Mahouka Koukou / Irregular at Magic High School: An Ode to Meritocracy!

I’ve warned people. I told them it’d be bad. I told them there’s a reason the messages in this show trouble me so. They thought I was just being overly sensitive. Well, episode 4 happened, so let’s talk about it.

Introducion: Weaponized Light Novels, Handle With Extreme Caution:

Plenty of media pieces convey opinions I don’t share. It’s not bad, it’s an opinion. An unexplored political opinion, a “normative message” (“this is how things should be”) is harmful. You can pick it up, but you should be aware of what its ramifications are, you should look clearly at what it’s actually saying.

Light Novels often contain an underlying subtext that is at best naïve and divorced from reality, and at worst poisonous. A lot of it can be chalked up to “wishful thinking” or “fantasies”, whether they are power fantasies where we get to do as we wish with our power, or ones where we’re smarter than everyone else and they despise us for it, or even where our moral superiority over others should give us more rights, affirming our deeply-felt belief that we are somehow better than those around us, who do not acknowledge us.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime / The Irregular at Magic High School anime - Shiba Tatsuya is Dark Flame Master!

Many light novels and anime works, heck, many films, video games, etc. are appreciated not in spite of the subtext, but because of it. We all watch and play stuff for the fantasies they empower and engender within us; that’s fine. If anything, it’s the opposite of escapism, tackling things we cannot handle in life on our terms.

And then we have messages such as the ones in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, that seem benign, but are deeply insidious and had even caused much harm in the real world, and which make me shake my head mightily and cry out, “No. This is not fine.

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei begins with the usual stuff: Presenting a picture of a world where we are glorious, but others just fail to see it, and when they do they flock to us, without us needing to actually do anything about it ourselves.

But then the show takes it further, and argues that people who seek more equality, or dare to oppose the benevolent rule of Capitalism are defeatists who blame others, those who argue for “false equality”, and even terrorists, while trying to present its “Rule of the Inherited Might” as not just benevolent, but “fair”, while it is anything but.

Note: Some “social” or romantic light novels also bring up a plethora of similar issues, but here I’m talking mostly of shows usually to be found within the shounen(/””seinen””) action LNs sub-genre, think of Index, Sword Art Online, Mahouka. You can still enjoy them. I really enjoy SAO for instance, but these things still exist. And exceptions exist, but this is the rule, and definitely the case for Mahouka.

(In case you need additional reading or grounding, this page contains excerpts from the 2nd novel, from a fan translation. Excerpts 1-2 had been covered in episode 4, and the rest are likely to get covered in episodes 5-6. You can check here for some of my thoughts on LN-writing in general and why it is problematic when adapted to anime, and here for my overview of the first 11 books of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, including thematic breakdown, and light-spoilers.)

Part 1: Tatsuya and the Gilded Cage of Perfection:

Let’s begin with what is simple: Tatsuya is perfect. Tatsuya is all-capable. Tatsuya’s “weaknesses” are immaterial to the story in most respects. He can’t use magic that’s tested in the school’s measurements? No biggy, it’s not like the plot ever really demands for him to use it. He has limited magic, but the plot bends over backwards to only bring about situations where they are usable (honestly, almost any LN situation would fit), or uses them to showcase how smart he is in knowing how to apply his so-called “limited” arsenal in varying conditions.

When you have weaknesses that aren’t real weaknesses, they’re lip-service, so people won’t complain the character is too perfect. Is that all? No, there are two more things going on here. The first is merely literary, it’s confusing an “explanation” for a “reason” while it’s merely “excuse”. That something receives an in-world “explanation” does not make it a justified reason, if it’s not a natural outgrowth of the story. All too often it’s a meta-work excuse, it’s just a way for the author to get to the situation he wanted. It’s not always, since we want our characters and worlds to behave in certain ways, but quite often it’s not “earned” by hard work on the author.

And here is the other bit. Tatsuya is “bad with other people”. Tatsuya is bad at “emotions”. Not only does that not stop everyone from flocking to his side by seeing how amazing he is (which they keep saying, something that feels fake as hell), and his secret nobility, but it actually plays into the wish-fulfillment part of what people refer to when they speak of “Self-insert protagonists”. The subtext here is that you don’t have to speak your mind, you don’t have to be likeable, or personable, or have a good sense of humor; others will still do the hard work on your behalf, will still appreciate you for your inner qualities. The fact you’re oh-so-special will shine through to the outside world.

The message here is you don’t have to try hard, you just have to be your glorious, and better than everyone else, self. That feeds into the sense of alienation many of us feel, and if anything locks us within it by telling us it’s ok not to change – it’s the dancing floor or football court that’s crooked, not us.

After setting up how Tatsuya is perfect, let’s look at how the world series is there to enable him being perfect, how the “interesting world-building” is not a cage, but a set of spotlights to awesome his awesomeness, and quite empty behind the scenes: The “Weeds” are supposedly weak in magic. The school system had been around for I believe 12 years. You’d think the system would either work, or be seen as not working at this stage. Tatsuya being an outlier is one thing, he’s an outlier on any level. But as the series unfolds, you see that all of his “Course 2” friends, which you see in the opening animation, break the mold, all of them outdo what course 2, course 1, or even adults can manage. This is standard shounen, anime or LN fare, so it shouldn’t surprise you much.

In other words, the school system is an excuse. An excuse for Tatsuya to be looked down upon. The school system is designed so Tatsuya could show how flawed it is. It is there to create an arbitrary and false measurement of Tatsuya. I saw someone put it the other day like this, “Tatsuya isn’t a Weed student, but a misidentified Bloom” and thought that was well-put, except he transcends even that distinction. The subtext here is, “Even if you’re not appreciated by your surrounding, it’s because they use a non-fitting and arbitrary measuring system. You may score low on tests, but you’re still special, and better than everyone else, if only they could see what is hidden within you.”

There’s also another sub-text here, “School is a sham, and so are adults.” Adults in anime, when they are not missing, are usually either a joke, or villains. The teacher who speaks of her miserable love-life, the police officers who think of glory, are corrupt and/or just fail to subdue the enemies. These are obviously so our heroes could step in, but at some point the message is damaging, in how it paints all adults as something to be ignored or outright defeated. The adults who foisted these arbitrary and ill-fitting systems onto us…

Part 2: Presenting Meritocracy:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime / The Irregular at Magic High School anime - Shiba Miyuki adores her brother

Now, let’s talk about what really bothered me. Meritocracy. A system where the most fitting, most skilled, rule. Taken a notch down, to the way it’s colloquially used, it’s a system where the most skilled ones get the most opportunities, the best pay, etc. It’s something that many “conservative libertarians” espouse, and is often mixed with the way “Objectivism” is used these days, where each person should follow their desires to the best of their abilities, to fulfill themselves.

Some would argue such a system, which is also at the base of much of Capitalism, is “fair”. I am not going to argue about the morality of it too much, as indeed, as Tatsuya alludes to, if you want people to engage in positions that carry more risk, suffer from slanted supply versus demand, and/or require more effort to master, you need to compensate them better, right?

Well, the only problem is presenting this system as “fair”. Here’s a simple question, the person who wins at sports: who runs faster, who jumps farther, did they “earn” it through their hard work? Now, those at the top work reallyhard, to bring out their full potential, and also to be able to compete against others who worked really hard, there the difference is in inches. But what about someone who is way better than you? That’s mostly genetics: The luck of the draw. They didn’t “earn” their success, but had been gifted it.

Likewise for economic or educational success. There’s a strong statistical correlation between your parents’ education and financial status, to your own financial success. Those people preaching for “meritocracy” are often those who are born with the biggest starting advantage. They paint their success as owing to their hard work, while denigrating those who did not succeed for not putting in the effort, and blaming the “successful ones”. The “Course 1” students’ “superiority complex” towards Tatsuya? We know he’s better than them, so it’s actually an inferiority complex.

Part 3: My Beef with Meritocracy, Spelled Out:

Meritocracy on its own is not that problematic to me, though if you take it to its logical conclusion, you end up with “super-humans” and “sub-humans”, not in a physical or mental sci-fi situation, but socially. If I’m better than you, then I should be allowed to get away with anything, while you have no rights.

Meritocracy on its own isn’t problematic, and would be even less problematic if we had “communal children houses” as the Israeli Kibbutzes had, but that failed spectacularly for various psychological and social reasons. A “problem” with meritocracy is that rather than merely supporting those with skills to rise to the top, it replicates success. Have you read my piece? In case you don’t know, I actually have a degree in Sociology, and many of my professors specialized in studying inequality, or education. Your parents’ social standing, education, and income level, all transference to your own.

In other words, meritocracy presents the guise of allowing social mobility and proper reward based on your own “skills” (much of it being inborn), and just as important, your own effort, but is actually a system for replicating the current social order.

That’s… unfair, but that’s life. I agree. The biggest problem is that it purports to be fair, and is a system to sew false hope, as it actually plays out in our world. “The Dignity of the Common Man” is a related concept, where often those who champion libertarian concepts the hardest are blue collar workers, who wish to hold the thought that if they earn it, they’d be able to advance. The system is rigged against them from the day they are born, though.

Part 4: Mahouka’s Poisonous Meritocratic Messages:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei anime / The Irregular at Magic High School anime - Mibu Sayaka is a dangerous malcontent!

That bit about “someone far better” in athletics wasn’t accidental. Tatsuya is that far ahead of everyone else. The whole notion of meritocracy here feels incredibly fake: Miyuki keeps saying how Tatsuya worked harder than everyone else, but we remember what I said above: Everything he is had been gifted to him, by adults. Magical powers? Genetic makeup, just like athletic ability. Tatsuya’s “special nature”? Again, something he’d been given, rather than earned.

All of Tatsuya’s friends, which we’ll see just how great they are? Sure, they worked for it, but again, there’s a mixture of inheriting powers through their bloodlines, and just how arbitrary and system-“breaking” the whole world is. First year high school students who outshine adults who are at the top of their respective fields. These adults didn’t work hard? The world has systems, but it only has systems so the special characters could break them. The systems are an excuse to limit the characters, and show just how great they are when they manage to break them… systems designed for that very purpose.

Characters? Why not us? Living in this world, with the rigid social order, with the arbitrary school grading. Meritocracy works as a concept, but only because we’re supposedly better than everyone else. We keep the dream alive, because if we don’t get graded well on the “meritocratic ladder”? It only means the ladder or measurement tools are somehow faulty, but watch out world, for when we unleash our true nature! Either we get accepted as amazing, or the system is broken.

Look some more on the sub-text of Miyuki and Tatsuya’s talk. Those who dare speak of equality? They blame others for their lack of talent. Those who wish for equality are against our nation! They’re terrorists. If you oppose capitalism, you’re obviously a terrorist. I wish I were making this up, but it’s not even sub-text.

Also, note how they speak of magicians “earning” the right to earn more – they’ve been born as magicians. They were handed the talents that will allow them to earn more. This is almost literally the concept of inheriting wealth, and that the children of wealthy and educated parents will be wealthy and educated, and be given entry to management positions, which then we’ll say they “earned”.

When we succeed, it’s because we worked hard for it. When we fail, it’s because the system wasn’t tailored to our needs. When others succeed, it’s due to their luck or situations, but when they fail it’s because they’re failures who didn’t try hard enough. When our friends fail? It’s because they underestimate themselves. It’s because they bought into the system, the one designed by our foolish oppressors! Mibu Sayaka resents being treated as weak, because she’s strong, she got 2nd place in a national tournament. Her failure isn’t within the system, but in even letting herself think of herself using this false system’s measurements.

Tiro Finale!: Mahouka Tries to Have it All, Ends Up With Ugly Nonsense:

But the show can’t even keep its message clear here. That’s good enough for a tertiary character like Mibu Sayaka, but for Tatsuya? His sister demands he’ll be recognized, because even more than skill, we need everyone else, and especially those who looked down on us, to recognize our superiority, or we’ll crush them, as Hattori Hanzo had been crushed.

LNs, anime, and other works in general are full of problematic messages. Mahouka takes it all the way. The system is flawed, and is only there to limit us, and for us to break it. We’re greater than anyone else, and eventually they’d see it. Everyone will flock to us for our greatness, so we do not need to be nice, or have any personality. Adults aren’t to be taken seriously, except when they are to be crushed. And of course, rampant capitalism under the guise of equality is fine, anyone arguing the system as is isn’t “equal” is at best a fool that doesn’t see reality, or a slave of the system, and at worst a national enemy.

Some of these messages are contradictory. Partially it’s due to an author, who as many people, can’t tell his characters, and probably he himself hold contradictory opinions, or just poorly thought-out segments. Another reason is the bias, where we apply one set of metrics to ourselves and our friends, and another to everyone else.

Those messages aren’t something most fans have to “get over” to enjoy the material, but the very reason they like it so much. At least some of them, while they take in the last bit, the most poisonous, without even noticing. Capitalism has a lot going for it, and much of the argument adds up, so it’s easy to take in the pure poison mixed in as well.

97 comments on “Mahouka Koukou / Irregular at Magic High School: An Ode to Meritocracy!

  1. mentaromega says:

    My goodness. I wasn’t even aware what a pernicious piece of propaganda I’ve been reading, how scary. It’s seriously impressive what kind of monster a small serious of light novels manage to create in some people’s minds.

    I’ll try to stick to only the most questionable lines of your analysis:

    1) “The message here is you don’t have to try hard, you just have to be your glorious, and better than everyone else self.”

