The Irregular at Magic High School Series Review

Overview:

In 2095 magic have become scientifically broken down and magicians are part of various countries basic defense strategy. The Shiba siblings, Tatsuya and Miyuki, have been accepted into First High School but Miyuki is accepted into the first course where as Tatsuya, who scored brilliantly on paper but poorly in practical tests, is only accepted into the second course. The series covers three arcs: The Enrollment Arc, The Nine Schools Competition, and the Yokohama Disturbance.

Review:

Let’s address the obvious straight up: yes, Tatsuya and Miyuki are way too close as siblings for conventional comfort and Tatsuya does in fact get his own little fan club of female students (I’d say harem but given his complete lack of sexual awareness or demonstrated desire realistically they could fan girl forever and he’d just ask them if they needed their CAD adjusted). Tatsuya also gets hit with the label of bland protagonist and hopelessly overpowered a lot.

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I’m not actually going to deny any of those claims given they are all pretty valid (with the exception that Tatsuya is bland – I’d say more personality neutral for a deliberate purpose) so if that’s enough to make you throw in the towel on a series, this one isn’t going to work for you.

However, if you can get past all of that, and Miyuki’s clinginess in the first arc doesn’t make you throw up a bit in your mouth (seriously, Miyuki is an incredibly powerful magic user in her own right, why is she that needy) then you will actually find quite a fun high school fantasy here.

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Starting with the world itself. I love that magic has been reintroduced into the world but turned into a science. Magical technicians work on CAD’s to help spell processing speeds and theoretical papers are written about applications for magic in terms of energy production and similar (in fact the final arc focusses on the disturbance surrounding a thesis competition). As a result, the world feels fairly authentic. Characters don’t just chant latinish sounding phrases and poof whatever happens. Each spell is the result of sequences of magic and activation codes with large numbers of variables. That is where Tatsuya is truly an irregular.

See, while Tatsuya is put in the second course at the school, he himself explains that he is poor at practical skills, which in terms of how the school tests and assesses is correct. His spell activation speed when using traditional processes is poor. However, they make a clear point of explaining that Tatsuya can calculate multiple variables exceedingly quickly which means he can produce some impressive effects with fairly basic spells and use spells in unconventional ways. Later on we also learn that he doesn’t need to build an entire sequence anyway because he can instantly recall the entire spell for a ‘flash cast’ which means while he isn’t going to ever ace school his military application as a magician is pretty impressive (hence the overpowered label he gets smacked with even though there are a couple of obvious limitations).

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For a brief moment it looks like this story might actually be taking a jab at the use of standardised testing in schools, however after a less than subtle conversation between members of the student council, the issue is quickly brushed under the rug and we just get on with Tatsuya being awesome despite being a course 2 student. This is probably my biggest complaint about this series. There are actually quite a few moments where there could be some good social commentary but rather than embracing these they become more throw away plot points as the story rushes to get on with the next bit of obvious narrative development. The end result is a fairly shallow story that might be entertaining but doesn’t have any lasting impact despite the fact that it has several opportunities to rise about this.

From a fantasy point of view, I found the magic in this story fascinating and I liked how it developed and we learned about different types of magic and different ways of using it. That’s where the three arcs are each distinct and fun in their own way.

The first one we meet the students at school, watch them fend off an attack (introducing a range of spell types) and then some of the stronger students go and massacre the attackers (because who doesn’t send students to do that). However the first arc does well to introduce us to Tatsuya the student.

The second arc is a sports tournament. There’s no getting around that. However with sabotage, secret agents, and the Chinese mafia (I think) all getting involved, it isn’t your standard tournament and this is where we learn more about Tatsuya the weapon. The innovative ways magic is used in a variety of events though is kind of fun. Even something as simple as target shooting has a range of approaches.

Then we go to the third arc which crosses between the thesis competition as well as more about Tatsuya’s military and family ties. Arguably this is the weakest arc because we spend a lot of time in battle and quite a few of the students we’ve come to like are pretty well sidelined for the duration. It’s kind of a shame the story ends on this arc. It is also where I lose any ability to defend Tatsuya from the overpowered label. Some of the spells he uses in this arc really do make him seem pretty unstoppable and also kind of remove any tension about his friends suffering permanent harm. If you want to see some cool spells though, this arc is for you.

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Outside of the magic and the way that is explored, the characters are a lot of fun. I really like a lot of the supporting cast members. They each get their moment to shine and most of them are just fun to watch in action. Okay, we do end up heavily female heavy in the cast particularly after the second arc where Tatsuya is assigned to the junior female competitors as their technician. Despite that, the guys manage to make their presence felt and it was nice that this wasn’t a literal one man show.

Visually this anime is really pretty. Character designs are pretty standard, but I love the girl’s uniform and the magic itself is really beautiful to look at. Each setting is distinct enough from the school to the hotel where the sports tournament takes place to Yokohama. I also really like the feel of the cafe where they hang out occasionally.

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So yes, I loved this anime. Despite all the clichés that come along (the bath sequence, bouncing breast, misunderstandings leading to a guy getting slapped, rivals, etc) this world feels like a plausible future and the magic is fascinating. The characters hold their own in the story and while Tatsuya may not be the most exciting protagonist, he’s capable and sure of his ability without being cocky (though at times he definitely let’s it known that he does have an inferiority complex which given his family situation seems warranted).

