The Irregular at Magic High School: Nine School Competition 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. Translated by Andrew Prowse.

I had mentioned in my Manga the Week of post that I was very amused at the coincidence that this third volume released only one month after the 9th volume of A Certain Magical Index, which is *also* the first of a two-book arc featuring a sports competition between various schools disrupted by a terrorist attack. (As it happens, they even have the same translator, who must have wondered what god he offended to get these assignments right in a row.) That said, thankfully the books take slightly different tacks. Index is fully concerned with the terrorist attack, and the competition games take something of a back seat. This first volume of Mahouka’s new arc is almost all about the games themselves, with the terrorist attacks only starting to come up near the end. And while Touma may be Index’s star, he rarely completely overpowers the storylines. The same can’t be said for Tatsuya, who is, as ever, the most awesome man to ever awesome.

I say this with affection, of course. I enjoy this series, and frankly if you’re still reading this series and don’t enjoy what they’re doing with Tatsuya after the first two volumes, what the heck is wrong with you? It’s actually helped by how ridiculous it gets – you can’t help but laugh at his discomfort as Azusa gushes about her love of the mysterious student engineer Taurus Silver, and Tatsuya does everything but rub the back of his head and laugh uncomfortably. Not that he would ever do that, as we do get a bit more backstory as to exactly what’s wrong with his basic personality. It’s apparently by family design, and he literally can’t feel emotional extremes. Which is handy if you want to keep your lead male from the standard harem series ‘whoops I walked in on the girls changing’ stuff, but can be a bit off-putting as well, because it’s hard to get a read on Tatsuya even when we are getting his inner thoughts.

We get a new member of his inner circle this volume as well. Mikihiko is a magician whose abilities are sort of being suppressed by a magic accident right now, and so he’s lumped in Course 2 with the rest of the “bad magic students”. Of course, like every other Course 2 student in Tatsuya’s inner circle, Mikihiko actually has brilliant magical control of spirits and will no doubt shine when the story call for it; his issue seems to be more self-doubt and angst. It’s not just him, either; many of the upperclassmen competing in the games feel a bit underpowered compared to our amazing lead, and those feelings don’t just go away. (The women, of course, have no such issues, and clean up in every event – or would, if not given a game-breaking injury by said terrorists.) Magic School is tough, and everyone is having difficulties working under the pressure.

This being the first of a two-book arc (though like the last arc, it seems to stop rather than come to a cliffhanger – did the author write one huge book that had to be cut in half AGAIN?), there’s lots of plot threads introduced that I’m sure will pay off in the second book, including Chinese mafia and a student from a rival school who seems to have fallen for Tatsuya’s sister Miyuki at first sight (boy, is he in for crushing disappointment) .So in the end, there are only two big flaws to this otherwise highly entertaining series. The first is the magical discussion, which goes on and on as if it’s trying to be a textbook as much as a novel. And the second is Tatsuya, who the reader needs to accept really is just that awesome, or they will hate this. I’ve accepted it. Viva Tatsuya!

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