「入学編IV」 (Nyuugaku-hen IV)
“Enrollment Part IV”
The pacing was a lot better this episode as we dive into the root of discrimination, and what kind of crisis it could lead to.
Better Pacing, More Banter
I don’t know if they’ve stopped adapting at the idiotic three-episodes-per-light-novel pace, but the pacing this episode was a lot better. It flowed better and felt more natural in a lot of ways. At the beginning they let us in on Tatsuya’s thoughts when he met Jyumonji Katsuto (Suwabe Junichi) – as strangely homoerotic as the imagery got there – and they let us enjoy more of the banter among friends. And the banter is good! I enjoyed it both in the cafe, complete with Tatsuya & Miyuki’s joke fooling Mizuki (though for Miyuki’s part, I think it was more of a “joke”), and later when Tatsuya was teasing Mari-sempai. The more time they spend on the banter, the more I like these characters, and the better the pacing feels. After a rocky start, if they can keep going like this from now on, I’ll be happier.
Tatsuya’s Magic & The Overturning of Social Structures
Once again I only sort of understood the explanation of Tatsuya’s magic, but honestly I’m not going to try much anymore. Some commenters mentioned last week that it’s all a lot more understandable if you have an engineering/programming background, and I have none of that. I understand people, stories, and ideas, so I’ll stick to that thank you very much! What I loosely understood was that Tatsuya used the jamming from using two CADs at once + his own ability to read spells as they’re being cast to jam them by using an activation sequence for the same type of spell. Or something. What was more interesting to me was the potential socio-political repercussions of this ability.
Apparently Cast Jamming (magic jamming) is normally only possible with a very expensive (and, if you’re a civilian, functionally impossible to acquire) material known as antinite. While antinite is rare and rigidly controlled, it doesn’t upset the status quo, but if there were another way to nullify magic, a way that was more widely known, without any known way to defend against, and one that cannot be controlled from a governmental level, then the entire social order would go all wahoonie-shaped. Suddenly weaker magicians could shut down the magic of more powerful magicians, and all the powerful would once again be as weak as any schmuck in the streets.
Tatsuya’s magic is potentially game breaking, and the fact that he’s keeping it to himself until he perfects it is very, very interesting. It keeps him unique, and for good reason – something he stumbled across rather than a gift from on high, though there’s part of that too, since he wouldn’t be able to do it if he couldn’t read spells as they’re cast – without violating the premise of spells being like code. Tatsuya has just figured out an interesting bit of code that no one else has yet. That won’t necessarily last forever, but for now he’s unique.
Oppai-sensei & The Male Gaze
Male Gaze (trope!) is a trope that can quickly, and usually does, veer into profoundly troubling areas. Read most American comic books if you don’t believe me…it’s kind of okay if High School DxD focuses on breasts and butts since it’s a fanservice show, but when a supposedly serious female character is running around in stripperiffic clothes (trope!), it sort of ruins the whole thing.
There is one good way to do it, and that’s when the male gaze is the gaze of a specific male character, in this case, Tatsuya’s gaze. That works great, because while it may give the male viewers some titilation – or the female viewers, in the case of shows like Free! – it serves the purpose of showing us what the character in question is looking at. Basically, job well done Mahouka on not being creepy this time…mostly. They unnecessarily lingered on sensei’s thighs a second time later in the scene, and that seemed unnecessary. Still, they worked in a little service (and a little of Tatsuya admonishing his teacher, which I thought was funny) without screwing it up too much. B+, not bad.
Judgement By Magic Skill…At A Magic High School
The root of this episode is the conflict this episode was how a bunch of the Course 2 (Weed) students are feeling discriminated against by the Course 1 (Bloom) students, and how an international terrorist organization known as Blanche may be whipping them up into a frenzy (and potential insurrection) for their own anti-magic goals. I have something to say about this kind of discrimination.
Are you kidding me!? I’m talking to the characters here, not the story or the author, because the conflict is actually pretty good. The root of the problem here is that the Course 2 students are taking their personal self-worth from their abilities in school, and that’s dumb. Here me now, all ye young people out there – your success (or lack thereof) at school or work do not determine your worth as a person! Your worth as a person is the accumulation of everything you are and can be as a human being, not by a single easily tracked metric (your grades, your salary, etc). Happiness and self-worth have to come from inside, not from the grades you get or the paycheck you cash.
But you know what? Teenage kids making this mistake is entirely reasonable. I imagine we’ve all either done it or are in the process of doing it right now, and probably a lot of that happened when we were teenagers. I do have to laugh at how they’re bridling at being judged by magic when they go to a magic high school, though. That’s like me going into the engineering school at college and then complaining that they’re judging me on my engineering skills. No, that isn’t the sum total of my worth as a human being, but it counts for quite a lot of my worth as an engineering student!
So the Course 2 student’s frustration is understandable, but also not, and I like that. That’s the kind of human complexity that adds depth. I get where they’re coming from – there’s more to skill at life, or even just magic, than one’s test scores – but those test scores do mean something. And all this is exacerbated by the discrimination from the Course 1 students, and powerful magicians in general.
Blur The Lines
Here’s how you fix this problem, and one way this story might go about it (I don’t know, haven’t read the source material) – blur the lines. In our own world, people may sometimes gripe at how much doctors get paid, but not too much, because most of us could have probably become doctors ourselves if we wanted to, but we decided not to. At the very least, our not becoming doctors was due to something like coming from a poor household and not being able to afford medical school, not something absolutely impossible to surmount. The line is soft, unlike with magic. With magic, it’s very black and white (or so I gather) – either you can use it or you can’t, and a lot of based off your natural skill. Yes, there is a lot of hard work, but hard work isn’t appreciated when others never even had the chance to her started.
So blur the lines. Tear off the special patches, mix up the classes, and make everyone look and act the same. Words and images matter! Or at least double the schools, and send the Course 1 and Course 2 students to different places. If you’re going to institutionally shaft half of the students in a school, they’re not really receiving the same education anymore, so better to just send them all somewhere else.
Just because someone is better at magic (or anything else) doesn’t mean they’re a better person. It just means they’re better at that one thing. That’s not the same, no matter how useful or lucrative the skill is.
Like I said before, if they keep the pacing nice like this and delve into this discrimination jazz to a satisfactory conclusion, I’ll be a happy blogger. Hopefully they will. Also, more of gigolo Tatsuya making girls blush please. That makes me laugh!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Delving into some interesting aspects of discrimination & fake equality. Pacing was much better this time! #mahouka 04
- I liked that they skipped both the OP and the ED. If they have so much material to cover, they need to be doing this constantly. Those singles will already sell, just get the story in so the BDs will too!
- Cut it out you two. You’re doing siblings wrong. Bakas.
- Disclaimer: Please do not post spoilers in the comments. If you want to talk about future events, make sure to both enclose your comment in spoiler tags and identify what the spoiler is about beforehand (without spoiling), so other readers know whether to click on it. Also, if I ask any questions in my posts, assume they’re hypothetical unless otherwise noted. Thank you for your understanding.
Check out my blog about storytelling and the novel I’m writing at stiltsoutloud.com. The last four posts: Respect; How you know it’s a good idea; It’s not always the ones you expect; and Thinking about Looney Tunes.