    Source for this, please? In the anime, Miyuki points out that Tatsuya had to work terribly hard to get where he is today. If anything, the gist of the anime is clearly that hard work should be rewarded, and this is one of the reasons why the salaries of magicians are relatively high, since they HAD to work hard prior to working in their field.

    2) “School is a sham, and so are adults.”

    Source for this, please? In the anime, Tatsuya is explicitly grateful to be able to study in this High School. Also, I can’t remember a single scene where Tatsuya or Miyuki make any derogatory comments towards elders in general. In general, they are being very respectful to them.

    3) “(Meritocracy) is often mixed with the way ‘Objectivism’ is used these days […]”

    Not really. Both terms address entirely different areas. Meritocracy postulates the rule of an elite based on skill. Usually, this goes contrary to the idea of Objectivism, which doesn’t really concern itself with the form of the governmental structure, as long as it allows for maximum individual rights. Ayn Rand, the “mother” of Objectivism, detested meritocracy.

    4) You seem to attribute Tatsuya/Mahouka to promote “Meritocracy”.

    Please source this (or correct me if my assumption is wrong). Tatsuya to my knowledge never made any statements about his political preferences, and the setting of Mahouka is obviously that of a gerontocracy (via the “tan master clans”).

    5) “I won’t let them deny all I have just on the basis of magic”

    Lovely quote, except that nobody denies her anything at all (as you should know, having read all novels), so why are you quoting this? Why are you misleading the reader?

    6) “The world has systems, but it only has systems so the special characters could break them.”

    Huh? Are you arguing that those characters who are exceptionally skilled (like Tatsuya/Miyuki) should “rule”? Is the world in Mahouka a Meritocracy in your eyes? Either I’m misunderstanding you, or you’re arguing against your own theory here.

    7) “Either we get accepted as amazing, or the system is broken.”

    Makes no sense whatsoever. Is the Mahouka system a Meritocracy, or is it broken? Take your pick, then we talk.

    8) “Those who dare speak of equality? They blame others for their lack of talent. Those who wish for equality are against our nation! They’re terrorists.”

    No, Blanche are terrorists because they pursue their agenda by terroristic means. There are others who work towards more equality (like Mayumi/Mari), and they are displayed in a positive light. Why are you insulting the readers’ intelligence by generalizing that all activity for more equality are automatically terroristic? It’s simply untrue.

    9) “Also, note how they speak of magicians “earning” the right to earn more – they’ve been born as magicians. They were handed the talents that will allow them to earn more.”

    Which requires them to first undergo a long and rigorous education and training. THAT is what entitles them to good compensation, just like it would be for a doctor. Not the gift (magic) in itself”. This is also why your attempted analogy magic=money fails here. The possession of a magic gift alone doesn’t entitle you to anything at all.

    10) “When others succeed, it’s due to their luck or situations, but when they fail it’s because they’re failures who didn’t try hard enough.”

    Please source this line. Where does Mahouka or Tatsuya say that? This is completely disingenuous. Take the case of Sayaka Mibu in the aftermath of the arc – the message to her is EXACTLY the opposite, it is encouraging people to do the best within their means. Which is a message that I’d fully support.

    Not everyone can become what they would like. Not everyone is equal, I couldn’t become a composer even if I wanted. This is no matter of discrimination, it’s simply a matter of lacking prerequisites. Total equality is an unrealistic goal. THAT is what the story is saying.

    11) “Her failure isn’t within the system, but in even letting herself think of herself using this false system’s measurements.”

    It’s hilarious that you list HER, because the story makes clear that the source of her inferiority complex was in fact the Blanche/Egalite propaganda. Mari (who Sayaka felt slighted from) never saw her as inferior in the first place, and the lead characters are pointing out that she has admirable qualities to offer.

    Your whole tirade is an absurd total negotiation of the truth here. The message of Mahouka is “do your best, and you will be respected. Don’t give in to negative feelings of unworthiness which are induced by outside forces, who preach victimization”. People like you, man.

    To sum it all up: First, make up your mind whether the political system in Mahouka is a Meritocracy, or if it’s a broken something which needs to be replaced by a Meritocracy. Depending on what you choose, about half of your criticism immediately vanishes into thin air. And then we can gladly discuss the rest.

    I politely request that if you do respond to me, please keep the numbering intact if you feel you disagree. Otherwise it’s impossible to separate your conjecture and speculation from what you consider “factual”.

    • iblessall says:

      I’m not invested enough in this show to say much here, but I have to grab one line from your comment that I found highly amusing.

      “Source for this, please? In the anime, Miyuki points out that Tatsuya had to work terribly hard to get where he is today.”

      LOL. Like Miyuki is a reliable source for anything related to Tatsuya.

      • mentaromega says:

        So are you actually doubting that he had to work hard in the past, or that Miyuki knows a thing or two about Tatsuya? I’d have thought both parts are pretty self-evident.

        • iblessall says:

          I am merely doubting Miyuki’s ability to maintain any semblance of objectivity in regards anything that has to do with Tatsuya.

          That is all I have said.

      • mentaromega says:

        Ah, okay. I see your point. Fair enough to take this position. Hattori did the same :)

        (Please take this as a good-natured joke, and not as sneering. I’ll just say: Underestimate Miyuki at your own peril.)

    • Guy says:

      Ground Rules: You may only reply to comments replying to you, or people who reply to my post saying you may reply to them. I’d rather you don’t scare people off, or create mini-flamewars beyond your own chain.

      I’m sort of in the middle of something, so I’ll edit my replies to you in this comment, as time permits. I’ll probably have them all up in 3-4 hours :)

      My goodness. I wasn’t even aware what a pernicious piece of propaganda I’ve been reading, how scary. It’s seriously impressive what kind of monster a small serious of light novels manage to create in some people’s minds.

      The subtext most people can pick up on is “Adults suck, school’s trying to stifle me, I’m great even though I’m unappreciated.” Even if they can’t make it explicit in words.

      If I were unkind I’d say you can’t pick up on this subtext because it’s invisible to you. Just like that hypothetical example of a book written in 1920s’ southern USA. If you live in that time-frame and read it, it seems “normal” to you. Likewise, Mahouka feels to me as if someone had read a lot of LNs, who are often somewhat self-deprecating, and are aware these things aren’t how things are, and wrote as if the world truly does behave in those ways, in a completely straight and serious manner.

      Wait, that’s not the unkind reading, that’s the neutral one. The unkind reading would be that you already feel all those deeply bothersome things are normal, so you’ve been a monster before reading the novels ;-)

      It’s subtext. Reading a lot of shallow and badly-written prose is an easy way to lose one’s ability to read deeply into texts, and sub-text. I’ve always been good at literary analysis, thematic breakdown, and deeply grilling texts. In my academic studies, it’d only been heightened, so it’s ok. We all miss some stuff, that’s why some of us come here to help you see what you might have missed.

      On a general and more serious note, I often present my pieces as “a reading”, rather than the reading, trying to offer another way of looking at things. With Mahouka, I don’t think there are other readings. Well, there are, but that’s aside from my reading, not those that run counter to it.

      1) Do You Have to Work Hard?

      Erm, first, this is a general response. There’s a reason it’s called sub-text, rather than text. It’s hard to find you a quote. Second, that’s the argument this piece makes. For spoilers, Tatsuya has magic that can win wars, and he’s been gifted it by his mother, through a combination of her magic and inheriting it via genetics. Miyuki’s powers are inherited from her family. So do most of the people at the top.

      Did they work at it later?

      A) Yes. But as the point about athletics is there to demonstrate, it’s only to differentiate between the “Haves”, or between the “Have-nots”, the stuff you’re born with plays a huge part on what your starting point is. When Tatsuya speaks to Miyuki and Mibu about this issue, don’t just compare “strong magicians” and “weak magicians”, keep in mind that most of the world is non-magicians. The magicians are the haves, and they are born with it. Even the so-called “weak magicians”, the “Weeds” will get jobs as magicians or magical engineers, just because there’s no other option. In other words, they are born with a huge advantage and guaranteed material success.

      B) What about Erika who had to work hard to become a master swordswoman? Two things. First, and this is actually important, all the so-called “hard work”? It’s done before the series begins. Now our main characters are all “complete people” who can defeat others. Erika can stand toe-to-toe with her older siblings, with various police officers, with her father the dojo teacher… that part actually makes a mockery out of “hard work”, since all the adults, all the very specialized professionals can’t stand toe to toe with a bunch of youngsters who put in “hard work”. They didn’t really, they couldn’t have, in comparison. This is another example of “talent outdoes long hours”.

      And before we depart this point, Erika being a Chiba still opened to her opportunities not available to others. It all boils down to “inborn talent, family ties, and teenagers as complete individuals who can outdo adults who also supposedly put in effort.” And don’t expect specific quotes, I just point to the entire series. And no, it’s not cheating on my part. That’s how it works.

      2) “School is a sham.”

      School is a sham in that it fails to test what is important, and that its teachers are often incompetent (see the upcoming invasion, or Haruka). Heck, in most situations the teachers don’t even show up, and are entirely irrelevant. They keep discusing how Mayumi can do anything she wants and whirl them around her little finger. Yes, she’s a “Saegusa”, an important person, but that’s the explanation, it’s still an excuse.

      Tatsuya doesn’t appreciate being at school for what he can learn there, he considers the classes a hassle. Tatsuya wanted to go to school for access to their First Magic University papers. The other reason he was so happy to go to school is because he was originally told he couldn’t, and he wants to spend time “living ordinarily” with Miyuki, as he said when episode 4 ended.

      3) “(Meritocracy) is often mixed with the way ‘Objectivism’ is used these days […]”

      Ayn Rand is dead. Words and philosophies often outgrow the way they were coined. I replied elsewhere to you on all the ways they are connected, and even in this piece wrote about “Meritocracy not as about rulership, but about letting those who are “more fit” or “more talented” to do as they wish, essentially “fulfilling themselves”.” – That’s a paraphrase, don’t bother searching for it.

      Then turn on google, search for how libertarian conservatives use the terms these days. Both refer to the same thing, where the rich and successful get to keep being so, and everyone else is essentially victim-blamed for their lack. That’s how the terms are actually used, and they’re much more closely related than you seem to imply.

      Ayn Rand can say whatever she wishes. She is also only referring to a very strict and reduced definition of meritocracy.

      4) You seem to attribute Tatsuya/Mahouka to promote “Meritocracy”.

      I happen to have written a blog-post about this topic, please give it a look! Unsurprisingly, that piece focuses on the discussion at the end of episode 4, which is nothing but a speech about the merits of meritocracy.

      5) “I won’t let them deny all I have just on the basis of magic” – Misleading Image!

      A) The whole discussion in the show is an outgrowth of this discussion and declaration of ideas by Mibu Sayaka, as such, it’s relevant.
      B) Images aren’t always perfect fit, they also try to lighten the mood and flow of the read, and serve as breaking points.
      c) “Dignity of the common man.” That Tatsuya says she hadn’t been denied anything doesn’t make it so. Even if the author says it so, he can be wrong. Dignity is something that we give ourselves. If Mibu feels her dignity was taken from her due to her lack of image, then she had lost her dignity. Also, while Mibu may not have been denied things, all the non-magicians are denied the ability to be magicians, and earn high wages. All those born with lower talents had been denied the ability to earn high incomes from the positions that demand those sort of skills.

      6+7: “The World Has Systems for Us to Break” & “Either we get accepted as amazing, or the system is broken.”

      I’m going to be blunt here. Have you actually read the article to which you’re replying? I’m not talking about letting your eyes go over it, but actually read it? While we’re there, have you actually read the Mahouka books, as in, took them in and spent a few minutes digesting them?

      The whole piece answers this, and your failure is that you don’t seem to realize what sub-text is, even if it were to hit you on the head with a stick.

      “Either I’m misunderstanding you, or you’re arguing against your own theory here.”

      I’ll break it down. That’s the system in Mahouka, and it’s the one I’m arguing against. The economic system in the world is meritocratic. Tatsuya and Miyuki defend its logic. The school system is “flawed meritocracy”, it’s supposed to be a system used to identify the most skilled ones, so they could be properly compensated, but it’s flawed. It’s not an argument against meritocracy, but an argument against meritocratic measurement tools that are flawed. That’s the bit about how “Tatsuya isn’t a Weed, but a wrongly identified Bloom.”

      As for the second bit, the “7” question. That’s basic confirmation bias. People work that way in real life, where they attribute their own successes to their hard work and talent, and failures to external sources or luck getting in the way, but when others succeed it’s due to them getting help/lucky, but their failures are due to their inherent weaknesses.

      This is also a good place to discuss this big meta-point:

      To sum it all up: First, make up your mind whether the political system in Mahouka is a Meritocracy, or if it’s a broken something which needs to be replaced by a Meritocracy. Depending on what you choose, about half of your criticism immediately vanishes into thin air. And then we can gladly discuss the rest.

      I find that hilarious for several reasons. The first, that’s exactly one of my accusations of the text. The author is arguing for meritocracy and equality at the same time. Given he thinks meritocracy is “equal, just and fair”, it’s not too surprising it’s filled with rubbish arguments.

      The other reason I find it hilarious is because I think the system presented is broken because it’s meritocratic. Also, this is where you start to muddle things, due to confusing subtext discussion with in-world discussion and how it ties to question #6:
      The meritocratic system is “good”, at least within the novels. The flaws exist, just so Tatsuya and his friends could exploit them to show how great he is. Yes, it’s sometimes contradictory, but always in a way to make Tatsuya seem amazing and superb.

