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Irregular at Magic High School Vol. 09 Light Novel Review

7 min read
Nothing escapes Tatsuya’s attention ... even when it goes outside others’ notice.

Nothing escapes Tatsuya’s attention … even when it goes outside others’ notice.

Creative Staff:
Original Story: Tsutomu Sato
Illustration: Kana Ishida
Illustration Assistants: Jimmy Stone & Yasuko Suenaga
Design: BEE-PEE
Translation: Andrew Prowse

What They Say:
Miyuki’s classmate Shizuku Kitayama is on her way to study abroad. For magicians, this is normally impossible, since allowing the genes of someone who can use magic outside their home country’s borders is tantamount to giving up national secrets. But it’s allowed to happen in one case-exchange programs. And that’s how Angelina has arrived in Japan from the USNA to study at First High. But it seems she’s a part of something much bigger than a simple cultural exchange!

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The year 2095 was coming to close and Tatsuya is just now recalling the events of prior months concerning fighting off terrorists, a crime syndicate, foreign invaders, but now these seem nothing compared to what he and his friends must now face, the bane of all students – their final exams before winter break. He and his sister Miyuki had decided to help their friends study at Shizuku’s family mansion and everything was seemingly going fine until their host disrupted the joking ease with a major announcement which made everything else seem trivial – she had been accepted in a foreign exchange program to study magic in the United States of North America. Even her best friend Honoka did not know about this acceptance to which the usually silent and emotionless girl repeatedly bowed and apologized, politely stating she could not say anything until the approval was officially secured. Erika was especially surprised since while she did not doubt Shizuku’s academic skills, the main reason these opportunities never came was due to the rarity of military grade magicians; each country had a limited number of these specialized people and since governments did not wish to allow their resources to leave their area of control and be allowed to spread their genes outside, these chances were extremely rare and never permitted without special circumstances.

Miyuki brought up the point which everyone was considering at the time: why would they consider this chance even if it was an exchange program? This point made Tatsuya ponder the strangeness of this opportunity, for even if the USNA was a Pacific ally, they were also considered a governmental rival due to no one wishing to allow state secrets from escaping the country. Since he did not have enough facts to be able to seriously interpret this unusual scenario Tatsuya decided to table the notion for now bringing up the query when Shizuku would be leaving and for how long – not until after the start of the new year and for only three months. Of course, once Honoka heard this answer she breathed a sigh of relief thinking this would not be too long, but the irregular of the group knew even this short period seemed to be an extended length given the rarity of these exchanges. However, after their friend’s going away party the siblings still could not ignore the coincidental timing of this departure to wander into the discussion, especially when they consider the use of Material Burst might have aroused the suspicions of the Americans. The circumstances pointed to the notion as if USNA were waiting for a chance to investigate the Japanese government and to see what they were keeping secret from the rest of the world. And yet what made the situation all the more ominous was the warning from their Aunt Maya not to contact the Independent Magic Battalion for the time being, and while he did not like being told what to do the restriction made his conjectures all the more foreboding.

The brief yet eventful winter break finally came to an end and with it began the third school quarter, but even with a quick re-introduction back to a regular schedule, everyone was welcomed back with a full day of lessons. However this busy day did not stop the gossip surrounding a transfer student taking Shizuku’s place in Class A and Erika was at the forefront cultivating the rumors around this stranger, much to Tatsuya’s exasperation of being dragged into the fruitless conversation. While she could not but admire the beauty of this new pupil and her silky blond hair, it seemed the redhead was not the only one who wanted a view of this alluring girl, in fact even their upper classmates were attracted to the crowd all in an effort to see a new face and an event which hasn’t happened within the past ten years – that was how rare the addition had proven to be for all. However as the rest of his friends began to chime into the conversation, the normally aloof boy also learned their facility was not the only one to receive new pupils, it seemed Second, Third and Fourth High plus the University also acquired recruits, all with the rumor of flight being used during the recent Yokohama incident perhaps the spurred on the events. As this curious fact was risen, Leo could not but spurt out the off-color comment that this new girl may be a spy to learn more of the newly exposed magic, but was given sour looks by the rest of those gathered with the reason they should support the girl instead of spouting unfounded accusations.

It was not long until everyone’s curiosity was soon sated as the lunch arrived within the cafeteria and the normally busy area becomes ever more so as a foreigner was accompanied by Miyuki and Honoka. While Tatsuya was momentarily stunned by the reports of her beauty now confirmed with blond hair and stunning green eyes, familiarity was what drew him to his sister, but when the girls from Class A left to grab come food everyone at the table also came to the same conclusion – they had seen her before. However when she was finally introduced to the group her grasp of the Japanese language was practically flawless, aside from a slight accent in her pronunciation, the girl named Angelina Kudou Shields or Lina seemed to immediately fit in as everyone introduced themselves to the newcomer. But as their meals were finished and the situation of unease became more cordial, it was Tatsuya who asked an unusual question: was she in any way blood related to His Excellency Kudou, the retired general who also had a brother named Retsu that visited America and started a family there? While it was strange now for magicians to travel abroad, in the past it was not uncommon and this topic concerning the leader’s family was a popular subject among Japanese sorcerers but it did not stop Lina from confirming his suspicions – without hesitation, this new classmate acknowledged her maternal grandfather was indeed Retsu. What other secrets could this blond transfer be hiding and what are her true intentions in returning to her ancestor’s place of birth?

In Summary:

Although I greatly appreciate the anime of this series plus the manga spin-off centering around Miyuki, this is my first time reading one of the light novels and main source material for the title, and to be quite honest I was sincerely surprised by the overwhelming complexity of the narrative. Although the characters and situations are immediately recognizable, the manner by which writer Sato-sensei inundates the reader with endless amounts of magical technobabble and background for political situations is regretfully confusing and breaks the flow of an intriguing story all in order to inject circumstantial facts. This amount of complexity is perplexing considering this is the ninth volume in the series by which readers should be increasingly familiar with concepts of magic and its effects on the global infrastructure, however, the author still deems it necessary to interrupt the narrative’s progression with monotonous tidbits of information. And then to further expand upon the entanglement of the tale, Sato-sensei also deems it imperative to increase our bewilderment by splitting the story apart via constant inversions between Tatsuya’s and Lina’s viewpoints of the same events; while we can sometimes glean new information from these situations, at the same time it also complicates the telling by repeating previously stated facts without warning, thus making the audience cross a state déjà vu before they realize what has just happened. Simplicity is sometimes best … and this volume is a prime example when the reverse has been achieved.

The Irregular at Magic High School has been one of my favorite high school set titles, but after reading this volume I am beginning to second guess myself whether that admiration has been misplaced due to a need to overwhelm readers with unnecessary complexity. There is a reason why each book has a glossary of terminology to open each volume, and yet Sato-sensei still feels the need to complicate and slow down the story by injection of new concepts within the main narrative, adding to an increasingly complicated tale which slowly fades from memory due to nothing retentive after it is complete. When you wonder if words are better than pictures, a reading of this book breaks the stalemate and allows you to consider that too much is worse than simplicity … in other words, this time a picture is worth a thousand words, and I wish the title could have fallen back to that understated proverb.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: September 18, 2018
MSRP: $14.00

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