Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 05 – Complaining about a system without fully understanding it
May 7, 2014 1 Comment
Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei’s first story arc has introduced us to a world with significant inequality (at least this is what we can assume given the attitudes towards those with little or no magical power or ability), and a society that puts utmost emphasis on ones magical strength and what can be done with your powers. We have also been introduced to a school system that perpetuates this distinction between those considered important to maintaining Japan’s position in the world (those with strong magical powers), and those considered inferior (anyone with little, or complicated magical abilities that cannot easily be recognised, measured, or labelled). The entire premise of this two course system is based upon the idea of magic as inherently superior to every other skill or ability. The methods of determining ones abilities, and by extension, worth, mirrors the ‘very expensive intelligence testing system with some educational spin-off’, that exists within Japan at the moment.
The persistence of status inequality is a major characteristic of the social, and by extension, education system found in Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei, and while there are features within this series that emphasise and promote social integration, it is clear that conflicting opinions about the nature of what it means to be a magician in the stories world can have major consequences for the level of social conflict found within this series. Within the world of Mahouka, the ability to use strong magic, coupled with the comparative strength of countries magicians with regards to other countries becomes a key means with which the Japanese state creates its vision of a strong, glorious country. In essence the strength of ones magic is of upmost importance, not only to the individual so that they can acquire high status and privilege, but also to the country and a national ethos.
Last week we were subjected to a fascinating, flawed, and naïve series of comments from Miyuki and Tatsuya regarding the state of magicians within society, and why people should be happy with their current situations. The ideology expressed by both Miyuki and Tatsuya focuses on the social conservative notion that people should be happy with their situation, and that class fluidity is not something to look up to. There is clear discrimination within the world of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei, although much of it is implied rather than explicitly shown given the series setting. Focusing on an elite school creates a blinkered view of society, presenting an image that is simplistic, but also complicated given our knowledge of the problems that those in Course Two have, and the verbal, even physical abuse that they may have to endure. We know of discrimination, we see it between Course One and Course Two – but we do not see the problems that the vast majority of society has to deal with, as we are not shown the world outside of this schools grounds in any real detail.
Tatsuya’s assertion that magicians need to be paid well because they have skills essential to society suggests a certain social naivety, whilst also demonstrating his social background as one of those elites. Miyuki’s attitude that people should understand the number of years and amount of effort needed to use magic certainly has its merits. However, such a situation is not unique, everyone needs to put in time and effort to get anywhere, be it with magic, or without. By focusing on the idea that there are those in society who just don’t understand the elite, Miyuki demonstrates her ignorance of society, whilst also dismissing the idea that there are others out there, those without magic powers who put in as much, if not more effort than anyone else with little to show for it, purely because of the way society is governed. An assertion she immediately contradicts when complaining that people don’t understand how much effort Tatsuya has put in to get where he is, despite his lack of magical abilities.
This week’s episode further focuses on the problems between those in Course One and course Two, with a collection of students trying to fight for equal rights within the school. While their campaign has its merits, and is for a good cause, they are ultimately used by Blanche to carry out various terrorist activities, and demonstrate extreme naivety and ignorance when it comes to what they are fighting for, and why. Throughout the episode various ideas are thrown around regarding how unfair the two course system is, and how those in Course Two are looked down upon as inferior by everyone else. The ‘two course’ system is unfair, it segregates students based on their abilities as measured by tests that appear to focus on a very specific and limiting criteria. This in turn produces a sense of superiority in many of the students luck enough to be part of Course One (although arguably there is an element of fear in much of the abuse as some of the students seem fully aware that Course Two can be as strong, if not more so when pushed), whilst also aggravating commonly held views about the superiority of magical powers.
However, throughout this episode the students campaigning for a fairer education system only focus on fairly minor points such as lack of funding for Course Two clubs and the feeling of inferiority that they have. These are minor compared to the major problem that is the system itself, but instead of focusing on that and questioning why there should be such a system in the first place, these students seem to remove all blame from the school, and place it on the students instead. Yes the students are to blame, but they are also working within a system, which allows them to discriminate against those they believe inferior given their place within society and the education system. There are plenty of grievances and things to complain about and campaign to be changed within the world of Mahouka, but instead of focusing on the startling inequality, we are given a series of minor even childish grievances that merely make those in charge look mature, while those complaining seem childish and petty.
They ignore the system that creates this inequality, forgetting that the schools Two Course system has to exist within a society that distinguishes between those with significant magical power, and those without. By trying arguing for petty, even minor things such as club funding, these campaigners ignore the underlying issues of attitudes towards magical powers and those who wield them. The very idea that the student council president can argue that discrimination is banned by the student council, followed with the suggestion that everyone is students therefore invalidating any grievance with the two course system is fascinating to watch, whilst also suggesting poor writing and naïve approach to social integration and discrimination on the part of the writer.
Furthermore, we are presented with a view of the world from Tatsuya suggesting that as long as you get what you want from a system, everything is all right; regardless of how damaging that system happens to be. Tatsuya has enrolled in the school to get a diploma from an elite school, something that would then allow him to focus on what he wants to do (we can also assume that he enrolled at the school in order to look after Miyuki). His attitude to the inequality, degradation, and insulting attitudes towards Course Two is fascinating, and also insulting to those who want to make a difference. As far as he is concerned, as long as he can get his diploma, the inequality, regardless of how annoying he may find it, is entirely meaningless, and doesn’t impact his life enough for him to really care about changing the current situation of those in Course Two. Suggesting that inequality and discrimination is fine as long as it doesn’t effect ‘me’ is a very selfish attitude to have, although its hard to believe that Tatsuya even cares about the discrimination when he willingly lies to those trying to campaign for more equality, and even works with the student council to punish them.
This episode continues to demonstrate the selfish attitudes that Tatsuya ad Miyuki have regarding social hierarchies, class systems, and the inequality that those without significant magical powers are subjected to. We are also presented with a world and society that view the superiority of those with strong magical powers as the logical social order, demonstrated by Mayumi’s comment that she would never lose a logical argument. That she follows this up later with the suggestion that while the terms ‘Blooms’ and ‘Weeds’ are wrong, everyone is guilty of using them in a derogatory fashion, thus suggesting that everyone is equally to blame for class discrimination, even those being discriminated against. Ultimately we are left with a group of people – who may truly care about helping others – as part of a larger issue in Mahouka’s society. This in turn demonstrates how little those campaigning to get equal rights for Course Two students, and a halt to discrimination really seem to understand about the society they live in.
This school, and the Two Course system it runs is merely one part of a wider issue that places those with significant power at the top (with the ten families ultimately holding power over society), and those without magical powers, or limited abilities below them. At the same time, they are all at an elite school, and while some may be from lower class families, they are still getting a better education (or so we can assume) from those without magical powers. It is Japanese society that is the issue, along with all of the systems and structures that make up this society, all these students are looking at is one very small, almost incidental part of it, rather than realising that there is more to life than not having the same club budgets as people from Course One. A selfish argument from a selfish school perhaps, even if it does have its merits.