      It’s badly written, and contradictory, and self-indulgent, and that’s exactly my argument. Thank you for picking up on how it makes no sense. Now try to apply your newfound understanding to the books.

      8 Some characters can speak of equality and they’re not terrorists, see Mayumi and Mari.

      A) Yeah, this is exactly what we’re talking about when we say “Subtext”, when those who oppose capitalism/meritocracy are obviously doing it to damage the nation!
      B) Mayumi and Mari are trying to fix the flawed meritocratic measurement tool called “School”, and it’s part of the thematic arc proving just how great Tatsuya is. Covered.

      9) “But they really did earn it!”

      Congratulations, you’ve bought into the LNs’ explanation and system. Good for you. Hopefully you’ll learn better at some point.

      Also, you’re projecting your replies to Scamp from TheCartDriver here, I didn’t say “Magic=Money”, I said “Magic = Athletic potential.” I think you might be replying to too many Mahouka threads instead of reading them. I think you’ll agree the “Magic = Athletic Potential” is on the money.

      Also, you failed to read anything I said about the issues with meritocracy, so no wonder you think it’s such a great system. The inequality in this purportedly meritocratic system is exactly one of potential opportunities. Yes, if you have uber-magic you’ll need to work to get somewhere with it (unless it’s really something special, wait, like Tatsuya’s!), but most people don’t even have that opportunity.

      10 “I succeed cause I rule, others fail cause they drool.”

      Read my reply to 6+7. This is basic (social) psychology. The “Not everyone can become what they want” is obvious, but pushing as to replicating the current order, and where we “self-insert” as obviously the “Haves” rather than the “have-nots”? That’s sub-text. And also see my reply to #9 to cover some more issues with it.

      11) “Mibu’s inferiority complex isn’t due to the system!”

      Seriously dude. If we go full hardcore “symbolism”, then Mibu being brainwashed by magic means you shouldn’t listen to the words of the “Anti-Capitalists”, for they will swerve you from the path of righteousness. Only a hero with keen perception (a classic Objectivist trait) and a steel heart, such as brave Tatsuya could possibly withstand their guile tongue! And you should cut them down before theycan work their cowardly tricks on you!

      Man, I didn’t even think of it in those terms up until now, but that’s a bit overblown, so let’s try again.

      Yes, there’s somewhat of an “in-world excuse”, but in the end, Egalite/Blanche didn’t brainwash Mibu, especially on a thematic level. She had uncertainties, she felt inadequate, and they used that to convince her. She did feel inadequate, in part due to misunderstanding Mari.

      You’re telling me the end of the story, “Mari actually meant to praise Mibu”, yes, but the point is Mibu felt inadequate. Heck, just read my sentence which you quoted again:

      “11) “Her failure isn’t within the system, but in even letting herself think of herself using this false system’s measurements.””

      Mibu’s failure here isn’t being weak, but thinking she is weak, meaning submitting herself to the flawed measurement system. Now, before you cry out I’m contradicting myself: First, this applies to our friends. Two, this applies to the measurement, not the system itself.

      Which brings us to the final point:

      To sum it all up: First, make up your mind whether the political system in Mahouka is a Meritocracy, or if it’s a broken something which needs to be replaced by a Meritocracy. Depending on what you choose, about half of your criticism immediately vanishes into thin air. And then we can gladly discuss the rest.

      First, you gotta read some better literature, and actually learn to use your brain. It’s possible to hold the world in shades of grey, and hold seemingly contradictory ideas simultaneously, people do it all the time.

      I think “Meritocracy” is a broken system. Tatsuya and Miyuki do not. Miyuki doesn’t think the school’s measurements are worthless, she’s all up in arms not to abolish the “horrible discrimination”, but to get her brother “properly recognized” as a Bloom, which he rightfully deserves.

      Within the series, Meritocracy works, and is why Japan is so far ahead of all those barbarians who reject outright capitalism. The school system is flawed, as a measurement tool, but had it measured everything correctly, then there’d be no need to change anything!

      Now, try this concept on for size – within the world, the school is there to teach and nurture our beloved flowers (blooms, mostly). But on a narrative-level, it’s there to be demolished. It’s only there as an excuse for us to see how much of a “system-breaker”, how much of an “outlier” Tatsuya is. That’s, by the by, another reason the whole “ode to meritocracy” is not only ridiculous, but also pandering and poisonous:

      Miyuki and Tatsuya are at the top of the world, not just within their school, or even on a national level, but internationally. To hear them preach “Everyone can do it!” is false. Except, they’re the characters speaking to the audience, and who the audience is supposed to identify with. This is exactly the sort of pernicious idea that we are special, we can rule the world! We are better than everyone else! Except we’re not, and so we can’t act as if we are. Hearing these people say “You can do it!” is akin to a marathon runner denigrating a man who just lost his legs for failing to win a race against him. The poison is where they tell you, the audience, that you are like Tatsuya and Miyuki, and even if you’re “only” their adoring friends, they too are system-breakers, one and all.


      Which, at long last, brings me to this gem of yours, essentially a reeking pile of shit left on my doorstep:

      Your whole tirade is an absurd total negotiation of the truth here. The message of Mahouka is “do your best, and you will be respected. Don’t give in to negative feelings of unworthiness which are induced by outside forces, who preach victimization”. People like you, man.

      You go around numerous blogs, which you actively search out. Your comments are often demolished. Heck, I absolutely demolished every single argument you’ve made here. People like you are why I even had to write this piece.

      You lack any shred of ability to self-reflect and realize why you’re doing this, why you must protect this work from any criticism. The reason is that you’re probably akin to what I likened the author of this series earlier. You think this is how things are. You find it comforting. Any attack on the books is an attack on your view of the world, let alone pieces such as this which direct the worldview directly. You must feel you are special, and misunderstood, and it’s ok if others don’t get you, within you are special, even if you spend hours a day defending a work of art that’s subpar at best.

      We negotiate the truth? We are capable of seeing that sometimes a sword is a penis. We know our way around metaphors, and similes, and can see what a work of art is saying even if it doesn’t spell it out in a way that we can “source it”. Your comment which I quote here is exactly why you need to defend the series, and defend yourself – you identify the rest of us as people who try to induce a feeling of victimization within you, which perhaps rightfully identifies you as weak and powerless in the world.

      Weak and powerless people are exactly the sort to pick up this series of books, and latch onto “Meritocracy” and “Objectivism”, especially coupled with the “I am special!” message. It gives them solace, but it’s false solace that stops you from seeing the world for what it is and bettering their place in it.

      Try spending less time replying to endless posts about Mahouka without actually ingesting what they’re saying. First thing, learn to read, learn to actually read. And then perhaps you won’t feel the need to hide this sense of inferiority, where your lack of ability to parse not just subtext, but plain text (as evidenced by your inability to actually follow what is said in the piece you’re quoting) by attacking people by saying that they don’t know how to read texts, or understand reality.

      Which brings me back to my first reply to your oh-so-sarcastic comment. Your reading, identification, and building your own self-worth on Mahouka doesn’t make you into a monster, it just shows you to be weak, scared, and gives us background on why you plug your ears and shout so loudly when anything is said of this work, which you perceive as an attack on yourself. Hopefully you’ll grow up, and become a worthwhile human being, man.
      Maybe you’ll be able to realize you’re the one negotiating the truth, the one who is screaming and fighting to remain locked in a cage of fear of his own making, and we’re the ones trying to take the crutch away, and free you. We’re not preaching “victimization”, but an end to a false sense of superiority that has you turning others into victims, of their own so-called “weaknesses”, or to bow before your “great intellect”, man.

      Edit: In case when you said “People like you, man” and meant “People are fond of you” rather than “People such as you”, then no, you don’t get to have people respect you “just for being you”, that’s a myth, one of the myths this series (and half the Hollywood films) is peddling. “Just being yourself” is nowhere near enough effort. That’s exactly what Tatsuya is, and that’s a big, fat lie.

      • mentaromega says:

        Fair enough. I promise to try to keep things civil and adhere to your ground rules. Just don’t know that I’ll be able to respond before tomorrow, if it’s getting too late.

        But I honestly can’t understand how we can be so completely at odds about the message of the show. Especially when it comes to the social parts, the position that the author favors seems relatively sane to me. At least I find myself agreeing with him a lot, and I’m very much anti-Objectivism and so-so on Meritocracy. Makes me wonder how things will go when we get to those parts that even I find unpalatable (the rampant nationalism and Japan-victimization).

      • mentaromega says:

        I’ll try to honor my original promise to keep it civil, even though the tone of your reply doesn’t make it very easy. It is obvious that you rate your ability to “read subtext” very highly, citing your university background in social studies. Contrary to that, your commitment to proper scientific discourse is much less pronounced, especially your continued refusal/inability to provide proper sourcing/citations of your countless questionable assertions. They are so numerous that it’s pointless trying to list them all. I doubt that they will get any more solid replies than the 11 points I listed in my initial response. So, I’ll limit myself to mostly only list our difference and keep it at that.

        About the “neutral” and “unkind” readings on my alleged “inability to pick up subtext”: I want to offer a third possibility: The horrible subtexts that you see are mostly in your head. If you are proud of being a great hammer, most problems are starting to look like nails. Like the feminist who draws extreme conclusions of perceived sexist slights simply because s/he is oversensitized. With your background in social studies, I consider this the most plausible explanation, and it would also explain your inability to provide evidence: It’s simply in your head and not in the novel. Can’t cite that.

        Before we go through the bullet points, one more preliminary remark: We need to clearly distinguish between the world setting displayed in the novel and the messages the novel tries to send. Take “Schindler’s List” for example, which can most definitely not be suspected of spreading Nazi messages even though the whole setting is about Nazi Germany. We need to concentrate on what the lead characters we’re supposed to sympathize with say and do. These are the messages that are reinforced.

        1) Do you have to work hard?

        You say that it doesn’t matter. Either you’re awesome by yourself or you’re screwed. Your concrete example of Erika (who diligently worked hard over years) actually disproves your own point, which you brush off by saying “it’s a mockery that this would matter since it’s even topping hardworking grownups”.

        I say that effort is clearly displayed in a positive light throughout the whole novel. Tatsuya was training Taijutsu for years and was defeated by his grown-up master. Erika is said to still be inferior to her father and brother, nothing unrealistic here either. Erika also explicitly lauded Sayaka’s growth over the last year – the same Sayaka that is your key witness-victim.

        2) School is a sham

        You say that school fails to test what’s important, teachers like Haruka are incompetent, Tatsuya considers classes a hassle (as usual, no source) and only wanted to live normally.

        I say that the question whether or not the school’s testing system is part of the plot (Volume 4, Azusa/Mayumi scene), and the superseded message is “Do NOT underestimate/discriminate people based on these metrics”. This does not mean however that the education is a sham at all. Tatsuya and Miyuki are attending classes regularly, Tatsuya is explicitly grateful to be able to attend. He also refuses tasks he is perfectly capable of doing pointing out that he lacks the necessary licences (which he only gets by attending school, Volume 4, Tatsuya/Shizuku). Haruka is not incompetent, but extremely capable (Volumes 4, 6, 9, 12).

        3) Meritocracy/Objectivism

        If you refuse to adhere to the original textbook definitions, but go with what certain people (who you obviously dislike) make out of them, we have no basis for discussion.

        4) You seem to attribute Tatsuya/Mahouka to promote “Meritocracy”.

        Non concrete answer, nothing concrete to discuss.

        5) “I won’t let them deny all I have just on the basis of magic”

        Anime episode 5 will show that most of Egalite’s examples of “discrimination” are baseless. The end of volume 2 (projected anime episode 6) will show that those experiences which caused Sayaka’s feelings to be diminished and denied were based on misunderstandings mixed with poisonous propaganda.

        Now, you argue that on the meta level, the show’s pernicious message is “if you feel diminished, it’s all in your head”. Once she feels that she lost her dignity, she HAS lost her dignity. To which I respond that the show DOES that forms of discrimination clearly do exist (bloom/weed), with CLEARLY negative connotations. And the show does picture Mari’s/Mayumi’s efforts to fight against it is shown in an obvious positive light. It does however take a harsh stand against the conscious political efforts of Egalite to instill and emphasize a feeling of victimization and unfairness in the group of the “have-nots”. Their failure is suddenly a direct result of external discrimination and unfairness of the “broken system”, absolving people from trying their best within their means. Trying and working hard is pointless, if you are a “have-not”, there’s nothing you can do. Compare point 1) for reference.

        Regardless of Mahouka, this is a personal issue for me: I loathe this politicized victimization of groups. I’m the last one to deny that inequality and discrimination does exist, and that taking initiative to alleviate the problem is the right thing to do, but when people argue “it’s pointless to try, it’s the system’s fault, fight the system!”, it’s destructive. Then it’s not “the system” which supplants the people’s self-worth, it’s those who spread this BS.

        6+7) I tried 3 times to follow your explanation, but I was unable to follow your logic. Sorry. I couldn’t even figure out what you’re actually criticizing (Meritocracy in itself isn’t necessarily negative), and what your “solution” would be. The idea to have salary based on skill isn’t all that outlandish to me. And how exactly would you fix the “broken school system”? Once you are introducing any kind of metric to gauge skill, there is always the danger that this metric might not always being able to correctly gauge someone’s capabilities (see Point 2). So what is the solution? Stopping to care about capabilities right away and fairly determine posts by lottery?

        8) Some characters can speak of equality and they’re not terrorists, see Mayumi and Mari.

        The criticism was made against the terrorist group, not activists trying to realize more equality, you should have the intellectual honesty to openly ADMIT that. Sad that you don’t.

