In the year 2095, two siblings enroll in a high school for magicians. The younger sister Miyuki manages to get into course 1, the equivalent to an honors program, while the brother Tatsuya is designated a 'weed' and placed into course 2. While Tatsuya was the highest scorer on the written test, his low practical exams led to his general dismissal as a student. However the exams failed to capture his true talents, which are made evident when the school becomes the victim of terrorist plots. Perhaps one of the most hyped shows of the spring, The Irregular at Magic High School had quite a bit to live up to, but how successful was it?
The strongest point of Irregular without a doubt would be the numerous fights that occur. In a dystopian world where magic combat reigns supreme, one might expect battles of epic proportion, and this show delivers. In the beginning, the fights are on a smaller scale and much less violent, but as the series progresses the action and violence step up accordingly. The animation is smooth during the fighting sequences, and the multi-colored spells the magicians cast are also beautifully brought to life and provide for cool effects. Of course, since animation is handled by Madhouse, this is to be expected.
As an extreme music afficionado, I appreciate it when shows have high quality music, and fortunately the soundtrack for Irregular delivers. A mixture of quiet piano pieces and fast-paced electronic sounds manages to fit with the show and add character to the moments it fully presents itself in. It doesn't particularly stand out like the soundtracks of other shows from the past season, but it gets the job done, and is more than acceptable. The openings and endings are also strong musically, especially the first opening which is sung by LiSA (Sword Art Online, Fate/Zero):
Suspense is something important to maintain when the focus of a show is its action sequences. However, one of the first glaring flaws found within Irregular would be its ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Tatsuya is an incredibly overpowered protagonist and he is always going to win, no ifs or buts about it.
"There is NEVER a shadow of doubt that Tatsuya will be unconditionally victorious."
This in and of itself does not necessarily create the problem. The issue is that while shows such as No Game No Life can convince you that the characters might actually lose even though they never do, Irregular never does. There is NEVER a shadow of doubt that Tatsuya will be unconditionally victorious. This is a deficiency that creates a significant problem for viewers. It will cause them to lose interest because they know what the results of confrontations will be and the manner the come about is not clever enough to remain intriguing.
The Small Things
Irregular was broken into three arcs, each based off an arc in the light novels. One issue I found slightly irritating was the slight lack of unity in themes between each arc. In the first of these, there is a HUGE emphasis on the differences between Course 1 and Course 2 students. However, this is mostly dropped as a problem in the stories following, even though one would think it would still be an issue.
I also had suspension of disbelief issues, since each of the storylines focuses on different groups of terrorists attempting to infiltrate Japanese high schools for various reasons. I understand that important scientific discoveries can happen at these schools, but I had a hard time believing that a bunch of students would repeatedly be left to their own devices against adult terrorists. It was a bit of a stretch for me to believe that not only were a bunch of students the most capable people for defeating terrorists, but they repeatedly were easily able to defeat some of the most infamous villains in the world.
Additionally, it is worth noting that there are a couple of extremely strange fanservice-y parts in the second half of the show. They are completely unnecessary (as expected) yet sometimes there are entire scenes devoted to them.
Irregular handles its characters interestingly, but in a way that unfortunately fails to pan out properly. It would make sense logically that IF a bunch of high schoolers were fighting terrorists (bear with me here), then many of the students would be involved in the fighting, so I understand why there are numerous characters in the show. However, what Irregular attempts to do is take this ensemble cast and act as though it is much smaller. This does not work.
Not only did I struggle to keep track of the names of all the random students and adults that came up each episode, but development was literally non-existent for a single character. There is, however, one small exception to this rule: all the females over time developed an infatuation with Tatsuya. The term 'females' also includes his sister. I mean, why not, right? Right? Perhaps the most egregious example of a poor character, however, would be Tatsuya himself. Having a static, emotionless, overpowered guy as the protagonist is not a good idea in general, and Tatsuya fits this description like a glove. Overall, there really are no good examples of characters, and that's a problem.
An Adaptation Worth Remembering
One of the most obvious issues (even to viewers with little to no knowledge of anime or at least the universe of Irregular outside of the anime) would be the extensive exposition present throughout the show. Rules explaining how the students' magic works go into detail for every action taken, especially in the first arc. This breaks the immersion for viewers, who will often be left feeling bored instead of informed.
The most confusing part, however, would likely be the manner the rules are explained, since the most important elements such as the magical casting device called the CAD are minimally explained, yet complex magical sequences will have long periods of exposition. On top of that, any 'rules' put in place are rendered useless as Tatsuya breaks every single one of them, often shortly after their explanations. Honestly, since the focus is so heavily aimed on mindless action, I'm not even sure why the writers bothered to include the explanations at all.
Oftentimes when manga is adapted into anime, the original fans complain (often not without reason) that the story is rushed, such as skipping important character development chapters. Irregular sought to rub it in the faces of these shows by being an adaptation of a light novel series that SKIPS AN ENTIRE BOOK.
Of course, it also slides over any sort of character development as well, but in between the second and third arcs there was supposed to be a whole story that was left out. This was most likely a result of the limits for seasonal anime, as the book left out was too short to fill the rest of the season but the arc they did adapt was big enough to take all remaining episodes.
The Irregular at Magic High School had a premise intriguing enough that it could have been very interesting. However, for me it really just seemed to be mindless action that became more and more surreal as Tatsuya continued to defy the rules seemingly put in place by the writers. In the end, I really can only recommend such a show for fans of fighting with little coherent details otherwise. Also, from what I have read of the light novels, I would recommend that you instead spend your time on those if you are still interested in the concept, as they are by far superior to the anime.
Thank you to Rockmandash12 for his help proof-reading this, your help is much appreciated!
The Irregular at Magic High School is available for free and legal streaming on Crunchyroll.