Reviewby Richard Eisenbeis,
The Irregular at Magic High School: Reminiscence Arc
Young Miyuki is a rare genius talent. She's in the running to become the next head of her prestigious magic family. While she's doted upon by all those around her, there's one person she just can't seem to get along with: her elder brother Tatsuya. Stone-faced and cold, he seems completely indifferent to her, despite their family connection. Yet, events are already being set in motion that will form these siblings into an unbreakable pair, ready to take on the world for each other.
When it comes down to it, Reminiscence Arc is a direct telling of all the backstory that's been hinted at across the various The irregular at magic high school anime so far. This proves to be a bit of a double-edged sword, however. On one hand, we finally get to see the pivotal moments that formed our pair of heroes into the characters we've become invested in. On the other, the episode feels almost like it's running down a checklist—showing how pretty much every important event in Tatsuya and Miyuki's pre-high school lives happened over the course of a single Okinawan vacation.
The key to this arc—and where it is at its strongest—is in its building of Tatsuya and Miyuki's relationship. At heart, Miyuki is just an innocent, kind girl. She has been told she is special all her life and pampered by all those around her—and has a hard time understanding why her brother is the exception to this rule. It's bad enough that he is stoic around her, but he seems to open up around other people except her.
However, as events around them take a turn towards the dangerous, she sees that his actions hint at things that are far from what she assumed. And as she starts to build a relationship with her brother—the one she's secretly always wanted—she learns of the horror behind what has been done to him. Rather than him letting his mask down around others, he's actually putting up a false air of amicability whenever he's around them. His cold, emotionless self she usually sees is the true him.
Tatsuya's family, after deeming him a failure as a mage, stripped him of every emotion except one: his love for his sister. The reason he works so hard for Miyuki without complaint—to the point where is more of a mix between slave and human shield than a brother—is because the only bright spot in his world is his emotional connection to her.
How Miyuki deals with this revelation is even more interesting. Upon hearing her mother explain what she did to her own son, Miyuki hides her horror and revulsion deep inside. She is both empathetic enough to realize her family are monsters and mature enough to know that playing along is the only way to survive—for both her and Tatsuya.
Suddenly, so much of what we see in the TV series makes sense. The two live alone because Miyuki is doing everything she can to escape her evil family and give Tatsuya as much of a normal life as she can. Yet, even her calling him “brother” is something reluctantly permitted only because of her status within the family. Nearly everyone else in her family sees him as a tool at best, a failure at worst.
Because of all this, Miyuki's inner conflict is made clear. She is torn between her love and her guilt for Tatsuya. She cares for him, and while the feeling is mutual, his love is not necessarily by choice. Worse still, if she weren't the special genius she is, he might not have been emotionally castrated in the first place. Even as she longs for his affection, she hates herself for it—and struggles to find the correct emotional distance even as the years move on.
Reminiscence Arc also gives us the answer to one of the second season's biggest looming questions: Why would Tatsuya and Miyuki so readily welcome Minami into their home—especially when she has been sent by their family? The short answer is because she is Honami's niece.
While Honami isn't the most developed of characters, even in this special, we see that she is largely responsible for Tatsuya and Miyuki connecting as siblings. More than that, we learn that she viewed saving Tatsuya's life at the cost of her own as an escape from her eternal servitude—the one actual choice she was allowed to make for herself. It makes sense Tatsuya and Miyuki would they'd not only accept Minami but want to give her a better life to return the favor of what Honami did for them.
In the end, this special feels like it simply connects the dots more than anything else. A lot of the revelations here are not exactly new information, but seeing how it all unfolded in the moment—especially in regards to Miyuki—works rather well. At the same time, the new information we do get clarifies a lot about why Tatsuya and Miyuki act the way they do in regards to not only their family but each other as well. All in all, it's a solid and necessary addition to The irregular at magic high school that sets the stage for things to come.
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B+
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ Tatsuya and Miyuki's backstory is fleshed out in great detail, adding a ton of welcome context to the preceding seasons and film.
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