Image from nocookie.net

The Irregular at Magic High School

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.

Image from nocookie.net

The Cast of the show and Tatsuya’s main group of friends. (Weeds to the left, Blooms to the right) From left to right: (Mikihiko Yoshida) (Mizuki Shibata) (Leonhard Saijo) (Erika Chiba) (Tatsuya Shiba) (Miyuki Shiba) (Honoka Mitsui) (Shizuku Kitayama) Image from nocookie.net

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.

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The Locations of the 9 High schools Affiliated with the Magic University. This map is apparently from the Manga as they do not really elaborate on the school’s locations in the anime. Image from nocookie.net

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)

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First Course Students (Blooms) wear the school’s crest on the shoulder of their uniform, while the Second Course Students (Weeds) wear a field of gray. Image from pinimg.com

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.

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Tatsuya being greeted by two Second Course upperclassmen after being forced to join the disciplinary committee. While initially skeptical of a “Weed” being allowed to join they immediately change their mind when the head of the disciplinary committee relates Tatsuya’s amazing ability to them. Image from littlecloudcuriosity.wordpress.com

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.

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Leonhard Saijo using the spell “Reinforcement” to prevent himself from being injured in a fight with terrorists while also effectively increasing the severity of damage his attack does. Image from mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com

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.

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Mikihiko Yoshida using the spell Thunder Child while competing in the 9 Schools Competition event Monolith Code. Image from mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com

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.

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Student Council President Mayumi Saegusa giving a speech during a debate about discrimination at the school. She expresses her desire to do away with a rule that says Second-Course students cannot serve on the Student Council. Image from formeinfullbloom.wordpress.com

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.

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Ichijou Masaki covered in fake blood after target practice. Masaki uses the Dispersal Type spell “Rupture” to cause his enemies to explode from the inside out. He learned this in 2092 when despite being 13 years old, he volunteered with the armed forces to repel an attempt by the New Soviet Union to invade Sado. This garnered him the title “Crimson Prince”. Image from pinimg.com

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.

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Miyuki might have a serious bro-con and Tatsuya is too dense to notice it.

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!!

A Certain Scientific Railgun

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Well thank god the election season is over, now we can focus on the real issues. Like how can a city that is 80% students run normally when they have students with esper powers running amok on a daily basis? I mean what is the police force Anti-Skill doing? It seems like they let the student run investigative force Judgement do all of the legwork which makes things worse. And I know this is s scientifically advanced city designed to study these espers and rank them with numbers 1-5 but what is up with all of those shady experiments? I mean damn, every couple of weeks it’s either a rogue AIM Beast or a sadistic mad scientist in a Power Suit. Is there ever a normal day in Academy City?

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I guess that’s what we would be saying if any of that were real, it’s really just the
plot of A Certain Magical Railgun. It’s the story of Esper and Middle School Student Misaka Mikoto as she and her friends go about their day-to-day lives being dragged into the dark mysteries of Academy City. It’s a city decades ahead of the rest of the world in terms of technological advancement where 80% of the population are students attending the academies and schools about the city. Many of these students are Espers, people with special abilities that allow them to control different aspects of matter and physics. All of the student’s powers are ranked from 1 being the weakest to 5 being the best of the best. Misaka is the 3rd strongest Esper of only 7 Level 5 Espers in the city. Her Powers to manipulate electrical current and magnetism earned her the designation “Railgun”.

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With her title of Railgun though she attracts a lot of friends and despite her refusal to join the student-run security force “Judgement” she also attracts a lot of trouble. Being able to turn a coin into a high-powered projectile using electro-magnetism can’t solve all of life’s problems and Misaka quickly finds her unwitting role in the dark side of the cities experiments.

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Her hot temper doesn’t help her much nor does her obsession with beating Toma Kamijo.

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Luckily she isn’t alone, she has friends of all esper powers. There is, of course, her roommate Kuroko.

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Kuroko along with being a member of Judgement is also a Level 4 esper, her power is teleportation. She is powerful enough to travel by teleporting herself from place to place within her line of sight or in a combat situation she can use her ability to turn objects into weapons and projectiles. She also happens to be an aggressive sexual deviant in love with Misaka. XD

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Speaking of sexual deviancy there is also their friend Ruiko Saten. She may be a Level 0, or a student who exhibits no power whatsoever but she helps Misaka out a lot. Well, that is when she isn’t flipping Uiharu’s skirt to see what color her panties are and gossiping about the cities urban legends.

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And who could forget sweet Uiharu? A fellow member of Judgement and Level 1 esper, Uiharu is soft-spoken and often a pushover. She carries a huge amount of responsibility though and helps out more with her computer skills than her “Thermal Hand” ability that she is too embarrassed to share with her friends.

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In stories like this with a mix of comedy and action, of course, you must have the teenage boy who the main character likes. Or doesn’t like? Or is just friends with?

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Toma is a wild card, he doesn’t appear a lot but when he does he and Mikasa fight, which enrages Misaka. Toma is recorded as Level 0 but he does have a power in his right hand that nullifies other abilities. Love burns hottest in the sparks of battle and what is sometimes a rivalry between these two is other times a partnership or even a date.

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Now what I like most about this anime is how diverse it is. It’s technically Shojo but is has so many elements of Shonen all audiences can enjoy it. There are elements of action and comedy that delightfully intertwine, but some episodes take on the feel of the Slice-Of-Life Genre of Anime. It’s a good feel really and gives the whole show and its characters almost real life human feel despite all the electrical shocks and people appearing and disappearing in an instant. All in all, it is a top-notch anime with 2 seasons covering 4 very compelling story arcs.

You can buy both seasons here directly from Funimation

Season 1

Season 2

Don’t be shocked when you love it. 😉

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