        Measuring capability as a basis for assigning jobs is an inherent necessity. I wouldn’t want to be operated on by a doctor who hasn’t been trained and examined. Are you saying that doing the same in school is “broken”? Even so, if you argue that Mayumi/Mari are only trying to fix a “broken” school system, how would that be wrong?

        9+10) Magicians did earn their higher salary.

        Your patronizing tone becomes nearly hilarious there. Face the real world, esteemed social critic. You will find out that in general (among other factors) more education/training/certification does lead to higher salary indeed. That’s the same in this LN as it is in the real world, too. If you fail to recognize this, you should seriously start going out more.

        “Athletic potential”? Is that what your entire rant is about? Sports? Are you serious? What is the impact of athletic potential in the economic or educational systems?

        You have edited and rewritten your response multiple times (making it difficult to respond), removing a particularly funny passage in which you hammered it as discrimination that people without magic couldn’t become magicians. The fact that you even wrote it indicates that you have a strangely warped perception of “equality”. Sorry man, the world doesn’t work the way you seem to think. People HAVE different talents, and it is a fact of life that not everyone can be everything. Total equality does not and CANNOT exist. Just like I’m not discriminated over the fact that I can’t bear children.

        But I know lots of people who are “not-haves”, do not come from a great pedigree, who do not have fantastic skills, but who are successful simply because they are working hard to do their best. THIS is Mahouka’s message: Do not let others tell you that it’s hopeless and “the system’s” fault, try your best with what you have. You hate this because doing so allegedly “subjects (yourself) to the flawed measurement system”. This is wrong in the LN as it is in real life.

        In the LN it’s wrong because the lead characters argue especially AGAINST this (volume 2, Sayaka/Tatsuya/Mari/Miyuki). They point out that Mibu is an awesome Swordswoman who is valued by many. They couldn’t CARE LESS that she might be a weed or less glorious in magic matters. This is the OPPOSITE of what you criticize.

        In real life it’s wrong because in my life experience the path of “screw the system, I refuse to play their game” is the first step to destitution and a clear sign of immaturity. Once you give up on yourself and only point to “the system” as the guilty party of someone’s misery, the probability to return to self-respect is slim. What is the alternative? Mooching off family/relatives or (even worse) “the system” itself via welfare? While waiting for a fairy to wave the wand and “fix the system” so that your worth is correctly gauged all of a sudden and you can reassume your rightful place in society? How likely is this to happen? Who is going to keep you alive in the meantime? Who should be the one responsible for keeping you alive?

        Sorry man. The “not-haves” without family connections, wealth and great skills don’t fail in life, like you incorrectly asserted. Only those who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and drink the “it’s the evil system’s fault, there’s nothing you can do about it” kool-aid are. Now who has been spreading this poison here, hm? It sure was neither Mahouka nor me.

        11) “Her failure isn’t within the system, but in even letting herself think of herself using this false system’s measurements.”

        You: “Yes, there’s somewhat of an “in-world excuse”, but in the end, Egalite/Blanche didn’t brainwash Mibu, especially on a thematic level.”

        Which is of course flat-out wrong (Volume 2), of course she was brainwashed. Absurd to deny this. But okay, let’s for the sake of argument postulate that she’d have had a nosedive in self-esteem even without the victimization poison by Egalite/Blanche. What is the correct way to deal with this? Get up in arms and rail against “the system”? Or keeping your head high and realize that bad magic scores do NOT turn you into a failure?

        That’s the same in real life: Is the system fair or “broken”? Even if it is unfair and broken, it does not absolve you from carrying on and taking responsibility for yourself. And before you’re drawing wrong conclusions here: I support the German approach which gives everyone housing, food, clothing, healthcare and education unconditionally. You are entitled to help from “the system”. Even if you subsequently “fail” and mire in depression, self-pity and hate the evil system. But to soldier on even in the face of adversity is the essential duty of every grown-up.

        And so, after all your other text, this comes out as what I believe to be our fundamental disagreement: You have a huge bone to pick with the “Meritocratic System” which is “broken” and “unfair” with “broken measurements”. Not only within the LN, but your resentment of the analogies in the real world are literally seeping out of your every pore. Well, it’s your right to feel that way and rail against it. It’s your blog, too. But sorry, I can’t agree with your desolate worldview. Though seeing it in action makes it more understandable to me why you hate the more positive worldview of Mahouka so much.

        Concerning your delusional rant about me (reminding myself to stay polite): You don’t know me, but the fact that you feel entitled to lecture me about “becoming a worthwhile human being” speaks volumes about yourself. Please learn a bit self-control and keep your composure even when you might grow angry over a dispute. Lord knows I’m not the first one to ask you that.

      • Nymeria says:

        Mentaromega, I think that you are missing out on what guy is trying to say, while the way guy tries to explain it makes it complicated unnecessary I can understand the skeleton of what he is trying to say,

        What you are not even attempting to comprehend is that coming from Tatsuya the whole point of everyone can do it and you should not stop trying is just plain contradictory. Your points would be completely valid IF the main character is not able to use any kind of magic at all yet does not resent others for having magic.

        1) ‘Do you have to work hard’

        Let me give you a layman’s example to that statement. In life you can try as hard as you want, you can be the most hardworking person in the world when other people put in 6 hours of practising a day you go the extra mile to do 10 hours, yet does that hardwork matter when it comes to genetics? Guy came up with a good comparison between magic power and athletic prowess to try to help you to understand better in a real world concept.

        “Athletic potential”? Is that what your entire rant is about? Sports? Are you serious? What is the impact of athletic potential in the economic or educational systems?

        The mere fact that you can’t come up with a strong counter argument to the comparison or can’t understand shows the fallacies in your whole comment.

        What guy isn’t comparing isn’t ‘Magicians’ against ‘Magicians’ what he is comparing between is ‘Magicians’ and ‘NON-Magicians’ ever seen an Olympic track and field competition between a black man and a white man? You can bet your last dollar that both have trained as hard as possible yet why does the black man always win? Because he works harder? Or simply because of his body structure. When comparing between 2 black man even then talent AND hard work decides who wins.

        The phrase goes with hardwork you can even win talent, why not completely true, with hard work it is possible to raise your particular skill level to be close to that or maybe even better than the person who has talent. However what happens if the talented person starts working hard then? Your hardwork will not be able to close the gap between the two of you that is called talent.

        Here’s another example without an opportunity to show how hardworking you are how are you supposed to be ‘hardworking’? An African kid given the opportunity can be the hardest working kid in the whole world yet without opportunities presented to him how is he supposed to be ‘hardworking’?

        2) School is a sham

        Even if this is a frictional world, there is a limit of how ‘ridiculous’ a world can be. Unless you are somehow some superhuman with EXTREMELY EXTREMELY rare circumstances like Tatsuya adults should be the ones who know how to react to situations that arise and not some 18 year old kid who doesn’t have any life experience.

        Look at volume 7 that volume clearly goes over the line. lets go over slowly. In the very first place the amount of talent in the first year first high cohort is digusting. It’s so coincidental that somehow the year the Tatsuya’s in has magicians who can be counted among the top 20-30 in the whole of japan is already borderline over-the-top but fine I’ll let it slide.

        “Seeing the earlier hand motion, Honoka consciously realized that there was some theatrics involved, but she wasn’t clear on what exactly occurred.
        In reality, he didn’t catch the bullets themselves, but used “Decomposition” on the physical body of the bullet and the trajectory and thus nullified the shots. Towards his friends who naturally knew nothing about this, Tatsuya said “It’s nothing” and raised his right hand to form a fist a few times to show them.
        Seeing this, Honoka and Mizuki finally relaxed, but Mikihiko and Shizuku were watching Tatsuya with eyes that clearly said “How did you do that”.”

        You just saw your friend/classmate kill someone by stabbing him using his arm and all you care about is how he stopped the bullet? You are not even shocked that he cold bloodedly killed someone?

        “He originally wanted to say “So you do appear to be very happy” to Erika, who stood there with eyes sparkling, but after further consideration, he slowly shook his head.
        “Splitting up is somewhat better than reacting all the time and taking hits.”
        “Somewhat” was his only concession towards passive agreement.
        Thus, when he realized that not only Erika and Honoka, but even Mizuki and Shizuku lightened up at this, Tatsuya couldn’t help but think “Give me a break……”
        That being said, this was a state of emergency, so there was no time to lose.
        Tatsuya quickly led them towards the entrance.”

        What are all of you combat soldiers that have no qualms about killing another living human being? If you even compare this to another popular LN like sword art online where in the GGO ark where Kirito talks about going after laughing coffin, those players there are even older than the kids here and they have problems killing another human being even when that person is in a ‘game’

        “Nonetheless, scenes of death were not something that a person could immediately adjust to and the subsequent shock would not fade immediately.
        He intentionally changed the topic to an unimportant one to give the two of them time to settle down.”

        “Although this wasn’t a hilarious exchange, their light and swift interchange was sufficient to allow Mizuki and the others to recover themselves.”

        The inconsistencies in Mahouka so obvious and contradictory. You see your classmate stab someone and go ‘oh wow how did you do that’? And here you go ‘not something which can be adjusted to easily’ admittedly the number of people who were killed is huge, seeing someone die in front of you is not something which you can get used to after seeing it once, even battle hardened soldiers serving in Iraq or in Afghanistan have problems regarding killing of hostiles and you tell me a few kids are like 3 mins can get over it?

        Lets not forget the fact that Kasuto, Mayumi, Tatsuya, Miyuki and Masaki are invincible, whenever a story comes to a point where the protagonists cannot be beaten by crack infantry that story becomes boring, halfway through volume 7 I got bored simply because the ending is already spelt out and there is no variations to it. Whenever an author wants to write a LN from the perspective of someone who is stronger than usual, the problem that every author faces is how to make that character strong yet not overpowered, in this case Tatsuya is clearly overpowered, not only can he heal people he can DO AS MUCH DAMAGE AS A FUCKING NUKE and is unstoppable. How interesting is it to watch someone decimate everyone else? Again I’m going to point to a sports analogy. Watching Lebron James trash some high school kid in basketball is fun for the first maybe 5-10 minutes but after that it just gets boring because the novelty of it wears off and the result is already set in stone.

        3) I’m no expert so I’ll skip on these questions

        6+7) I’m going to assume you work in an office, whenever you see a colleague which you hate get promoted the first thing that you would assume is that he must have sucked up to the boss or something like that to be promoted over me right? That’s the basic human reaction to these kind of scenarios

        8) Again I’m no expert in reading the deeper meanings to these kind of topics

        9+10) Again this goes back to the point of opportunities that are available, sure you can make it without any connections into a company but without connections you will never become the top person in the office

        11) What I’m going to say is probably offensive to any religious person out there so I apologise in advance

        Isn’t this exactly the same religion? Religion takes advantage of those superstitious people to convert them by things like god will bring you to heaven if you believe in him and you will go to hell for sinning so and so. Yet is that called brainwashing?

  2. Carol says:

    I’ve felt the same as you! Now, it IS true that in such a kind of school, students and teachers would feel those against the rules are terrorists in this episode, they are people who got used to this kind of system. It left me thinking if we may see Tatsuya changing his mind on the matter in the future (that in case the show is meant to be good, so far it’s just OK).

  3. jimmydorry says:

    You raise many good points, however I feel that some of your energy is somewhat miss-directed.

    I haven’t read the LNs, so my opinions may be blown out of the water later… or perhaps only the LN readers will know better… but from what I have seen:

    • Tatsuya and co. are anti-system

    To me it appears that they think the system is fine, but requires improvement. By including (blah) as criteria in the marking, we would see a massive upheaval as potentially many of the Blooms fall to a level more indicative of their proper position, and many weeds fall lower or rise to blooms.

    • That the characters (Tatsuya mainly) we get exposition out of hold contradictory beliefs/opinions/values.

    This strikes me as more realistic of human nature. If we ignore my first point that would make this point of contention moot (resolve the contradictions), we would be left with two characters that do not see the world in black & white.

    Following Tatsuya’s logic to its conclusion, even though he does not agree with the existing social hierarchy, he can see that a group of terrorists have taken this stance to the extreme. This terrorist group seems to be aiming to undermine the national security (using terrorism, trying to get abolishment of magic, etc.).

    • Tatsuya having a dramatic head start due to his genetics and social position

    This is undoubtedly true, but in the first episode we saw how much effort he puts into training. We also saw him get his ass handed to him by what looked to be an adult, and that even more effort will be required to continue closing that gap. If anything, this show appears to be championing #hardwork #dedication.

    I am under no illusion that his unique genetics and social position gave him an edge, but this show is clearly not trying to push a Shounen Jump agenda of being an under dog and miraculously saving the day regardless of the odds.

  4. John says:

    The anime didn’t make me angry. But you did, for injecting your pet interpretations into a show with multiple points of view. Congratulations on being so magically biased.

    “Some of these messages are contradictory”
    This isn’t Ayn Rand trying to get you to follow a Socially Darwinistic religion. This is real people trying to cope with the world, which is not black and white. Some will think of it as fair. Some won’t. Some have mixed feelings about it, such as Tatsuya. He’s both well-treated and badly treated, because that’s how real life plays out for most people. There’s only an insidious message, if you have been fed with so much one-sided opinions you start to see other sides and points of view as “poisonous”. Poisonous. And you’re here to give us the antidote.

