Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Irregular at Magic High School
Novel 5 - Summer Vacation Arc +1
After the Nine Schools' Competition, the students of the various magic high schools are off for a well-earned summer vacation. Morisaki goes for a walk with surprising results, Tatsuya and Miyuki join their friends for a beach trip and later go shopping by themselves, and Eimi has a frightening encounter at a theme park. Then once school starts again, it's time for Mayumi to choose her successor – why are people so convinced it should be Tatsuya?
Chronologically speaking, this fifth novel in The Irregular at Magic High School franchise fits in-between the second and third arcs of the anime – after the Nine Schools Competition and before the Yokohama Disturbance. Skipping over it in terms of anime continuity didn't really damage the story all that much, but it is a nice break for book readers, giving us not only a rest from the action, but also a chance to get to know a few of the side characters a little better.
That makes the stories that don't involve Tatsuya and Miyuki the most interesting, if only because they're the focus of the main plotline. On that front, the stories about Morisaki and the two Third High freshmen, George and Masaki, are probably the best. The George and Masaki story feels especially strong in terms of rounding out the characters – although we got some time with them during the previous two-volume story arc, this thirty-page story gives us a much better grasp of both their relationship and who they are as people. Given that they were presented as First High's chief rivals in the previous plotline, this opportunity to see them as regular people with their own worries is a welcome one. George especially benefits from the story, as it fills in the gaps in his past that makes him both Masaki's friend but also his strongest adherent: although he likes Masaki as a person and is fond of his family (even if he isn't sure he wants to marry little sister Akane), he also feels that he owes them his life, which puts a self-imposed strain on the relationship. It's a little sad, but also an interesting parallel to Miyuki and Tatsuya – in the first story, wherein the Shiba siblings go to a private beach house with a few of their first-year friends, Miyuki tells Shizuku that she literally owes her brother her life, which is why she's so attached to him. Although George isn't as demonstrative towards Masaki as Miyuki is towards Tatsuya, it feels like there may be similar emotions at play.
Morisaki's story, the second in the volume, may be the one with the largest repercussions for the main plotline. In it we get more of his background as well – his family are primarily bodyguards, a position he expects to fill as well. Therefore, when out strolling around he spots a girl in trouble, Morisaki immediately springs into action, ultimately offering to escort her to where she's being met. The story itself is relatively by-the-numbers apart from the girl's steadfast refusal to find Morisaki romantic (a staple in this sort of tale), but the reveal at the end could become a very important one, providing Morisaki with a link to someone who could influence plot events going forward.
The book is, overall, largely devoid of Sato's trademark technobabble, which makes the stories easier to read than the main books in the series. The Miyuki and Tatsuya stories suffer from it the most, but for the greater part of the book, it really isn't an issue. Sato does, however, continue to overwrite his descriptions to the point where entire passages feel repetitive and useless, something not helped by his apparent fondness for parentheticals. While I love a good parenthetical aside myself, Sato overdoes it, putting in needless explanations, definitions, and on occasion punctuation: (?). This is definitely a writer who could benefit from a “less is more” approach, or perhaps just a pickier editor.
Along with issues of writing style, there is a trend in the book that feels more pronounced than in earlier novels in the series – an odd focus on what girls are/are supposed to be like. In many cases, this simply reads like a man who hasn't interacted with very many women – he relies on clichés like “women love shopping” and “women intensely analyze the figures and sex appeal of every other woman they encounter.” He also focuses on what comes off as his preferred level of modesty in girls: paragraphs are devoted to the fact that it's no longer socially acceptable to have sex before marriage or to show a lot of skin. While there are slight mentions of the fact that these attitudes apply to boys as well, his focus is very much on the females' adherence to them, to the point where the book begins to feel uncomfortably judgmental, especially when, in the final story, he makes the comment that none of his characters would “sell themselves cheaply.”
The Irregular at Magic High School novels are consistently brought down by their author's writing style, at least if you're looking for a light read, which these do seem to purport themselves to be. This volume is no exception there, but the general absence of magic tech-speak makes the book read more smoothly than its longer companions. While there are still character issues, Sato does make a point of developing his world, and Kana Ishida's illustrations are attractive. If you're not a short story fan, you may be able to get away with skipping this volume (assuming Morisaki's story doesn't come up again later on, which it very well may), but if you'd just like to see the characters kicking back a little, this is a nice break before things get messy in Yokohama.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Nice break between fraught story arcs and a good chance to get to know a few side characters
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