Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Irregular at Magic High School
Sub.Blu-Ray 2 - Nine Schools Competition Arc
It's time for the annual magic sports competition between the nine magic high schools, and while Miyuki is a shoo-in for a player, Tatsuya is surprised to be brought along as an engineer, despite the usual protests of those who see him as overstepping his bounds. Meanwhile the true depth of the Shiba siblings' involvement with the military and their family situation becomes more evident – especially when it looks like an outside force is deliberately sabotaging First High's chances in the games. There's never any doubt that Tatsuya can help put the saboteurs away...but what do they have against First High in the first place? And how much do the Ten Master Clans have to do with it?
This may be just my opinion, but I rather thought that competitions, when portrayed in a visual medium such as anime, ought to be as tense and exciting as possible. We should be on the edges of our proverbial seats as the talented groups compete for supremacy, or at least rooting for the underdog or the favorite who has the odds stacked against her. Generally speaking, this is the guideline followed by most shows (and books, for that matter) in such cases. The Irregular at Magic High School, however, has decided to drag to the beat of a slower drummer, making the second story arc, “Nine Schools Competition,” one of the least tense and exciting tournaments I've seen.
Lest you think that this is all bad, there are some brighter points to these eleven episodes, spread across three Blu-Ray discs. In all reality, the competition seems to serve more as a backdrop to the slow reveal of the true depth of Tatsuya's abilities, as well as shedding light on both his and Miyuki's backgrounds. The greatest takeaway here is not just the fact that, no, there does not appear to be anything that Tatsuya cannot do, but rather that there may be a reason for it other than him being an overpowered poorly written protagonist. That his only emotions appear to be for his sister seems to be more of a flaw in a military plan than an emotional deficiency on his part, and at least once a direct comment is made about him having been tinkered with by the military. This then raises the specter of his being created rather than raised, which would explain an awful lot about not only his lifestyle, but also his personality and the way Miyuki fusses over him.
Of course, there may be another, less platonic reason for that latter. Despite her protestations that they are blood-related siblings and that she has never considered him for his romantic potential, the new opening and ending themes for the show do their level best to push them as a couple. There's also at least one scene where we get a hint that Tatsuya may have warmer emotions for her than he likes to let on (or is capable of letting on), and where is seemed like a more distant possibility in the first arc, it now is starting to feel quite likely that this show has an incest romance. As of right now it isn't likely to interfere with your enjoyment of the story, as it is still not central to the plot (in this case the sabotaging of First High), but leery viewers should consider themselves warned.
The plot of this arc feels as if it is buried under a lot of other stories. Initially it looks as though the titular Nine Schools Competition will be the focus of the episodes, and while we do see some episodes base themselves around actual games (specifically Mirage Bat, where the girls look like escapees from Card Captor Sakura, and the war-like Monolith Code), what is going on behind the scenes is actually of much more import. Unfortunately this is not as well presented as it might have been, allowing for episodes where Tatsuya is slowly uncovering the criminals behind the problems or where a variety of Dangerous Looking Men are plotting feeling very slow and much duller than they ought to be. Very little air time is devoted to the competition itself, and there is a feeling of something lacking when it is. This can in part be resolved by reading the included Q & A section in the box insert booklet, during which Tsutomu Sato explains each game in great detail, as well as many of the background details for new characters and types of magic. But if the story has to be enhanced by additional reading material not present in the actual show itself, there is something wrong with the storytelling.
While there is something very nice about having the entire plot resolved in this one set – and I applaud Aniplex of America for deciding to package the series this way – these episodes really do drag and lack any real sense of urgency. There are plenty of important plot points scattered throughout, and it is always nice to see how easily Miyuki handles awkward or uncomfortable situations without disolving into a blubbering, blushing mess, but it feels unnecessarily drawn out, still without really giving us all of the information we need. Add to that some odd techno-style background music and stilted animation (although it isn't always) and this is just not as good or engaging as it could be – even if it does distinguish itself from other anime titles by having characters actually dance the waltz.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : B-
Art : C+
Music : B-
+ Some interesting tidbits about the Shiba siblings' pasts and the Ten Master Clans, author Q & A has a lot of good information. Having the whole arc in one set is very nice.
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