useless.

maho106

Perhaps we’re being harsh, as they’re still just kids, but this is supposed to be an elite school, and I only feel that eliteness from a handful of students, many of them weeds. The Patriarch Kudou Retsu seemed to read my mind when he employed low-level magic on a large scale that only five of the hundreds of students assembled saw through.

maho107

The bus incident and the thieves Miki encounters are both indications the very type of enemy Kudou warned about is indeed crashing what’s supposed to be a friendly interscholastic competition. As with the Blanche incident, students alone won’t be enough to thwart them; it will take those with both the ability and intent to do what is necessary.

5_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 09

maho91

This show can be forgiven for its talkiness not just because it often backs it up with awesome action (albeit not much this week), but because of its confidence; its steadfast belief there’s no such thing as too much talk. I noticed a bit of a pattern in this episode of Mahouka: one of seemingly innocuous encounters and discussions escalating into more serious situations.

maho92

Those escalations propel the story and boost our comprehension of relationships and positions. At the end of last week’s episode, Miyuki came down to show her brother her cute outfit, but it turned into much more than that, as Tatsuya showed her he’d cracked the flying magic and let her demonstrated. This week’s first scene has the siblings at FLT, where the research teams in the trenches hold Tatsuya in high esteem and regard him with awe, much like Miyuki does.

maho93

Then the siblings just happen to cross paths with their father and the family butler, neither of whom even bother acknowledging Tatsuya’s presence, as if he’s no better than pond scum. Naturally, Miyuki takes exception to their conduct, and we’re off to the races, with Tatsuya essentially having to calm her from freezing the whole zip code. Tatsuya deals with loathing and worship the same way: levelheadedly.

maho94

This week also marks the return of Mizuki, who hasn’t had much to do the past few episodes. She’s just standing around when she senses something strange, which turns out to be Mikihiko practicing with ancient spirits. Her presence throws him off enough to momentarily lose control, but Tatsuya appears and protects Mizuki with his awesomeness. We learn just how valuable some factions find those eyes of hers—and the lengths to which some would go to obtain them.

maho95

After an awkward launch ceremony, a fairly routine bus trip seems to be underway, with all the requisite mundane high school banter (apparently President Saegusa wants Tatsuya to notice her, Shizuka and Honoka tell Miyuki how awesome they think Tatusya is, etc.). But then all hell breaks loose when a truck explodes in the path of the buses, and several students spring into action at once (too many chefs?). This Nine Schools Competition is so intense, even getting there is a treacherous ordeal!

7_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 08

maho80

*Note: I realize the couple on the left is Gilgamesh and Saber from Fate, but if you squint, they kinda look like anime Jaime (Janime?) and Cersei…no? Well, Google Image Search seemed to think so…

“There are no men like me. Only me.” Sorry to open with a Jaime Lannister quote of all things, but there are often times when the very close Shiba siblings remind me of Jaime and Cersei in better times, only without the overt incest. Not only that, Jaime’s quote could also be used to describe Tatsuya: in his present world, there are no men like him…only him.

maho82

First he became the first Weed in the disciplinary committee, and made an instant and substantial impact, foiling a terrorist plot. In this heavily process-oriented episode, the Magic High equivalent of an interscholastic sports festival approaches, and he becomes the first weed and first first year voted onto First High’s technical staff. His process in coding Kirihara’s CAD irks his skeptics, but they can’t deny he did some extremely advanced work.

maho83

Tatsuya’s unique indispensability extends beyond school, to his duties as a “special officer” in some secret military unit in which he operates, as well as a contributor to the family business (FLT). In short, there may be no men like him, but he himself is many men to many people, and very few others aside from his sister, know about these other Tatsuyas.

maho84

So badass is Tatsuya, he spends the waning hours of the night not watching anime (or HBO), but working in the clinical basement of the mansion he and Miyuki share on a flying magic problem that stumped teams of scientists elsewhere in the world. When Miyuki pops in to show off an adorable outfit she’ll be wearing for the games, the show casually reveals he’s floating, having made a breakthrough. Even his leisure is work.

maho85

The Nine Schools Competition will expand the world we know about further, threatening his sui generis nature. One thing about Jaime’s “no men like me” quote is the fact it’s not quite correct: plenty of other men have risen fast, fight well, slain their kings and loved their sisters a bit too much. And as the end of last week’s episode gave us a glimpse of the lad who appears as Tatsuya’s mirror image in the OP (above), it would appear there are men like Tatsuya too!

8_mag

P.S.: I fully support Erika’s staunch decision to wear bloomers for athletics.

