Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Irregular at Magic High School
Sub.Blu-Ray 3 - Yokohama Disturbance Arc
Just because one tournament has ended doesn't mean that there's no chance for the students of First Magic High to show off their skills. Now the event is of an intellectual nature, the Thesis Competition, which is to take place in Yokohama. Tatsuya, with his skill in magical engineering, is nominated to the team, despite the tensions it causes, but that turns out to be nothing when an international attack on the city is about to take place. Tatsuya and his classmates will get more action than you typically see at an academic event when the fight engulfs the Thesis Competition – and the truth about Tatsuya's powers will come out.
The Irregular at Magic High School has made some attempts at differentiating itself from its “magical high school harem adventure” brethren by being much more technical in how it both uses and discusses magic, it also falls prey to several genre pitfalls, and those feel much more obvious in this third story arc, “Yokohama Disturbance,” than in the second. The story begins pairing off side-characters via the time-honored tropes of boob grabs and shower walk-ins, the reminder that Tatsuya is super-special and yet not hugely welcomed by his family, who appear to favor his sister, is back in full force, and by the time we move into the second disc of this two-disc set, he is so grossly overpowered that it almost feels like a parody of itself. While the base storyline is interesting – a Chinese military group attempts to take over Yokohama – the show itself falters in its storytelling.
“Yokohama Disturbance” picks up immediately after the events of the previous arc, “Nine Schools Competition.” That, it seems, was the athletic component of a two-pronged contest, and now First Magic High School will embark on the more intellectual contest known as the “Thesis Competition.” This is a cross between a thesis defense and a science fair, with each school presenting a paper and/or project that has to do with the science of magic. Because of his skill at magic engineering, Tatsuya is asked to be a part of the team, despite being both a Weed and a first year. Naturally this generates some tensions, especially since one of the girls who ought to have participated is still recovering from her failure to protect a competitor at the Nine Schools Competition. Her younger sister, Chiaki, is angered by Tatsuya's inclusion on the team, and thus open to the advances of the Chinese who plan to attack Yokohama. Tatsuya is a threat to them, and if they can get him taken care of before the plan goes into motion, that would be good. Meanwhile Miyuki and Tatsuya are continuing to help (or at least know about the helping) the army with developing new magical weaponry, which will come in very handy once the attackers make their move. Other students are brushing up on their skills, particularly once it becomes clear that something shady is going on – Chiaki is but one warning sign they have.
On paper this looks like it ought to be the making of a very exciting eight episodes and an impressive grand finale to the anime adaptation of Tsutomu Sato. Where it falters is that this is the talkiest storyline yet, filled with technobabble and (seemingly) random plotting on the parts of both the heroes and the villains. Up until the final sixty minutes (of 200), the basic ratio appears to be three minutes of (intense) action to twenty minutes of talking. That's not a precise measurement, granted, but the undeniable prevalence of discussion over action makes this a bit of a letdown, particularly after the more exciting previous arc. This is not to say that a series cannot vary its approach to storytelling; however the increasingly large cast of characters, specific technical terms native to the show, and Tatsuya's inability to express emotion really make this drag. That the background music remains firmly in elevator territory during expositions does not help.
What does help, however, are the extras included. As has been the norm with these releases, a booklet with character information and a lengthy Q & A session with the original author are in the box along with the discs (and some lovely postcard-sized character pinups), and the second disc has two more episodes of the “Get to Know Magic Studies!” feature. If you don't mind doing a little extra studying, these are very useful, helping us to get a better idea of Sato's world. It's also worth noting that when there is action, it's very good – the animation quality goes up, the fighting is brutal and holds nothing back, and the music improves as well. This makes the final episode and a half the strongest of the set, combining earlier character development with the kind of stomach-churning gore you'd expect of a war story. Ichijo's sections are particularly well done, making us both disgusted with his actions and how calmly he executes them and sympathetic for the past that made him so blank and cold – while the apparent lack of effort it takes to kill someone with magic is chilling.
Tatsuya, on the other hand, enters ludicrous territory as the actual Yokohama incident begins in episode six. We see him not only fly in a bodysuit (called a mobile suit) of his own creation, but also slice a guy into bits with his bare hands, see through multiple concrete walls, and dissolve a mack truck through those same walls – and that's before Miyuki unlocks his true power. (It should be noted that the unlocking is actually very sweet and adds an aspect of courtly love to the show's love story, which really works.) Yes, this is about magic, but there's a fine line between “believable” and “way too much,” and Tatsuya most definitely crosses it.
The Irregular at Magic High School may ultimately be too focused on the “science” aspect of science fiction to really make for an easy adaptation to anime. Novels are (obviously) text-based, and the amount of explication that can be excused there is much greater than in a visual, movement-based medium like animation. While this arc has its moments, they feel lost in the talking. The fact that the ending is also one that tells us to read the books if we want to know more is also a bit of a letdown; although the books are licensed in English as of this writing, they have yet to be released and it will take English readers a long time to get beyond this point in the story. If you don't mind, or haven't been minding, the amount of specialized knowledge and verbiage this show requires, you will likely enjoy it more than someone looking for action...but if it's excitement you want, this is a slow build for only minimal reward.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C
Art : C+
Music : C+
+ When it's good, it's good, injecting an element of courtly love into Miyuki and Tatsuya's relationship really helps. Extras are helpful for understanding the story's world. Hacking/conspiracy themes are interesting.
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