Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Ep. 1: Dead discriminatory horse

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Why isn’t this a “First Impressions” post? ‘Cause I already know I’m going to blog this show from start to finish. Now, let’s see why everyone’s creaming their pants over our latest offering from Madhouse, who, as we all know, has just been doing an amazing job with their adaptations lately.

Notes:

• The episode starts off by telling us what magic is and how it came to be. It then goes on to tell us how magic saved everyone from the brink of nuclear destruction. Whoa whoa whoa, I downloaded those three introduction videos a week ago for a reason, buddy! And that was so that you wouldn’t have to bog down the very start of the first episode with this kind of stuff! So what is this? I feel… I feel betrayed!

• Eventually, we are introduced to our two main characters of the show. Naturally, it’s a brother and sister duo:

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Tatsuya, the oniichan, is a “Weed.” On the other hand, Miyuki, the imouto, is a “Bloom” even though she readily admits that her brother is more talented at magic than she is. That’s right, at this school, students refer to each other with denigrating terms like “Bloom” and “Weed.” Why? The first intro video sort of touches on this — I’m tellin’ ya I did watch them! — but not really: “…magic is an extremely rare talent. Perhaps the system reflects the pride of those gifted with such talent.” That doesn’t explain whatsoever why the school and its adult teachers would condone such “blatant classism.” I don’t know how much the school and its administrators condones the students’ behavior, but I do know they condone it enough to give their students different uniforms to easily distinguish the Blooms from the Weeds.

• Oh boy, head pats!

• Tatsuya tells his imouto that he truly cares about her and what she does even if he can be short with her at times. Miyuki starts getting all giddy over this, and our hero wonders if she’s misunderstood his intentions. That’s right! Incest again! Hey, hey, don’t be so close-minded! Incest magically morphs into sunshine and rainbows when it crosses over into Japan.

• Like at every school in every anime ever, your classmates openly talk shit about you as you walk by them. This time, a pair of girls make fun of the fact that Tatsuya is already on campus even though he’s just a Weed. Like I know we want to portray them as bullies, but shit, that doesn’t even make sense: “Heh, you’re not very smart, so what are you even doing at school so early, dummy?”

• Tatsuya eventually comes across the Student Council President, and she seems polite enough on the surface. So far, our hero towers over every girl he’s met:

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I can’t tell if he’s a giant or the girls are just all midgets. Probably the latter.

• Tatsuya: “No one’s more aware of discrimination than the ones being discriminated against, huh?” I feel ya, bro. But look on the bright side: all the cool kids sit in the back.

• So far, he’s met four girls in a row and not a single guy. Hmm.

• It was such a great speech, the anime faded to black.

• Our siblings are not twins. He was born in April, and Miyuki was born in March. So was he held back a year or what?

• Mizuki wonders if Miyuki is our hero’s sister. Tatsuya confirms it, then says to Mizuki, “Still, I’m impressed you made the connection.” Uh, why? He just said he’s supposed to meet up with his sister. He and the incoming class’s representative both have the same family name. Therefore, this “impressive connection” would seem like a pretty natural inference for anyone to make, Weed or otherwise. But it turns out Mizuki can notice people’s auras or some shit like that, and this totally freaks our protagonist out. He doesn’t want her to discover his secret, whatever it is. Hm.

• We finally see a male classmate who isn’t just an extra in the background, and he immediately grimaces when he sees Blooms and Weeds consorting as if they’re buddies. Boy, the story’s really playing up this discrimination angle, isn’t it? Just for good measure, he grimaces at our hero once more before walking away. Haha, c’mon. Y’know, this discrimination angle is really getting to be one-dimensional. Everyone’s just like, “Heh, you suck so I hate you,” which, let’s be honest, isn’t very interesting. And why be so one-dimensional when discrimination in the real world is so multi-faceted and complex? Discrimination is generally caused by greater oppression. For example, racism against blacks during the 1700s and 1800s emerged as a convenient justification for the already-existing and massively profitable slave trade. So far in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, however, all I’m seeing is, “Wow, you suck at magic more than me even though we both technically belong in the top 1% of the country when it comes to having magical talent… you’re a piece of shit and I hate you!”

• Tatsuya then brushes his imouto’s cheek, which causes soft music to play and Mizuki’s face to turn bright red:

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This is going to be a running gag, isn’t it?

• At home, Miyuki discovers that while her father and mother had called to congratulate her for getting into such a prestigious high school, they did no such thing for her oniichan. Apparently, Tatsuya had opted to attend high school over helping with his father’s company, so family relations are a little frigid at the moment. There’s a pattern here where the whole world is against our poor, misunderstood protagonist (He’s truly smart and talented! He just bombed the Practical Exam!) except for a select few. And for the moment, that select few happens to be all girls. And of course, leading the charge for that select few is his very own kawaii imouto. Hm.

