The premiere light novel of The Irregular at Magic High School, the hit series which spawned multiple manga series and an anime adaptation, is out! How will Tatsuya Shiba deal with his inferior placement at Magic High?
In a world where magic has been scientifically synthesized, magic has had an increasing role in countries’ fights for world dominance. To gain powerful magicians, the country has built several schools that foster talented individuals’ magical abilities. First Magic High School is the most prestigious of these schools. Siblings Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba enroll in the school, but Tatsuya is placed into Course 2, the inferior course, for his poor practical exam scores while Miyuki is placed into Course 1. The school is filled with jealous social rivalry between students of different courses, but none are in as peculiar of a situation as the Shiba siblings.
Irregular is a science-fiction series that draws on heavy scientific elements to create magic. Fans of futuristic/magical high school series will likely find the series appealing.
The Irregular at Magic High School’s premise centers around two siblings who go to the same magic school but are placed in different courses based on their respective abilities. While it was fairly easy to give this short explanation of the initial story, the book had a surprising amount of depth in its pages. Characterizations of cast members and world building were diverse and their translations conveyed the ideas effectively. In short, I found myself enjoying this light novel far more than I expected.
Magic is handled rather uniquely in Irregular. Instead of traditional sorcery or even magic classifications such as fire/water, the world of Irregular features scientifically synthesized magic with more pedantic classifications such as vibration magic and acceleration magic. This unique take on magic is interesting from the get-go, but the way it is used even at this early point in the story really sold it. For example, Miyuki’s specialty is supposed to be deceleration magic, and through decelerating particles, the temperature drops and she effectively creates ice. Obviously, this magic has altered the social dynamics of the world substantially. While it is clear that the story has only begun to delve into these politics and social aspects, what has been included has been interesting, suitably complex, and compelling.
The most blatant element of storytelling that becomes evident when reading Irregular is the amount of knowledge that author Tsutomu Sato prefers to confer upon the reader: quite a bit. The very unique and detailed type of magic is symbolic of and significant in the depth of the world building Sato’s writing features. However, while so-called “information dumps” can get frustratingly boring for readers in many series, Sato’s prose is very good at effectively conveying and integrating knowledge with events of the story as they happen. Credit also has to be given to the translation for Yen Press by Andrew Prowse, as the language is very effectively conveyed for an English audience for the most part. Sentence structure is smooth and flowing in this volume and the narrative world-building elements, which I could see being easily be screwed up in bringing them to another language, are integrated well into English.
However, even if explication was integrated well into the story, the book would be ineffective and boring if that story itself wasn’t good. Thankfully, while only the very beginning of the story has started in this volume, I never felt bored through the entirety of the 200 pages. Tatsuya and Miyuki’s early days at Magic High are very entertaining character-wise and, consequently, event-wise. The primary conflict so far seems to center around the social structure of Magic High, which breaks students into two groups: Course 1 and Course 2. Course 1 students are the higher performers on the entrance exams and get personalized teaching. However, this split has created fodder for superiority/inferiority complexes in Course 1/Course 2 students. Such a substantial rift between two groups of what should already be some of the best students in the country seems odd, but the apparently inherent academic inferiority of Course 2 students makes the distinction all too easy for classmates to make.
This gets interesting because Miyuki and Tatsuya, despite being siblings, are placed into different courses. Miyuki makes the argument consistently that her brother’s skills are far superior to most Course 1 students and that he was underestimated by the practical exams due to their focus on specific magician traits. While this brother-sister relationship is one of the most interesting in the book, it will veer a bit into the incest-y side of things fairly often. However, this wasn’t too much of a problem in this volume because the good parts outweighed the negative. The character of protagonist Tatsuya himself is particularly effective. Based on his abilities alone, Tatsuya makes for an interesting idea as someone who is clearly more capable than most despite being declared as inferior. Due to the detailed explanations of magic systems, this doesn’t feel like an unreasonable element of the story as Tatsuya’s strengths and weaknesses are clearly defined by the descriptions. Tatsuya himself is a surprisingly interesting character, and his personality is conveyed effectively through both direct and indirect characterizations as the narrator focuses heavily on his reactions to various events and characters.
Mirroring the details of the world at large, the social structure and the individuals involved in it are heavily used throughout Irregular. An ensemble-like cast of characters has already formed, mixed of students from Tatsuya’s class to members of the student council. Most of the individuals introduced have already gotten interesting development as Sato wastes no time making a character relevant. Particularly among these are student council president Mayumi Saegusa and Disciplinary Committee Chairwoman Mari Watanabe. Both have heavy roles in maintaining order in the school, and personalities to match. Saegusa’s personable and manipulative behaviors are observed by Tatsuya (and thus the audience) frequently, and make for interesting reading. In addition to the written character traits, Irregular’s illustrator Kana Ishida’s work is exceptional for light novels, and the illustrations of all the characters help create quality mental images of the cast (although, warning, some are slightly fanservice-y).
The Irregular at Magic High School is off to a good start with its first volume. Throughout the book, a compelling futuristic world is created through excellently integrated explanations of magical systems and social structures. The magic itself is a very unique take on magic that really steps away from common styles of classification. All of this, combined with an effectively characterized cast, makes for a very quality book. Irregular is a pretty easy novel to recommend based off its first volume, so if you are wondering whether or not to give Yen Press’s new series a shot, I say go for it.
The Irregular at Magic High School is translated by Andrew Prowse and licensed for English release by Yen Press. It is written by Tsutomu Sato and illustrated by Kana Ishida. The series began serialization in July 2012 (although it was previously published as a web novel online) and is currently ongoing in ASCII’s Dengeki Bunko imprint. Volume 1 released on April 19th, 2016, and volume 2 is scheduled for release on August 23rd. The series was adapted into an anime by the studio Madhouse and aired from Spring 2014 to Summer 2014.
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