Mini-editorial, covering some points, one at a time. No episodic notes, but a bunch of editorial notes.
Full Title: How I Tried to Enjoy an Episode of Mahouka for Dumb Fun, To Find a Lot of Dumb and Too Little Fun ;_;
Or: Action Came, Wasn’t Good.
Woohoo! Action! The reason I’m actually watching this show. And to think I picked it up hoping it’d just be a light popcorn show with no real subtext or anything ;-) Twitter already told me that as I suspected (and feared) last episode, this episode won’t finish the Enrollment chapter.
It actually makes sense – all of the pieces they set up thus far, you need fights fueled by ideology to settle things. That’s how fights in such shows go – they’re not fights where the strongest person wins, but the one where the one with the ideological belief that is “right” wins. Well, it works in most shounens, where our heroes use the power of “Friendship!” to fuel their punches and overcome stronger odds.
This show is sort of funny in that respect, since “our” characters, the ones on our side, and especially Tatsuya, are overwhelmingly powerful compared to the enemy. But see, this is the thing. The message isn’t “The weak can prevail with the help of ideology”, but “The right ideology wins!” – So our characters winning is still attributed to their ideology. It even makes sense, since the ideology is “We are strong, and everyone can become strong, so long they believe in themselves! Good genes help, of course.” But still. I wonder what I’d think were I to read R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden novels again, but there he often gets smacked and taught valuable life lessons, including about the value of trust.
Welp, there I go again! Action time!
Tatsuya Knows Best:
It’s really interesting, how the music during social interactions is the most boring sort of VN/elevator-style music that cracks me up with how unfitting it is (unless you do think of this show as a visual novel), but in action scenes, it has very good energies.
Haruka the fail-Counselor – explaining herself to a student, begging him to give another student a chance… she’s faculty, he’s a first year student. Come on, assert yourself, as an adult, as a teacher!
Also, it’s interesting, “The growing gulf between her accolades as a kendoga and as a 2nd Course student.” I’m not saying it’s not realist – She might be a good student, up until now she had gone to mixed schools with non-magicians, where being able to do magic at all put her at an elevated spot. She’s used to being the best at everything, and here she is a 2nd class citizen. People do react to it negatively, and they do need to get over it. I remember reading some articles about people who joined MIT – used to being “The Best” at whatever it is they do, and then finding themselves just another face in the crowd.
Tatsuya, telling the counselor she is too easy on the students, too accomodating. Also telling Leo he shouldn’t have sympathy for others. Yes, Mibu is not being in the right, joining with those who attack the school and its student, but you can be sympathetic while still being harsh. Tatsuya is very much “My way is the only way to do things.” – As unbending as they come. No understanding of others, and no mercy.
Haruka looked shocked at that. Yes, your actions towards others have consequences. If you show sympathy to terrorists, then perhaps more people will think joining them and acting rashly won’t be a big deal. However, not showing sympathy to others is a good way to push them to join in the first place. And no, I’m not vindicating Mibu, as much as pointing out that Tatsuya’s attitude isn’t always the correct one.
Knowledge is power! It’s interesting, but the terrorists mirror Tatsuya’s interest. Tatsuya had said that his main interest (aside from accompanying Miyuki) in coming to the First High Magic School was to obtain the research papers it has access to, as a result of being affiliated with a magic university. Some of the infiltrating terrorists are students at this school, why do they need to break in, when they have access to the research? Still, they share his means, of knowledge, but their goal is to strike down Japan, while his goal is to benefit humanity. Also, he obeys the rules, while they do not. Wait, obeys the rules? Tatsuya? Well, not really :P
Internalized Discrimination and Lies:
Note, those who look down on Tatsuya are ignorant. It’s not that they are merely wrong, but had they known what he truly is like, they’d have recognized his greatness. Well, this is Miyuki, who is Tatsuya’s #1 fan.
Both Miyuki and Mibu are correct. Mibu has a lot going for her, rather than magic. That to a degree feeds into what the subtext here is, which Tatsuya spelled out earlier – these ideals aren’t Mibu’s, she’s simply been given someone else’s lines, she’s being manipulated. But Mibu also has a point. They’re in a magic highschool, and everything here, and in their life beyond, is measured by their skill in magic – so when everyone tells you magic is the most important thing, it’s not too surprising you pick it up.
“The one who despises you the most for being a Weed, is you yourself.” – On one level, hating yourself, and despising what you are is a very real thing. It’s indeed an issue, and it can come up in anime and real life. On the other hand, the subtext is – “There is no discrimination, only being judged by ignorant people, and internalizing their hatred.” Which can be read in two ways – the way the show is preaching is, “Discrimination isn’t real, you just need to stop discriminating yourself and putting yourself down. Work harder and you’ll get to where we are!” which is… an issue. The other level is something people are talking about today, often in terms of the messages we teach young girls, or minorities – they don’t have people to identify with on television, and are constantly told they are lower. Yes, if they didn’t internalize those messages, it’d be much easier, but when you constantly get berated, you dointernalize it.
Yes, those preaching for discrimination are often ignorant people, and you’d be better if you ignored them, but that’s not how the real world works. That’s not how emotions and humans work.
