What They Say:
The seasons have turned to summer and the story enters the next chapter. The National Magic High School Goodwill Magic Game Convention (a.k.a. the “Nine Schools Competition”) is just around the corner. The young elites of all the nation’s magic high schools are ready to demonstrate their skills in the name of their pride.
Miyuki, a Course 1 student, is chosen as one of the representative athletes to compete for First High School’s prestige. Tatsuya, being a Course 2 student, knew better than anyone else that he would have no involvement in such an esteemed event as the “Nine Schools Competition.” However, to everyone’s surprise, he is actually nominated to represent First High School as the team’s engineer. It is unprecedented for a Course 2 student to compete in the tournament, and naturally the whole school is thrown into an uproar.
Students of First High School are all ready for their third consecutive victory, while the other magic high schools are not about to easily hand it over. With the students’ various expectations, the battle between the young magicians will soon begin.
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.
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 eleven episodes that are split between three discs with a four/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.
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 a good range of characters here with a green hue to it that works quite well. Each of the characters are well defined here and I love how the softness of the box and the color design comes together. 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 that are all female, though 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 a couple of the other girls from the show set against a light pink 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. Unlike the first volume we do get some artwork here with more of the cast getting their chance to shine.
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 another question and answers text segment of some note with the original author. This one shifts up from twenty-five to thirty questions of interesting material. We also get a small but welcome selection of postcards showing some of the artwork from this particular set.
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.
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 for the second one and the first clean ending. The fun piece we get are the fourth and fifth installments of the 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)
After enjoying the first installment of this series far more than I expected, particularly considering the way a lot of people reacted to the show during its streaming run, it left me a whole lot more curious about what’s to come. Especially since they’re releasing it by arc in essence where this set has eleven episodes compared to the seven of the first. It’s an unusual release pattern to be sure yet it manages to work as we get this set of episodes and story material that’s self contained but also part of the larger puzzle. The end result is that while I’d love to just burn through the whole show and absorb it, getting it in this form allows me to focus on just this arc and this arc alone while also thinking about the bigger picture.
This arc focuses on the Nine Schools Competition and runs for the full eleven parts, making it what would initially seem to be a standard if sprawling arc for a twenty-six episode series. When shows focus on tournament material, a lot of fans like myself begin to have visions of the old shounen tournament series from days of yore. That does still happen from time to time out there in the anime world, but this series doesn’t quite go that route. With so much focus given on the technical side of magic the last time around that also makes a big impact here. This feels more like an overly extended sports day of sorts, but between the nine main schools that exist that deal in magic. And that makes it sprawling in a sense yet still contained because the majority of it focuses on our familiar characters. Additions from other schools is kept almost painfully small when you’d expect a lot more interaction instead.
Since these are working off of the series of novels, what we get here is more part of the larger setup that exists for this world. The exploration of how Tatsuya and Miyuki fit into the world is certainly a familiar story point in many series and one can easily see that being used here, with Tatsuya having some sort of hidden aspect beyond being a genius at the engineer side of things, while Miyuki is quite skilled as well with her magics but is aligned towards something bigger when it comes to the Family itself and her place in it. Traditional story elements yet they feel different here, given more weight due to the pacing of the show, the exploration of the political intrigue and the technical of the magic, which makes it far more engaging in a way that has you wanting to dig into it. You get the sense that the novels themselves aren’t the usual lightweights that get adapted and is instead something that commands a better exploration of the foundations of the world.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the focus is on Tatsuya. His being shifted to the engineer side and doing work on the CAD equipment is certainly interesting. It’s made clear that he’s got the skills early on as we see him doing things that are not the norm, such as fine tuning by hand, but as interesting as that is it’s more interesting to see how some are continually attacking him. This goes back to the class structure that exists in the school with the Course sides. Some simply can’t stand seeing someone from Course 2 doing Course 1 work and it has them on the attack, verbally, more than they might otherwise. It’s an understandable angle and some welcome subtext because we continually get the nod from various people that deal with this that someone like Tatsuya is threatening. Someone that can upset the status quo that favors their life and their placement on Course 1. It’s not hugely explored yet having it here and dealt with in such ways adds some real favor to the show.
Tatsuya’s skill level is also noticed right away when the main gathering social event occurs and the Patriarch that’s there of the Ten Clans pulls a fast one. It’s one of those instructive moments from an elder about the use of magic and that it’s a tool to an end, not an end itself. Tatsuya notices the trick of it all quickly, which impresses the Patriarch, and there are a few others that notice as well. This brings Tatsuya into this sphere of influence since he’s being readied for something bigger. Though there are aspects of Tatsuya that are unexplored, this angle begins to show what kind of tool he can be for the powers that be because of his level. And how dangerous he is to remain in the clan that he’s in now as there’s a sense that they’re really tilting the balance of power. Due to various relationships that exist and Miyuki’s presence, it has the right kind of family-political aspect that makes it really engaging, but also one you have to work at to suss out the real plans and motivations going on.
That said, there is a lot of competitive time here. But it’s all done in that sports day kind of feeling where it’s not one thing like a fighting tournament that gets underway. Rather there are something like a dozen different competitions going on with the Course 1 and Course 2 students, where the Course 2 students earn only half the points naturally. These are very fun pieces overall since they’re kept short and the focus is more on the technicality of it (frustrating to some viewers I’m sure) but also the way that trouble starts seeping in and Tatsuya has to figure out how to counter it. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, he gets called up to the Course 1 side to participate in one of the matches later in the arc – another moment that introduces tension because of his standing – and it gives us another look at just how he strategizes and works himself to achieve his goals. Essentially, every waking moment for him is all about analyzing everything around him as part of his large goals, which is twinned with his goal of protecting Miyuki.
Similar to the first volume, I completely get why this series frustrates and rankles a number of folks and why it struggled as a simulcast series. But the Irregular at Magic High School proves once again with its second set to be a show that I’m just very drawn to. It’s the kind of series where, if I was in my teens, I’d be mapping out all sorts of things and digging deep into what it’s trying to do with all my free time. This installment brings us through the Nine Schools arc in a very good way with a lot to take in, a lot of character nudges, and an expansion on the world overall and the mythology and science of magic. It’s beautifully put together here in a strong way that really shines with its quality, from the content itself to the packaging. This is definitely a huge dark horse contender for one of my favorite new series of this year.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Get to Know Magic Studies Shorts 4-5, Textless Opening 2, Textless Ending 1
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.