I can’t begin to count the number of times that The Irregular at Magic High School was recommended to me, so after enough reminders, I finally picked up this show (viewable on both Netflix and Crunchyroll) over the winter and just recently finished it. I don’t remember why I skipped it when it first aired, but it took only one to two episodes for me to add this to my watch list. The setting was none too unique–a high school instructing students on magic and organized by entrance scores–but the lead characters firmly took a hold of the tone of the series through their capability and set themselves apart from other magical high school anime.
The setting and main characters are mostly formed by the segregation in private magic academies, where students are organized by test scores. These evaluations favor the practical magic portion for placement, while excellent scores in the theoretical exam are usually overlooked. Course One takes the high-ranking practical students; Course Two includes all others. Unfortunately, these courses come with nicknames of “Bloom” and “Weed” that reflect the true feelings towards the system. It doesn’t help that not only classes, but also uniforms, reflect the separation. Course One students have arm badges of a flower in bloom–in sharp contrast, Course Two members have plain grey badges with no decorative design.
Our godly protagonist set aside, it’s clear from a very early point that the method for testing and placement are deeply flawed. Both Tatsuya and his sister Miyuki are irregulars to First High’s student body. The title mainly references Tatsuya, but can also honestly apply to Miyuki and most of Course Two. Many of the second-tier students excel in the heat of the moment where their supposed superiors fail. Others specialize in fields that are no less valuable to mankind. Tatsuya’s understanding of people of abilities all over the spectrum allows him to focus on magics no matter the person and perceived inability.
A secondary and informal method of segregation is created by the bloodlines from whence the students are born. There are 28 magician families, the 10 strongest of which make the decisions to which all must adhere. If you are from one of these families and a Course One student at First High, you constantly remain in the spotlight with high expectations. If you end up a weed and obscurity doesn’t protect you, all the more derision is heaped upon you. Miyuki and Tatsuya are again unique in the fact that though they are from the Yotsuba Clan, the very top of all the families, they do not carry the name and keep their identities a secret. I think that a wise decision given the violent politics that already run rampant both outside and inside of the school.
The course placements and familial connections make it simple for many of the students to decide their next step after completing high school. Much of what they are taught in school results in hands-on experience through tournaments and projects that can also point the way to possible careers. I have to give the school props for the opportunities they provide to not only the privileged, but also the hard working and talented–as long as they’re from Course One. Many of the students already have experience in the military, like the Shiba siblings and the Crimson Prince from Third High School.
I’ve found two camps of thought in viewer reaction to this show: love and overwhelming hate. I feel a bit at odds with both since I stand in the middle. The setting and engineering are mildly interesting to me, and I’m not bored or phased with the “techno-babble” like some; yes, the explanations were redundant or unnecessary at times, but at other times I felt they gave depth to abilities that other anime would be prone to gloss over as plain “magic.” I also liked the quick decisions made by Tatsuya and many of his friends. They don’t dither over possibilities or excessive doubts and waste precious time. I just wish some of their choices turned out to be mistakes or come with permanent consequences.
While I found some of the show fairly enjoyable and watchable, there were instances where I wanted to just fast forward or mute the speakers. One of the most prominent examples is the relationship between Tatsuya and Miyuki. They are blood siblings, and share a close bond of love and trust. However, Miyuki’s devotion goes past understandable respect and affection and barges right into downright obsessive. I am never down with incestuous relationships, and usually avoid it in anime at all costs. I can appreciate the humor in the awkwardness that their public flirting causes, but want to get up and pace every time Miyuki pushes herself on her brother in private.
Another issue is Tatsuya’s invincibility. He can honestly do no wrong. He faces all conflicts head on and leaps over them with ease. At times, he talks a bit about the difficulty of the situation, but I don’t ever believe him because not once has he failed to squelch opposition. This unbeatable state makes it incredibly difficult to rise with the tension of the various arcs. I find myself wondering only just how our characters will succeed–how will enemies be humiliated and defeated? If a sequel is to be made, I hope that it’s one with genuine struggle in mind for Tatsuya. I want to see him up against an enemy he cannot beat–perhaps his own family.