 

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 07

maho71

The seven-episode “Enrollment” arc comes to an end on a high note, providing another nice balance of high-level action and character work that felt earned approached genuine poignancy a couple of times. The episode bursts out of the gate by having the Humvee carrying the assault team barrel straight through the front gate of Blanche’s Japan HQ.

maho72

Aside from a couple of quiet moments where Tatsuya counts the soldiers in the next room, the action doesn’t let up, and when the episode ticks past the ten minute mark, Blance’s hapless leader’s arm is lopped off by Kirihara, avenging Mibu. Erika and Leo don’t even have to do anything in the raid; it goes off without a hitch.

maho73

This was never about whether they’d defeat Tsukasa Hajime and his team of disposable soldiers; we knew going in from the composition of the party that they were going to make it look easy. What was in doubt was whether they’d still make it entertaining, and they succeeded. Tatsuya and Miyuki let no opportunity for a devastatingly bad-ass remark pass them by. For a moment I almost felt bad for Blanche, as the Shibas sounded far more dangerous and diabolical.

maho74

Another reason to make this such an easy fight was to demonstrate that Tatsuya isn’t just Miyuki’s brother, he’s her physical and emotional protector. All the arrogance and aloofness he’s displayed is explained by the simple fact there’s no reason for him to even be in high school if he doesn’t want to be; he’s already learned everything the school can teach him, and far more. But he does want to be there, by Miyuki’s side.

maho75

While it was a little neat and tidy for Sayaka and Tsukasa’s bro to be let off the hook due to hypnosis, we’re glad the arc stuck with Sayaka through her physical and more importantly, her emotional recuperation. She gets kudos from me for being so open and earnest about her feelings for Tatsuya and Kirihara, and how she came to see the latter as the better fit, as she fears she’d never catch up to the former.

maho76

Miyuki, meanwhile, is committed to staying right beside her brother, as long as he will allow her to—matching her steps to his is a cute way of showing this—even if he blasts into the heavens at light speed. But Tatsuya tells her he’s not here just to fulfill his duty, but because school could be his last opportunity to live a normal life with her, before his responsibilities preclude any pretense of normalcy.

8_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 06

maho61

Now this is more like it! If last week was slow and talky, even by Mahouka standards, the payoff it set the stage for here made it mostly worth it. Yes, this show still veers more towards “tell” than “show”, but the we got a lot more “show” this week that made the “tell” more palatable, as Tatsuya, Miyuki, Erika, and Leo work as a team to fight off the terrorists, infiltrate the library, and utterly foil their plot.

maho62

About that plot: Mibu joined the cause and agreed to assist in it because she thought they were making a stand against magic discrimination. But in the end, she was merely being used by Blanche, which only wanted the magical secrets the library contained. Even her personal sense of long-suffering oppression was a delusion based on a misunderstanding: she believed Watanabe had snubbed her, but refusing to spar with her was meant as a compliment to her sword skills.

maho63

This episode gave everyone in the core group something to do (except Mizuki), showing off their unique skills while they’re at it, and proving that Tatsuya isn’t the only one by far getting a short shrift because of their Course 2 status. Miyuki uses her magic for something other than punishing her brother for once, and Erika has a nice heated swordfight with Mibu. Mibu’s good—good enough to make Erika “play for keeps”—but she’s not good enough for that form of Erika, a “daughter of Shiba”.

maho64

With Mibu on the mend in the infirmary and the misunderstanding with Watanabe cleared up, there’s nothing left but for Mibu to have a good cry in Tatsuya’s arms. She knows she was wrong, owns up to it, and is encouraged to move forward, knowing know she was always her own worst enemy. But that’s not all we get: Tatsuya proposes a counterattack against Blanche. Miyuki, Erika, and Leo are going with, along with Juumonji and Kirihara. It’s a strong-looking group, and I look forward to watching them in action once again.

8_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 05

mahouka51

I may be a bit buzzed from a rehearsal dinner earlier this evening, but damn, that was one talky episode! I know this series runs 26 episodes, but I feel like episodes like this aren’t the best way of going about setting up conflicts.

mahouka52

Mibu’s anti-discrimination faction finally makes their move, and Tatsuya’s relationship with Mibu pays dividends, as negotiations supersede violence, but the forum itself is a snooze-fest, with President Saegusa doing the lion’s share of the debating. There’s a lot of talking about stuff and not much of anything else.

mahouka53

Even Hana-Kana can’t do much with the material she’s given, and all of the characters fall victim to the plot—a Course 2 uprising aided by Blanche and its associated groups. The school erupts into chaos quite suddenly, but we’re too bored by all the discussion to be that affected by it.

mahouka54

I’m frankly rearing for some action after all this blabbing, something this episode frankly didn’t provide. I’m not saying every episode has to be a full-scale magic battle, but throw me a bone here. With the Shiba siblings headed towards the action, it looks like the next episode might wet my whistle.

