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The ladies’ success also motivates Hanzou Morisaki, who still wants to prove blooms are superior to weeds; a seemingly outdated position to be dusting off at this juncture…until you realize the girls Tatsuya is helping are all blooms.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

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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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