What They Say:
The season turns from summer to fall. This is also the time for students to prepare for the “National High School Magic Thesis Competition,” a.k.a. “Thesis Competition.” At this nationwide competition, students representing each of the nine magic schools in the country present their research on topics ranging from magic theory to magic engineering. If the Nine Schools Competition was meant to assess the students’ “physical” capabilities, the Thesis Competition evaluates their “mental” proficiency.
Even though he is a Course 2 student and only a first-year, Tatsuya is appointed to represent his school along with his group members to present their thesis on “the technical feasibility of a Gravity Control-type Thermonuclear Fusion Reactor.” At the same time, Tatsuya is approached by his stepmother, Sayuri Shiba, to help analyze a “Relic.”
Meanwhile, in Yokohama, where this year’s Thesis Competition was scheduled to take place, local authorities investigate a series of unlawful entries into the country and work to keep the situation under control. This, however, is only the beginning of a greater conflict that would soon involve the students at the Thesis Competition…
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 eight episodes that are split between two discs with a four/four 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 once again 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 rich purple and blue design to it that gives it some weight and gravitas. 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 with a lighter color tone combined with the serious intent on all of their faces. 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 a really good image of Tatsuya carrying/rescuing Miyuki with a soft blush to her expression that’s wholly appropriate. Giving it a kind of dreamlike state with the background visual just accents it well. The back cover goes for the supporting side again with more of a sunburst design to it that works well. There’s no artwork on the reverse side as it goes for a maroon background with the Japanese logo along 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 another question and answers text segment of some note with the original author. This one shifts down from thirty questions to twenty-four, but they’re all so richly answered that you certainly can’t complain. 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 second clean ending sequence, though I admit I would have liked all of them together for both opening and closings. The fun piece we get is the sixth and seventh 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)
The anime adaptation comes to a close with this set and it’s something that’s definitely an interesting viewing overall. One that really does make me want to go back and rewatch the series in full as a marathon as opposed to the three arc releases we got that gave us self-contained pieces while telling the whole tale. With the light novels still ongoing (and selling like gangbusters at eighteen volumes so far), I found myself really enjoying the first arc as it laid some strong worldbuilding and then digging the second arc as it managed the tournament style pretty well while expanding everything else. With the third arc, I admittedly found myself a bit more frustrated with it because you can see how so much of what we’re supposed to get comes from being aware of what’s going on in the novels. it’s here that it feels like it really needs a whole lot of internal dialogue and some bigger infodumps on how the world works.
The final eight episodes here are really split into two different storylines. The first is one that leads to a new competition that Tatsuya gets to be a part of called the Thesis Competition, which is set up in Yokohama where the focus is on the technical/engineering side. The goal here in representing their school, one of nine participating, is to produce the technical feasibility of a Gravity Control-type Thermonuclear Fusion Reactor. It’s part of that very technical and in-depth hard science fiction side that the show does well, if you really want to dig into. I do enjoy it but I prefer it in novel form as opposed to serialized storytelling as it gets bogged down in a way that just doesn’t flow well. For Tatsuya, he gets to work on this since he’s quite skilled and it provides a new way to go up against the other competitors while keeping to his serious side. It’s done well enough but it also brings in some surprisingly fun action elements since his stepmother draws him into the military side for a while to help because of his abilities. The storyline for this isn’t bad, but it does feel kind of fillerish in a way, designed more to provide something to spice up things while dealing with not only the competition itself but some troublesome students that are getting in the way.
The second half, also taking place in Yokohama, is far more interesting but in a different way and different perspective. The basic premise here is that a dangerous group (that’s really too complex and loosely defined to really connect with) is taking advantage of what’s going on in the area to hit the Institute and grab a lot of data that it wants for its nefarious purposes. This is the big final act setup, which began earlier in this set, and while I find myself completely disconnected from the push behind it I found it to be thoroughly engaging. What this works in becoming is a piece that lets the various students stand firm against a highly dangerous force using their various abilities without compromise. They’re completely and utterly threatened and fight back because so much is at stake. The result is that the show gets surprisingly and disturbingly violent. But it’s this kind of “realistic” brutality that fits, even if you do cringe that it’s all being performed by largely cool and collected high school students. There is such an intensity from some of them that those moments almost become worse than the calm types involved in the fighting.
This arc is both utterly thrilling and utterly disappointing at the same time. I loved that it went big and that it serves up what’s termed the beginning of a new reality for the world – which is what future novels explore. I don’t expect any more of this to ever get animated, so there’s some disappointment there. It goes big throughout the fight and just puts all its cards on the table and runs with it in a really strong way. The disappointing side is that we get to see Tatsuya unlocked. And that’s basically him in god mode here because his super rare ability essentially gets to re-write someone if they’re injured, bringing them back to full health. There’s naturally a cost to it, but that’s just discussed and not really shown because of how he acts. It’s a power that’s just several steps too far and really is the kind of game changer that upsets the balance of this world for me. What makes it even worse is that he’s so much like an automaton during his use of it in the battle that it’s almost cringe inducing. The “mobile suit” and black costume design just makes it all the worse.
This series has been one that has its challenges to be sure but it’s also really appealing because of those challenges. It’s the kind of series where, in my younger days, I could see myself really digging deep into it and exploring all the elements and utterly fanboying about it. This set is the weaker of the three overall for me, though it has some very strong high points to it, particularly in the final couple of episodes as the students essentially go to war. The show is one that really won me over with its strong worldbuilding and technical approach to what it wanted to do and I thoroughly loved the animation style and character designs. It definitely shows its novel side without going into the same kinds of tropes in the same way, even when we do have that whole awkward brother/sister element. It’s almost like it’s there because it knows that’s the only way a good number of fans will check it out. Aniplex really put together some great looking releases here across the board and I’m totally jonesing for more of this to be animated, even as a series of features.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Get to Know Magic Studies! Short #6, Textless Ending 2
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 8th, 2015
Running Time: 200 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.