• The brief moment where Tatsuya uses magic to run as fast as his imouto even though she’s on her (magical) roller skates was kinda cool, I guess. Hey, that seems pretty practical!

• Our siblings then arrive at a temple where a bunch of similar-looking monks attack Tatsuya all at “once,” i.e. one at a time but just play along. This kinda reminds me of Neo’s fight against the numerous Agent Smiths in the second Matrix movie, but obviously not on the same scale. Our protagonist is in all black for some reason. Seems like these days, protagonists from light novels adaptations only like to dress in all black clothing.

• Meanwhile, Miyuki’s talking to a sensei off to the side, and the teacher claims to be a modern practitioner of ninjutsu. Sure, man. He then proceeds to skeeve on her and her uniform.

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• So, uh, when is anything exciting going to happen? So far, we’ve spent more than thirteen minutes introducing characters and beating the dead discriminatory horse. Oh yeah, the incestuous undertones. Gosh, how could I almost forget about that?

• The sensei and our cool, hip oniichan then briefly spar with each other. Obviously, Madhouse still has their animating chops when they really want to show it off, and this duel looks suitably choreographed. But meh, it’s just a random duel between two friends.

• We finally make our way back to school where everyone marvels over Tatsuya’s ability to type super fast. What is he doing? Programming? Hacking a government network? Nope, just “[c]onfirming the curriculum, and registering for classes.”

• Finally, we meet a male character at the school who isn’t an asshole (yet). Leo introduces himself to our protagonist, then asks Tatsuya what his signature spell is. Tatsuya claims that he has no signature spell ’cause he’s bad at using magic in a practical way. As a result, he hopes to be a magical engineer.

• Then we cut to the characters having lunch. Miyuki wants to join them, but guess what? Blooms shouldn’t be eating with weeds! Cause they suck at magic and we hate them! Yawn.

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• Some dude who we’ll never see again: “We need to draw the line between Course 1 and Course 2.” Yeah, ’cause calling people Bloom and Weed is too subtle.

• But this really gets Leo’s goat, so he stands up from his lunch tray, and you know that means business. Unfortunately, our too-cool-for-school oniichan is just like, “Yo, let’s ditch this place, sis.” As a result, the discrimination thing that has been played up all episode long doesn’t even boil over. It just continues to simmer in its own repetitive juices.

• Every single time someone says something slightly suggestive about the relationship between Miyuki and her brother, she starts blushing and smiling to the point that it’s almost like she’s winking at the audience.

• And simmer it does as the argument carries over to the flag pole after school. Naw, there’s no flag pole, but the rest of the Blooms are outright furious that Miyuki would want to walk home with her own brother. Outright furious! Both sides almost fight. Almost. But then the Student Council President and a member of the Disciplinary Committee show up. The calm and collected Tatsuya then casually defuses the situation even though it doesn’t look like the Bloom asshole appreciates it one bit.

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• So y’see, even though our hero isn’t good at practical spells, he’s got this idiot savant-like ability to tell what spells other people are going to use before the spell actually comes out. Ahahaha. Basically, he’s the mastermind that’s always one step ahead of his opponent.

Thoughts:

Look, man, nothing happened. I’m not saying that a boring first episode means that the rest of the anime will be boring. I’m not even judging any of the main characters yet, though the incest thing already leaves a bad taste in my mouth (when does it not?). I’m just saying… this episode and this episode alone was boring as fuck. And before anyone goes, “They had to introduce the character and the setting and the concepts and the…,” I just think back to the first episode of PSYCHO-PASS. That was also a show with a slew of characters, a slightly tweaked modern setting, and a host of futuristic concepts to introduce to its audience. And you want to know what happened in PSYCHO-PASS‘s first episode? A guy kidnaps a woman, rapes her, uses her as a hostage as he gets chased by Enforcers, then gets blown the fuck up. Now look, I’m not asking for violence, sex, and gore in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei. If you immediately jump to that conclusion, you’re an idiot. I’m just saying you can’t use complexity as an excuse to have an introduction where nothing fucking happens. And it’s not like either Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei or PSYCHO-PASS are even particularly complex, so what gives?

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22 thoughts on “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Ep. 1: Dead discriminatory horse

  1. mentaromega

    Just for the sake of fairness: Please keep in mind that you are comparing a show which was designed as original anime to one third of the first book of a 2-volume Light Novel arc. The first is designed to capture the interest of the viewer within the first episode. The second is the result of what started as a longish web novel which couldn’t care less if the mass market would like it or not. It was written by someone who tried to slowly build a world, piece by piece, and who did not have an editor to streamline it.

