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.
Last time I was feeling a bit grumpy about the all-consuming black hole that Tatsuya was, removing moments of characterization from others in order to betetr serve the dramatic battle scenes. That’s not an issue with this volume, which flashes back three years to show us Tatsuya and Miyuki in middle school. Sure, there are battles, and endless numbers of dead magician mooks, but the thrust of this book is to show us how Miyuki’s feelings for Tatsuya changed into what they are at present, and also show us their relationship with their mother (who is dead in the present series, I believe) and their aunt (who is very much not dead). It does a good job at the latter, but unfortunately the former doesn’t quite work as well. I get that we’re supposed to see how Miyuki notices what Tatsuya is suffering through every day, and what he’s doing for her sake, but it reads more like “I finally saw him really fight, and he’s so cool!”.
The book is interspersed with moments from just after the last book, with Tatsuya reporting to Maya and being asked to leave school and Miyuki. (He refuses – no surprise there.) The bulk of the book follows Miyuki’s viewpoint, though, as a typical pampered 12-year-old who is mostly pissed off at her brother because she doesn’t understand him. We see Tatsuya fight off a bunch of military brats, hear about him getting injured fighting someone while Miyuki was sleeping, and then see him really break out the whoopass once Miyuki is almost killed. Miyuki is also informed by her mother about the essential lobotomisation that was done to Tatsuya when he was young, and the fact that he has no strong emotions other than “loves Miyuki like a little sister” as a result. Miyuki is understandably horrified, and this is what has led us to our current situation of Tatsuya and Miyuki trying to push back against the Yotsubas as much as they can.
The most interesting part of the book is probably the last short story at the end, which goes back still further to show us Miya and Maya as 12-year-old girls. Sadly, it’s not a happy time when they’re playing cutely together. Maya was kidnapped by (please hold your surprise in) an evil Asian organization, raped, and experimented on for three days. (We thankfully do not see this ourselves, just hear about it.) Maya is broken by this, and the family ask Miya to fix it using her own powers. What follows is what led to the rift between the two sisters, as well as, to a degree, the main plot of the series – my guess is that a lot of the machinations we’ve been seeing are related to Maya’s trauma and her attempts to deal with it. It explains a lot, and makes compelling reading, but, much like the battle Tatsuya gets into as a middle schooler, it’s not particularly fun to read.
Like Tatsuya, I felt a bit emotionally dead after reading this volume. It’s well-written, and I want to see what happens next. The fights are nice provided you don’t mind knowing there’s no way they’re ending in anything but Tatsuya winning handily. But the reason that we stay with the high school and the students within it is to have their emotional center, which Tatsuya lacks – and Miyuki to, to a large degree. Thankfully, the next three books are a big arc that takes place at the school. Till then we have this, which basically says that brother-sister incest is the least of this family’s troubles.