When a story has been established and moves forward from its point of origin, it can sometimes be really interesting to go backwards instead. That’s how we end up with media like Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei - Tsuioku-hen (The Irregular at Magic High School - Reminiscence Arc), a retrospective prelude to the events of the flagship series, and an insight into the inner workings of the Yotsuba family to which Tatsuya is subservient. This also means seeing the beginning of Miyuki and Tatsuba’s incredibly close relationship. The series is set three years prior to Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (The Irregular at Magic High School), and as a premise, this is pretty interesting, so let’s pick it apart and see just what the Reminiscence Arc managed to pull off!
Okinawan Holiday Blues
It all begins with the present Miyuki and Tatsuya preparing to pack to go on holiday. Their helper, Minami, is clearing the dishes from breakfast. Miyuki takes a long look at the young woman’s face before thinking that she looks a lot like someone else, then she contemplates the four years since a certain day.
A young Miyuki being accompanied by a tall, older woman who looks a lot like her. Behind them, a young Shiba Tatsuya quietly pushes a trolley bearing their luggage. There is an obvious distance between Tatsuya and Miyuki. At this point, the two are no more than siblings in theory. Given the relations in the Yotsuba family, Tatsuya being of lower standing as a Shiba is subservient to Miyuki’s family, despite the fact that he’s her older brother. It’s confusing aristocratic stuff, but because of this hierarchy between the families. One funny depiction of this is the fact that Miyuki and her mother travel privately in a fancy pod while Tatsuya has to fly economy class.
On the day of their arrival, Miyuki decides to go on a solo stroll, but her mother orders Tatsuya to accompany her. During her walk, Miyuki is accosted by some navy guys of Japanese-American descent (which is important, trust us) and Tatsuya takes out the threat without even flinching. At this point in time, Tatsuya is considered to be an individual without any magical power or potential, which is also the cause of further mistreatment at the hands of his family. His mother even refers to him as a “good-for-nothing”, despite saving her and various members of the family several times.
The Yotsuba Clan to which Miyuki belongs is one of the Ten Master Clans in the Mahouka universe. This makes them magical aristocrats, and with that territory comes a host of complications. For one to be considered a Yotsuba, they must be a fully-fledged magician, which Tatsuya is not, hence his relegation to servant status within the family.
Tatsuya is treated much like an object by members of the Yotsuba Clan, including his mother. Miyuki is expected to continue this treatment of non-Yotsuba members of the family, but she always questioned why she and her older brother are forbidden from having a loving, normal sibling relationship. She often avoided interacting with him beyond giving him orders, but all of that changed during their trip to Okinawa. Despite this, we know that Miyuki had desired a warm and affectionate relationship with her brother when she saw him smile for the first time. It was directed towards their younger cousins, both Yotsubas, and both set for a hard time at home if they continue to fraternize with “the help”. As the movie progresses, the two are placed in situations where they have to act the part of brother and sister.
At some point early on in their trip, the family goes out on a boat ride. However, things go awry when they spot torpedoes from an unknown source hot on their tail. Miyuki and Honami are both useless without their CADs, but Tatsuya saves the day with a high-level technique that leaves Miyuki in awe. What’s clear is that while they’re on holiday, someone out there is working hard to have them take a break… for good.
One day, an island-wide alert from the Defense Force blares. A Japanese patrol boat has been taken out and several islands have been under fire from missiles, and so the Defense Force is ordering an immediate evacuation. Tatsuya arrives with information that they have all been invited to evacuate to the emergency shelter at the nearby military base. Soon after, Maya calls to ask about said provision for her sister and family, but something is off about the conversation between them. It almost seems like Maya is trying to get her sister to go to the emergency shelter at all costs, which in aristocratic families, spells disaster. The relationship between them is clearly strained somehow.
At Onna Base, there is one other family being taken to the emergency shelter, but the base comes under attack from the same insurgents, and Tatsuya’s mother sends him to go have a look. In the chaos that ensues, Miyuki, her mother and mother’s bodyguard, cousin Honami, are shot dead. Tatsuya is able to totally reverse the damage, but he makes it a personal mission to make those responsible feel his wrath.
We Have to Talk About Tatsuya
Throughout this series, Tatsuya is depicted as someone who is categorically overpowered. By the logic of the Mahouka universe, he should be as weak as any random guy off the street, but he possesses an ability that makes him “irregular” as far as the magicians in this world go. What the Reminiscence Arc does is it finally answers some questions about why Tatsuya is who he is. Hilariously though, Tatsuya was evidently always totally OP, even as a 14-year-old, he was dumbfounding magicians with his lifespan’s worth in magical experience, and beating down on grown men.
Tatsuya’s abilities aren’t magic, by this universe’s definition. As Miyuki’s mother puts it, a magician’s ability is the ability to modify information bodies and phenomena. Tatsuya is only capable of the decomposition and reassembly of information bodies, which is technically not magic. This distinction is important, because the Yotsuba family is amongst the Ten Master Clans, and no one can remain a Yotsuba without being a magician. So, based on that mere technically, Tatsuya has been subject to endless mistreatment at the hands of his own family. However, Miyuki’s mother further explains that seven years prior to the events of the Reminiscence Arc, she and her sister Maya attempted to induce magical ability in Tatsuya through a surgery, but it failed, and resulted in the loss of Tatsuya’s impulses related to his emotions, except for one: his overwhelming love for his sister.
The Shiba Tatsuya that we know is a kind of homunculus; an artificial human being with artificial motivations but also self-awareness – he knows all of these things about himself. Once made aware of this truth, Miyuki experiences incredible gratitude and loyalty towards her brother, but there is also a sombreness that comes with the information her mother shared. Miyuki’s angst about not being able to have a relationship with her brother based on mutual love and respect is essentially felled by her mother’s exposition, but also by Tatsuya’s own admittance of his feelings. This is really cool, and essentially gives us a reason why they’re that close. Not only have Tatsuya and Miyuki been through a lot together, Tatsuya is effectively programmed to be the ultimate fighting Onii-chan.
A really good element to this movie is the fact that the animation goes back to its roots with Studio 8bit, who were responsible for the first and second seasons of the anime too. This is significant because Mahouka Koukou no Yuutousei (The Honour Student at Magic High School) was animated by Studio Connect and thus, had a different look and feel to it. With the original animation back in place, it almost feels like a visual signifier of the movie’s integral theme: memory.
This was a great addition to the growing Mahouka series, and it gave loads of interesting insight into the character Tatsuya, as well as his relationship with his family and with his sister. The main theme was memory, with the entire film essentially being Miyuki’s remembrance of the last time she went on this very trip. In the present, she’s with her cousin Minami; however, four years prior, she was with Honami, who is very clearly Minami’s older sister. In the credits, we see the three of them, Tatsuya, Miyuki and Minami together at what’s presumably Honami’s grave, an act which can also be seen as reminiscence.
Overall, Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei - Tsuioku-hen (The Irregular at Magic High School - Reminiscence Arc) is a great watch if you’re already a fan of the series, and further solidifies Mahouka as a good watch. Perhaps the antagonist was a bit of an afterthought and honestly, completely forgettable, so that could’ve been better. However, the beauty of this movie comes in the ways in which various characters have to reckon with the past, not just Tatsuya or Miyuki, but even their mother, the half-American insurgents and their cousin too. All things said, we highly recommend this movie if you’re a Mahouka fan! What did you think of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei - Tsuioku-hen (The Irregular at Magic High School - Reminiscence Arc)? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!