The Irregular at Magic High School: Steeplechase Arc

By Tsutomu Sato and Kana Ishida. Released in Japan as “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Prowse.

When you’re doing a series set in high school, and it actually moves forward in time, it can be hard to find new material for the same thing you’ve seen before. Last time on Irregular at Magic High School we saw everyone searching for new club members – again – and this time we get the second time around for their equivalent of the athletic festival, the Nine Schools Competition. So, naturally, the author decides to have things changed around at the last minute, in order to better serve the plot. Three events are different, much to Azusa’s horror, as it means they have to do a lot of last-minute planning. Why the last-minute changes? Well, it’s all part of a powerplay involving the military, the parasites from previous books, an some Chinese defectors – who we don’t actually meet in this book, but I’ve no doubt will appear soon. Not that the schools know this. Fortunately, First High has Tatsuya, who can do anything.

That said, even Tatsuya is having trouble keeping up. In addition to ferreting out the saboteurs who plan to put parasite-infected androids in the steeplechase course to maim magic students – rather cruelly, we’re told it’s OK to ruin the student’s lives and magic career as long as they aren’t killed – but he also has to do prep for all the students competing in the various events this year. At least he’s not IN the events, but it’s so exhausting that he barely even notices his sister having a mental meltdown one night and “warming his body” with her own. Fortunately for my sanity, this low point is followed by the book’s high point, as Tatsuya is about to go out and invade the Steeplechase course to take out the androids before the events, and Miyuki correctly notes that he’s about to fall over exhausted, and why does he have to do absolutely everything all the time? Miyuki works so much better as a caring little sister than as a thirsty one.

As for the rest of the book, it’s Mahouka-by-numbers, but in a series like this that’s not a bad thin. There’s lots of intrigue, and we get to see various characters show off how talented they are, including Ayako and Fumiya, who are on the cover, making this the second cover in a row starring twins. We’ve met these two before, but here they show off that they too can clean up at the competition, taking events for Fourth High and generally showing off. I also like Minami, who gets to use her all-powerful barrier, though finds that it can be a drawback when the enemy runs away and the cops show up to question her. Minami has absolutely had it with the incestual subtext, and I completely agree. And I was also amused by one event where Subaru pronounces that she will defeat Honoka and ensure that it’s not just “everyone who has Tatsuya as their engineer wins”, but forgets which series she’s in – one word of encouragement from Tatsuya and Honoka cleans up. Yes, it IS everyone who has Tatsuya wins. Please bow to him.

The usual irritations aside, this was a pretty decent Mahouka. Next up is apparently a two-part arc, which will no doubt continue to deal with China or its equivalent in this world. Worth picking up if you like really powerful stoic heroes.

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