Irregular at Magic High School – Underclassmen

The Irregular at Magic High School takes place in an alternate reality of Earth where people have discovered a method to allow people to use magic through an interaction with technological devices known as ‘CADs’. Those who have the natural gift to use this magic are trained in Magic High Schools. First Magic High, the most prestigious of these schools, is divided into two different courses. Tatsuya Shiba is an ‘Irregular’, one of the second course students. His sister Miyuki is one of the elite students who qualified for the first course. You might think, at first glance, that this is just another teen drama anime… but fear not, this anime is so much more than that.

Top of the Class

I will say that the characters in this show are not the most interesting out there. A lot of the characters don’t have very strong personalities and many of them don’t really seem to serve much of a purpose other than to provide the main character with the opportunity to show off. The sister has the potential to be a fantastic character, but she has a romantic obsession with her brother that kind of deprives her of any other chance at a personality. There are a few characters who have some interesting personalities though, but for the most part, the characters are quite dry and almost mechanical.

Among the side characters two stand out as being particularly interesting. Erika Chiba, one of Tatsuya’s classmates, doesn’t let her relative weakness as a mage get her down – she’s a master swordswoman and, while she’s not arrogant, she doesn’t get down on herself. The other, Mikihiko Yoshida, is a practitioner of a unique form of magic called ‘Ancient Magic’ or ‘Spirit Magic’. He, unlike many of the other characters, displays some real personality growth and has a personality that seems to actually stand on its own. The real problem with most of the characters is that many seem only to exist for the sake of the main character.

Tatsuya himself is one that I expect to be quite controversial. He’s kind of cold, almost superhuman, and his only perceived flaw is that his emotions are ‘broken’. The thing is that I enjoy this archetype. The ‘perfect soldier’ characters – characters like Metal Gear’s Solid Snake, Gundam Wing’s Hiiro Yui, etc. – are very interesting to me. I enjoy watching them struggle to understand emotions, and watching the interactions between normal people and characters who act this cold and emotionless. I won’t say that Tatsuya is the best example of this character style I’ve seen, but he was a character I found interesting.

One of the reasons I did find myself drawn to the two Shiba siblings was the level of mystery behind them. There are a lot of subtle little hints at who they are and what is special about them, and the opening scene of the series does a great job of setting up a bit of intrigue around the two of them and their family. This also provides a nice point for the larger lore of the world to poke its head in.

Magical Mysteries

But this is one show where the characters are not the real stars. The real star of Irregular is the magic system itself. This hybrid of technology and magic with the layers of intricacies is one I would love to see explored in even greater detail, although the show does a pretty good job so far of allowing you to begin to understand how it all works.

The little aspects of it are simply fascinating, I can think of no other word that does it justice. It is not only an interesting system, but it has such potential for growth. It is nice to see a system in its infancy. I dislike that, in a few cases, this exploration of new concepts is used as a way to reassert how good the main character is… but I find it fascinating watching as new concepts are explored, as new gifts and styles are discovered and as things alter around these new concepts.

The visuals of the magic are also quite stunning. The dichotomy between the classical elements – the magic circles, the runic writing – and the more technologically focused colour schemes and designs is very unique. It’s hard to recognize during the first arc… but you get a really good exposure to a variety of different facets of the magic during the second arc.

Not So Irregular

One thing that Irregular at Magic High School does really well, inexplicably, is the pacing. Given the length and breadth of the arcs, you’d think that pacing would be an issue but they do it right. Each episode contains enough content and enough foreshadowing to really keep the story moving. There were only one or two episodes that felt kind of unnecessary… but aside from those rare episodes there were very few filler episodes and every episode so far has had a great flow – with meaningful ups and downs.

Thus far there have been two arcs of the show, and they’re both clearly introductory arcs. The first one establishes the characters and the second provides more exposure to the broader contexts – the societies, the rivalries, and, most importantly, the magic itself – that will most likely be the foundation of the show going forward. It’s an interesting setup, and we’ll have to see whether it works going forward into the third arc, which is just about to begin, but I definitely think it has potential.

Overall

Irregular at Magic High School is a show I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, but we all know that I am drawn to unique magical systems and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. They do a very good job of fleshing it out and I’m looking forward to see where it progresses to from there. On the other hand, thus far the character development has not been that great. I do hope they work on that a bit, but they haven’t done their characters justice here. Probably the biggest thing that keeps me watching though, even more than the magic, is the fact that there is so much potential here. The show has been quite good so far, but if they develop it further and put a bit of focus on developing some of the side characters… it could become amazing.

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