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The Irregular at Magic High School Set 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Irregular at Magic High BD Set 1 CoverThe science and technical side of magic in the future.

What They Say:
Magic – a century has passed since this concept has been recognized as a formal technology instead of the product of the occult or mere folklore. The season is spring and it is time for a brand new school year. At the National Magic University First Affiliate High School, A.K.A Magic High School, students are divided into two distinct groups according to their academic performances. The “Blooms,” who demonstrate the highest grades, are enrolled in the “First Course,” and the “Weeds,” who have a poor academic record, are enrolled in the “Second Course.”

This spring, a very peculiar brother and sister enroll as new students. The brother is an underachiever with some deficiencies and enrolls as a “Weed,” while his younger sister is an honor student, who enrolls as a “Bloom.” The brother with a somewhat philosophical disposition and the younger sister who holds feelings a little stronger than sibling love for him… Ever since these two entered through the gates of this prestigious school, the calm campus began to change…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is standard and straightforward in the best kind of way as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo using uncompressed PCM. Sadly, there’s no English language dub for this release, which could have been fun. The show is one that has a good balance to work here overall with its mix of dialogue and action along with magical effects and it largely carries it off. There’s some good use of the forward soundstage for all three aspects of it in terms of placement and depth, which is fun when the action kicks in since it has a good stage to work within. The dialogue is a bit more center channel oriented, which is to be expected, but it’s balanced with the effects from time to time going on and the swell of the music as well. This builds things in general and adds a good layer to it all, especially when combined with some of the brief but well done moments of magic. Overall, it’s a solid release that comes across very well here.

Video:
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set contains seven episodes that are split between two discs with a four/three format. Animated by Madhouse, it has a really good polished look about it with some character designs that have great detail and overall appearance with the color combination used and some of the additional details in the girls outfits. The show is one that doesn’t have a lot of high motion sequences, but when they kick in they’re very fluid and are showcased very well with solid colors and great fluidity. There’s little to really find fault with here overall as everything comes across as clean, crisp and detailed without any noticeable breakup or line noise to be had during regular playback.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is pretty good overall as we get one of the soft slipcovers for the release that uses color well to be appealing and quite eye-catching. The front panel provides a look at the two Shiba siblings with Sayaka in the background but with the image and material it has a softer look, yet one with some great pop to the characters eyes. The logo is kept along a thin sidebar which isn’t the norm but works really well here. The back panel does the same layout but uses more of the supporting characters and without quite the same pop as the front cover. The wraparound on it provides all the technical information on the back side while the front breaks down while the front has what’s included with the release itself and in the package. Inside the box we get the clear Blu-ray case that has the siblings again on the front cover with different artwork set against a light blue that accents the overall theme of the packaging. The back cover goes for the supporting side again with more of a sunset hue that works well. There’s no artwork on the reverse side but we do get a clean blue background with the logo on the left panel.

Inside the package we get a few extras as well as first press items. The booklet is fantastic as it starts off with the usual looks at the various characters but then goes into a 25 question and answers text segment of some note with the original author. We also get a small but welcome selection of postcards showing some of the artwork from this particular set.

Menu:
The menu design for this release in a sense falls under a kind of normal Aniplex aesthetic in terms of the navigation, where we get the small geometric boxes along the bottom that are tied together and have that kind of science-fiction-y feeling about them. It works, it’s serviceable and it’s easy to navigate both as the top menu and the pop-up menu. But the rest of it kind of left me a bit surprised here as we get a series of character swirls that come into play between just color swirls. This goes on for about a minute or so before it brings up the actual series name along the left and the character artwork from the case cover on the right. When that screen comes up, it has a great clean look about it. But it’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment where otherwise it feels like the bulk of the menu is undefined.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty fun in addition to the standard pieces we get. On that front, we get the clean opening sequence as well as a collection of TV spots and trailers. The fun piece we get are the first three Get to Know Magic Studies! spots, which clock in at about four minutes each. These were streamed during the broadcast where it delves into the technical side more of magic in the series but does it with the chibi sized characters and a good dose of laughter in addition to the education.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels by Tsutomu Sato that began back in 2011 and have sixteen volumes so far, The Irregular at Magic High School is a twenty-six episode series that was animated by Madhouse that aired in the spring and summer of 2014. The show is one that has a lot of spinoff manga, games and material that seems to really have a good fanbase about it, which makes sense considering the number of novels overall. I had missed out on the simulcast the first time around and was definitely curious about the series considering the buzz that it got. The release for it is an interesting one that works in ways one might not expect as each one basically encompasses a larger arc within the overall series. Frustrating for some, but there’s also that sense of immediate closure with a storyline with each set.