    Instead of “it’s hard to come up with an evaluation system that fits everybody but I’ll work my way up as an engineer”, you think the show is saying “it’s the fault of the adults and we’re really awesome, so this system needs to be SMASHED”.
    Instead of “Tatsuya feels lucky because he has something unique, and somewhat sympathizes with the resentment, but disagrees with their violent methods and sees that it won’t actually create a better world”, you think the show is being contradictory and not focusing on their Capitalist manifesto.
    Instead of “politicians are opportunists who will offer support to whatever achieves their goals”, you think it’s saying “those opposing meritocracy are undermining the nation”.

    If that’s your antidote, I’d say you are the one that is poisoned.

    Now to real life. Your sociology logic doesn’t fly with many people in this real world because of one thing: you do not present a way to falsify your simplistic conclusions. All your beef lies behind the insistence that someone has to EARN something, rather than be GIVEN it. In fact, there is only ONE way to do so in theory: to prove that someone has NO talents, or genetics for something, at all. And because you don’t make a falsifiable statement, people are not calling it science anytime soon.

    • tamerlane says:

      Not to single you out, since there are many posts here just as absurd as yours, but my mind is blown that so many people are crazy about this trashy LN series. Disregarding the political subtext, Mahouka is just badly written nerd wish fulfillment. Why defend it so vehemently?

      • mike says:

        because of people that say nothing but thinks about a book that is for pure enjoyment and i dear say that a lot of show is nerd wish fulfillment so i dont get your point

  5. SStefania says:

    i came here only to check if there was a wall of text of Mentar fapping to Mahouka, and was not disappointed.

    • Guy says:

      I deserve some kind of medal for my patience, or for my foolishness. My reply to him was about 3.3k words. Lost my patience towards the end, especially as it felt he wasn’t actually reading, let alone processing my piece, which answers his concerns…

      Also, how horrible, only coming here for that purpose and not to read my stuff ;_;

      • SStefania says:

        B-but I read the text about Luftrausers almost immediately after! It’s your fault you write about anime that I don’t care about, how dare you not cater to me!
        Okay, now you guilt-tripped me into reading your archives. I’m in February now.

        • Guy says:

          Success!

          Well, we all find different things interesting. I was complaining (tongue in cheek, really) more about the “I didn’t come here for the piece, but to see if this dude replied to it” ;-)

          I’d click on Editorials/”Reviews” at the top, probably more likely to be of interest, and also cuts out all the episodics, which I still mostly keep locked up in their own section.

          And thanks for your readership! :)

      • SStefania says:

        Well, I have read your response to Mentar, it’s just that Mahouka itself doesn’t really interest me, it’s a bland Light Novel adaptation, but the phenomenon of this guy going everywhere and fapping on it… Well, we had a similar person in our Polish fandom, so it makes me curious. Sorry if it seemed like I don’t care for what you write. And thank you for pointing me to editorials, they are always the most interesting part :3

        • Guy says:

          Well, that reply with the quotes is 3,300 words long, so I guess that’s sort of equivalent to reading a post :3

  6. Curious says:

    You definitely put a lot of work into this! This was really well written and I found myself agreeing with all of it.

  7. Bob says:

    Isn’t your whole argument based on the flimsy logic that people internalize media in a simple “see it and believe it,” process. Also take note that lack of awareness does not equal ignorance or even support of the underlying subtext. I also don’t like how you demonize an author thoughts, no matter how negative, without any real context to his action or who he is a person. You’re also not too far from the whole “LET’S THOUGHT POLICE PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY HAVE BAD THOUGHTS!” mentality! The next step is burning book you think are undesirable. I have no problem to your critique but how you did your criticism was completely wrong and more disturbing than any things Mahouka showed. At least Mahouka is a piece of fiction.

    • Guy says:

      First, couldn’t you have posted just this and waited? I might reply later to your comment below, but no, you “trolling to prove a point” is akin to people who say “I’m only watching this ironically” or “It’s ok if I’m rude here, it’s only to make a point.” The real point is that you’re, well, mad, and hyperbolic because you can’t contain yourself.

      What is your message, which fits so very well with the above? Your message is that I’m reading too deeply into it, and that all this subtext reading is bullshit. That’s exactly in-line with your anti-intellectualism screed and responses. You can’t handle any subtext which attacks the works you enjoy, or which perhaps hits too close to home. No one likes being “analyzed”, to be given a reductionist treatment.

      Now, for your actual point. I don’t think people pick up any and all messages they see. People are capable of rejecting messages, or just failing to pick something up, whether they noticed it or not. I agree with you fully.

      But we are shaped, subtly, by various things we pick up. Mahouka says “This is how the world works,” and incorporates real political ideals of “objectivism” and “meritocracy” as espoused by “Conservative Liberals” in the USA, for instance. We pick up stray thoughts, and they sit in our heads. Where do we pick our opinions from? Parents, friends, school, media… everywhere. Anime is another media we consume, and which also shapes us, just like everything else.

      Presenting it as “how things are”, especially with some notable similarities to how things actually are, it’s easier to take those messages in. Even then, I’m fine with exploring meritocracy, the bigger issue is the presentation of it as just and fair, as equal, when it is not.

      A friend of mine said something amusing, specifically about your comments. He said it’s ironic how you’re the one crying out about “Thought Police”, when you can’t handle someone who thinks differently than you, and dares say so.

      Work of fiction doesn’t excuse Mahouka from being a political screed. And I think the author is actually exactly the byproduct of what you accuse me of saying could happen, took too much LNs in, and ended up believing this is how the world works.

  8. Bob says:

    OMG LOOK AT ME HYPER ANALYZE THIS PIECE OF FICTION GUYS! ALSO YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD FOR LIKING STUFF BECAUSE YOU ARE BRAINLESS IMPRESSIONABLE IDIOT WHO CAN’T THINK FOR YOURSELF RIGHT? oh wait….

    • Guy says:

      You’re so platinum mad. You’re cute.

      Did I hit a nerve too close to home? Acting like a child is really helping your argument for the maturity of the ideas in the series and its fans.

  9. Bob says:

    errbody on the mahouka hate train! Stories are only categorized as brain exercises or poisonous hate messages! Be careful watching your media or else you might become the next Hitler!

  10. Bob says:

    last time I checked discussing if there was a correlation between media consumed and personal characteristics was in the realm of actual science not literary criticism

  11. Bob says:

    THOUGHT POLICE HERE, BETTER KEEP YOUR FANTASIES IN CHECK OR ELSE GUY THE CRITIC WILL COME GET YA!

  12. Matt Cheng says:

    You all look very silly, he said there’s no issue enjoying Mahouka, he wants you to recognize the undertones it posses though, and what they mean. Getting angry just makes you look close minded.

    • Bob says:

      Here are some quotes on Guy’s “no issue enjoying Mahouka” stance.

      “An unexplored political opinion, a “normative message” (“this is how things should be”) is harmful. You can pick it up, but you should be aware of what its ramifications are, you should look clearly at what it’s actually saying.”

      Why does Guy assume everyone needs to treat media critically? Why does he think that media needs some kind of meaningful message to it’s viewer rather than pure entertainment? Guy’s tone is hostile at best and judgmental at worst.

      “Many light novels and anime works, heck, many films, video games, etc. are appreciated not in spite of the subtext, but because of it. We all watch and play stuff for the fantasies they empower and engender within us; that’s fine. If anything, it’s the opposite of escapism, tackling things we cannot handle in life on our terms.”

      Again Guy goes full arm chair psychologist and automatically judges people who read, play, or enjoy power fantasies as damaged individuals in need of some sort psychological treatment through media. He brazenly states that media consumed by these individuals are simply absorbed to help their psyche in some way.

      “And then we have messages such as the ones in Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, that seem benign, but are deeply insidious and had even caused much harm in the real world, and which make me shake my head mightily and cry out, “No. This is not fine.“”

      Real Harm? Are you kidding me? Where’s the proof in the harm that Mahouka caused on it’s audience? Were they any murders, crimes, robberies, or assaults that were directly connected with Mahouka? I’m going to make a parallel here by comparing Mahouka with Twilight (Twilight being the power fantasy of Stephanie Myer). Twilight has ridiculously negative messages towards women, but can I brazenly say that the thousands of young teenage girls who watched the series are irrevocably damaged for life because of it? No I can’t, that’s in the realm of graphs, observation, calculations, etc. It’s fine to be critical about it, but taking the stance of high and mighty critic (remember he’s a sociologist guys!) whose doing some kind of justice by decrying power fantasies is outrageous.

      Look obviously I understand all the points Guy is trying to say. But serious the tone of the whole piece has a feel of silent of judgement, a hint of slippery slope fallacy which states that consuming these types of media might lead you down to some sort personality disorder, and even a hostile stance against people who would have negative thoughts without context to the actual individual.

  13. Kercon says:

    Ehhh … I don’t have time and my writhed English is bad so I will go quickly and hopefully we won’t see each other again.

    Massive Spoiler (You have been warn)

    If you had read LN you should know that Tatsuya isn’t perfect and the only reason why he is in first high is that he is from shadow (sub clan) of main branch and protecting his sister, in addition to have possibility to “enjoy” this he has to mask his presence. For his past it is quite dark, not only he is quite “disliked” in main branch because of nature of his source magic, he had full course of military training (his body is marked because of that).

    The world is not black and white and anime and novel show it quite well there are only few magic based high-schools and even less magic academes. Magicians have to compete one whit another to get best education and then only few of them receive good salary afterwards. In addition world is only getting stable from wars where magicians are main resource of each country that why smaller countries have make the most of what they had on start. That why in first high there are course 1 and 2 students.

    Additionally our current world isn’t that different from anime and novel. We pay more for specialists and persons who are the best in their field, not only that we have even bigger gap between untalented ppl and ppl who were born whit talents. If you look in that there are thousands of sportsmen that train their body to the limits and only few can have even chance to represent them selves in big events. Most of us had to throw our dreams to bin because we lacked something important or essential to make them true.

    For terrorist like organization only 4 words : “Greenpeace” like terrorist activities.

  14. decadyn says:

    If the series itself didn’t make it already hate it, the fans of it surely will. Dear god these comments are stupid.

    • m says:

      You just don’t “get it”. Nobody who “gets it” can ever hate Mahouka, we are just uninformed idiots who cannot grasp the genius of this masterpiece of literature. Truly, Kafka is a hack compared to this.

  15. […] This post is a perfect encapsulation of everything that is entertaining and awful about Mahouka blog posts […]

  16. Billy Bob says:

    Sigh. Guy, your whole post is so much nonsense. You take anime too personally, this is one of the silliest things I’ve ever read.

    • Guy says:

      Considering the effort you’ve gone to just in order to make this comment (creating a G+ account, creating a facebook account, replying to this), it seems to me that even if you disagree completely, “silly” is not the right word, since it affects you to your core, and moves you so much.

      It seems to me you’re the one taking this very personally. If anything, I wrote this post because I don’t think this is a personal issue, but a general one.

      • John Doe says:

        Uh, I’ve had this account for almost a year and I’ve followed some of the stuff on your blog for a little while. The comments section is for expressing your opinions and feedback right? This is just coming from a person that hasn’t read the novels but likes the anime so far. I wasn’t aware commenting had such serious connotations.

        Just step back and try to look at your whole post objectively, it looks like you’ve reached a point wherein you’re invested into this by an unhealthy amount and you’re coming off as silly as a result. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Bob says:

        Um that’s not me LOL

        and can I also add the sheer audacity to think that someone disagreeing with you is automatically the same person who trolled you from before (because two people couldn’t exist who disagree with such a marvelous piece of writing!). You can probably tell my writing style and my tone at this point.

    • Guy says:

      I’m going to reply first to the procedural bit, and then the content.

      First, see all the comments by “Bob”, then a reply by “John Doe”, tied to an email with a facebook account called “Bobby Bob, where the only details are “Likes Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei”. You can see why one would get suspicious. And you’ll also agree what Bob does is beyond “expressing your opinions and voicing disagreement,” I’d assume.

      Now, for the whole involvement point. You’re right. I find it highly ironic that what got me back to blog last April was my Sword Art Online piece, after seeing people putting down those who like it for having shit taste. I wrote before, elsewhere – hype breeds anti-hype, and anti-hype breeds hype. Rather than convince one another, it only leads to each side further entrenching themselves in the ground. That people are excited for a show and say it’s “great”, if you think it’s “Average”, then pointing out all the negative things about it will slowly push you to say it sucks.

      I actually don’t think Mahouka is terrible. The first arc is the worst, and the second arc is IMO the best, or at least most enjoyable one (The arc covered in books 9-11 is probably the “best”, but I found it pretty dull, and problematic on other ends).

      I can think a show has healthy messages and terrible, and I can even think a show to be deliberately poisonous and amazing. I actually don’t think the show is deliberately toxic, here’s a quote from what I said elsewhere about it:

      I wholeheartedly agree with you that Mahouka and its authors aren’t trying to push forth any agenda of self-worth or an economic agenda (it’s more social anyway). But the author is propagating his views of reality, which to us humans is very much a social view.

      The author may not consciously try to push the agenda, nor does he consider his work to be espousing any messages, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen anyway. I’ll use this example, if I’m a writer from 1900 in southern USA and I am telling a “realist story”, there’s going to be racial discrimination. I’m just describing how things are, right? It doesn’t mean the story isn’t also propagating that this view is “natural”, which we can see when we view the text a century later. Of course it’s anachronistic, but it also showcases that what the author views as “normal”, is steeped in political ideas. Not a political agenda, but political thoughts.