I will point out that not all the loose ends are tied up and there are still a lot of secrets that the Shiba siblings have not yet explained when we reach the final arc of the series (particularly what is going on with their family). Still, it’s a relatively fun watch.


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27 thoughts on “The Irregular at Magic High School Series Review

  1. I saw this series listed on Netflix and considered watching it, but a quick Google search for the title indicated the incestuous relationship between the brother-sister pair (though based on your review, it seems like this relationship is a bit one sided and that Tatsuya has no clue what is romantically going on around him), and I was instantly out. I was glad to see your review because I hoped to find out more from someone who had actually seen it because the rest of the series sounded interesting. This way I got to know more without having to view (because that would make me so uncomfortable!). Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad it was helpful. I’m not going to deny that there is definitely an odd relationship between the siblings, but there are really only one or two scenes where anything too dubious is happening on screen and mostly it is just an overt attachment and severe over-protectiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can deal with incest and overpowered protagonists, and I have a weakness for fantasy school settings so I’ll definitely be giving this a shot. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hope you enjoy it. It never quite gets to incest (though there are definitely a few scenes that are quite obviously meant to be interpreted that way early on), but they are definitely unnaturally close and the brother and sister complex is pretty strong.
      If you are in it for the fantasy school setting you should probably have a lot of fun with this.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting, very interesting. The drawbacks you mention aren’t a complete deal breaker for me so Im willing to try this out. Im seeing a lot of comments about SAO similarities. Is this just in regard to the male protagonist or the show as a whole?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kirito with guns, magic with a twist of Oreimo in there.

    I enjoyed this anime series because of the technology and its setting but not as much as the characters. I just loved seeing how things worked out in the era this anime was portraying. Magic being a form of technology was an interesting concept and just made me forget about the OP protagonist or the clingy little sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The setting of this and the concept of magic really did sell this. The rest of the show is fun enough but not really remarkable, but those elements just tie it all together into a fairly entertaining package.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, this one I have just added to the list. Even with it’s flaws, yiu-uw have described enough stuff for this one, that I usually highly enjoy watching, so this series sounds very cool indeed. Great post, thanks for sharing this one 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Despite the serie’s other manifest flaws… I enjoyed the Nine Schools arc, the author put some serious thought into designing a decently realistic competition. Fitting for a world where the magic schools are essentially armed service academies you could see the military applications of many of the events.

    The loose ends no doubt come from the anime only covering the first third or so of the LN series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This show definitely needed another series if it was going to tie up any loose ends, although given how much is going on in this world another three series might not have been enough. At least each arc finishes off so you get some sense of closure.
      The Nine Schools arc surprised me with how entertaining it was given I normally don’t like tournaments in anime. As you said, the military applications of a lot of the events were clear, and there was a lot of variety in the events.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting perspective, considering a lot of the flaws I’ve heard about this anime can effectively tarnish any potential it has to be good.

    I recall from a past post that you love fantasy and the atmosphere it provides, so I almost feel obligated in assuming you’d like this anime for that alone. It’s somewhat jarring to see the “I loved this anime” after pointing out all the OP-ness of the male lead and the closeness of him and his sister, along with other occasional quirks that worked to make me want to skip this one. I already had no intention of watching this, but reading this gave me a little more perspective as to what those willing to ignore the, if I may be blunt, incredibly large drawbacks can enjoy with this series.

    This is one of those cases where I’m glad this entry wasn’t 100 words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is exactly as Karandi has said. I’m one of those people who ignored the incest (had plenty from OreImo, thanks!).

      As for the overpowering MC part. The story made it so that Tatsuya’s powers become the main reason any girl would fall heads over heels for him. He is simply an upgraded Kirito. I can’t also forget the fact that unlike Kirito who only shows and tells, finding out any of Tatsuya’s powers feel somewhat like a mystery. That is both the shows strongest and weakest narrative point at the same time!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Yeah, I do love fantasy so this show definitely had a huge advantage going in. Plus, I don’t actually disliked overpowered protagonists because I don’t see that as a narrative crushing flaw.
      But, it wouldn’t have been a fair review if I hadn’t pointed out the reasons some people might find this one a bit hard to swallow and the protagonist does come off as overpowered which will annoy some, and the other bits and pieces with the sister will definitely throw some others off of this.
      For me, this one is a good anime to pull out on a lazy long weekened and just kind of chill out to. The different arcs keep things moving along, there’s enough characters that none of them really get to be too much, and then there’s pretty magic to keep me entertained, with some violence and carnage occasionally thrown in just so you don’t think the world is all sunshine and rainbows.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This series was okay, but the technobabble kinda bored me.

    Also, I noticed something. In The Irregular at Magic High School, students are lumped together in accordance to the results of a grossly narrow-minded standardized test that judges them all on the same area, and thus doesn’t accurately reflect their abilities.

    Are they trying to make a commentary on the American Education system?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a Japanese series, so the author is probably making a commentary on their education system. The placement exams, which determine which school you go to (even at the middle school/junior high level), can have a huge influence on the course of a person’s life. There’s a lot of competition to get into good schools. There’s even more competition to get into good ‘escalator’ schools (typically a good high school that pipelines directly into a guaranteed berth at a good college).

      That’s why these exams so often feature in anime as a source of great stress, why cram schools are thing in anime and real life, etc… It’s much more brutal than the American system.

      Liked by 1 person

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