5_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 04

mahouka41

Tatsuya’s actions in the Kendo Club fracas have already earned him a reputation within the school, and when he meets with Mibu Sayaka, rumors swirl about the two. But Tatsuya is far more interested in other rumors, such as those surrounding an element at Magic High being influenced by Blanche, an anti-magic terrorist organization.

mahouka42

When Mibu clarifies that she wants him to join the coalition of anti-magic clubs being organized, it’s as if he’s being courted by the other side. While Tatsuya himself is a victim of the systemic discrimination that led to the the Blooms and Weeds (which not doubt mirrors a similar rift in society outside school), he remains noncommittal, but will be watching Mibu’s actions closely…as others seem to be observing him (that doctor’s visit was pretty foreboding).

mahouka43

Tatsuya’s immersal into all this thick political soup started with his breaking up of the Kendo club brawl without the use of magic, or at least a type of magic generally used. This has been a pretty talky show from the start, but aside from one brief scene of a failed accosting, Tatsuya essentially walks from room to room having discussions the whole episode.

mahouka44

As a result, the episode on the whole, while attempting to build up intrigue, comes off as a bit of a chore: divulging all this info is necessary for later payoffs, but nothing particularly interesting happened here. During some of these scenes Miyuki demonstrates her fierce loyalty to and affection for her brother, as well as her intense jealousy at the mere mention of him getting friendly with another female, which sets off her “Ice Mode.”

6_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 03

mahouka31

After being swiftly, decisively taken down a couple of pegs by the first-year Course 2 student, all Hattori can do is apologize to Miyuki and walk out quietly, but not before remarking that the tests that determine who’s a bloom and who’s a weed don’t relfect Tatsuya’s skills. In fact, those tests have a tremendous blind spot, where Tatsuya lives and thrives.

mahouka32

The analysis of the fight between the witnesses assembled got into fairly technical territory, but everyone was impressed enough—and the terms were intuitive enough—to conclude that Tatsuya uses magic like no one else they’ve seen, combining it with Kokonoe’s intensive ninjutsu training. As everyone marvels at the ingenuity and resourcefulness, Miyuki merely smiles with pride; she already knows what he’s capable of. (Later, she can’t help but show herself off to Tatsuya, and his auto-heal gambit is a neat twist on the Jealous-Sis Attack.)

mahouka33

After this week, the rest of the school will know too, very soon. Watanabe admits she’s grown weary of the rift between blooms and weeds (and the terms themselves), and sees Tatsuya not possessing the ideal skillset and disposition valuable disciplinary officer, but as a living, breathing, ass-kicking symbol of the fallacy of the current status quo. She puts him to work immediately, patrolling the maelstrom that is club recruitment week.

mahouka34

Tatsuya takes to his new duties like a duck to water, wasting no time swooping in to save Erika from a grabby mob. She inadvertantly rewards him with a peek at her cleavage, but forgives him when he accompanies her to the kendo club. She decries the sport as dull and staged; he posits that they can’t be anything else since true martial arts battles consist of two people killing each other.

mahouka35

And that right there is Tatsuya in a nutshell. The blooms perform flashy “exhibitions geared for publicity” that dazzle bystanders and earn them top marks, fancy badges, and the superiority kick that comes with them. Meanwhile, Tatsuya quietly, calmly works in the shadows, assessing; not showing anyone his hand until it’s too late for them, as it is for the kendo members who try to impede Tatsuya’s duties.

8_mag

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 02

mahouka21

Vice President Hattori is neither grateful nor impressed with Tatsuya’s neat little bit of diplomacy, but Tatsuya earned the gratitude of two other Blooms, as well as the attention of Disciplinary Committee Chairman Watanabe Mari. By the end of this episode, both the positive and negative ramifications would play in his favor.

mahouka22

When President Saegusa Mayumi offers Miyuki a spot on the student council, its another opportunity for Miyuki to demonstrate her fierce and unwavering loyalty to her brother by begging them to somehow bring him aboard too. But they can’t, because he’s a Course 2 student. That’s when Mari comes in, offering him a position on the disciplinary committee. When he hears of this, Hattori bristles, believing a lowly weed would be in over his head.

mahouka22a

One thing I’m enjoying about how consistently the characters’ traits are portrayed; whether it’s Tatsuya’s calmness, Miyuki’s loyalty, Saegusa’s amity, Mari’s open-mindedness…or Hattori’s haughty assholishness. He’s the kind of snobbish creep you love to hate, and while he’s outnumbered this week, he still brings the hate strong and fast, spitting on weeds like Course 2 and glibly accusing Miyuki of nepotism.

mahouka23

Miyuki knows aspects of her bro neither we nor Hattori know, that the established practical tests couldn’t detect (hence his low scores), and which Mari caught a tantalizing glimpse of. So if Miyuki says he’ll win against anyone, she may well be speaking the truth, unclouded by affection. This is confirmed when Hattori is soundly beaten in a simulated battle.

mahouka24

Hattori may be a powerful magician capable of acing the same practical tests where Tatsuya struggled, but in an actual fight, he put himself at a disadvantage by assuming Tatsuya would simply go down exactly as he envisioned in his head, ignorant to his skills. Now Tatsuya will be the first weed with the power to discipline blooms. The times are changing, but I don’t see Hattori and his ilk blithely falling in line.

7_mag