      Now, “You’re coming off as silly” is dismissive, you’ve just made an inarticulate “argument” without saying what’s problematic, or why. If you’d actually state what you find silly, I’d be able to discuss it. Unless you mean in the comments?

      Am I slightly too invested? Is this likely creating some things I dislike in general? Yes. But I’m also not saying the show’s terrible, or bad for these reasons. But I do think these things matter. They matter a lot more than this show, or anime as a whole does. They’re the world we live in.

  17. Action Bob says:

    [Guy’s note: Different Bob than the other one.]

    Time to round up all these Bobs and put them in therapist jail to be rehabiliated for defending Mahouka

  18. Arbitrary_greay says:

    Coming from a position of agreeing with your argument, I think one of the potential points of misunderstanding is that the ultimate consequences to this brand of Meritocracy aren’t fully visualized. Some of the responses are people reading the post and going “So what? That doesn’t sound like too bad a situation to me,” because as you said, “Capitalism has a lot going for it, and much of the argument adds up […]”

    Because the post is focused on the protagonists of Mahouka, who benefit from this worldview, audience members who agree with it never fully understand who and/or what the victims and damages of this system are. There’s no concrete image to associate with the “pure poison” description, so they may not comprehend exactly what is toxic about it.

    The implications are stated in the post when it talks about how the system is actually intent on reinforcing the status quo, but to use debate terms, that’s an internal link, not an impact. (Impact being the ultimate consequence and damage that is desirable to avoid/prevent, the answer to the question “So what?”) You began articulating some of those impacts in the comments, (non-mages being denied any chance at higher paying mage jobs, the marathon runner –> legless man analogy) but the original post, as said before, focuses on real-world examples of those who benefit from the system, children of the wealthy, as opposed to those screwed over by it, those to whom management positions are impossible to achieve during their lifetime, much less entry level, because they can’t afford (in both time and money) the training and education necessary to be qualified.
    Then again, it would be one quick hop and a step into the inevitable internet shitstorm heralded by that dread word “privilege,” even before other demographic qualifiers are appended. Can’t blame you if you want to avoid that.

    The other point that seems to get lost is in how Mahouka actually believes in meritocracy. Since the post is devoted to pointing out the contradictions the cast and plot make, it almost seems that, on the surface, Mahouka wants to deconstruct it, when what it really is doing is unintentionally revealing the inevitable corruption of meritocracy in practice. But since said inevitable corruption is the point of this post, you can always point people to Bobduh’s write-up for how Mahouka’s power fantasy nature reveals the author and audience’ subconscious celebration of meritocracy.


    Not addressing you, Guy, directly, with this next bit:

    Definitions battles are generally stupid. They don’t contribute to to a productive conversation on either side, and no one ever won a debate off of definitions. Whether or not meritocracy has to do with Ayn Rand or objectivism and the exact definitions of each word is not topical. That is, any discussion should be about the system that is laid out within Mahouka, which you happen to label with the word meritocracy, and people should treat it as just a label, without external connotations. They can even label it something else, if they’d like, as long as they are talking about the system that is laid out within Mahouka.

    Statements like “but [x system name] isn’t really like that!” is not helpful. Yes, yes, we know that theoretical communism works and is wonderful. That is not the point of this conversation. Discussion has to be about what is in Mahouka, and the implications of it, not quibbling over the shorthand used so that we don’t have to describe the entire system from scratch every time we mention it. Even if the Mahouka system does not conform fully to the Ayn Rand definition of Meritocracy, then all it means (initially, if you don’t expand the discussion to include it) is that the portions of the Ayn Rand system that do not apply to the Mahouka system do not apply to the conversation about the Mahouka system, and the indictments of the Mahouka system do not apply to the parts of the Ayn Rand system that the Mahouka system does not conform to. (Lawdy, that sentence. I should join the Tautology Club)

    The only time a definitions battle is relevant is when the original post itself is about the implications of the definition. This post is not. It is about a system that you happen to label as meritocracy.

    • Arbitrary_greay says:

      An addendum about articulating impacts: (wow, this got really long)
      Even the “non-mages can’t get high-paying mage jobs” situation is more of an internal link than an impact in and of itself.

      The impact is also not a traditional one, (nuclear war, death, etc.) but one of framework.
      The framework here seems to be “The legitimacy of the ideals Mahouka espouses is important, because it may influence viewers who agree with them to support those ideals in real life, including their negative aspects. Therefore, if the ideals Mahouka espouses are proven to be illegitimate, then [I win the debate]” Outside of a competitive debate context, I guess a better finish to the framework would be [we should be aware of not supporting its ideals in real life, even if we enjoy Mahouka on an entertainment level] or something like that. The point is, the framework your post seems to be operating off of is that proving Mahouka’s thematic internal consistency is the winning condition.

      The impact to “non-mages can’t get high-paying mage jobs” is not discrimination or anything, but that “In Mahouka, people do not start on equal opportunity footing, but are privileged by factors beyond their control. Therefore, the system of meritocracy which Mahouka champions is predicated on an incorrect assumption, and is therefore illegimate, and [I win according to my framework.]”

      A route to more traditional impacts would be real-world examples of meritocracy advocates using it to justify increasing income equality and thus pushing more people into poverty. Or any of the traditional impacts of working poor anecdotes. (Sickness, stress, crime, violence, etc.)

      To answer one of Mentar’s arguments, (“I support the German approach which gives everyone housing, food, clothing, healthcare and education unconditionally.”) the system in which people “are entitled to help from the system” is no longer Mahouka’s meritocracy. You are specifically attacking one aspect of meritocracy that is often overlooked by its supporters because so much of its other aspects are reasonable. Which means that this particular statement is not really a part of the discussion, under the framework set by the original post.

      Of course, you can have framework debates, which is what most discussions really want to be. Bob’s comments are the most obvious example of such a tactic, but most of the back-and-forth in arguments are more like Mentar’s response, making arguments in the framework, outside of the framework, and against the framework, so it’s all very confusing, and makes it easy to point out contradictions by cross-applying arguments that aren’t meant to be cross-applied.

      From what I can tell, though, Mentar’s main beef is two-fold:
      1) Within the framework, concerning “the ideals Mahouka espouses” which must be proven legitimate/illegitimate. Mentar believes that said ideals are different from the ones you say that Mahouka advocates. Mentar also believes that the ideals he/she thinks Mahouka is really advocating are legitimate.
      2) Mentar is arguing within an alternative framework, in which the condition to winning must include proposing a solution to the system, hence the mentions of the German system where people are entitled to help from the system. Since your original post and subsequent responses still do not offer a solution to Mahouka’s false meritocracy, it cannot stand within this alternative framework.

      • Bob says:

        Look I’m a troll and to be specific I use the tactic of sarcastic paraphrasing; Where I take the author’s position, Mahouka has negative messages that will cause some sort of harm (Guy never actually explains but he did state it causes “real life harm”!) and put a bitter sarcastic twist to highlight it’s absurdity (which it is!)

        To be actually serious and leave my troll persona behind, I think this piece is convoluted, messy, lacks personality/style, and more than likely a rage rant against anime fans. From what I can tell it has 3 distinct themes to it and ironically it’s subtext is very malicious.

        1st – The theme of meritocracy and it’s merits/flaws, and how it relates to Mahouka (I have no idea what the point of this is. Are you saying meritocracy is bad through the medium of Mahouka? It’s confusing especially with you saying you have no problem with it then suddenly having problems with it by issue of definition)

        2nd – The social commentary of how negative messages can affect viewers (highly debatable and also heavily implies Hypodermic Needle Theory of media influence) (Hypodermic Needle Theory states that media consumed is 100% translated as behavior learned)

        3rd – Analysis on various characters in Mahouka and how they relate to it’s underlying message ( I actually enjoyed this. But it’s not hard to rag on ridiculous characters like Tatsuya)

        I’d like to point specifically why Guy plugs a random humble brag of “I’m a sociologist!” Like are we, as readers suppose to be impressed? Is it because we wouldn’t have supported your thoughts on meritocracy? Is it to show that people can’t disagree with you because you are more educated on the subject than us? What’s the point of this? I’ll also add that the Kibbutz didn’t fail. And it certainly didn’t “fail spectacularly”. It actually changed SLOWLY and OVER TIME. There are even Kibbutz in existence as of right now (though whether those were ORIGINAL Kibbutz is up for debate.)

        Second beef I have with this is, IT REEKS OF SILENT JUDGEMENT AND SLIPPERY SLOPE FALLACY, on all Mahouka viewers. Since Guys is an actual sociologist, he would know the various theories of media influence. He should also know that it’s heavily debated whether media has any actual influence on people.

        (Here are various theories on media influences if you’re curious) http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20Clusters/Mass%20Media/

        Now obviously I can take into account that Guy is a writer. And naturally his position is going to be bias towards media being meaningful than media being meaningless. But what I can’t stand is this blind justice like crusade against negative media. I like to point that this article and various articles written by Guy, are very serious in tone. The subtext of this article is very clear. You’re fucked up if you like Mahouka. Words like poisonous and allegories towards an imaginary book in the 1920’s (he basically implied that the issue of racism and slavery in 1920’s is equivalent to the issue brought up in Mahouka; also take note the nice subliminal ideal that ignorance on issues = support for said issues), all show that somehow in Guy’s mind, he’s doing some kind of service rehabilitating your personality through his critique pieces. And that is absurd.

        Look I understand, You’re a critic/writer/social commentator or whatever the fuck you want to be. But critics do over analyze. And critics make ignorant judgments on people. And critics become lost in their own delusional over- rationalized ideals that they don’t see anything else. They don’t see that they’ve demonized people without any sort of context. The point here is criticism written in a vacuum, without any use of context (Mahouka is a product designed to sell!) is absurd and silly.

        OH BONUS POINTS! This is all subtext of this article. I can’t find you a source but since it’s SUBTEXT, it’s not cheating!

      • tamerlane says:

        Hello Bob. I am also an epic troll, like yourself. Thank you for your (lol over 9) thousand word essay on the critiquing of Mahouka. I learned a lot, mainly that:

        1) Mahouka is garbage
        2) You suck
        3) My Dick

  19. Giovanni says:

    Would it be contradictory to say that I am a huge fanboy of this series, and still appreciate this post?

    • froggykun says:

      Not contradictory at all! I’ve only watched the anime, but I enjoyed the first four episodes quite a bit and think this post has some great points.

      • Giovanni says:

        It raised some pretty interesting questions and made me think about a lot of things so yeah I did like Guy’s post. ^_^

        I still feel a lot of this can be explained as being a result of Tatsuya being Shiva though ^_^.

        Sure, some might think it’s just an excuse to make Tatsuya look cool–and maybe that is the case, but if you ask me, I think it’s all in reverse: Tatsuya isn’t cool because he’s compared to Shiva; instead, Tatsuya became cool because Shiva was cool. So the author kinda had no choice but to write him the way he did.

    • Bobduh says:

      This is the best attitude to take! The main problem we’re seeing in the comments is people conflating criticism of the series (which is really only about being aware of and debating the messages this show puts forth) with attacks on them personally. It is normal and healthy to question the things you like, to be able to have debates on your media without taking things personally, and to like things in spite of them possessing elements you disagree with.

      • Giovanni says:

        ^_^

        Well, I think everyone can understand WHY people act the way we do when it comes to things we like. Generally speaking, we tend to like things if it touched something–anything–personal within us and this helps form a connection–otherwise, we wouldn’t feel so strongly about it. It doesn’t even have to be something profound: a simple idea, a setting, an ideal, a personality trait, or even a character design–anything really, as long as we like it, because it effectively becomes part of ourselves, we will inevitably try to “protect it” when we feel it threatened. Hence why fanboys, from any fandom, tend to react the way they do–especially since these people tend to spend hours, days, or even years of their time on the object of their fascination.

        People only react when it means something to them. So when people criticize things we like, it really does feel like we’re being criticized ourselves, even if someone was just trying to bring up a topic. ^_^ So just bear with us…we kinda can’t help ourselves. XD

        • Guy says:

          Not necessarily, the connection can also go the other way. We could take in a piece of work and make it important to us because we like it, even if it didn’t actually resonate with anything already within us in particular.

          And the issue still holds, so something resonates with us, it doesn’t mean it all did. It’s the fallacy of “Best = Favourite”, where if we like something, then it must be good, and it must all be good.

          Also, in this piece, I did go more than just criticizing the work, but that is because it contains real life political messages, and there are real implications to the world-views pushed herein.

          Also, “I’m a shitty person because I care!” doesn’t make for a very compelling argument ;-)

        • Giovanni says:

          Not really trying argue anything, but I see your point. ^_^

      • A Sensible Individual says:

        Holy shit, slightly more reasonable walls of text on the internet!

    • Guy says:

      I think the Tatsuya as Shiva is interesting, and it’s definitely a fun reading, but… it doesn’t actually change anything. Yes, it’s fun and interesting, but it doesn’t change the story that is told, or that it’s a power-fantasy excuse :P

      I’ve seen people say, Tatsuya is also close to John Galt, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Even his goal of coming up with an energy source to be independent of everyone else fits, heh.

      And no, it’s not contradictory. I like many series with messages I disagree with, in spite of these things. I can even like them for said messages, but so long you’re aware of it, then why not? What we see in the comments here are people refusing to see why.

