By Tsutomu Sato and Kana Ishida. Released in Japan as “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Prowse.
Having finished the athletic competition between the magic schools, we now get a chance to see the scholarly competition, which is not nearly as popular with the masses but carries just as much prestige for the winners. Naturally, since Tatsuya is a freshman and also in Course 2, he’s not in charge of this; that’s left to Suzune, the former Student Council Secretary and resident tall, dark and handsome girl of the group. Of course, Tatsuya being Tatsuya, he’s asked to join the team as a helper anyway, partly as the previous helper was the girl who got zapped in the athletic festival and therefore can’t use magic anymore, and partly as the alternate choice disagrees with Suzune’s objectives, so why not use Tatsuya, who does agree with them and is also perfect in nearly every way? That said, terrorists are all around them, both as students trying to stop the competition, and as Chinese mafia trying to do the same thing for different reasons.
Honoka and Shizuku are on the cover, but unfortunately have the least amount of face time devoted to them of our main cast. Or perhaps it is fortunate, as the other half of this novel is devoted to taking the various members of Tatsuya’s crew and trying to put them in wacky romantic comedy situations. This works best with Erika and Leo, mostly as the two don’t really have a shred of sexual tension or attraction to each other besides “oh look, attractiveness”, and thus they are allowed to behave fairly normally, leaving aside Erika’s tendency towards rage and Leo’s cluelessness. It works least well with Mikihiko and Mizuki, in a scene that is so blatantly a set up for wacky “whoops, I tried to stop you falling and groped you” antics that I actually winced. (The author implied in the afterword that he added some scenes from the webnovel to set up later stuff better, so I assume these two become an item – they DO seem to have some chemistry, when they aren’t being written badly.) And Mayumi and Miyuki, who I expect are two of the triangle of “Tatsuya partner candidates” in this book (Honoka being the third) get scenes as well. Given I’m not fond of the incest subtext in this series, it’s no surprise who I preferred.
The pats of the book that are a serious action movie with terrorists fare much better. This is what Sato writes best, and there are a lot of cool fight scenes with clever uses of magic – Mayumi and Mari come off particularly well. The Chinese Mafia are there to be goons, with the exception of Zhou, who seems like the sort of “always smiling Chinese villain” I remember from Patlabor. I suspect he’s the only one I have to remember for later books. In any case, as the title implies, this is the first of what the author says is a two-volume arc. I imagine we’ll see the academic competition sabotaged further later on, though whether we’ll get more romantic comedy hijinks is not in my power to guess. (Please no.) If you like thrillers with magic and cool characters, this is right up your alley. As always, if you hated Tatsuya before, you’ll hate him again.