Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 03 – Dangerous Assumptions
April 21, 2014 Leave a comment
To follow on from last week’s episode we now see how dangerous making assumptions based on ones position within the society of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei can be. Hattori’s hubris in assuming that Tatsuya is inherently inferior, and therefore is no match for his apparent superiority has been demonstrated to be false. His utter defeat through ultimately simple, and largely magic free means also helps to reveal how fragile the basis for magic discrimination is, and how easily its implied superiority can be brought down. Arguably, the character of Tatsuya has demonstrated how weak magic can be in the face of other abilities and powers – and through the use of his ninjutsu training we are also given a glimpse into the weaknesses of magic. A total reliance on ones magic powers is inherently flawed, as while they bring status and prestige, unless you understand their weaknesses and realise that on their own they can be defeated, your entire basis for high social standing becomes unstable and insecure.
The entire social structure of Mahouka’s world is based upon the binary opposition between those with strong practical magic skills and those without. However, this differentiation appears to largely be a social construct, one that relies upon specific tests to determine ones worth, therefore limiting deliberately limiting the number of students who are capable of being in Course One. The conversation between Tatsuya and Mari is rather enlightening, as she suggests that by choosing to be magic engineer, his excellent combat abilities are going to waste. While this is true, Tatsuya’s reply that while his abilities may be impressive, they would only allow him to get a C Class licence (which we can assume is relatively low ranking within the world of this series), thus illustrating how confining the rules and regulations of this world are. As the audience we can see how competent Tatsuya is, however, the way the world is governed means that without strong practical magic abilities, those that allow him to cast complex spells quickly, and precisely, his other abilities are almost meaningless (at least when it comes to social standing and ones place within society).
In this context, setting this sort of series within a high school is a fundamental aspect to the story and how the world of Mahouka works. Social and cultural attitudes are prevalent throughout society, appearing in the media, and in speeches and statements from politicians and public figures. So we would likely have the same attitudes and problems were Mahouka to use adults, perhaps in their 20s and 30s, or maybe older. However, by this stage in our lives, our attitudes towards other social classes, ethnicities, races, and religions have already been learned and acquired. It is during childhood that such attitudes are created and reinforced – we learn from out parents, from our peers and their parents, and from our experiences in school. By setting the story in high school, with the main characters in their teenage years we are presented with the opportunity to explore the system that reinforces commonly held opinions surrounding magic ability and how it fits into societies norms.
The schools systems of governance, its method of testing magic ability, and the ways in which it differentiates between those considered gift, and those who aren’t, and particularly the use of terms such as ‘Weeds’ and ‘Blooms’ all serve to create a portal into the society of Mahouka, providing us with the ability to explore how educational institutions help to reproduce social boundaries and cultural ignorance. Tatsuya mentions that having him on the Disciplinary Committee may only serve to reinforce students prejudices, with those in Course One refusing to accept a ‘Weed’ telling them what to do, and those in Course Two feeling further pressured and perhaps even insulted to have someone like him working alongside those who could be viewed as the oppressors within the school system. Many Course One students arguably feel threatened by those in Course Two, deep down they may know that despite their practical magic scores, there are those with other abilities and skills that could be used to their advantage. Being a ‘Bloom’ means that one is in a precarious position unless they have superior magic ability like Miyuki, or are from a high status family, or simply have acquired high status through your own abilities and deeds.
The entire system is inherently unstable and fragile, so those with the prestige and power try to reinforce class boundaries by either lashing out, or attempting to force their worldview on others. It is in school where these attitudes and approach to life and how magic abilities fit into society can be created or shattered, and Tatsuya’s actions, along with the existence of people like Mari, Mayumi, and Jyumonji (I assume he appears later) are of upmost importance to a creation of a new attitude towards magic. Not that strongly held opinions about how social standing equates to magical abilities can be completely changed by a few people, and to suggest otherwise would be naïve, and foolish. However, Tatsuya’s inclusion in the Disciplinary Committee and his ability to deal with situations involving magic users, both quickly and efficiently arguably serve to demonstrate to those in Course Two – and perhaps this in Course One who are capable of rational thought – that practical magic ability does not make one truly competent, and that through other training you can be as strong, if not stronger that those who solely rely on their magical abilities to maintain their social standing.
As a side note, this episode further demonstrated how fractious magic society is, and how easily people resort to magic to settle differences, or simply force a sense of superiority on others. Morisaki clearly suffers from a sense of inferiority, even jealousy at Tatsuya’s abilities, and how easily those he interacts with come to trust him. His attitude towards Tatsuya when he picks up two CADs, followed by his remark that Tatsuya is merely trying to show off by suggesting that he can do something considered impossible further demonstrate that ones own powers also determines your place within the top echelons of Mahouka’s society. This is followed by a confrontation between Nibu Sayaka and Kirihara Takeaki, apparently over who is better at sword techniques, and whether using magic to boost your own abilities really makes one superior. Seeing Kirihara quickly resort to the use of magic to enforce his superiority over Nibu as the better swordsman suggests that there are those who truly believe that the strength of ones magic, and willingness to use it denotes ones worth within a society that links magic powers to status. Mahouka creates a series of situations which help to illuminate the complexities of society within its world, and how peoples attitudes towards magic and its uses are as varied as the abilities of those who wield it.