Overpowered heroes and a wonderful world make for a mixed experience

The Irregular at Magic High School Episodes 1 – 13 Review

IMHSHeader
(From left to right) Mikihiko Yoshida, Mizuki Shibata, Leonhart Saijou, Erika Chiba, Tatsuya Shiba and Miyuki Shiba

Entering high school and already being labelled as a certain sort of person can suck. And in many ways, that was the majority of the basis behind the first 13 episodes of The Irregular at Magic High School.

One of the most hyped up series of 2014, The Irregular at Magic High School follows siblings Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba as they enter into their first year in high school in the year 2095. And while it does manage to put together an engaging series, the first 13 episodes do not live up to the hype that they’ve been presented with.

 

The Good

Gorgeous Animation:

Studio Madhouse hit it out of the park in the animation department this season. Animating both this and No Game No Life, they managed to keep up a high quality throughout. With sequences like the burst of speed shown above, as well as most of the other action sequences, they push their skills to the extreme. Everything in these scenes is crisp, clear and easy to follow.

That also occurs for the day-to-day events as well. The animation remains crisp and clear throughout. From the movement of the girls’ dresses, to the facial expressions and environments, everything is gorgeous and falls together wonderfully.

They have shown that they are well past the unimpressive animation that plagued Magical Warfare. Instead, they’ve bumped themselves up to one of the best looking animation studios this year.

Some of the gorgeous animation that Madhouse put together.
The sense of speed is absolutely visual here. No popping in and out, but a fully animated movement. Just some of the gorgeous animation that Madhouse put together.

 

Top-notch Sound Design:

The music and audio work in The Irregular at Magic High School is another huge plus. With a very sci-fi audio style to fit in with the 2095 world, it helps to set the mood while also giving some life to the environments.

The magic activation and usage is especially impressive. With each device and spell having audio clues, as well as ones tied to each character, it is an impressive collection of sound work done for the show.

And the music that is used, scene by scene, while not on the level of my favourite composers, is well beyond what I expected. Each track manages to boost the scenes and none feel overly repetitive, or annoying.

Finally, there’re the openings and endings. With Lisa once again providing Aniplex with an outstanding opening theme, in this case Rising Hope, the anime starts off strong each and every time. However, and I loathe to say this, I did not find Elisa’s Millenario to be as strong a piece as she usually gives (her endings for Valvrave were unbelievably good).

But that doesn’t change the fact that the track is still well produced and works well. It doesn’t hamper the rest of the audio work either, and so everything still comes together wonderfully to make the audio one of the standouts for The Irregular at Magic High School.

 

Exciting story arcs: 

The overall story arcs that the majority of the first 13 episodes follow; as well as the start of the next, are really engaging. While the first arc focuses heavily on introducing viewers to the world, as well as the concept of Blooms and Weeds (those who excel at magic, and those who struggle, respectively), it also manages to provide plentiful buildup towards an exciting finale.

Then we delve into the first six episodes of the second arc: the Nine Schools Competition (NSC). With obvious inspiration from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the NSC manages to be different enough that it doesn’t feel like a pure rehash. Plus, with a variety of events to showcase, and the possible threat of a terrorist organization on the move, it starts off very well.

It also introduces a few of my favourite characters to the series, but that’s not what really shines here. Instead, this arc manages to showcase a lot of the other major players in the series, and make them stand out other than just being ‘not Tatsuya.’

 

The Mixed

World building to the extreme:

If there is only one thing that this series did right (and don’t worry, there’s more), then it was the world building. Taking place in a world where magic has been accepted as a science, and World War 3 has been over for nearly 30 years. And this is just the world building done in the opening of the first episode.

Moving onward into the main story arcs, the world building continues with more organizations, rules and ideas being introduced at a steady pace. It never feels overwhelming, but there’s enough there that the differences in this earth are easy to notice and, in many ways understand.

However, not everything is as wonderful as it first seems. In many cases, concepts surrounding the magic are difficult to understand, as there is no explanation past a base description. Also, sometimes some of the ideas present in this world, mostly in regards to the ten major magical families, never get fleshed out in much detail.

 

Side Characters:

The side characters in The Irregular at Magic High School really make this show pop. While they, sadly, do not have much character development, the range of personalities present in these first 13 episodes really makes them stand out as memorable.

From the alluring and mischievous student council president, Mayumi, to the socially awkward Mikihiko, the side characters manage to be more engaging than the two leads that we follow.

However, that in and of itself can be a mildly negative fact. We watch these series just as much for the trials of the leads as we do the side characters. The fact that they stand out above the leads is not a great thing to brag about.

 

Tatsuya the OP Badass:

Normally this sort of lead character doesn’t bother me. I am a Sword Art Online fan after all. However, in the case of The Irregular at Magic High School, the way he’s portrayed really does bother me. More so, because of the same flaws that plagues Jon Snow’s portrayal in Game of Thrones. Most of his personality is reflected in his thoughts. This makes Tatsuya’s personality clearer in the novels due to his thoughts being present. An almost emotionless sentinel is not something that easily works in a visual format.

And while they do try to show the reason that he is a ‘Weed,’ they never really manage to make it as convincing as the novels. The few scenes that they use to try and play this up (important scenes within the source material), just do not have the same impact without some of the exposition that went along with them. Scenes of exposition that added to the readers understanding have been, understandably, cut out of the anime so that they could cover more material. However, this makes Tatsuya seem completely overpowered (which, there is no doubt that he is), and without any humanizing elements.

If there is one bright light to look at in the anime’s portrayal, it’s the fact that Tatsuya’s talent, true talent, relies on his scientific mind, which is far too often not something that male protagonists are known for. It’s refreshing to see, and to see get a fair amount of focus, but when he’s so excellent at everything else under the sun, it gets overshadowed frequently.

Overall, he could be portrayed a lot better, the biting wit that permeates his thoughts in the light novels is sorely missing, but for now he’s stuck as a mixed reaction. Hopefully the second half of the series picks things up.

The above video showcases Tatsuya taking down the, previously, undefeated second-year student council vice president. This occurs in the second episode, already showing off the protagonist’s overpowered nature.

The Bad

 

Too much incest:

Now this is where the most controversial part of the show comes up. There is a lot of implied incest between Tatsuya and his younger sister Miyuki. In these cases it is mostly on Miyuki’s side, as she tends to blush and act embarrassed more than any younger sister feasibly should with the attention that her brother gives her. She also makes some extreme hints about her desire for him to see her as more than just his sister. This is primarily a provocative scene where she is garbed in nothing more than her underwear so he can maintenance her magic casting device (CAD).

As I said, it is mostly on Miyuki here, but there are moments where Tatsuya’s actions do scream similar affection. Like I mentioned when discussing him, a lot of this, in the anime at least, stems from a lack of acquiring Tatsuya’s thoughts (as he rarely ever speaks for long). However, there is a lot implied on his end as well and it can be uncomfortable to watch.

 

Final Thoughts

The Irregular at Magic High School is not the greatest anime series ever made, nor is it one of the greatest to launch this year. What it is, is an engaging take on a sci-fi world where magic rules. In many ways it’s a contradiction, but one that works well in the case of this series.

In many ways, it is hard to make a full on recommendation for the first 13 episodes due to some major flaws. However, with the increase in tension and quality that comes from the second half, I do say that it is best to proceed with caution.

The implied incest, and relatively bland and uninteresting leads, can be a turn off for many. But if the world, and any of the side characters, manage to grab your attention then I say go for it. It gets better as it continues.

Final Thought:

Proceed with Caution

 

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