Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 06 – When Good intentions lead to Nefarious Deeds
May 14, 2014 1 Comment
Now we appear to be getting towards the end of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei’s first story arc certain attitudes are becoming more apparent, specifically those regarding the importance of magic within the stories society. We have already established that the world of Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei is one of inequality, where the strength of one’s magic has a tremendous impact upon your place within society. That the society in Mahouka is filled with inequality shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, while it might involve magic, inequality and class system exist across the world, including Japan, so Mahouka is merely mirroring the reality of Japanese society. We have also been introduced to a school system that splits those considered to have strong magical powers, from those who do not, creating a two-tiered system that reinforces the sense of superiority that those in Course One have over Course Two, and by extension, everyone else in society. The entire premise of this two-tiered system arguably mirrors the attitudes found within Japanese society as a whole (or we assume it does as we see very little of the world outside of the schools grounds), and we should not view the school and its education system within a vacuum, but as a part of a wider set of ideologies surrounding the pre-eminence of magic within the world of Mahouka.
As discussed last week, the entire premise of this two-tiered system has to exist within a society that considers the strength of magical powers as superior to everything else. That those protesting against the system cannot seem to understand this further points to a naivety surrounding those who are campaigning for better treatment. 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 lucky 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 last week’s episode, the students campaigning for a fairer education system only focus on minor points such as the lack of funding for Course Two clubs, and the feeling of inferiority they have. That feeling of inferiority is arguably the most important, but also hardest to quantify as it cannot be easily materialized into something tangible for everyone to see or hear. This is because the two-tiered system itself creates a sense of inferiority, and is a part of a much broader system of discrimination that reinforces attitudes of superiority and inferiority in those on either side of the divide.
Much like attitudes towards class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, those displayed in Mahouka surrounding magic are entrenched within people’s social consciousness, and are arguably used and repeated, with little thought given to the problems that such attitudes can cause. There are plenty of grievances, and attitudes to complain about and campaign to be changed within the world of Mahouka, but instead of focusing on the startling inequality, and other cultural issues displayed within the series, we are given a number of minor, even childish grievances that merely make those in charge look mature, while those complaining seem childish and petty. This doesn’t mean that the grievances that those in Course Two have aren’t important, arguably these minor, even childish complaints that many of them have are merely a symptom of a much bigger problem with the system itself.
We now move onto Mibu Sayaka, a naïve, even foolish character who nevertheless demonstrates the problematic nature of the two-tiered system in Mahouka and how far people are willing to go to change what they perceive to be unfair circumstances. Sayaka is certainly immature, even foolish when we look at how readily she believes the promises of Blanche, unquestioningly taking part in their terrorist activities, only to be shocked when she learns the truth. We could point and laugh at her stupid decisions, perhaps suggesting that she should have known that anyone promising true equality is either lying, or living in a dream, but ultimately such promises are easy to believe when one is pushed to such extremes. People take part of in such activities, often for important and valid reasons, not necessarily because they believe that only violence can solve the situation, but because they have been pushed to those extremes. This is not saying that everyone involved in such activities are terrorists, Sayaka arguably believes that she is taking in part in social activism, and is attempting to change what she sees as in the injustices of a system that reinforces the inferiority if her substantial sword skills in the face of magical powers. That Blanche so easily uses her, for what appears to be industrial espionage, further demonstrates her naivety in allowing relatively shady, and untrustworthy people to manipulate her ideals and fears to fit their goals.
This brings us back to the Social Conservative attitude displayed by Tatsuya and Miyuki a couple of weeks ago, 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. 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.
Tatsuya’s assertion two weeks ago 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, and perhaps an inability to understand the problems that others go through. Similarly, Miyuki’s attitude that people should understand the number of years and amount of effort needed to use magic certainly has its merits as in Mahouka’s universe it does appear to be the case that to truly master your powers you do need to put in a certain amount of time and effort. 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 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.
Tatsuya reinforces his position this week when he chastises Sayaka for believing Blanche’s promises and ignoring her considerable sword skills simply because they are not fully recognized by society. In one sense Tatsuya is correct, Sayaka should acknowledge her strengths and focus on those instead of allowing the pre-eminence of magic to override her own considerable abilities. If we always compared everything we do to what society considers important then most people would just vie up and not bother with anything, believing that they are inferior. However, this ignores the superiority given to the power of ones magic, and how readily people ignore other abilities in favour of magic. The implied superiority of magical powers in Mahouka is such that everything else, even Tatsuya’s own considerable combat skills, and his apparent ability to wipe out entire fleets in a single shot do not make up for his relatively weak magical abilities. It is little wonder that Sayaka would be frustrated at the lack of emphasis placed upon something she has spent her life honing. That a simple misunderstanding between her and Watanabe could push her to associate with Blanche, and believe in their promises further reinforces the problematic nature of Mahouka’s social hierarchy. The misunderstanding in question is a frankly ludicrous one, and somewhat preposterous, but it helps to highlight how easily people can jump to conclusions in a society that focuses so heavily on one particular trait above all else.
Ultimately we are left with another episode that reinforces the inequality of Mahouka, and how easily people can be driven to extreme acts out of frustration, anger, and resentment. That Blanche are using Course Two students to help with clandestine operations and espionage comes as no surprise, and even if the students are stupid to fall for their simple promises, it is at least understandable that those driven to such extremes may not always be capable of rational thought. We are also presented with another aspect of Tatsuya, the cold and calculating individual who doesn’t care about the system as long as he gets what he wants. His various speeches, and other utterances have created the image of a very selfish individual, someone who will risk everything to protect his and Miyuki’s current lifestyle, but wont give a second thought to changing the system that has oppressed him, and others like him for the majority of their lives. Perhaps then, he, like the student council, and everyone else who merely accepts the system as it is are part of the problem, as they do not question the underlying ethos behind a two-tiered system, and the supremacy of magical powers within society. They accept it, and even reinforce it through their actions and attitudes, thus pushing others like Sayaka to take more extreme actions, regardless of how foolish they may appear to those on the outside.