Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei 10/11 – Sports Festivals as a sign of Prestige
June 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Anyone who has watched any amount of anime will be aware of the importance placed upon school wide events such as cultural and sports festivals. They become central to the school experience in anime, a period when exams and studying cease to be important and are replaced with a period in the characters life where the experience of something new takes priority. Looking at almost any school focussed anime and we find a series devoted to this period of experimentation and freedom from the rigid structure of school. Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo for example is largely built around the premise of the school festival as a space for its central characters to learn from their experiences, and begin to understand what they want to do with their lives. In a similar fashion the entire narrative of Ano Natsu de Matteru is based on the creation of a film over the school holidays to be shown at their school festival. Within the narrative of such anime series, these festivals are so important that they take precedence over any form of studying, or university entrance exams (although we rarely see these within anime), and may also become the spaces for major character and story developments. Furthermore, the ideals of ‘tadashi to handanshita koto’ (what you judge to be right), and ‘susunde mina no tame no hataraku’ (proactively work for the common good), are an integral part of these activities, as important lessons that main characters must learn if they are to grow as individuals capable of working with a group and on their own.
The only events within school focused anime that are more important than these school wide cultural and sports festivals are arguably the major inter-school sports events found in sports anime. They are places where a schools prestige can be won and lost, somewhere to show the whole of Japan your strengths, and sometimes weaknesses. In fact, if we look at any sports anime such as Kuroko no Basuke, Haikyuu, Yowapeda, and Bay Steps to name but a few, we find a school life where studying and examinations are almost none existent. The main elements of school life in Japan are arguably entrance examinations and the studying required for them. The worlds we see in anime mention these elements, often in passing, but they are rarely important to the narrative and character development. In sports anime the focus is on the larger inter-school tournaments, events that take the space where examinations and studying might be in real life. These events offer a simpler space for experiencing something new, and experimenting with a way of living that everyday life might not allow for.
In many respects the Nine School’s Competition holds a similar place within the series narrative as any other national sports competition, although there is a more distinct element of an elite competition over something like Basketball. All sports anime involve prestigious schools, those considered the strongest in their given sport, but what makes the Nine School’s Competition slightly different is its truly elite nature. We have already established that the school system in Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei is one designed to reinforce the superiority of magical powers over everything else. If magicians are this societies elites, then the magic school system is designed to reinforce their superiority over everyone else. As such, the Nine School’s Competition is one where the nine magic high schools can compete to determine who is the strongest and most prestigious. Competing in such a competition, and winning an individual event or being on the winning ream can therefore be a badge of honour, and something that marks you out from the crowd as a truly special individual even among other powerful magicians.
Having said that, its painfully obvious that while many of the individuals attending these schools are from prestigious, or at least well-off families, their magic abilities are not entirely brilliant. Throughout the series its clear that the strength of ones powers does not make one a competent magician, and that those without strong powers, but with other, unique abilities can be as strong, if not stronger than the majority of those currently attending these schools. As an example, at the beginning of last weeks episode a number of students attempted to stop the exploding car, ignoring, or forgetting various important tenets of using magic, and potentially making things far worse. Furthermore, during the opening ceremony, Retsu Kudou plays a little trick on the assembled students by concealing his presence in such a way that the majority in the hall failed to notice he was even there. His comment that magic is a means to an end rather than the end itself further reinforces what we now know – magic is not the be all and end all – it is instead a tool that can be use dwell, or used poorly. By using relatively weak magic to deceive the students, Retsu Kudou reinforces the questionable nature of the schools Two-Tiered education system, whilst also pointing out the strength that many in Course Two may have at their disposal, despite being in possession of comparatively weak magic.
Characters like Mikihiko fall into the trap of believing that they must do everything on their own because they are magicians, especially when they come from an established family. Furthermore, he quickly dismisses Tatsuya’s advice partly because it is critical of his spells, ones that have been passed down through his family for generations. Ultimately his response is childish and rather silly, demonstrating how easily people’s confidence can be shaken when their family magic does not have the desired result, regardless of how effective it might otherwise be. On another note, the existence of other terrorist organizations targeting the competition is hardly a surprise. Considering its apparent importance and how many individuals from prestigious schools and families all in one place, the competition presents an unrivalled opportunity to create a public scene, and also steal important information regarding magic and magic research from these schools, in much the same way that Blanche in the previous arc was after confidential magic research rather than trying to break the system. Ultimately, many of the events, and problems that take place in Mahouka can be linked to the idea of prestige; be it family, school, social status, or linked to the nation, the prestige of magicians and the institutions that train them is on show during this tournament for everyone to see.