      • Giovanni says:

        Perhaps, but even so I think it’s a very good excuse. XD You can’t get a better excuse for why your character is so OP than saying he was based on the freaking Mahadev, hahah. (Also, while I was stalking some of the Japanese threads for the series, I found that some Japanese fans have also caught on to the similarities. I even learned a new stuff. We’re all basically treating it like a great big association game, and I think that’s part of the fun ^_^)

        Ah yes. His Stellar Furnace.^_^ Are you sure about that though? I kinda forgot a few things because it’s been a while since I read the novels. (I’ve been busy hunting for spoilers for the 13th volume) But from what I remember the Furnace was supposed to be so society could find another use for magicians other than military purposes.

        And I see why. ^^ (Or at least I think so?) Regardless of author intent the fact that the material can be read as one thing means that the implications exist. And the implications Mahouka raises are quite dangerous, at least according to your point of view. ^^ And reinforcing such ideas has negative real world consequences–especially in regards to the idea of “Meritocracy”. Because people seem to forget that “starting points” are often unequal and that some people, rather than earning their success, actually more like inherit their success as they’ve basically been set up by their circumstances to be in a position to succeed. While others literally have nothing they can use to “earn” and gain a better station in life.

  20. r4p3l says:

    I only comment here because this was on /r/anime. I like this show, I will keep watching it. I read almost every comment here but my conclusion is: Just dont give a damn and you will be able to enjoy it.

    • mahouka koukou no incest says:

      or we could not waste our time with horrible or even mediocre shows. less time spent watching shit means more time watching something that’s actually good. if a show requires me to turn my brain off to enjoy it, then it’s not worth my time.

  21. Giovanni says:

    And here’s the part where I must thank you because you made me realize something about myself. In a way, you are right. The reason I like Mahouka so much was because it appealed to my own personal values and particular worldviews. You made me realize that. ^_^ So yes, when I read the story, as much as I am reading characters whose personalities I personally find appealing, I am also seeing the heroes who embody my personal ideals. However; it isn’t objectivism that I’m into. (For I find Atlas Shrugged quite silly)What I happen to subscribe to…is the Machiavellian school of realism. Realpolitik is what gets me all wet and bothered. And part of my personal philosophy, regardless of whether or not people disagree with me or call me delusional or maybe even horrible for it, is that starting points don’t matter as much as results. It isn’t a person’s intrinsic value that matters, but whether or not he’s even in a position to produce any sort of output. I couldn’t care less whether or not a person more intelligent or talented than myself doesn’t earn “what he should” or what “he would” in a “fairer” society. Because there are no “what shoulds” or “what woulds”…only “what is”. All I’ll care about is if he is of use to me or my interests. In the world of realism….everything is fair. The concepts of virtu and fortuna—skill and luck–determine power. If you have it; you earned it, or somebody earned it for you. How you attain something does not matter. The important thing is what you do with it.

    And that’s one of the reasons Tatsuya appeals to me…because the man is definitely an ideal Machiavellian Prince. (Heck, some fans have even compared the Yotsuba family to the Borgias ^^) Sure he was born with godlike powers…but he also made good use of it. (“Good” here being defined as anything that furthers his goals and his power) All that matters for him are results and caring for his own interests, he’s not trying to push some grand economic ideal…all he’s trying to do is try to make a world more suitable to his liking. Right or wrong are concepts he’s above dealing, and he’ll resort to persuasion, trickery, deception, intimidation, and brute force as the situation requires. He is decisive and his judgment is final. He can be ruthless and completely merciless. With the total annihilation of his enemies always being a consideration. As a creature of power, he’s also the perfect example: because he is in total control of his own self. The more power you have, the more in control you have to be—for power changes the very nature of a man’s existence–and Tatsuya perfectly illustrates that…because if a “Man of Power” ever lost control of his desires or his emotions—the people around him suffer. He also wins because he makes all the right moves: pragmatism and using every means at your disposal. And he also wins all the time…because he cannot afford to lose. So he spends most of time doing nothing but trying to find way to further increase his power. (Add to this, the way he seemed unsatisfied with his level of power in the 12 volume and how he’s starting to question the nature of his existence).

    So instead of Tatsuya serving as a vehicle for me to live out my power fantasies, he provides me with an ideal figure whose exploits I simply enjoy watching, excited to see how far he will go and whther or not he wins of fails in the end. I accept that he wins all the time…because I think he makes the right moves; I even accept that I am inherently inferior and that men such as him must take the help to lead his lesser to a brighter future. However; because he is a Prince, if the day ever came that he falls, especially if it’s a result of the enemies he’s offended…then just as he’s “earned” his success. He’s also “earned” his demise. I feel no pity for him or his circumstances too, because I believe the actions of his antagonists are justified. Granted, it’s been said that he needs no pity and even takes offense to it, so that doesn’t really mean much–but the point is: I believe Tatsuya deserved every good he’s ever got…but he also deserves every evil that befalls him. Because “everything is fair”. And if you get it, you deserve it. So when you experience evil…you also deserve it.

    I also like to think of him as deconstructed god character, but that’s for another time. XD

    • Giovanni says:

      On another note: I wish there was an edit button somewhere T_T Typos are embarrassing…

    • Wait what? says:

      “Machiavellian school of realism”? The Borgias being a “Machiavellian ideal Princes” (when it is more likely they’re dialectic counterpoints considering that Machiavelli worked for the de Medicis, wrote the republican praising Discourses, or that Cesare Borgia utterly failed in his schemes) ?

      Do people actually study these (Machiavelli & realpolitik) in the context of personal philosophies instead of politics or international relations? Does any of this “personal philosophy” actually exist outside your own imagination (i.e. your power fantasies?)

      • Giovanni says:

        Fine, fine, I get it. Mahouka is a vehicle for my power fantasies. Is that what you wanted to hear? No problem. Screw me and let me enjoy my incestuous Gary Stu adventure.

        But just to make a few things clear:

        1) I know Machiavelli preferred republics.
        2) However; he still appreciates strong leadership and saw it as a necessity. His republican views didn’t stop him and Cesare from being friends.
        3) I know Cesare failed. Doesn’t stop him from being an admirable statesman in my eyes.
        4) I can damn well study realpolitik however I want and apply it to whatever aspect of my life as I very well please. I’m assuming what you meant by your last sentence as asking me if I practice what I preach, or am I merely a deluded fool who prefers to keep it inside my own imagination? Well yeah, since I usually only act when I have something to gain from it, I fight off the temptation to say whatever it is I want because to do so is usually counterproductive, and I usually make friends based on how “valuable” they will be to me. I do practice my personal philosophy in real life. And I’m OK like this.

      • Wait what? says:

        You were trying to sell the idea that the show is an example of a school of ethical philosophy. That it’s not a power fantasy but a philosophical fantasy, but this philosophy suggests that might makes right and that the powerful should rule and cannot be judged. Isn’t this fundamentally the same thing?

        Does the Machiavellian School of Realism exist? Where can we find the scholarly literature on it? But if it’s your own personal interpretation, you should say so. No one is going to criticize how you live your life (until you start murdering your rivals), but maybe you can be the founder of this new philosophy.

        To the aside, I agree that Machiavelli is also to interpretation, and it’s certainly valid to say he prescribed amoral autocracy because he wrote little to refute it.

        However, the alternate interpretation of The Prince should also be brought up. That it’s satire on monarchies, when read by the common man. The example of Cesare Borgia was used as an ironic example of “princely virtues”; the man led no profound cause nor provided benefit to the people, failed to hold on to the power he was born with and died in disgrace in exile.

  22. A Sensible Individual says:

    Mahouka’s pretty shitty, but I feel that you’re overanalyzing and misinterpreting some of it. Like god damn seriously he didn’t mean those who were against meritocracy were terrorists. Really the only difference between you and those Mahouka defenders are your walls of text
    I particularly did not like your overuse of “subtext”, especially because you fail to provide evidence for it and instead basically say that “if you can’t see it, that’s your problem”. Mentar’s pretty retarded, but I have to agree with him that if there was truly as much subtext as you stated there would be evidence for it in the anime. I admit you do have a few points, but this whole essay reeks of overanalysis a la some Evangelion analyses. I do agree that the anime gives a distinctly flawed impression of meritocracy, but not to the extent you’re stating. Anyway, to the stalwart defenders of Mahouka: It is objectively shit regardless of your own shit taste, stop lapping up this shit-infused series like it’s the Second Coming of Christ.

    • Giovanni says:

      Interesting…How is it “objectively” bad then?

      • Guy says:

        Badly written? Over-reliance on internal monologues, info-dumping, characters that are one-note. The most extreme case of “Show” “telling” instead of “tell” “showing” I’ve come across. No emotional resonance (not within us, but in how the characters are written, the author really doesn’t know how to write emotions).

        It’s very poorly written, and the way it introduces characters and forgets about them as well… Some of the contradictions I point out above in how the series treats meritocracy are also the result of just shoddy writing/poorly thought out.

        The anime also has really horrible VN music :P And for both, the amount of fan-service is distracting, and ill-placed, especially as the series goes out of its way to tell you “this can’t be”. The show is trying really hard for you to accept all of it, while out of the corner of its mouth saying “just kidding”.

      • Giovanni says:

        To be fair, I was trying to defend you. At least you gave a list of reasons. ^_^

        However…

        “Bad writing” depends on who’s reading. If it works; it works.

        The info-dumps were a problem, but in my case, were forgivable for the sake of fleshing out the universe.

        The meritocracy thing really isn’t a problem for me. This is largely a result of differing values,aand as such is bound to be a messy discussion so I won’t go into this any more. But for the context of the story: the muggles actually still rule the world, the Ten Master Clans are less rulers and more like special government agencies who serve a specific function for the state and are completely subject to the laws set by the muggles. One of the main source of conflict here is that one clan isn’t satisfied with this arrangement and seems to want more power to the point of threatening the stability of the ten clans system. The way the 10 clans are arranged largely depends on whether or not they can maintain their level of magic: if they can’t. They will be replaced by another family who can perform their functions better. Mibu Sayaka is also a poor example to argue for a world ruled by a magical upper class who gets away with everything…since she’s upper class herself. The daughter of a high ranking military official. Her connections couldn’t save her from being labeled as a Weed.

        Emotional resonance. Depends. I was hit pretty hard with the Untouchables chapter for one.

        It doesn’t really forget the characters as much as use them at a later time.

        The fan service in the anime is minimal. And music is a matter of personal tastes.

  23. mentaromega says:

    Good lord.

    Internal monologues: There’s no rule that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s a different style.

    Info-dumping: I’ll give you that one.

    Characters are one-note: Only to the oblivious reader.

    Most extreme case of “show” instead of “tell”: You mean the opposite. Whatever.

    No emotional resonance: Only to the oblivious reader.

    “The way it introduces characters and forgets about them”: Er, what? Which character is introduced, and then forgotten?

    It’s the old thing: You seriously need to take yourself MUCH less importantly. Just because YOU get no access to characters and their plight does not mean that it’s objectively so. It’s the definition of subjective.

    • Guy says:

      Yes, I mixed up the show and tell. Thank you.

      You might want to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s often hard to tell why a piece is good or bad, but quite often, people are able to agree whether something is good or bad. And even if we disagree on there being objective measures, we could still go with the “art world” definition, that if most people think a piece is “good” then it is, and if most think it is bad, it is?

      Any piece can have emotional resonance, especially as indeed you point out here and I have in the past, what we take out of a show/book depends quite a bit on what we put into it, meaning, resonance to a large degree depends on how we are even before the work begins. But even if I could resonate with characters, or fail to resonate with characters, due to compatibility or lack thereof with them and their ideals, I still can pass an opinion on whether they are well-written or not, doubly so emotionally. Both in having an emotional depth to them, and feeling they earned whatever emotions they display. Earn meaning that it feels like an outgrowth of their past behaviour, and that they earned our sympathy through prior story-telling.

      You say I’m an oblivious reader, I’ll counter with you being a self-inserting reader. Perhaps the resonance you see, and the “feelings” you get, aren’t earned through the way the characters and story are told, but by your insertion of yourself into the story so completely that you fill in all the (massive) gaps. The author and characters didn’t earn anything, but you fill in with your own experiences and feelings. Yes, good storytelling is able to draw it out of us, but I feel in your case you do it in spite of, or perhaps because of the lacking writing.

      You may also wish to take your own advice to heart. You keep going on every blog or forum where people say “Mahouka isn’t good” and try to counter their points, that leaves us with the conclusion that you think it is good. Perhaps you need to get over yourself, and stop trying to ensure everyone agrees with your opinion.

  24. mentaromega says:

    Guy: If you argue with “most people”, you have already lost. By pure numbers, Mahouka is among the most popular show out there, probably THE most popular one. If you go to the central most-traffic sites (Animesuki, MAL) or hi-traffic blogs (RC), the number of articles dwarf the other shows, with a clear majority positive. In Japan, it’s also among the best-selling light novels there are. Sorry. THIS argument blows up right in your face.

    Whether or not you like a character or feel emotionally involved is the probably most subjective choice there is. Trying to rationalize this as “objective” even after being challenged on it shows that there’s really something wrong with you.

    I don’t object when people don’t like Mahouka. Heck, it’s definitely nothing for easy digestion, and if people hate it, that’s fine. I do object when

    1) the source is dissed for something which simply isn’t true. I tend to oppose factual errors.

    2) people have the arrogance to label her subjective dislike as objective flaws.

    • Guy says:

      You might want to look at MAL, anime fora, and sales again.

      Black Bullet is outselling Mahouka on Amazon.jp. So is NGNL. NGNL, Mekakucity, are more discussed than Mahouka. A large amount of the comment-count for Mahouka is people arguing over whether it’s shit or not, rather than people praising it.

      Some numbers: Top 5 amazon.jp kindle downloads recently: OreGairu, Hatarakou Maou-Sama, 3 books of No Game, No Life.

