LIGHT NOVELS ARE GARBAGE
Mahouka (short version of the title) was the next in line to be considered the best LN ever made, claims made by the same type of fans who two years ago were saying the exact same things for Sword Art Online (SAO for short). And once again it is proven how the anime fandom refuses to accept light novels as the garbage they are, and on top of that keeps hyping them as masterpieces.
The first failure comes from the premise itself, which keeps telling you it’s about discrimination. For a society that runs on meritocracy, all mages are rare and gifted. There is little reason for the Weeds to feel bad, if they have powers that place them above every other mundane person. And even the most gifted of them, the Blooms, are acting like they are constantly threatened by the Weeds, as if their position can be snatched away if the errant boys try really hard and surpass them. If they really are superior, they shouldn’t feel threatened. And if hard work can indeed make Weeds surpass Blooms, then they shouldn’t have casts to begin with.
The same thing happens with the main character, who is considered to be weak and useless, thus disliked by everybody… only to contradict this statement a hundred times throughout the show by making him OVERPOWERED AS HELL! They try to make him seem like his magic potential is low and thus belongs in the lower caste, because magic evaluations are not done properly. We are supposed to feel sorry for the guy, and cheer for him as he tries his best to improve and gain everybody’s respect. And then we find out he has mastered so many types of martial arts and magical combinations that he can LITERALLY defeat anyone in half a second, while LITERALLY resurrecting and rebuilding anything he likes. He doesn’t even gradually learn most of these powers; he begins right away by having mastered everything. The sympathy we are supposed to show for the underdog is a troll.
This is explained as Tatsuya being essentially wish fulfillment for introverts. The audience is supposed to feel something like this: “We are special and awesome, but our society doesn’t appreciate us, and everybody is against us. So we will show them what we can do, and win all the time, and have all the girls call us awesome.” The problem with this concept, is that there is no build up to the conflicts. If the threats are so easy to overcome, then there is no tension, and no reason to praise the protagonist. He doesn’t achieve something, as much as simply doing it without trying. His opponents never stand a chance, and thus you feel they are the victims, and Tatsuya is the bully. And yet I have seen thousands of people praising such a terrible thing, because it is basically swapping the roles of the bully with that of the bullied, and passes like a twisted type of empowerment fantasy, where you are punishing the bullies with their own medicine.
Even if you try to see it that way, it is still very hard to like the whole thing, since it is boring to have an OP character that wins all the time. Other stories will try to make it seem like the MC can die, or at least not make it seem like it’s all too easy. But not here. Here it is all about Tatsuya doing everything effortlessly and everybody being amazed with him. So no matter what the plot is about, there is no emotional investment, since you know exactly what will happen, and you are simply waiting to see how it will happen.
Even though the notorious SAO shares the same bad writing, bad exposition, bad characterization, and bad EVERYTHING when it comes to light novels, it at least fools you for awhile to think there is danger in its setting. The characters there were average people trapped in a deadly environment, cut off from their house and family, having to fight monsters in order to survive. Mahouka doesn’t have that; it is just a school where pampered high school kids with super magical skills gather and act like jerks to each other, while teachers and parents pay for their rent and luxury. So the only thing you get in this show is a guy effortlessly brushing off a few school bullies, under the surveillance of the teachers. There is literally nothing to feel excited about.
School settings in general are sapping away all tension and ruin the atmosphere. They are supposed to be there to offer a haven and familiarity for teenagers but at the same time raise endless questions of the sort “Why does everything happen the way it does, and why the adults don't do anything to stop it?” And the answer is a simple “because adults are terrible people who create unjust societies, and only we, the hormone-crazy teenagers, can do the right thing by smacking the crap out of everything.”
