Hm? What’s that? No one cares that an infamously bad anime from almost a decade ago is bad? We have plenty of other indulgent harem light novel adaptations to roast now? What the heck is an Assassin’s Pride?
See, I would take criticism like that seriously, but I cannot for deeply personal reasons. The Irregular at Magic High School isn’t just a terribly written anime, or even just a terrible anime; it is the culmination of so many individual gears of the writing machine going wrong that the machine itself implodes in a disastrous incestuous calamity.
While watching this train wreck, I did think to compare it to other anime with blatant Mary Sue protagonists who win the hearts of every girl they meet, who are so profoundly good at everything that nothing poses a challenge, and tries to say some meaningful stuff about real world issues but completely fails. However, the reason that The Misfit of Demon King Academy fails at parodying this exact type of anime is that they are already parodies of themselves.
It is only by breaking down each radically awful link on this chain wrapped around my throat that I can convey to you how bad this show is. They couldn’t have made this show worse if they tried, and believe me, they tried.
The Incestular at Magic High School is all about Tatsuya Shiba being discriminated against for being a Weed. What’s that, you ask? A Weed is a member of Course 2 at the titular school whose talents pale in comparison to the elite Blooms of Course 1. Tatsuya’s talents were skipped over in the practical exam, because this world just isn’t ready to measure his abilities.
In a world where magic is a science, Tatsuya can read the sequences of a spell as they’re cast, and has perfected an anti-magic counterattack by being able to quickdraw the same type of spell twice, canceling out the original. That, on its face, is not a terrible idea, if Tatsuya was only good at reading spells and countering them. That would force him to compensate for his lack of offensive measures, and maybe even rely on the other characters from time to time.
The other characters are allowed to do things and play a role in the plot, as long as Tatsuya comes up with every plan, is the only person who is truly indispensable to that plan, and everyone defers to him immediately. Chief among those glorified extras that this show calls side characters is Miyuki, his younger sister. They think it’s absolutely hilarious to joke about being in love with each other, getting weirdly physical, and force everyone around Tatsuya to walk on eggshells lest you offend his demonic sister-wife.
I was rather blissfully unaware of how strongly this show pushes incest, although the only notable thing about this show is how strangely reticent it is about pushing that particular agenda. The occasional brother complex or romantic subtext is well-worn ground in anime, but nearly every time Tatsuya or Miyuki talks about how badly they want to make like the Hapsburgs, they add a rather weak “jk” at the end.
Now, I would take that as the jokes that the show claims them to be, but apparently they get engaged. I would tell you the context of that to see if they try at all to make it not straight-up incest, but that happens in volume 16 of the light novels, so I’m just going to keep calling it the Incestular at Magic High School and move on, kay?
Let’s avert our eyes from the incestuous elephant in the room, and pivot over to something less uncomfortable, like institutional discrimination.
Tatsuya and his friends among the Weeds take great pains to demonstrate that they are not any lesser than their peers in the Blooms, and that is true…for Tatsuya and only him. The first arc centers around Weeds who demand equal treatment by the school, and collaborate with terrorists to send a powerful message to the administration and establishment of the magic world. That message is…discrimination is okay?
If you’re not in the know, prejudice is usually based on superficial appearances. The pseudoscience of phrenology was founded just to justify racial bigotry as being based in legitimate biology, as opposed to the knee-jerk reaction of “they look different from me”. There is no difference in ability between ethnic groups, which, as countless people have argued, makes it wrong to discriminate against them. Everyone still with me?
So, when you complain that one part of society is treated worse than the other, when that treatment is specifically based on that class’ lack of talent, it completely fails as an allegory for prejudice. The Weeds are objectively, quantifiably worse at magic than the Blooms, with the exception of Tatsuya whose skills cannot be accurately judged because he’s a one in a billion prodigy. They are placed into Course 2 because they are not and cannot do as well as a Course 1 student.
When the radical students debate with the student council president, she asks them what they want her to do. Derogatory terms like “Weed” are already banned, clubs with Course 2 students receive the same funding and space as clubs with Course 1 students, and the first time a Course 2 student demonstrated the necessary talent, he was immediately added to the student council and disciplinary committee. What more do you want?
It might work if any of the characters were written well enough to show why they don’t deserve to be treated as lesser students, but they’re so flat that the rejects just look like rejects, and that’s not how you right a story about class or discrimination. If only the problems with character writing stopped there.
The Irregular at Magic High School is a harem anime, and I actually quite like harem anime. However, in order to do that well, the love interests have to plausibly like the main character for reasons that are in line with their development, and the protagonist has to have enough personality that someone would like them. Can you guess how they did?
By my count, there are six girls who actively like Tatsuya, while every other female character either isn’t in enough scenes or doesn’t have enough personality to say for sure. Big harems can work; I really like Quintessential Quintuplets, but that is a show where the harem is central and deeply written. The Irregular at Magic High School also has to balance its dramatic and action elements, while having way more potential love interests than that far better show.
There’s just so many of them that the only characters who get any amount of depth are Tatsuya and Miyuki, and that would work since they’re the main characters, but that writing is also terrible. Her only personality trait is that she wants to jump his bones, and he doesn’t even get one characteristic. He is just every cool stoic character you’ve ever seen, and he never has to struggle at anything, so what’s the point in even watching him do anything?
In the second arc of the story, there’s a tournament arc between other magical high schools that falls flat because I don’t care about any of them. When the story tries to develop someone, it means nothing because their growth cannot exist without being facilitated by Tatsuya, and they cannot surpass him in any way. If it is a skill he does not have, then it will only be ever used at his direction so that they can still market figures and body pillows of the waifus.
And the waifus are terribly designed! They all have the same uniforms, with no individuality, so the most you’ll get is that this girl wears glasses or this guy has a mole! And they really broke the mold when designing the girls, because let me tell you, the only difference between any two of them is bust size. That is the level of thought that went into designing the characters of this ensemble anime.
I…need to take a moment. I’ll be back in a minute, just minimize your browser or the app for a second and let me breathe before you keep reading.
The Irregular at Magic High School is not the worst anime ever made. It was produced by studio Madhouse, and was at least competently directed, so the action scenes are at least okay. I mean, it came out in 2014, so if I had watched this then, I probably would have thought it was worse.
There’s just…no reason to watch this. It’s not even bad in an entertaining way. It is somehow so wrapped up in its own insanity yet unaware of that fact that it has no fun in the process. There is no Assassin’s Pride level of absurdity to keep the dumpster fire hot enough to keep you engaged. It’s just a bad, boring show with the occasional nice shot or slick choreography to remind you that you’re alive.
And honestly, I wish it hadn’t. I wish that the show was at least mediocre in everything it did so that I could sit down for the full 26 episodes and let it wash over me like a tsunami of the water mixed with food scraps in your garbage disposal. And you know what?
There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing.
Oh, wow, that’s two American Psycho references recently. Huh. Okay, I guess go follow the blog and me on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where I tried to warn you all months ago. Or don’t, I’m done. Until next time, thanks for reading.