    And just to discourage you even further: It’s the joint consensus of the Mahouka fanbase that the first Enrollment arc (most likely spanning from eps 1-6) is the weakest/least exciting one. So if you’re waiting for huge explosions, violence, sex and gore, I’m afraid you will have to be a bit more patient ;)

    I’ll just go on the record saying that they cut away a LOT of exposition and several other scenes, but as a LN fan, I’m quite happy with the end result overall. I would have liked to keep 1-2 “playful Mayumi” and 1-2 “serious Miyuki” scenes (since in the anime she comes across as quite a bit more clingy and almost a bit useless), but alas.

    More to come.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      The second is the result of what started as a longish web novel which couldn’t care less if the mass market would like it or not.

      The first twenty pages of a book shouldn’t be boring either.

      So if you’re waiting for huge explosions, violence, sex and gore,

      Hm…

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        You probably haven’t read many fantasy books, “Lord of the Rings”, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, “Book of the new Sun”, if you think that’s the case.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          “The first twenty pages of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire are boring.” — Anonymous internet person

    2. Rio

      Anyone who has even dabbled in the craft of fiction knows that if you don’t catch your audience as soon as possible, they’ll dump you like a pile of bricks and move onto something that’s entertaining as soon as it begins, not after the audience has waded through your stupid ass world building foolishness. Whoever wrote this garbage is lucky that they already had a built-in fanbase before the show even aired.

      Reply
  2. mentaromega

    Since I’m guilty of promoting this show over here, let me do some expectation management: The initial 3 episodes will be

    – Background exposition: What kind of world is this? How do mages fit in, functionally and socially?
    – Exposition about magic: What is it, how does it work, what are its “rules”?
    – Character introduction: As you can see, there are lots of them.

    Once you are familiarized with all this, the storytelling begins in earnest, and the material becomes “more easily accessible”.

    Would Mahouka have developed its huge following based on the first arc? I don’t think so. I only started to delve into it with the second arc. Therefore, while there are several highly enjoyable/satisfying sequences in the upcoming eps, it will still rather be mostly of the same cloth that left you unsatisfied. The story really kicks in later (which is slightly unusual for LNs, since they tend to have a strong volume 1 and gradually get worse/diluted).

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Well, you can sell the rest of the story all you want, but I was pretty clear that I was only judging the first episode. That’s why I find this kinda funny. It’s pretty much all I ever do here. I go through most shows episode by episode and just live in the moment. The first episode bored me. Will the rest of the show bore me? Shrug, I’ll just have to wait and see.

      Reply
    2. durr

      @mentaromega: Jesus Christ, shut up.
      You are on every site I visit. Be it ANN, MAL, this blog, etc. and you are the most obsessive freaky fanboy I ever encountered. Just deal with the fact that your jerk material is not good. Accept other opinions you otaku nolife.

      Reply
  3. Di-Dorval

    Good write up. Enough reasons for me to not care about the show at all for now. Seems like it won’t go anywhere with its ideas and the setting doesn’t grab me either.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I’d give it a try but that senseless discrimination thing is just stupid. And the uniforms are silly.

    Reply
  5. The Real Sugoi Sugoi

    My goodness, do you realize what you’re getting yourself into by making this commitment to blog the show?

    There have been few anime stories that have aroused as much collective derision (in English-speaking anime forums, at least) in recent times as Mahouka.

    And that derision can be traced almost entirely to the story’s protagonist, Tatsuya, whose Gary Stu qualities would make even Kirito of Sword Art Online blush. Just about any discussion thread you read about the show will eventually devolve into discussions about this.

    It has gotten to the point where there are people who know nothing about the show’s plot but know enough about its embarrassing reputation to know that this show is Sword Art Online 2.0 in terms of storytelling quality.

    Reply
    1. Naota

      So it’ll be terrible and also endlessly fun to mock on a weekly basis? I’m… pretty okay with that.

      That said, I think thee real test of whether or not an anime can don the Sword Art crown is how many people come to its defense without any outside prompting in the presence of measured criticism. What makes SAO so remarkable isn’t any one facet of its writing, but the sheer volume of people who absolutely love it, oblivious to its flaws and hostile to any other opinion or critique.

      Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      My goodness, do you realize what you’re getting yourself into by making this commitment to blog the show?

      There have been few anime stories that have aroused as much collective derision (in English-speaking anime forums, at least) in recent times as Mahouka.

      Hey, Moe Sucks ain’t just about good anime. If that was the case, I wouldn’t even be blogging at all! Oh! That’s right, I said it!

      It has gotten to the point where there are people who know nothing about the show’s plot but know enough about its embarrassing reputation to know that this show is Sword Art Online 2.0 in terms of storytelling quality.

      Well, I don’t read forums nor Japanese light novels, so we’ll see how this thing develops as it goes.

      Reply
  6. Naota

    I’m just saying you can’t use complexity as an excuse to have an introduction where nothing fucking happens. And it’s not like either Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei or PSYCHO-PASS are even particularly complex, so what gives?

