Guest Review: The Irregular at Magic High School (Vol 2)

(The Irregular at Magic High School)
(The Irregular at Magic High School)

For general information on this series: The Irregular at Magic High School entry

~A guest review by Aaron~

With the fight stopped in volume one, Tatsuya now works to figure out what caused the clash between the kendo and kenjutsu clubs. Meanwhile, an open debate forms between a student group known as “The Coalition” and the student body president Mayumi Saegusa. Once the true intentions of a protest movement against discrimination of non-magicians is revealed, further revelations follow regarding political machinations, terrorism, and shadowy conspiracies.

Vol 2 - Enrollment Arc, Part 2
Vol 2 – Enrollment Arc, Part 2

Volume two of The Irregular at Magic High School draws “The Enrollment Arc” to a close, and it is probably one of the more controversial volumes in the series. Some may glean facets of fascism or the objectivist philosophical movement, but I feel Magic High School is more grounded in a philosophy of equality of opportunity and personal responsibility while promoting some kind of meritocracy. The few speeches Tatsuya gives about equality and its seemingly ephemeral nature seem pointed to those who want equality without defining what that would look like or take into account difference in ability. Not so much an attack on the concept of equality itself, but more on the hazy ill-defined use of the term.

The story itself has more of Sato's penchant for ornate world-building with long stretches of the novel dedicated to describing the technical minutia of the magical system, which can be soporific for those who would want a more action-oriented novel. Most of the novel is about Tatsuya trying to cobble together the identity of the enemy and what their motive might be, which I see as the author's effort to ground the world of his story in its own fictional reality.

In short, it's a very inward-looking volume filled with unspoken interior dialogue, with perception versus reality forming the major theme in the book. Tatsuya is outwardly a cool and aloof character, but inwardly is often prone to snarky comebacks and hiding how he actually feels. This thankfully helps humanize his character, even if it is only incremental and the only real emotions he shows are towards his sister Miyuki and his school friends. The few “slice-of-life” moments are actually my favorite parts of the novel, and provide an enjoyable respite from the darker undertones of the series.

I also feel Sato has improved his grasp of writing a fight scene since the first volume, with descriptive dialogue and action feeling more seamless. On the other hand, there are some odd stylistic quirks in his writing, such as using parenthesized question marks in sentences. At times this can throw off the flow of the story, which leaves me confused over their inclusion in the first place.

In conclusion, volume two wraps up “The Enrollment Arc” neatly while also developing the world more than some would find bearable. The narrative voice may come off as too cold and detached for some readers, who may feel that the bouts of extensive world-building too often bring the story progression to a screeching halt. On the other hand, I feel this second volume does mark a steady improvement in crafting action and developing Tatsuya's character, making for a smoother reading experience.

Aaron's Rating: Highly Recommended

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