Over the past hundred years, the old occult magic of the past has been grasped by science and turned into a new, more modern form, a form now taught at government schools to young students.
In a world of scientifically synthesized magic, students showing high proficiency are enrolled in select high schools to hone their abilities. Miyuki Shiba and her brother Tatsuya enroll in such a university, but Miyuki is placed into course 1 while Tatsuya is placed in the inferior course 2. Miyuki does her best to support her brother, a man she admires greatly. However, social pressures from both outside and within the school create issues for them.
Author’s Note: I usually only review series on their own with no regard to spin-offs or original material. However, this manga series, as a spin-off retelling of a light novel, is important to discuss both as an individual work and relative to the flagship series, so I will offer my opinion on it in both manners.
Fans of the magic high school genre of manga will find appeal in The Honor Student at Magic High School as it is very much a member of its genre while exploring magic in a far more scientific way than usually common.
The Honor Student at Magic High School, for those of you who are unfamiliar, tells the same story as the light novels of The Irregular at Magic High School, but instead in manga form and from the perspective of Tatsuya’s sister Miyuki. While it is pretty heavily aimed at the audience of the original series, Honor Student still works as a stand alone series if you are interested in picking up the manga but have no interest in the books.
The first half of the story takes place before Miyuki and Tatsuya begin school, and focuses on the dynamic between the siblings as well as much of the initial setup. Tatsuya has very minimal personality at this point in the story other than being a stoic nice guy, but there is a decent amount of mysteriousness about him in terms of his abilities, as it seems very important people rely on him. Especially for a first volume, I was glad to see a bit of intrigue introduced because quite a few series have a hard time establishing similar levels of curiosity at first.
Miyuki herself is definitely interesting as well as her kindness and determination mixed with her steely magical abilities are fascinating, but the way she is used in the story is a bit annoying at times. As we as the audience are often privy to Miyuki’s thoughts, it’s easy for us to see two defining characteristics that the narrative just absolutely drills into us: she’s supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous, and she is absolutely obsessed with her brother. To a certain extent, the brotherly obsession could be perceived as interesting in that it is relatively unique to have a story be narrated by a sister with an unnatural affection for her brother. That being said, it’s pretty damn creepy, which is unfortunate because her reactions and inner monologue would be a lot more endearing to me if it wasn’t basically incest. Miyuki’s other trait, her beauty, is actually more annoying right now though because just about every person that sees her just has to comment on it, which makes it feel a bit like an attempt to cash in on the intended male audience gone out of control since it is pushed on us so much.
A huge part of the intial draw for the book is likely due to the interesting world building the series has. While details such as the ten powerful clans that basically rule Japan and the nine magic high schools are interesting, it’s actually the magic itself that works the best. There are only basic introductory details given so far, but moments such as Miyuki’s description of emission-type magic really show the thought that has gone into the rules that govern the world of Honor Student. That being said, the actual school life itself is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the sort of social establishment.
The school is divided into course 1 and course 2 students, and course 1 students have a huge advantage in the resources provided to them. I liked this concept because it both was an interesting dynamic for the school to have that differentiates it a bit from similar settings in other stories and because it creates the opportunity for an interesting plot point as Tatsuya is a course 2 student while Miyuki is in course 1. However, so far it’s been a bit more of a hindrance towards the story, primarily because the characters really don’t realistically sell me on the social impacts. Characters such as Morisaki, a first year in course 1, are extremely biased against course 2 students despite it being their first day in high school. Their outrage at course 2 students even associating with friends or family outside of their course seems a bit unbelievable because of how over-enthusiastic and zealous characters get about something that is relatively minor as far as social barriers go, and it makes what should be a serious issue feel a bit comical.
For those that are fans of the original series or last year’s anime, the manga for Honor Student might have extra appeal. As I’ve already mentioned, it is told explicitly from Miyuki’s perspective. However, keep in mind that means more than just getting Miyuki’s thoughts: the story, when focusing on Tatsuya, also focuses more on the students in course 2 as they interact directly with him more often. Since the story is from Miyuki’s perspective, characters such as Honoka and Shizuku get more of a focus (a lot more) than the course 2 characters, so it adds to the depth of the story even if you are already familiar with the original.
The Honor Student at Magic High School is a must-read for fan of the anime or light novels. However, if you are a new reader curious about the series, it is a bit harder to say. While the world and characters are interesting and take an interesting spin on the magic high school genre, certain elements such as the course 1/course 2 dynamic and Miyuki’s brother complex could be potential turnoffs. If you can get over those elements though, there are still plenty of good things that might appeal to you, so feel free to give this one a read.
The Honor Student at Magic High School is a series drawn by Yu Mori based on the original light novel series The Irregular at Magic High School by Tsutomu Sato. The series began serialization in June 2012 and is currently ongoing in ASCII’s Dengeki Daioh imprint. It is licensed for English release by Yen Press, with volume 2 scheduled for release on March 22, 2016. The original series was adapted into an anime by the studio Madhouse and aired from Spring 2014 to Summer 2014.
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