The Irregular at Magic High School: Reminiscence Arc

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.

Last time I was feeling a bit grumpy about the all-consuming black hole that Tatsuya was, removing moments of characterization from others in order to betetr serve the dramatic battle scenes. That’s not an issue with this volume, which flashes back three years to show us Tatsuya and Miyuki in middle school. Sure, there are battles, and endless numbers of dead magician mooks, but the thrust of this book is to show us how Miyuki’s feelings for Tatsuya changed into what they are at present, and also show us their relationship with their mother (who is dead in the present series, I believe) and their aunt (who is very much not dead). It does a good job at the latter, but unfortunately the former doesn’t quite work as well. I get that we’re supposed to see how Miyuki notices what Tatsuya is suffering through every day, and what he’s doing for her sake, but it reads more like “I finally saw him really fight, and he’s so cool!”.

The book is interspersed with moments from just after the last book, with Tatsuya reporting to Maya and being asked to leave school and Miyuki. (He refuses – no surprise there.) The bulk of the book follows Miyuki’s viewpoint, though, as a typical pampered 12-year-old who is mostly pissed off at her brother because she doesn’t understand him. We see Tatsuya fight off a bunch of military brats, hear about him getting injured fighting someone while Miyuki was sleeping, and then see him really break out the whoopass once Miyuki is almost killed. Miyuki is also informed by her mother about the essential lobotomisation that was done to Tatsuya when he was young, and the fact that he has no strong emotions other than “loves Miyuki like a little sister” as a result. Miyuki is understandably horrified, and this is what has led us to our current situation of Tatsuya and Miyuki trying to push back against the Yotsubas as much as they can.

The most interesting part of the book is probably the last short story at the end, which goes back still further to show us Miya and Maya as 12-year-old girls. Sadly, it’s not a happy time when they’re playing cutely together. Maya was kidnapped by (please hold your surprise in) an evil Asian organization, raped, and experimented on for three days. (We thankfully do not see this ourselves, just hear about it.) Maya is broken by this, and the family ask Miya to fix it using her own powers. What follows is what led to the rift between the two sisters, as well as, to a degree, the main plot of the series – my guess is that a lot of the machinations we’ve been seeing are related to Maya’s trauma and her attempts to deal with it. It explains a lot, and makes compelling reading, but, much like the battle Tatsuya gets into as a middle schooler, it’s not particularly fun to read.

Like Tatsuya, I felt a bit emotionally dead after reading this volume. It’s well-written, and I want to see what happens next. The fights are nice provided you don’t mind knowing there’s no way they’re ending in anything but Tatsuya winning handily. But the reason that we stay with the high school and the students within it is to have their emotional center, which Tatsuya lacks – and Miyuki to, to a large degree. Thankfully, the next three books are a big arc that takes place at the school. Till then we have this, which basically says that brother-sister incest is the least of this family’s troubles.

The Irregular at Magic High School: Yokohama Disturbance Arc, Part 2

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.

Last time I mentioned I did not want any more romantic comedy hijinks, and it’s safe to say I got my wish, though that does not necessarily translate into a better book. The focus of this book is the Thesis Competition and the terrorist attack that disrupts it, and I think the entire problem with the book can be summed up by the fact that the competition never finishes after the attack and we never find out who won. It’s irrelevant. That actually pops up pretty frequently in this book, as we see moments that seem like they’re going to lead somewhere or develop a character… except they don’t. They’re there to “look cool” and that’s about it. (Honoka gets hit particularly hard with this.) The exception to this, as always, is Tatsuya. Miyuki seems to long for people to treat her and her brother as normal people rather than superhuman monsters, but it’s getting a tad difficult as the books move on.

As noted above, we start with the Thesis Competition, with our heroes going second to last. Their presentation is awesome, and yet here comes Third High and Cardinal George. But before he can start… explosions, invaders, rampaging monster trucks crashing through the walls. (This may – may – get wrapped up in a book or two with an offhand mention, but I will assume that First High wins. Did Third High even get to present again? “Yeah, look… um, can you just mail it in? We promise we’ll give it equal attention, but everyone’s kind of moved on.”) The rest of the book is taken up with repelling the attack, and, to its credit, it’s only about half “Tatsuya solves everything by dint of superpowerful magic awesomeness.” The rest of it is the rest of the cast contributing in their own little way, from actively killing terrorists with giant swords to using the power of Daddy’s Little Girl to summon helicopters to rescue civilians.

