The Irregular at Magic High School: Enrollment Arc, Part 1

By Tsutomu Sato and Kana Ishida. Released in Japan as “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

Sometimes, when I review a new series, I come into it relatively unspoiled beyond a basic premise. And then there are times where the series is somewhat infamous, and so I’m spoiled no matter what I do. The Irregular at Magic High School, aka Mahouka, is one of the latter. It’s become somewhat infamous on the internet for its immense volume of technobabble, for its bizarre and skewed views of world politics, but most of all for its hero, who tends to get even more flak than Kirito for being perfect in every way. The term “Mary Sue” has been used to incorrectly in recent times that it’s become meaningless, and “Gary Stu” was never really anything more than a desperate attempt to try to not look sexist. That said, one has to admit: Tatsuya’s pretty cool.

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The basic premise is that our hero and his adoring sister (more on that later) go to a school for magic users. Miyuki is a magic prodigy. Tatsuya, while brilliant in every other way, does not have much in the way of actual magic power in him. As a result, which she’s handpicked for the student council and the freshman representative, he’s placed in Course 2 with the other students who have skills but not actual power behind them. And, this being a typical high school with typical teenagers, that means there’s a lot of bullying and prejudice against Course 2 students. Tatsuya, though, is not going to let a little thing like magic power stop him from using his analytic abilities and natural-born intelligence to be the best. Oh, and his martial arts. So he’s scouted by the discipline committee in order to help keep peace on the campus.

Tatsuya, thank goodness, is not your typical schlub light novel narrator. He’s somewhat stoic and emotionally stunted, and frequently has difficulty grasping the basic concept of people actually wanting to be friends with him – I suspect his past is filled with bad things. We already know he’s estranged from his parents. Luckily, he has a close relationship with his sister – too close, possibly, for many readers. There is a whole load of incestuous subtext in this first book, and it’s not all on Miyuki’s end, though she’s the largest supplier. This plot point, plus the fact that Tatsuya sometimes bends the narrative his way like he’s the star of a Dark!Grey!Independent Harry Potter fic, means the book can be hard to take. Oh, and the technobabble is just as bad as people said it would be.

There are some bright spots. Tatsuya’s narration can be quite amusing, and helps to define his character in much the same way that Kyon’s defines his – I wonder how much of his inner monologue was left in the anime. Mayumi, meanwhile, is a delight – my favorite character so far, a classic student council president type who knows she’s that type and plays it to the hilt. Tatsuya’s frank description of her as “evil” is hilarious but not inaccurate. In general, though, I think this series is one for those with a high tolerance for heroes who can do everything without breaking a sweat, and who don’t mind that the younger sister has an obvious crush on her brother. Yes, that does sound a bit like Sword Art Online as well, but multiply both of those factors by two in this case.

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