Sturgeon’s Law states simply, “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” And well, it’s certainly true of anime. We have certainly had shows this year with promise that simply fail to add up to anything meaningful (Kyoukai no Kanata / Beyond the Boundary, see episodic write-ups), shows that just don’t know what to do with all the material they do have (Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta / The Pilot’s Love Song, see episodic notes), or shows that didn’t know what to do with storytelling and contained poisonous subtext (Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School, see episodic notes, see editorial on its subtext).
Behold Barney the censored smudgy purple monster thingy. Scary.
But if 90% of everything is crap, then not only is the average thing crap, but being crap is being average, and nothing out of the ordinary. But every so often comes along a show that fails on every single account, that you’d be hard pressed to find a single positive thing to say about it. This year, we’ve had such a show, and its name was “Pupa”. Yes, indeed, the sign was on the wall, with a name all too similar to “poop-ah” as some people referred to the show (not really, but they certainly should’ve). This show was terrible on all fronts. How terrible? That I dropped it 12 minutes in.
Mini-editorial, covering some points, one at a time. No episodic notes, but a bunch of editorial notes.
Full Title: The Weekly Strawmen Takedown and Thematic Dismantling of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Or: Can’t the action come already?
Being Tatsuya is Suffering:
“My goal is energy generation, so I’m fine with being called out as inferior, which I am!” – Oh, what bullshit. No one in the world can handle all the processes for said energy generation on their own. Heck, at this point, as said in a prior episode, it’s one of the three great challenges – as such, it doesn’t matter how many processes he can or can’t invoke, it’s immaterial. It’d require a group effort. But, what can be done by one lone genius is a theoretical breakthrough – and we’re sure you’ll manage that, Tatsuya!
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.
Introduction: 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.
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.
It’s easy to understand the resentment felt by Course 1 students towards Course 2 students. Course 2 students are “replacements”. 100 students in each course, every year, so what are replacements for?
Replacements are there in case you lose the ability to use magic, or get hurt. To be constantly around people whose mere existence reminds you that you can lose the gift which you have, or even your life. To constantly be surrounded by people vying to take your spot. It’s unsurprising that resentment builds up.
The Course 2 students are essentially “memento mori”, a reminder that you are mortal, and replaceable (Later on there’ll be some talk that’ll make this more relevant, though they don’t touch on it again, just my own thought that makes all of this even more ridiculous, I’ll touch upon it when it comes up).