This past summer season, we had an interesting addition to our anime lists: the spin-off of the 2014 banger, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School)! In 2020, we got the second season of the series, which followed directly from the events of the first; however, this particular addition to the “Mahoukaverse” is different in that it’s actually something we’ve seen before. Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei (The Honour Student at Magic High School) is indeed a spin-off of the flagship, but it’s a retelling of the events of the first season from the perspective of having Shiba Miyuki as the main protagonist instead of Tatsuya. This is interesting, yet easy to dismiss as an excuse to show us the same stuff all over again and call it a new season. However, there’s more to The Honour Student at Magic High School than you’d think, so let’s get into how things went at First High this season!
The most jarring thing is obviously the fact that the show follows Shiba Miyuki as a protagonist instead of Tatsuya, whose grandiose, overpowered exploits have made him quite an enjoyable character to witness in action. However, it was never lost on us that his younger sister had as much, if not more, potential to be an interesting main character overpowered in her own right. The first detail that hints at the change is the opening sequence, in which a great fire breaks out in a fancy shopping mall and Miyuki is there to use her charms and her ice magic to calm down the people around her and the fires. “This is my fate. This is what I must do,” thinks Miyuki as she runs down the stairs, rushing to save the day from a deranged magician with devastating fire abilities.
The first episode shows us exactly what the difference is between the first season of the flagship show and this spin-off: with Miyuki as protagonist, we see some of the things that Tatsuya could not have seen because he simply wasn’t around to see them. As a result, there are alternate perspectives of common incidents that not only give us nuance but sometimes a whole lot more dialogue between characters. Miyuki is revealed to have been at the mall with her brother before he was summoned by their aunt, Yotsuba Maya, head of the Yotsuba of the Ten Master Clans. Tatsuya is then briefed about the magician who happens to be attacking the mall where Miyuki is waiting for him. She uses overwhelming magic to take him down when Tatsuya arrives.
The change in protagonist also comes with a visual indicator: the animation of this particular Mahouka is softer and a lot brighter. The characters’ features are slightly smaller and rounder than the two seasons of the flagship series, leaning towards a more shoujo-esque feel. That may be biased on our part as shoujo doesn’t necessitate bright and sparkly; however, with the basic idea behind this spin-off being the depiction of the events of the first season from the perspective of the female characters in this show, the decision to change studios from Madhouse to Connect has the added effect of literally showing us that the events of this season are coming from a different perspective altogether. Whether or not that’s intended is unknown, but there is an altogether different feel to this season, brought on by its propensity to being rather slice of life-y in comparison to the first season of the parent story, as well as having a lot more light and comical moments.
There are large differences between the first season and The Honour Student at Magic High when it comes to some of the events we get to see, since they are sometimes from the perspective of former supporting characters like Eimi, Honoka and Shizuku. This spin-off serves as an interesting buffer between the first and second seasons in the sense that it gives increasing credence to the increased importance of several characters in the second season in particular. It also does us the favor of showing the major difference in schooling experience between the so-called “Blooms” and “Weeds”, where in the first season we were seeing the experience of a Weed, now we’re seeing that of a Bloom. All this considered, the experience of The Honour Student at Magic High is not an exact replica of its parent, but a retelling. The problem is that perhaps because of the timing, this feels unnecessary especially considering that we’ve already progressed so far in the parent story, not to mention the fact that the first and second seasons are literally six years apart in terms of release. The Honour Student at Magic High definitely would have hit a lot harder if it had dropped during the lengthy absence of the parent story.
As mentioned before, the perspective of The Honour Student at Magic High is that of some of the most significant female characters in the parent story. Miyuki, Shizuku, Honoka, and Eimi have the spotlight on themselves the most this season, and if you’ve seen the Visitor Arc of The Irregular at Magic High, then you’ll know a lot more about the significance of these characters, Honoka and Shizuku in particular.
Eimi is the one character who is particularly unfamiliar from the first season of the parent story, perhaps because her involvement wasn’t all that pronounced and there was even less of her in the Visitor Arc. However, she has served as an interesting inclusion as her energetic nature and gung-ho attitude allow her to round out the group consisting of Miyuki’s prim-and-proper personality, Honoka’s hyper-empathy and cuteness and Shizuku’s cold, cynical yet well-meaning kuudere archetype.
The Honour Student at Magic High is a spin-off we welcome because of the interesting attempt at championing some of the other characters as protagonists in their own right. That being said; however, a spin-off that was less about the same content as was in the first season of The Irregular would have made this a more popular show to watch this season, especially for fans. Despite the change in voice and perspective, it can be hard to shake the feeling of it being a recap, especially at first. It may have a few interesting qualities, but it doesn’t ever shake the feeling of being an unnecessary watch. It’s not really something someone who is unfamiliar could watch and follow like it is its own series either, which only adds to the feeling that it’s just peripheral, even as a spin-off. What did you think of Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei (The Honour Student at Magic High School)? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!