Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 02 – Judging a book by its cover


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It’s fascinating watching the different classes in Mahouka interact, particularly when we see the attitudes that the majority of those in Course One demonstrate when interacting with Course Two. To follow on from last weeks exploration of Blooms and Weeds as two distinct social classes, we can see how Course Onw, those who are considered to be both gifted and powerful dismiss those in Course Two as inferior, weak, and unnecessary wastes of space. A clear example of this attitude is found in Hattori Hanzou’s reaction to the Shiba siblings entering the Student Council office. While he interacts with Miyuki, congratulating her for entering the Student Council, Tatsuya is treated as an invisible object, with Hanzou’s attitude clearly demonstrating that he doesn’t see the need to even acknowledge Tatsuya’s existence. He has already demonstrated his frustration at the existence of Tatsuya, or perhaps a more general frustration at the existence of Course Two in general during the first episode, as he gets annoyed, even embarrassed that Mayumi Saegusa acknowledges and interacts with Tatsuya and other Course Two members in the same way she talks to those in Course One.

Hanzou’s attitude, along with his public and highly personal use of the terms ‘Blooms’ and ‘Weeds’, despite a warning from Mari Watanabe reinforces the deeply rooted nature of the class segregation found within the school, and arguably society. His willingness to openly show his disdain for Tatsuya and the idea that someone from Course Two can become part of the Moral’s Committee demonstrates how easily attitudes and social distinctions can be reinforced and perpetuated. From the discussions we have seen in these first two episodes it appears that many of the students in Course Two are clearly clever and possess many interesting, even unique abilities. Erika for example seems proficient in the use of the sword and handles herself very well around those who believe they have more power. Leo also seems to have strong combat abilities, and Mizuki has highly specialised eyes and as yet unspecified abilities (although given Tatsuya’s reaction they are likely quite interesting). None of them have the practical magic abilities of those in Course One, but from initial impressions they seem to be far from inferior, perhaps even superior to those in Course One as they are able to use other abilities and skills to fill in the gaps.

The attitudes of those in Course One, as demonstrated by Hattori Hanzou reinforce and perpetuate the class barriers within the school. They put practical magic ability on a pedestal and lack the ability or knowledge to question this assumption, simply believing that any other abilities or skills are inferior to your magic power. If we look at this attitude closer with Hanzou’s various comments as examples we see how quickly he dismisses the idea of Tatsuya becoming a member of the Moral’s Committee. To do this he doesn’t ask about Tatsuya’s abilities, knowledge, or experiences, instead simply quoting the idea that those without practical magic abilities cannot possibly police the school. He even suggests that those in Course One will simply refuse to listen to, or merely ignore anyone from Course Two trying to police their use of magic. At the same time he also reinforces the attitude that Practical Magic abilities are of utmost importance to society, and that without them you are worthless, a ‘Weed’ to use the series terminology.

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This distinction between the courses is also found in the Student Council itself. Despite Mayumi’s interest in Tatsuya, we find out that the school rules only allow for Course One students to become members of the Student Council, meaning that Course Two students have no ability to change the way the school is run. Mayumi seems a forgiving individual, someone who wants to look out for the entire student body, not just Course One, but if the President was someone less understanding, and more inclined towards the persecution of those deemed inferior by society, we can see how easily dangerous and destructive attitudes towards class and measuring of ones worth are spread. This rings true of class in real life as well, those who have the power, knowledge and authority have the ability to spread certain images of the lower classes that either creates, or reinforces peoples perceptions and mental images regarding that specific class. We just have to look at the sorts of programmes on television (such as Benefit Street in the UK) to see how easily people’s perceptions of lower classes can be changed, reinforced, or manipulated. By restricting Student Council places to those from Course One, Magic High School reinforces the distinction between these two classes, and further manipulates Course One’s attitude of superiority.

Saying that, this attitude of superiority, particularly the attitude displayed by Hattori Hanzou as he talks about putting Tatsuya in his place demonstrates an astonishing amount of Hubris. His (and by extension a significant portion of Course One) extreme pride and self-confidence means that he doesn’t view Tatsuya as any threat, thus overestimating his own competence and abilities. His arrogance means that Hanzou doesn’t think about Tatsuya’s abilities and merely wants to use a simple spell to both humiliate him, whilst also demonstrating the sheer gap in their power and abilities. The visible shock on the Student Council’s faces when Hanzou is consummately defeated in the blink of an eye also suggests that while they were shocked by Hanzou’s arrogance and damaging attitude, they also didn’t think Tatsuya had a chance. In keeping with the idea of Hubris, Hanzou’s attitude of superiority, pride, self-confidence, arrogance, and a complete dismissal of Tatsuya’s abilities ultimately lead to a shameful fall from grace, one that demonstrates how foolish and shameful his actions were.

Throughout this second episode we see how quickly people judge a book by its cover, believing that anyone in Course Two is worthless and without any real powers. Hanzou’s attitude towards Tatsuya, coupled with his other actions illustrates his inability to look beyond the surface and see what those around him are capable of. Similarly, the entire framework on which this Magic High School, and broader society are built upon, demonstrates how superficial their view of magic is, one that ignores all other skills, abilities, knowledge, and insight for the sake of visible magic ability that is both easily defined and measured. As Miyuki has insisted on multiple occasions, the tests that she and Tatsuya took don’t allow for his true abilities to shine through, and instead stick with a very narrow minded view of what constitutes magic ability and power. As a side note, its fascinating to see Tatsuya manipulate how others see him and Miyuki, even joking in a perfectly deadpan manner that if they weren’t blood related he would take Miyuki as a lover. This second episode helped to illustrate the complexities of a society where magic exists, whilst also showing us easy it is to overestimates ones abilities because of constantly reinforced attitudes of superiority and inferiority. That Tatsuya, and Miyuki are powerful is beyond doubt (at least if we take the first episode, and the emphasis placed on Miyuki’s abilities into account), but they are powerful for different reasons. What we saw in this episode is how one form of power is deemed acceptable, and ‘real’, whereas the other is dismissed as meaningless and without true merit.

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About illogicalzen
An Illogical anime fan in a very Zen-like way.

4 Responses to Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 02 – Judging a book by its cover

  1. mentaromega says:

    Pretty good analysis! Please keep it up🙂

  2. 13Z says:

    Yeah, it’s nice to see that there are at least a few open-minded bloggers who doesn’t bash the shit out of Mahouka after 1-2 episodes.

  3. froggykun says:

    One thing I noticed is that the characters in this series tend to have a “surface” personality, with everyone having secrets they’re keeping to themselves (especially Tatsuya). Everyone has a hidden agenda in this story. It’s also hinted that the school itself has a hidden agenda, or serves some other more sinister purpose. I feel this lends itself towards the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” theme the whole series is going for.

    • illogicalzen says:

      Very true, the entire world of Mahouka is full of secrets, lies, and deception, which suggests that while the use of practical magic is very important to ones place within society, there are some powers and abilities that are best kept a secret. I am particularly interested in all of these hidden agendas, and how they fit into the state of the school and society within the series. As for the school having a hidden agenda, I would probably read it as a case of controlling those who can use magic by making them attend special schools and then segregating those with higher practical magic skills from those who don’t, but have other, perhaps more interesting abilities and skills. By doing so you then have control over a vast resource and the potential for potent weapons, new magic, and other innovations that all come from within a strict, and easily controlled framework.

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