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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Uchouten Kazoku – 02

Yasaburou, Yashirou, Mother ("Prince"), and Yachirou

After masquerading as Benten to comfort Professor Akadama, Yasaburou hangs out at a pool hall, with her mother, who takes the form of a flamboyant “prince”. He then checks on his brother Yajirou, who is stuck in the form of a frog and lives in the bottom of a well. He goes to the power plant to pick up Yashirou as a storm brews, and the two are cornered by the Ebisugawa twins, but Yachirou rescues them. They then search for their mother, who reverts to a tanuki in storms, finding her under a bridge with the twins’ sister Keisei. Back home, she waxes about how lucky she is to have such nice sons.

Japan knows a few things about adapting to change. For centuries, they stood alone and isolated, either warring among themselves to being ruled by divine emperors. Even today, they still have an emperor from an unbroken line, but like the Queen of England, at the end of the day, he’s a figurehead. It’s a modern democracy now. He’s just not the boss of everyone anymore. It’s the same with the Shimogamos. When the patriarch Soichirou died, his widow and sons weren’t able to carry on his legacy and the united tanuki society he spent his life building fell into disarray. Only the eldest, Yachirou, seems dedicated to keeping the flames burning, but he’s also just a figurehead, and not the most respected one at that. Yachriou probably looks at the lives of his brothers with disdain because they represent a future (or possibly even a present) where Shimogamo is…just another name.

Rather than stubbornly stand against the winds of change, they let the change flow around them and adapted; it’s what raccoons do; tanukis too (probably). Their mother did the same. They still have their abilities and their name and their house and all the honor that entails, but they don’t live and die by that honor anymore; they live for themselves. Yajirou (the frog) believes Yasaburou was their father’s favorite, and it could’ve been for all the same reasons Yachirou believes he is shaming the family name. The Shimogamos may never rule over tanuki society again, but it’s enough to keep looking out for one another and live happy, full lives. Yasaburou and his mom seem to understand this intrinsically, while Yachirou is either unwilling or unable to let go of the past. His mom may be known as the “Prince”, but he’s the one still playing royal House.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Looks like Benten doesn’t have a soft spot after all; it was just Yasaburou pretending to be her. You got us, show!
  • The Ebisugawa twins were thoroughly unpleasant, weren’t they? Kudos to Yachirou for dealing with them.
  • Talk about going off the reservation; by becoming a frog, it’s as if Yajirou is living some kind of pared-down monastic existence as a simpler form of life. No one can say the brothers aren’t a diverse bunch!
  • Apparently, the brothers’ dad was killed and boiled in a hot pot, and Benten may have had something to do with it. Yikes!
  • We got the impression storms make their mother revert to her tanuki form, thus rendering her vulnerable to the same fate as her husband. We may be wrong on that, but it explains why her sons worried about her so much.
  • Those twins may be shits, but their sister – who appears as nothing but a twinkling light, Doonesbury-style, is apparently much nicer.