Don’t let the title fool you, this show is full of things you will not expect. Take Tatsuya Shiba and Miyuki Shiba. On the surface, they look like normal students attending the prestigious First High School Affiliated with The Magic University, the younger sister a First-Course honor student or “Bloom” and the older brother a Second-Course remedial student or “Weed” with inferior magic ability. In reality, the younger sister is heir to the Yotsuba’s, A family that is part of the 10 Master Clans of Magic in Japan. And the older brother is a disgraced member of the family tasked with acting as his younger sisters bodyguard because of his unparalleled skill with magic, though his powers have been limited by a seal. Scratch the surface and there is a lot going on under it all. That is what I find most appealing about this anime that exceeds all expectations for the discerning anime connoisseur.
The show takes place in the year 2095. After a 3rd world war that altered not only the world’s political climate but the climate of the planet as well, many things have changed. The first is that as a result of wars sparked by the chaos of diminishing food supplies in the 2040’s the world’s countries have consolidated into 12 distinct nations, among them the USNA, the Federal Soviet Republic, and The Great Asian Alliance, with nations like Japan and Australia being the only recognizable countries. The second is that Magicians and Magic have become the greatest asset in warfare since the implementation of tanks, they are more lethal than any bomb or missile and more effective than commandos. This has led nations to encourage the study of magic as a science and to cultivate young magicians as valuable military assets.
In Japan, magicians are identified and trained at 9 High Schools across the nation affiliated with the Magic University. Here young men and women who are so carefree and innocent are trained as weapons, barely aware of the fate of both glory and tragedy that awaits them. In this setting, we find Tatsuya Shiba and his sister Miyuki. Despite on the surface being a remedial student with mediocre magical ability, Tatsuya is, in reality, an extremely talented magic engineer who is employed by the JSDF in addition to his job at a well-renowned company that produces magic equipment. (CAD’s)
Despite his skills, however, he falls victim to the systematic discrimination of First-Course students towards their Second-Course peers. He also faces troubles at home as he is a disgraced member of the Yotsuba Clan. Not only is his power sealed as punishment, he is forbidden to garner praise or attention from the rest of the Magic Community. With the support of his sister and friends as well as some more intuitive First-Course upperclassmen, though, Tatsuya achieves the admiration of his peers and elders while shattering the stagnant status quo.
So first off what I really love about this anime series is how they approach the concept of magic. Rather than the mushy gushy “wave a wand and anything is possible” bullshit, the magic of this world is a science. Just like in science there are things you can’t do with magic (for example sustained flight magic was impossible until Tatsuya solves the problems surrounding that magic concept), and unsolved problems (like the Cardinal Codes referred to on and off starting in the second story arc.) making this vision of magic very real and believable. Even the explanations behind the magic are scientific in nature. One example, Tatsuya’s friend Leonhard Saijo uses Convergent Systematic Reinforcement type Magic, a type of magic that reinforces the position of one physical object in relation to another allowing the user to do things like fortifying the integrity of an object by fixing the molecules in place or fixing the position of one object to another effectively binding the two objects till the caster releases the spell.
There are also Ancient Magic Types that are stylized in the Shinto Tradition. These are used by Tatsuya’s friend Mikihiko Yoshida. In fact, I think he is the only one in the show who uses this style. I nonetheless enjoy it since I myself am Shinto (Not that I think there is any actual practice of what would be termed magic in actual Shinto.) so it excites me the way I imagine a Catholic would be excited to see a stylized rendition of an exorcism on TV. It adds to the cultural context of the show and is pretty cool to watch, my favorite spells are his Thunder based attacks which use Talismans as a point to concentrate electrons and then disperse them in the form of a Thunderbolt.
So Magic Aside this show also tackles some pretty mature themes in a mature way. Take for example discrimination. A theme from the first story arc was the frustration of the Second-Course students over the First-Course student’s preferential treatment. Some Second-Course students choose to complain about it, ignoring the empathy of the few progressive first-course students who agreed with them. Tatsuya and his friends overcame this all though by demonstrating merit rather than complaining, this is a lesson that translates to real life.
The series also deals with the role of soldiers as objects. Throughout the series, they break from the lighthearted theme and remind the viewer that these teenagers are being prepared as weapons, and some like Tatsuya and Third High’s Ichijou Masaki have already seen combat and have killed. To spare his sister from this fate Tatsuya’s goal is to solve the technical issues behind using Gravity Control Type Magic to create a sustained nuclear fusion reactor. Despite all of this it is very clear to the viewers that war has already started and that their fate as weapons is all but guaranteed. There are also a few underlying references to Genetic Experiments, Tatsuya not being able to feel emotions because of an experiment, Human Trafficking, and Using Body Parts of Magicians in experiments that really drive home the idea that many people view the magicians as an asset without taking into account that they are human.
It isn’t all high-tech magic, mature themes and war though. The show has a real Slice of Life aspect to it as Tatsuya and his friends go about a relatively normal High School life. There are also parts of the plot that monopolize awkward teen hormones and the social dynamic of high school to provide comic relief. Some examples are the obvious attraction between Mikihiko and Mizuki that causes them to be very awkward and clumsy around each other or the rivalry/friendship between Leonhard and Erika that also sometimes really feels like there is an element of attraction between the two. The funniest joke is the impression that Tatsuya and Mizuki give to others that their love may be more than just that between a brother and a sister. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be the case since Tatsuya doesn’t really have emotions. I dunno about Miyuki though, it’s hard to tell what she is really thinking about her brother.
There is currently one 26 episode season of The Irregular at Magic High School out right now. There is also a movie due to come out in Japan on July 17th, entitled “The Irregular at Magic High School: The Girl Who Calls The Stars.” It is unclear however when or if a second season of the show will come out. There is plenty of material for them work off of but as always in the anime industry, the decision to renew or a continue a project is determined by ratings and popularity. Let’s keep out fingers crossed though, this is an exceptional anime that is very smart with a story I feel is worth telling. I would love to see more and I am sure you will too. Enjoy the show guys!!