Mahouka Koukou no Reittousei – Weaponising Magic
September 17, 2014 1 Comment
The tournament arc of Mahouka was not the most inspiring, or interesting part of the series. It demonstrated what we already knew, one’s magical abilities and the strength of their powers does not automatically make them superior to those with magic considered weaker based on arbitrary, and arguably flawed testing patterns. That Tatsuya and co won the monolith code battle through a combination of their special abilities and a small amount of luck should not be surprising. They were up against skilled, intelligent individuals who were also arrogant, assuming that their genius and power would make a win automatic and without doubt. The Hubris of Ichijou Masaki and Kichijouji Shinkurou is to assume that their abilities mean their victory is certain and nothing, regardless of how strong it may be can stop them. In this respect we see how flimsy the pretext for a Two Tier school system is, with characters like Tatsuya, Yoshida Mikihiko, and Saijou Leonhart ultimately demonstrate how easily powerful magicians can be defeated regardless of how strong their spells and abilities may be.
Despite these aspects the arc wasn’t especially strong, however, the latest arc has brought back several interesting themes, including the place of magicians within Mahouka’s society, and how they are viewed by the elites. 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. An earlier conversation between Tatsuya and Mari is rather interesting as she suggests that he is wasting his combat abilities by choosing to be a magic engineer. A sentiment that is reinforced when everyone involved in the sports competition sees Tatsuya’s abilities and experience first hand. Tatsuya’s initial reply that his abilities would only allow him to obtain a fairly low magic licence demonstrate the narrow focus on powerful abilities that Japanese society, and arguably the world as a whole has. As the audience we can see from the actions of the series central cast that powerful magic does not equate to strong abilities or competency. In fact, a significant number of the series issues have been resolved not by those in Course 1, but by students in Course 2.
So, we know that the line between magical powers, their strength, and an individuals competency is a blurry, largely indistinct one, and that having one does not mean you are good at the other. What this does not change is the binary opposition found within Mahouka’s society that equates magical strength to social standing and prestige, ignoring the complex reality that is evident throughout the story. There are two distinctive, and quite interesting strands throughout Mahouka’s narrative. On the one hand we have characters like Miyuki and Tatsuya emphasising the importance (as they see it) of people knowing their place within society. This Social Conservative attitude suggests that those without powerful magic, who are thus forced to live as second-class magicians, or citizens if they do not have magical powers must simply make do, and put up with their lot in life. It also emphasises the idea that societies elite have worked hard to get to where they are, and those who criticise them simply do not understand the work and effort they put in. Such an attitude is laughable at best, making for a poor excuse to legitimise the class system found in Mahouka, whilst simultaneously attempting to invalid criticisms of the system as a product of the ignorant masses.
However, on the other side, and one aspect of the plot that isn’t fully explored we have magicians as weapons, as a counties prestige, as commodities. Everything we have seen so far, from the introduction to this latest episode points to magicians as bargaining chips in global politics. Rather than a countries military might through conventional weapons, Mahouka presents a world where a countries power is directly linked to the power of their magicians and magical research. As such, every single student within the magic education system is part of this commodification of magic. Their powers and their research are all essential to maintaining the countries political and military power, as such all individuals born with magical powers are arguably not viewed as human beings, but as living weapons who can be used as bargaining chips within global power circles.
The latest story arcs antagonists actions and goals appear to be linked with the creation, development, and acquisition of other countries magic, theories, and technologies, demonstrating the lengths that countries with go to acquire this knowledge. Furthermore, the thesis competition as a mean to demonstrate new work also serves as a way of finding the latest research, and those who have ideas and knowledge that can help the nation. At the same time we have Tatsuya talking about the schools project as a means with which magicians can become more than human weapons, perhaps even being removed from that role entirely. Perhaps hoping that there will be a time when magicians can do more than create new technologies and spell sequences that are initially used for military purposes. Maybe this is naivety on his part, showing us an idealistic side to his character, one that wants to make things for the good of humanity, despite knowing, and even ignoring the reality that his knowledge can, and likely will be sued for military purposes.
These two attitudes to do necessarily mix very well, on the one hand we have a Social Conservative attitude towards Mahouka’s class system, arguing that those in power put a lot of work and effort to get there. On the other hand we have magicians as highly controlled, even regimented human weapons, who live a (apparently) carefree life, while being used by their country as a means of gaining further power, prestige, and clout on the global stage. Both are fascinating themes that are sadly never entirely dealt with properly during this series. Of course the central irony to all of this is that magic within the world of Mahouka is essentially a weapon, and every use for magic that we have seen until this point has in some way been harnessed to create even more powerful destructive devices and forces. In many respects this sort of magic is a primal force, something that is destructive, almost uncontrollable, with very few able to harness that power and energy, thus gaining power and prestige. The entire education system also appears to have been created in order to expand Japan’s magicians, and therefore further enhance its army and military might.
So, in Mahouka we have a series of ideals whereby magicians do not need to work as, or act like soldiers, and can instead focus on using their powers for the benefit of society. But, this runs alongside a Social Conservative attitude whereby magicians are important to society, thus gaining power and prestige, but are misunderstood and misrepresented by broader social groups, and those without magical powers. People therefore have to be happy with their lot in life and work for the good of society, regardless of how poor their social standing is. At the same time, magicians are viewed, and trained as weapons, with their abilities focussed towards ever more destructive killing methods. Tatsuya is the most obvious example of this as all of his abilities seem tailored to the creation of a super soldier, someone who can destroy an ‘enemy’ and come out relatively unscathed. That he so readily reverts to being a soldier rather than a high school student suggests that regardless of his and others ideals and dreams, their powers and abilities mean that in the society of Mahouka they have little choice but become human weapons when necessary, regardless of what they do in their everyday lives.