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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.