The series takes place in 2095 where it’s been one hell of a 21st century so far. Events plunged badly as the decades wore on and in the 2040’s, the world entered a state of perpetual war for two decades that involved over three billion people dying and a change in resource structure due to dwindling energy supplies. Coming out of that though was the rise of magic, used as technology in a sense, that provided a path forward. Events have moved well since then and we get the sense that there’s some real stability in this population reduced world now but also something under the surface that’s starting to make itself known. The focus turns towards one of the more prestigious schools in Japan known mostly as First High School, where the best of those with magical abilities go.

This introduces us to the pairing of Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba, two new students there that are quite different. Miyuki is one that’s enrolled in Course 1 because she has strong skills and talent. Tatsuya on the other hand is in Course 2 because his practical magical skills are very poor. But what we see is that Tatsuya is someone who breaks the system in many ways as he’s rather unique, which makes for a challenge and opportunity. Tatsuya’s biggest ability in terms of magic is being able to break down nearly instantly what someone is able to do and how they do it, allowing him to counter it very quickly. But he knows with his practical magic side being weak that he can’t counter with magic as a strength, so he combines it with other things. Primarily it’s some very, very serious kendo training that he pursues with a really talented if pervy instructor. This gives him seemingly magic-produced speed at times and when combined with his analytical skill makes him look like a strong Course 1 performer instead of Course 2.

As one might expect with just seven episodes here, it does go only so far. Titled as the Enrollment Arc, we get the heavy foundational aspects brought into play with it. The introduction to the world itself is decently done at first with a minor infodump, but it helps set the tone for how civilization is to some degree. When it comes to the school, a good bit of focus is on the actual technical and practical side of technological magic, where the precision elements and the fundamentals are explored. Admittedly, it’s kept simple overall but there’s some nice aspects to it that ramps it up from the usual “oh hey, magic, whee!” kind of stuff we get at times. There’s an effort to make it a functional part of things with limits, controls and other design elements so that when it probably does get fantastical later, it does so for a reason and is duly impressive.

Where this set wants to focus in terms of story is in one direction, but it’s one that allows us through Tatsuya to get to know the First High School and how it operates. As one might expect, there’s a lot of friction when it comes to the Course 1 and 2 students as there’s a certain superiority there from the Course 1 kids. Of course, you know that Tatsuya will shake that up because of his abilities and his very intense personality that just drives to the point in a really creative way sometimes, unnerving his opponents. There’s a definite class construct going on here, one that has gone on for some time, but it’s now starting to come to a head in terms of the level of friction. What this lightly introduces overall is that there’s an organization of some sort out there known as Blanch which is intent on changing the balance between those with power and those without. It’s hard to read too much into it in a way because we’re only exposed to the school setting and not the rest of the country or world to understand how it is out there.

What doesn’t help this group’s’ position though is the underhanded way they’re manipulating things within the school to draw people to their cause. It’s something that comes about slowly through a subplot involved a Course 2 girl name Sayaka, a strong kendo member that is intent on basically changing the nature of the school and drawing people to her cause. She’s not subtle in trying to draw Tatsuya in, but as he becomes a part of the Disciplinary Committee in his own efforts to change things, he sees a way to use her. But we see through that action that those who are setting things with Sayaka and others into motion are using hypnosis and other means to sway people to the cause and create real rifts and escalating towards violence, which is what Sayaka doesn’t want. The arc reveals some interesting ideas and explores the class system well while also offering up a very good look at the nature of the school with it all.

In Summary:
The Irregular at Magic High School is off to an interesting start and it’s not what I expected it to be. Whenever you get something that says high school in the title I’ll hesitate some. There are shows that definitely break the formula a bit though and this one certainly does in some ways. It’s got its silly moments, it has the whole sister in love with brother thing that feels like it’s hiding something more, and it has the usual kind of characters we see in the more serious ones. But it also brings in some pretty interesting fundamentals into it with how the science works. Some of it can be classified as infodumps and the like, but it provides for a welcome change of pace from the superficial approach or the goofy approach. With the first seven episodes here, I found myself really engaged with it in ways I didn’t expect and am really curious to see where it goes and what it wants to reveal. It’s a show whose structure is definitely appealing, characters that have some really good potential and a release that’s simply beautiful to watch. This is definitely one that surprised me.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Get to Know Magic Studies Shorts 1-3, Textless Opening, Trailers and Commercials

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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