Magic school narratives have been and. I suspect, will always be very popular. With the overflowing fandom surrounding books like Harry Potter and other similar fantasy novels, the amount of stories of this type have proliferated far and wide into varying mediums. Anime and manga, in particular, took a strong interest in this narrative type. Manga like Witch Hat Atelier, Ancient Magus Bride’s most recent arc. Anime like Little Witch Academia, Gakuen Alice, and now Irregular at Magic Highschool (honestly the list goes on). It’s certainly not a new anime, having originally aired in 2014, but with the recent announcement that it would be getting a second season soon, I figured I had the perfect time to talk about it considering the time of year. The series started as a novel and then became a light novel series before being picked up by Madhouse for the anime adaptation. I became a fan shortly after, attracted by the unique view of magic presented in the series and the well-crafted fight scenes. I’m not saying this is a perfect series, but it definitely has its strengths, especially for fans of magic school narratives.
The anime follows two siblings, Shiba Miyuki and Shiba Tatsuya, who are accepted to one of the top magic schools in the country. Miyuki manages to pass all of the entrance exams with flying colors and is accepted into the full Course 1 program, while her brother Tasuya has a slower magic processing speed and winds up being accepted into the lower Course 2 class. The narrative follows these two siblings as they navigate the culture of their new school with its favoritism towards Course 1 students, while trying not to be dragged into the country’s various political struggles in the process.
Madhouse wound up being the studio to take over this adaptation, and I think they really did an admirable job. I wouldn’t say the series is as visually interesting as a lot of magic shows, and is in no way comparable to say Little Witch Academia, but then it’s hard to really compare to Trigger’s style. However, I do think that the character designs and the basic overall animation is strong. The characters are all visually different enough to be easily recognizable, though not as stylized as some series to the point where it becomes one of the main focuses. The main focus of this series isn’t really the art anyways, so I think it has some leeway to have some subpar animation.
One of the big highlights of the series, at least for me, was the fight scenes or tournament scenes (yes this series has a tournament arc). I think Madhouse did put a lot of their resources into these scenes, especially developing how each character’s magic would manifest in their fighting style. The magic in this anime appears as magic circles or almost lines of code. Each character’s color, designs, and — depending on the type of spell they are casting — composition differs. It’s here that I think we get to see a great interplay of worldbuilding and visuals as we are given more information about the magic system slowly as the series progresses. The appearance and inner-working of each spell become a little easier to connect over time.
But that’s not the only part about fight scenes that are given attention. We do get some great animation with the more physical aspects of the fights as Tatsuya faces off in hand-to-hand combat often with his opponents. I really enjoy some of the martial arts focused fights in the series as it gives some variety to the narrative besides being mainly focused on casting spells back and forth. In fact, the series makes a pretty good effort in trying to seamlessly combine magic and martial arts/ combat. We see through many of the character’s individual styles how magic has come to be a support mechanism for traditional martial arts like kendo, hand-to-hand combat, and even many physical sports. It’s especially through the tournament arcs that we see this the most clearly, and even how magic has helped develop a whole new brand of sports.
I think what Irregular at Magic High might be most known for is its incorporation of science into its magic system and how the series turns magic into a science through its worldbuilding and the kinds of magical laws it puts together. It honestly might be its biggest flaw too, as the exposition needed to make this a reality sometimes overtakes the story. Many of the episodes are packed to the brim with exposition and discussion of magical theory. I am usually interested in this because I love learning about how different magic systems work, but to the average viewer this may be a bit too much, and I wouldn’t blame them for getting a little bored in some parts. But I think it’s also to this series advantage that it was picked up for an anime, as the visual elements accompanying all of this exposition gives it more interest and may help keep the audience’s attention better than it might in its pure light novel form, allowing it to garner more of an audience.
After reading and watching a lot of magic school series over the years, I have started to see this narrative thread running through many of them where students are drawn into the political troubles outside of their school. Harry Potter had it with the appearance of Voldemort. My Hero Academia has it with the fight against the league of villains. Irregular at Magic High School pulls the students into the political troubles surrounding a terrorist group who are morally and politically anti-magic. It brings up this question again of “where are the adults?” Why do these children who are still learning to use and control their magic being allowed to take on terrorists and fight against underground organizations bent on causing chaos? Harry Potter and MHA did a somewhat good job at addressing this question, but I don’t think Irregular does. Then again, where would the story be if the adults stepped in and took over? Magic school series are about learning and developing magical strengths and then putting those to the test in challenging — sometimes life threatening — situations to push the characters into developing as much as they can.
Though I’m not sure how much development the main characters actually gain throughout the course of this series. It’s a little hard to tell honestly, and that’s why I’m excited for the second season to come out. The first season feels like the start of the story, setting up the world and the political and familial troubles that will become the final challenge for Tatsuya and Miyuki. Maybe we’ll see most of their character growth in that season. I think if we examine it in terms of character flaws and how they overcome them over time, we might be able to garner a little more insight into their growth. One of Tatsuya’s biggest flaws is his inability to process or feel strong emotions which can hinder his connections with other people. I think over the course of the season, we do begin to see him connect more and more with those around him, especially as he’s able to showcase more of his skills in magical engineering. Miyuki’s flaw may be her intense dependence on Tatsuya and her shaky relationship with her family. I’m not quite sure we see growth in this area just yet, but we do see her beginning to trust more of the people around her and gaining more control over her magic. I think what may be the ultimate tipping point for these two would be their final confrontation with their estranged family. But we’re not quite there yet.
Miyuki is also where we see one of the weaknesses in the series. Irregular likes to play up some fanservice using her relationship with Tatsuya. The big brother complex that seems to be a major part of her personality and interactions with other people can be a little grating at times. It can be understandable in some instances because they are estranged from their family and have since become each other’s only emotional support, but it’s often played up to an almost sexual or romantic attraction at points. I think we especially see it in the beginning of the series, and it dials back as the series progresses, but it can still be a turn-off for many viewers. I know I almost dropped this anime because of it. But I think if you can get past their warped relationship, you’ll be able to find something of value here.
I often find myself coming back to this series again and again over the years when I want something to watch with good fight scenes or an intriguing magic system. While the series has its faults, I think it also has an equal amount of strengths, and I hope some of you will pick it up in preparation for the new 2nd season that’ll be coming out next year.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress for all Bloom Reviews content updates and news!
If you like what I do, consider supporting me on Ko-fi.