The first arc is about terrorists who want equality attacking the school. Because equality is evil all of a sudden. After the super awesome protagonist wipes them all out without even bothering to smirk, the police arrives, arrests everybody, and he returns to his normal school life like nothing much has happened. We can’t have him being rewarded, that would end the story. So what is the second arc about? A school contest! We literally moved from a terrorist attack to teenagers playing sports where they of course need to be explaining every little thing they make. That is plain insufferable. So what happens there? They do games for honor and bullshit, and again the awesome protagonist wipes them all out without even bothering to smirk. Third arc, evil China invades good Japan for liberty or some bullshit. The awesome protagonist wipes them all out without even bothering to smirk. Do you see a pattern here?
It is also impossible to get to like him. He has no emotions whatsoever, and the only time he has fun, is when he wants to make incest jokes about his sister. What kind of a madman would like that sort of a character? And apparently the anime community is full of madmen because there are thousands who love this unbeatable incestuous robot.
But wait, there is more to it. This show is supposed to appeal to pretentious overthinkers as well, since there is a lot of technobabble about the magic system used in the show. They have a lot of terminology that is supposed to be making sense of what never makes sense, because it’s magic. And even if you find cool all the pseudo scientific stuff they say regarding that, there are still two major problems.
DON’T TALK, SHOW IT
First, explanations take up a ridiculous amount of time and bore you to death. For a setting that is all about mages and battles, there is very little actual fighting going on in it. Every battle is essentially a few seconds long, followed by half an hour of people standing still and infodumping stuff about what happened. Where is the fun in that? I understand that it works much better in text form, since time stands still when you read something. This doesn't work in the adaptation because we can tell how much time it takes to say something.
And second, even if you manage to stay awake through the explanations, you will just have Tatsuya breaking the rules and doing stuff nobody else can. Why do you think he is unbeatable? Because he uses strategy? No, it’s because he cheats the very system they waste hours explaining. There is nothing strategic or smart about whatever he is doing.
These issues expand like a plague and damage other aspects of the show. Since half of what you see is people explaining stuff, only to be broken ten minutes later by Tatsuya, and the other half is Tatsuya casually wiping out anybody who stands in his way, there is no time left for fleshing out any of the other characters, and there sure is nothing they can do that Tatsuya can’t do himself, faster and better. The only moments a character other than Tatsuya is able to speak or fight, are the only moments Tatsuya is bored, or not around.
The only other character that gets some spotlight other than Tatsuya, is his sister, and only because she is constantly next to him, making incest jokes that are not meant to be taken seriously, but we all end up imagining hentai out of them regardless. She is TOTALLY obsessed with him, repeating the word “onii-sama” at least a dozen times per episode. She doesn’t want any other girl near to him, and attacks other boys who antagonize him. She is also constantly presented as the perfect girl every male would want as his girlfriend. Meaning, she becomes waifu bait, and exists to fuel the empowerment fantasies even further.
Holy shit light novel authors, you are making people who are not into that crap to cringe, you know? I understand that you want your protagonists to be a perfect self insert all girls want to bang. But their sisters as well? And no, throwing in some drama about the magic families treating badly their children doesn’t fix the problem; because down to it we are here to see Tatsuya kicking ass, and his sister stalking him before she eventually seduces him and they have lots of deformed demigod babies.
The saddest part is that the budget is actually very high. Madhouse is the king of anime studios, and yet not even that could save the show from being bad. If you want to watch it just for the pretty colors and the teen empowerment, it is satisfactory on a very superficial level. But if you watch it for any sort of depth or good characterization, you will be greatly disappointed. There is nothing particularly good in Mahouka, and only manages to further prove how pre-airing hype only exists to mutate the reputation of what could have been a forgettable mediocre title, into an abomination we will always be using as an example of what a bad anime is all about.
Hello Mahouka, how are you? Here, sit next to your best friend, SAO. Feeling comfortable enough? Yes? Ok… GUYS GAG THEM! GRAB THEIR FEET! WATCH OUT, HE IS TRYING TO GET AWAY! WHERE IS THE ROPE? BRING THE TAR!