Shows like this leave me torn. In a similar vein to Sword Art Online, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – abbreviated as Mahouka – has a protagonist who is near godlike and has plot armor rivalling poorly written self-insert fanfiction.
On one hand, this anime was ridiculous in a way that left me entertained. The overpowered main character, Tatsuya Shiba, is inexplicably fun to watch but unfortunately, any self-respecting critic will be hard pressed not to point out his flaws.
Like most light novel adaptations, the story is difficult to judge as the anime only adapts a certain portion of it and thus only captures some of what it has to offer. The anime ends before the story really starts to take off. Despite this, I think they did a passable job of adapting the story material, though that’s not to say the show is without flaws. I believe Mahouka has adapted eight volumes of its light novel and roughly three arcs in total.
The first twelve episodes that constitute the first arc is easily the best part of this show. This is no argument, as the quality of the episodes afterwards dips tremendously. The last two arcs leave much to be desired due to poor execution and poor pacing. They are still mildly enjoyable but as a whole they make the anime lousier than it would’ve been had they stopped at episode 12.
The basic premise of the show is that in a world reliant on magic and magicians, Tatsuya is one of those with poor magic skills, and that in itself is enough to be ostracized and debased since people talented in magic think themselves superior. His sister, Miyuki, is one of these talented magicians but fortunately, she loves her brother with all her heart and is a good person – this strange combination leads to the pair getting attention, and not the good kind.
What the show does well is slowly introducing its huge roster of characters. It starts with the siblings before expanding, and as the plot unravels, the overarching story begins to come to light.
Another aspect of the anime I liked was how they told us about the inner workings of the society said characters live in, as well as explaining the nitty gritty of magic and how it works. Good world-building is a definite plus for me, but if you’re the type who dislikes being pelted with exposition Mahouka will probably not seem appealing.
Overall, the story is only passable. Those looking for a deep and intriguing plot will probably end up disappointed. While Mahouka has plenty of world building and some politicking, it’s more action oriented.
As I said in the opening paragraph of this review, I actually like Tatsuya. But despite me liking him, I can firmly say that he is a critic’s worse nightmare. If being ‘bland’ is a character trait, than Tatsuya has got it down to a tee. There’s an explanation for him being this way, but other than being an overprotective older brother, he is pretty much a gary stu. Again, this aspect of the show is a plus for me because I enjoy these types of shows and character tropes, but I know more than a few people who hate this sort of thing.
Miyuki Shiba gets her fair share of screen time since she’s nearly always sticking to Tatsuya, but her character – like her brother – is only skin deep.
She’s a badass. Unfortunately, she gets little to no development. She does not change throughout the show and while I can brush it off since this anime has only adapted a mere eight volumes of light novel, but the fact remains that she received no development. She is an overprotective and talented younger sister. That sentence is her character.
Continuing on, the rest of the cast is unfortunately as underdeveloped as the siblings. This leads to ‘heavy’ moments where emotional scenes which are supposed to further the characters, hold little to no sway over those watching. One might say that I’m criticizing the show for something it holds no power over, but it is because I like Mahouka that I’m critical of it.
If the show does get a second season, I hope its flaws get addressed, which would in turn attract more fans.
Though Mahouka has glaring flaws, it was an entertaining watch and deserves to be given a chance. The show has a great soundtrack and decent animation, it is far from the worse anime I’d ever watched. If you enjoyed SAO then you’d love Mahouka, no doubt about that. However, if you hated SAO and are interested in checking this anime out then I’d suggest that you don’t get your hopes too high or even avoid it completely.