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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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 08

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*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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

 

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 07

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 06

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 05

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 04

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

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