And yes, I said killing. There is a whole lot of bloodshed in this book, as the terrorists (whose identity I will try to keep a secret, in case someone anyone hasn’t guessed) amount to a bunch of cannon fodder. The cast take to it based on their personalities and strengths – Erika and Leo are basically fine with it, some of the others less so. Fortunately, absolutely none of our heroes are hurt all that badly – two of them get mortally wounded, but fortunately Tatsuya pulls out an “I can reverse this” magic that puts them back together again. I tend not to gripe about super overpowered heroes as much as the average light novel fan – I mean, if you’re reading this genre you have to basically accept it – but I admit to rolling my eyes a bit at this. Miyuki helpfully tells us how much pain it causes him, which is all very well and good, but it might have been nice to see that from his point of view, rather than just assume “stoic endurance”.

As the book ends with Tatsuya literally being the trigger of a nuclear magic explosion, one wonders where we’re going to go from here. Not back to the thesis competition, as Book 8 is apparently a prequel taking place three years earlier. In any case, while it is filled with cool battle scenes and the like, I didn’t enjoy this volume quite as much as the previous ones. It’s OK for the other characters to treat Tatsuya like some inhuman God, but don’t let the author do it as well.

The Irregular at Magic High School: Yokohama Disturbance 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.

Having finished the athletic competition between the magic schools, we now get a chance to see the scholarly competition, which is not nearly as popular with the masses but carries just as much prestige for the winners. Naturally, since Tatsuya is a freshman and also in Course 2, he’s not in charge of this; that’s left to Suzune, the former Student Council Secretary and resident tall, dark and handsome girl of the group. Of course, Tatsuya being Tatsuya, he’s asked to join the team as a helper anyway, partly as the previous helper was the girl who got zapped in the athletic festival and therefore can’t use magic anymore, and partly as the alternate choice disagrees with Suzune’s objectives, so why not use Tatsuya, who does agree with them and is also perfect in nearly every way? That said, terrorists are all around them, both as students trying to stop the competition, and as Chinese mafia trying to do the same thing for different reasons.

Honoka and Shizuku are on the cover, but unfortunately have the least amount of face time devoted to them of our main cast. Or perhaps it is fortunate, as the other half of this novel is devoted to taking the various members of Tatsuya’s crew and trying to put them in wacky romantic comedy situations. This works best with Erika and Leo, mostly as the two don’t really have a shred of sexual tension or attraction to each other besides “oh look, attractiveness”, and thus they are allowed to behave fairly normally, leaving aside Erika’s tendency towards rage and Leo’s cluelessness. It works least well with Mikihiko and Mizuki, in a scene that is so blatantly a set up for wacky “whoops, I tried to stop you falling and groped you” antics that I actually winced. (The author implied in the afterword that he added some scenes from the webnovel to set up later stuff better, so I assume these two become an item – they DO seem to have some chemistry, when they aren’t being written badly.) And Mayumi and Miyuki, who I expect are two of the triangle of “Tatsuya partner candidates” in this book (Honoka being the third) get scenes as well. Given I’m not fond of the incest subtext in this series, it’s no surprise who I preferred.

The pats of the book that are a serious action movie with terrorists fare much better. This is what Sato writes best, and there are a lot of cool fight scenes with clever uses of magic – Mayumi and Mari come off particularly well. The Chinese Mafia are there to be goons, with the exception of Zhou, who seems like the sort of “always smiling Chinese villain” I remember from Patlabor. I suspect he’s the only one I have to remember for later books. In any case, as the title implies, this is the first of what the author says is a two-volume arc. I imagine we’ll see the academic competition sabotaged further later on, though whether we’ll get more romantic comedy hijinks is not in my power to guess. (Please no.) If you like thrillers with magic and cool characters, this is right up your alley. As always, if you hated Tatsuya before, you’ll hate him again.