[Anime Review&Let’s talk] Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Why did this anime divide the anime community?

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When going on MAL or in any comment section regarding MKNR or by its English title, The Irregular at the Magic High School, you’re going to have to face a debate between two groups of people: those that hated it and those that loved it (most of the time, not trying to generalize). I remember that when it was airing back in 2014, the anime community kept talking about it; some referred to it as “one of the best animes as of late”, some others referred to it as “an overrated piece of sh*t”. That usually tends to happen whenever there is a hyped anime, but the “hate” regarding this one in particular was triggered by two main concepts of the anime itself that goes beyond being simply subjective and beyond claiming it as just another “lame story”.

Note: I would like to note that this is simply from my personal experience with the anime and its fanbase. If you did not encounter the same hostility towards it, you might have been one of the lucky people. haha

Episodes: 26
Premiered: Spring 2014
Studios: Madhouse
Source: Light novel
Genres: Magic, Romance, School, Sci-Fi, Supernatural

SynopsisMagic has been recognized and analyzed over the last century. What was once the realm of folklore and tales is now a formalized practice and applied science. And magicians—those capable of using magic to its fullest potential—hold the power to change the world on every conceivable level.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei follows Tatsuya Shiba, a magician who excels at magical combat and technical knowledge, and Miyuki Shiba, his sister and the heir of the Yotsuba family who Tatsuya is assigned to protect, as they begin their first day at a school for magicians known as First High School. However, the school segregates the students based on their entrance exam scores, with the best students (known as “Blooms”) being assigned to First Course and the worst students (known as “Weeds”) being assigned to the Second Course. Due to the exams not accounting for his talents, Tatsuya is placed in the Second Course, making him an irregular student within the magic high school.

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Story

Going back to what I was saying before, I can’t start talking about the story without giving a disclaimer (which is also one of the reasons why this anime had to face so much hostility from the western fanbase): THIS ANIME CONTAINS INCESTUOUS UNDERTONES. If by any chance incest makes you feel uncomfortable and only the mention of the topic makes you turn your nose, then feel free to click on that delightful X button next to this page. If you don’t care or you’re interested regardless, then feel free to keep reading.

So, incest. No, seriously, it was funny whenever I clicked on a new episode that there were at least 10 people complaining about the “over the top” love between the main characters of the story, the Shiba siblings, which made them very uncomfortable. Then there were other people that were in denial and trying to justify it by saying it “This is not incest. They did not have sex. So it’s not incest. It’s just brother/sister complex, you plebs!“. And my question to these people is when does the “sibling complex” end and when does the incest start? There are several moments in the show when the siblings themselves tend to be in denial over it, but it comes to be obvious how the romantic feelings come from one side more than it does from the other, to the point that by the end of the show, it becomes something canon and undeniable anymore.

SPOILER (lighten up the following writing with your mouse if you want to read): In the anime, it’s obviously Miyuki that has feelings of love for him confirmed by her trying to kiss him in his sleep. In the light novel she confessed around volume 16 and it’s stated that Onii-sama, on the other hand, does not love his little sister the same that she does, but she is the only one that matters for him for another spoiler-reason that I won’t mention, so he is going to try to look at her as a woman in the future.

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That to a side, I was impressed with the thought that the author put into the world of Mahouka. There seems to be a particular logic and theories behind the spells, which was a very interesting touch. Not original, since magic as a science was a recurring theme already from 2 centuries ago, but it’s nice when you don’t get the feeling of magic literally falling down the sky just “because, you need to believe it“, save for deux ex machina “Onii-sama”.  I suck at physics, but I felt like my questions were answered for the most part…safe for deux ex machina “Onii-sama”. Yeah I’ll get there eventually. lol

My problems with this series started kicking in because of the execution. It’s quite rushed on certain aspects and there are a lot of things left to assuming, there don’t seem to be much adult-support in this show safe for the second half, but by that time the “kids” were looked at like some type of elite fighters so who even cares anymore, the main characters’ background story wasn’t even covered in the end and a lot of things were left out overall. Whole volumes of the original source material were left out and it’s seriously noticeable when it happens. The ending is also something like “screw you, go read the light novel now. goodbye“. I can’t say I was very glad, seeing how interested I was during the first half. The discrimination between Blooms and Weeds felt left out a lot during the second half too which makes me question what point did the first part have.

And no, I did not care about the incest, I actually liked it and praised the guts of the author. :3

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Characters

Bow to Shiba Tatsuya, God of everything, part almighty Jesus and part demon of destruction Mahesvara ! I offer my whole soul to you, oh Divine One!

