Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 14

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 13

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 12

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 11

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 10

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 09

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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