Also, it’s interesting to see how the show contradicts itself here – “Tatsuya is an amazing magician, people just don’t recognize him for his skills!” – That’s Miyuki. And now, “Being a strong magician isn’t everything, work on the areas where you do shine!” – Of course, Tatsuya is great at everything, so we can’t let it slide, or ignore those ignorant people. Practice what you preach, Miyuki, you who always rise up to defend your brother against those whose opinion you say doesn’t matter.
In other words, Erika, the course 2 first year student? She’s a stronger swordswoman than Mari, one of the three strongest magicians in school, and a third year student, in a technique that combines swordsmanship and magic. Yes, magic is neat, but in the end, it’s about effort, and swordsmanship, that carry the day.
Repent, Sinful Woman:
Mibu is in bed, “The captain once even lured me to the Blanche branch office.” Oh my.
“Then, it was all a misunderstanding on my part?” – Believe in yourself, discrimination is but a lie created by people pushing an agenda, who wish to use you, and a misunderstanding.
Mibu, listing her sins, “Assuming you said X, putting myself down…” – Honestly, Mibu is still doing what she’d been doing up until now. Before, people told her that discrimination exists and to oppose it. She took them at face value. Now she takes at face value those who tell her discrimination doesn’t exist and she had merely been putting herself down. Nothing here is the result of undergoing a process of thinking through her experiences, of undergoing change. Everything she says is copying what she’s being told. The only difference is whose opinions she is repeating, now.
So much for selling us on Mibu Sayaka being a “strong, independent woman.”
This makes the following exchange so ridiculous. Tatsuya, seeing his new disciple beat herself up and confess her sins, is telling her she had not in fact wallowed in her sorrow, the very same thing she’d been accused of earlier. Repent your sins, for Tatsuya is the light!
Honour, Nobility, Manhood:
So much for playing by the rules and obeying the law, eh? Tatsuya is going vigilante in order to harbor a fugitive, an ally. I thought those who had broken the law should pay for it.
Tatsuya, and people are arguing he’s not an Objectivist – he’s not doing anything to help other people, it’s all because he’s looking out for himself. Well, I actually don’t think it’s true. I think he does wish to help Mibu, without her feeling guilty for it, or her thanking him further, which he’s not the best at dealing with. See, I can read Tatsuya charitably as well! Even if he himself probably believes all that he just said.
Juumonji, a mixture of a noble and a samurai – he will go, for that is his duty, for honour – his own, the school’s, and his family’s.
Kirihara saying he can’t let such lawlessness go by, is he also planning on turning Mibu in? Well, he’s driven by his emotions – he’s a normal shounen character, heh.
Kirihara will fight for Mibu, who had been used by someone else! Mibu really isn’t getting any break here, eh? Well, it is interesting, how Mibu’s swordsmanship was admired as a peaceful display of skill. That’s relevant to the theme of magic as weaponry, and the mundane world as peaceful.
I truly do wonder, did Juumonji let Kirihara come because “venting my anger” is a good enough reason, or because he knows Kirihara does it for Mibu’s sake? I strongly suspect, and hope, it’s the latter.
Breaking the Action:
Erika and Leo sure act before they think, it’s a good thing they’re strong combatants.
Mibu monologues, she understands that her current actions are not in line with her desired goal. Her goal is to end discrimination, but stealing research material won’t do it. This is playing within the system where magic is privileged, and just moves the money about, to people who didn’t work for it. That actually isn’t my point here – talk between Tatsuya and Haruka, then a bit of action, then Tatsuya and Erika, and a bit of action, and now Mibu monologues. Come on, the action is solid, but since everyone is so great, it’s all over way too quickly.
All the talk isn’t helping the action stand out, but soon™.
“Even if he were the last man on Earth, I’d still devote myself to my brother, body and soul.” – Lewd :p
Erika, with her cheeky attitude, just presenting herself to Mibu. I think Erika is my favourite character from the regular cast.
Honestly, that’s the biggest issue with the action in this show thus far, to show us how superior our main cast is, they win almost instantaneously – no gritted teeth, no clash of swords and putting your whole body into it, fueling it with your emotions and ideals – a clear victory, of overwhelming power.
Post Episode Thoughts:
I tried. But turns out I still had something to vent. I bet Kirihara and Juumonji would understand, even if I’m not “risking my manhood” over this ;-)
I liked the action, sort of. I mean, I liked it, and the music, but each time it was over in under 20 seconds, usually in under 10, for us to get more talking heads during. Action shows should have glorious actions. The ideology should drive the action, and characters should talk as they are fighting. Here though? It keeps stopping a second after it begins.
I mean, you can show us someone overpowers their opponents while still allowing a fight to happen, but if you want to show crushing superiority, I guess a split-second fight is easier. At least should lean more heavily on atmosphere, and facial expressions.
Man, very slim pickings here. I did like Mibu’s acting. The delivery of her lines, the emotions conveyed – all had been done pretty well.
I wanted to like this episode a lot more. Oh well. There’s always next week, I guess.
Man, I hope watching Mahouka hadn’t ruined shounen popcorn power fantasy shows for me. I actually enjoy them quite a bit ;_;