      Top ten Dengeki Bunko LNs on amazon.jp this week/currently: SAO, Hatarakou Maou-Sama (download), Mahouka, SE (whatever that is), 4 books of Black Bullet, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, Mahouka.

      2chan: Love Live 33 threads, JoJo S2 29 threads, Mahouka 20, Mekakucity 12

      It’s popular, and it’s well-regarded, but it’s far from being in the lead. And a lot of that discussion is negative, or negative versus positive. It’s hard from an undisputed number 1 on reddit (in terms of popularity, in terms of enjoyment it’s even lower), and your ears would burn if you’d hear what /a/ thinks of Mahouka.

      Whether we relate to characters or not is indeed subjective, whether they are well-written, or well-written as to enable said resonance, isn’t entirely subjective. There’s a reason people learn how to write better.

    • tamerlane says:

      “it’s definitely nothing for easy digestion” <- are you trying to suggest Mahouka is somehow challenging in it's subject matter/presentation? lol

      Why are Mahouka fans this insane?? The answer: you have to be sick in the head to be able to enjoy Mahouka.

      • Guy says:

        Meh, I don’t agree. Some people enjoy the fan-service, and some people enjoy it for a light action show. You can enjoy it as a light action show, at least once this arc is done.

        Some people like it for its “nuanced and deep” magic system, though it’s actually pretty simple, and just oft-repeated.

        You can like it in spite of its flaws. But there’s a reason “fan” is short for “fanatic”, everywhere.

      • mentaromega says:

        Lots of content is buried in internal monologue and infodumps, which takes more effort to read and digest than easygoing direct dialogue.

        Makes me wonder who is the biggest fool. The fools, or the fool who is following the fools around, calling them fools? :)

      • tamerlane says:

        “Makes me wonder who is the biggest fool. The fools, or the fool who is following the fools around, calling them fools? :)”

        The fools are the fools, not the ones calling them out. Sorry to break it to you :(

      • Not just LN says:

        “Lots of content is buried in internal monologue and infodumps, which takes more effort to read and digest than easygoing direct dialogue.”

        A classic case of bring other people down to your own level. If you think amount of content = the excuse for disliking a piece, then obviously it applies more often to yourself than others. If writing is quality, amount of content is a good thing. This piece has shitty writing in the very core – prose is shit – and unless you read in Japanese, don’t even start to argue against since you’ve read some English translated version which itself would’ve been converted to a form that’s half readable with splashes of the translator’s own interpretations.

        Funny you ask about factual proof for subtext when the evidence needs to be statistical. One example countering a point does not make invalidate any argument. Had I cared enough I’d go back and highlight the repetitive shit (I mean, technique lolz) the author used in a chapter in colour then layout the pages as a visual representation, might be able to show how . BUT I no longer cares about this piece of work and going back to reread will be torture just to prove a pointless point.

        A writer is a craftsman and characters objects of creation of fiction – for readers to understand but not self-insert. Good writing is simple to read yet meaningful and profound. Shitty writing is all over the place and generate discussion from its inherent ambiguity. Ambiguity not in meaning but starts with readers trying to decipher what exactly the author is trying to say.

  25. mentaromega says:

    Oh, I should look at the numbers?

    There’s nothing to sell yet, what you’re seeing are the current preorders, in case you didn’t notice.

    NGNL (a show I love, just because people get this wrong) more discussed than Mahouka? :)

    Mahouka articles:
    On Animesuki: 1.780 articles about the anime, 17.295 articles about the LN
    On Myanimelist: 3.337 articles about the anime
    Random Curiosity: 279, 233, 252, 174 replies for the 4 eps out

    NGNL articles:
    On Animesuki: 997 articles about the anime, 416 articles about the LN
    On Myanimelist: 2.003 articles about the anime
    Random Curiosity: 120, 139, 108, 70 replies for the 4 eps out.

    The same about Mekakucity Actors, though I didn’t bother adding the numbers up.

    All this shows just one thing: I’m wasting my time talking to you. You are quick to write whatever enters your head, but you have no sufficient self-esteem to fact-check yourself prior to “post”.

    Seriously, man. Don’t go the “popular” route. Mahouka has the numbers to end up in the top tier. It offers many flaws to challenge. Numbers it ain’t.

    • EatzAce says:

      Damn. That was a damn entertaining use of 3 hours of my life.

      After reading the comments I’ve come to realize that reading discussions on Mahouka is far more interesting and thought provoking than reading the actual light novel. I realize your argument with Mentaro seems to have ended in futility but I just wanted to tell you that I, and probably many others, appreciate the work you put into your arguments. Reading it was not only very entertaining but it really taught me a great deal in how to debate (and condescend :P).

      If you ever start another heated debate, I’ll be there with popcorn, reading every word.

  26. Here you go, free publicity

  27. Drasca says:

    Aahaha. Thanks for the analysis in article and comments. ThatAnimeSnob, I liked your youtube as well.

    I enjoyed the written deconstruction of the basic issues within the show. I enjoy it, with hesitancy, but I do so knowing a lot of the conflict is completely contrived.

    Power wish fulfillment fantasy in a flawed economic system? I got downvoted by fanboys for noting it is selfish brats vs self brats in a school for the entitled in more public areas, but the more critical blogs readers understood exactly what’s going on. The system is rigged on all levels, and I can hardly sympathize with any of the students that complain or chastise their fellows– as all of them inherited or will receive inherently excessive wealth for their in-born talents due to magic users being rare & valued in their population. It is like rich schoolchildren complaining their luxury car they received as a gift was used. There is a total disconnect.

    Also of note is how seriously I should take a series is the competency of the adults, the ‘other’ in their society. It is obviously not limited to just this series, but when they’re absolutely useless, it is just another false pretense and power-fantasy.

    You’ve noted all those things and spelled them out in a much nicer fashion than I have. Kudos. It was a nice read, and I’ll be reading more of your blog here soon.

  28. rogue658 says:

    I don’t believe meritocracy is all that bad, since it allows for a certain level of freedom. It’s the bureaucratic annoyingness that the author trys to portray as the problem. But it feels very contrived, especially since Tatsuya belongs to an overpowered family and shouldn’t have to deal with this bureaucracy anyway (he seems to be ostracized by most of his family though, so that could be why).

  29. Luke says:

    Honestly, as someone who grew up with a parent surviving on a disability pension, I found your second comment to be more damaging than anything else you’ve put forth! Talent is a word for those who don’t know the meaning of effort. I describe myself as being the exception to this having gotten decent grades without an ounce of real effort but I also understand how easy it is to improve yourself within your studies. Intellectually, people are limited by that toxic point of view you possess and I’m not ashamed to point this out. If someone truly dedicates themselves to learning they can learn anything they so choose, so long as they understand where and how to find the resources they’re looking for.

    Learning things however isn’t a matter of half hour or an hour, it’s a matter of spending hour after hour browsing through a textbook, finding other texts to compliment and expand that knowledge, note taking, answering questions, revising notes made on the content, pulling out useful information, watching videos and documentaries, highlighting pieces of information, trying to talk about it with other people and teaching people about it… All of these things are vital to learning something properly as they all conduct multiple ways of thinking about a subject. Trying to think about how to teach something, trying to think about the arguments put forth against and for something, trying to think about its applications and its usages… There’s no shortage of things to consider.

    Physically you may have a point but mentally I beg to differ. If one wants to learn then provided they can find the resources to do so (which, might I add, may be a key CAUSE behind your so called correlation between the success of one’s parents and one’s children of which you have not referenced any reliable scholarly articles which may demonstrate this) and have had the teaching required to learn the prerequesites for that subject, they can learn it. Calling it genetics is nothing more than an excuse. A sham. A foolish, self-sympathizing attitude that people use to avoid the fact that they simply haven’t worked hard enough to learn the material.

    • Luke says:

      Just a note, I hated the Light Novel, it didn’t actually interest me which is why I read through the blog. It was in my opinion, extremely dull and uninteresting even as a light action series. That’s my opinion however and I respect those who disagree with it.

  30. […] they’d make for good pieces. Specifically here, as following my almost infamous piece on how Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei is an “Ode to Meritocracy” I was asked or accused of condemning fans of the show for liking it. So I think this answer will be […]

  31. […] And, of course, people disagree with each other about subtext all the time, as the comments on Guy’s infamous post about Mahouka’s political subtext clearly […]

  32. […] Mahouka, and the world-view they stem from and might lead to. I’ve named that piece “Mahouka Koukou is an Ode to Meritocracy!”, but I thought more about the negative aspects of it, see modern libertarianism, […]

  33. TallOne123 says:

    Interesting analysis. I’m not all too worked up about the political undertones as I am with the more superficial, narrative aspect but I have to address one part of the rant

    “…confusing an “explanation” for a “reason” while it’s merely “excuse”.” Can you elaborate on this? What part about the anime set this off?

    • ThatAnimeSnob says:

      He means there is a difference between a why and a how. Why offers excuses, how offers means.

      • TallOne123 says:

        And how does the “explanation,” “reason,” and “excuse” play into the anime? Does it pertain to Tatsuya’s character?

  34. EatzAce says:

    Damn. That was a damn entertaining use of 3 hours of my life.

    After reading the comments I’ve come to realize that reading discussions on Mahouka is far more interesting and thought provoking than reading the actual light novel. I realize your argument with Mentaro seems to have ended in futility but I just wanted to tell you that I, and probably many others, appreciate the work you put into your arguments. Reading it was not only very entertaining but it really taught me a great deal in how to debate (and condescend :P).

    If you ever start another heated debate, I’ll be there with popcorn, reading every word.

  35. One True Tatsuya says:

    Wow, was looking for reviews on Mahouka and came across this nice little rant on how the unfairness called life.

    It’s intriguing that there are a lot of people today that rather focus on word games and play victims than making the most out of themselves. There is one thing OP got correctly, Mahouka is strictly against that – Mahouka wants you to “be the best you can be”, whatever that is.

    Yes, this world is unfair, and yes success can be highly correlated to genetics and upbringings. Crying about it is about as useful as pissing into the wind, and me trying to get into the NBA.

    Except that this world is also “fair”. It’s fair in that your value depends on your contributions to the society. The world doesn’t care whether you have great upbringings or excellent genetics, it cares whether you can bring value to the table. That’s how JK Rowling got to where she is – she generated values far beyond her upbringings.

    The residents of a house caught on fire doesn’t care whether the firemen overcome extreme hardships or sleepwalk through the training. They care that the firemen being the best at putting out the fire and save lives – if genetics help, so be it. Sports fans don’t care that I have a great sob stories, unbelievable handicaps, and excellent desires to become an NBA player – if I cannot compete against the best, they don’t want me there.

    So at the end, who enforces these “unfairness”? Everyone of us, including those who think of themselves as victims. Yeah they are also part of the problem.

    Except it’s really not a problem at all, anymore than that gravity is a problem, or fire is a problem. These are natural phenomenons. You don’t overcome gravity by yelling at it to not pull people down. You overcome it by studying how to generate lift. You don’t overcome fire by yelling at it to not burn your hands. You overcome it by learning how to remove oxygen.

    Why do philosophies you hate want to preach this system as “fair”? Because if you focus on the unfairness, you end up occupying yourself with useless emotions that don’t contribute to the world and end up reducing your maximal values. If JK Rowling spent her time being a victim, we wouldn’t have known Harry Potter today.

    Tatsuya asked Mibu the same question – “After telling your thoughts to the school, what would you do then?”

    Well – OP, what are you going to do about the “unfairness” of this world? Perhaps join me in advocating cutting off the legs of everyone that’s over six-feet tall, so we can have a “fair” NBA?

  36. elizkane says:

    All of this is fair/relatively true (truth is subjective, of course), which makes me sad because I really love this series. I believe in socialism and despite how much I love the technical aspects of the world (magic, CADs, relics, etc.), the school dynamic and the power structure of most of the goings-on makes me sad too (I like the ten master clans as a literary tool, for no other reason than I think big meetings of very obviously powerful people are cool). Saying this, I guess I read the subtext differently than you, or maybe put more hope in the author than you. I was reading it as a prediction for the future based on past, feudal/imperial Japan and the current corporate-dominated Japan. If a third world war really did break out, based on Japan’s power structure right now, which is all hinging on private corporations to overpower lives–ie companies, families, clans, deeply “meritocratic” structures–it makes logical sense that the country would become an even more intensely capitalist society, because capitalism and meritocracy often thrive in war-oriented time periods (which is why it arguably worked in WWI/II USA and isn’t now). Maybe the series is trying to point to how that’s not logical and merit is not the only tool to judge someone? Like how the commander of the USNA was a 15(?) year old girl which doesn’t make sense because?? How could she command the whole army just cause she’s good at magic?? Tatsuya even acknowledges that and if I remember right that whole USNA arc is basically against meritocracy (or maybe just against meritocracy for people who aren’t Japan? not sure) and Tatsuya starts to show some growth as a character. (It’s okay if you haven’t read that far because it seems you don’t like the series.)
    Also like 90% of protagonists in any (fighting-based?) media are OP so that doesn’t matter as much as it seems, I think at least. The protags always win,,

    • It’s a theme without realistic depiction, done for the sake of being cool and dramatic at the same time. Doesn’t work once you think about it.

      • elizkane says:

        That’s really sad;; I’m going to disagree (not with the meritocracy part, but with the idea that writing about a meritocratic society in a piece of fiction is somehow bad) & continue liking Mahouka. Thanks for the interesting read.

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