    Spot on. I’ll never understand why so many series have this belief that everything has to be laid out for us first before any actual plot can happen. Most often the details they’re giving us are either not important, simple enough that we don’t need a verbal explanation or scene dedicated just to them, or even worse… Proper Noun Terminology invented for its own sake.

    Inventing titles for things that already have names is not complexity. Explaining to us the hierarchy of an organization by giving each position a Proper Noun Title isn’t either, plus it’s also the worst way to present this information to the audience.

    All we actually need to know for this plot to start moving is that people can do magic, they go to schools, and there’s a strong classist division between them. The rest is not holding up the story, but dagnabit we’re going to hear it first anyway! Exposition ho!

    Reply
  7. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    “That’s right! Incest again!”
    FUCK

    “Tatsuya’s ability to type super fast. What is he doing? Programming? Hacking a government network? Nope, just “[c]onfirming the curriculum, and registering for classes.”
    I always chuckle at this kind of thing, but this was ridiculous. These kinds of things always incorporate more clicking than typing, but that’s not visually interesting enough so let’s supe up the typing OH SO SKILLED!
    Here, we see it for checking the curriculum. Why? Why would someone, anyone, need to type SO SKILLED SO FAST for such basic info?

    Anyway, I have to asked something serious here: What does give, mate?
    You mention that you know, sure fire, that you’ll be blogging this anime from begginning to end. How? The first episode was boring, uneventful and mostly lazy, the exact same things that you [rightfully] dropped Fate/Zero for, despite the show eventually getting into some insane[ly retarded] stuff if one keeps with it.

    “I’m just saying you can’t use complexity as an excuse to have an introduction where nothing fucking happens.”
    Then why keep with it? Because of the terribly limp-fisted social commentary? Or do you know something about this you didn’t mention (or that I missed you mentioning)?

    Well anyway, this anime feels like we’ve done this before. I don’t remember where, or what, but I can swear you’ve blogged this anime before. There was a two main characters, the weird-but-cliche school setting, the green and white outfits, and the silly segregation. “Weed” and “Bloom” as classifications seem really damn familiar too.
    It doesn’t make any sense, I know. haha I’m just having a bad case of Deja Vu I guess

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      What’s the deal? It’s a blog. I’m going to blog about stuff that generates the most discussion. I might not like the show, but I didn’t like SAO either. And yes, this episode was boring, but I never said it was the most boring episode ever. You bring up Fate/Zero, but man, Fate/Zero’s first episode was so boring, I didn’t even finish it. Not the same ballpark.

      Reply
      1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

        “I’m going to blog about stuff that generates the most discussion.”
        Fair enough. Didn’t mean to come off so negative, I was just curious about why you’d stick with it, maybe that you knew something juicy about the story we didn’t and it was worth it.

        But hey, I’ve got no real gripes over whatever you choose, mate. You’re the only blog I read and it’s a regular read for me no matter what.

        “I might not like the show, but I didn’t like SAO either.”
        To be fair you were finding good points for the first….three?…episodes I believe. Then when it went downhill it did so in a magnificently shitty fashion and kept on going to become one of the best shows to mock. You did really good with that one. haha

        “You bring up Fate/Zero, but man, Fate/Zero’s first episode was so boring, I didn’t even finish it.”
        Oh WOW You’re right! HAha! My bad for comparing the two. While this show had next to nothing to offer, at least you were able to stick it through. Fuck me I forgot how horrible Fate/Zero’s first episode was. At least they picked it for fun retardation later on, but that episode (and many others) was inexcusable.

        Reply
  8. catonwall

    The only thing I’m sure of, is that Miyuki said “onii-sama” almost 30 times in a 20-minute show (excluding OP/ED).

    Onee-san student council president? Check. Genki & cute loli? Check. Big-boobed megane? Check. Loud tomboy? Check. Bro-complex imouto? Check. Old-perverted man? Check. God, that was some good collection of tropes in just one episode.

    And what’s with the 3D animation? Biiig letdown. And, question, will you blog Gokukoku no Brynhildr?

    Reply
  9. Tanaka

    I’m kinda curious. Your dislike for incest comes from it freaking you out when you imagine this kind of situation with siblings or is it more related to the way anime in general portrays it?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      At the moment, I don’t see it adding anything to the story other than signifying a recent trend in anime to shoehorn incest into every sibling relationship. If the anime’s portrayal of incest improves in later episodes, I’ll change my stance accordingly. That has always been the caveat on this blog.

      Reply
  10. Anonymous

    • Our siblings are not twins. He was born in April, and Miyuki was born in March. So was he held back a year or what?

    School in Japan goes from April to March. He was born to late to start school the year before Miyuki–they’re almost a full year apart, but due to bad timing, he’s in her year.

    Reply

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