And no no, I’m not exaggerating. Tatsuya, or how I fondly kept calling him for the whole show, Onii-chan, is the second problem that anime fans outraged at. Onii-chan is an overpowered deadpan character with a serious inferiority complex. And yes, I’m still not kidding. Do you have in mind all those shonen heroes that actually have to struggle to reach their goals and win their fights and go through a personal character growth as well, as they realize their true potential? Good. Now scrap that from your mind, you’ve came in the wrong place. However, from my point of view, this anime manages to do it good. The Asterisk War comes to mind right now, by the way of overpowered main characters, but I feel like it’s an atrocity even comparing Ayato with Onii-chan. It feels almost like comparing those cheap supermarket instant puddings with crème caramel.

The main issue when it comes to overpowered-from-the beginning main characters is that one can’t help but ponder: But if the main character is already strong, then what is he trying to achieve? What is his drive? Isn’t it boring to see a character solve any conflict with a finger snap

Yes and No. That depends of what you’re seeking and what you like. Personally, I grew tired of weak, average main characters that have no idea on what planet they are and they just, one day, wake up and decide to travel the world and collect cute girls and new allies as they get stronger. When Naruto won a fight, I was excited for the first few, but then my excitement died when I saw that whatever was in his path, he kept winning. Sure, it’s nice when he doesn’t actually win once or twice, but in the end, he’s the main character. As main character he has to come out victorious.  Onii-chan just got rid of all of that and instead he became a person that doesn’t exactly want to stay in the spotlight, but in the background as an engineer, as the other people fight on the front lines. He’s discriminated against because his magic is unconventional, but from his engineer knowledge and martial arts training he is better than most conventional magicians. His natural unique ability also makes him reach Godly power by the end of the show, almost like he became a deus-ex machina himself, but still he is not able to become anything but a monster to the eyes of others. This aspect, however, is really left out in the end which was a real shame.

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Here comes another main complaint and at the same time, praise, that I have about this show. Ichijo Masaki, or how I fondly called him through all the show, Suzaku (come on, he’s a freakin Suzaku from Code Geass rip-off! XD Don’t even try to tell me otherwise!). I thought that the little threat that Onii-chan could get would be this guy, however the anime chose to make me feel denied. “Suzaku”‘s only point was to act as a stereotypical villain for the first part of the show, only for him to SPOILER get a boner for Onii-chan’s sister and lastly, to make us feel sorry for him, but overall what we get was way too little to be able to feel sorry for a character that only turned towards the screen and bluntly told us “feel sorry for me“. That’s literally how I felt. And I’m sad! Because I really, really, REALLY came to like this guy! I was SO excited that he wasn’t just a stereotypical villain through to the end, that I felt like kissing the screen. I also shipped him SPOILER with the little sister at one point!

The rest of the cast is quite forgettable unfortunately, maybe excepting Miki and his Ancient Magic. He was able to provide an interesting ability and his shy, quiet behavior was very charming; he couldn’t exactly come out from the “background guy” trope though. I can’t really say that I am able to point at any other character and say that I’ll remember them for a long time, however I’m sure that if the anime didn’t leave that much of it out and didn’t try to rush so much, I would probably be able to take what I said back to a certain extent. Maybe the light novel will enlighten my doubts eventually.

Animation&OST

When it comes to Madhouse it’s hard to not enjoy their animation, though I still remember Moryou no Hako with dread. Mahouka can be praised for some of its battles animations together with an involving techno music. However, I’ve heard quite a lot of oriental and western influences in the OST which actually surprised me a lot. I don’t think that it fit some parts of the anime a lot, but I was still impressed for the inclusion of French and, I think, Hindi.

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Conclusion

I’m almost surprised to say that I actually liked this show and thought it was alright. Despite the faults of the anime, it was the first time in a long time that I was able to finish 26 episodes in such a short while and if it made me get interested in the original source material then I can say it reached its goal.

I also might be one of those rare people that spoke up and claimed to be actually neutral in the debates about it. I can’t say that it’s the best anime ever and I can’t say that it’s the worst either. I liked the incest, I liked the main character, it was THE REST that bothered me, but I still do not dislike it. I won’t definitely pre-order the latest volumes when they come out and I definitely won’t watch the upcoming anime movie of it right after it comes out. I might even end up forgetting about it in the near future. But talk to you more about it when I’ll feel that I’ve reached a point in the novel to be able to make an opinion on whether the story is better executed than in the anime.

What do you think? Does incest used in fiction bother you? Do you prefer bro/sis complexes instead? Or do you find it weird no matter what? Would you be able to like a show centered around a character that you know will eventually be able to overcome every or most obstacles from the start?Please let me know down there in the comments! Have a nice day! 

 

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3 thoughts on “[Anime Review&Let’s talk] Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Why did this anime divide the anime community?

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