Look how terrible these uniform designs are. How does anyone take the boys seriously at all?

In the not-so-distant future, scientists invented magic. World War III happened over dwindling resources relating from a kind of global ice-age but magic-users prevented things from turning thermonuclear. Now, towards the end of the 21st century, the entire world is rushing to pump out as many magic-users as possible. One such prestigious academy in Japan specializes in nurturing these talents, and two of the newcomers are the brother and sister duo Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba. However, while Miyuki was recognized as an elite student (also known as a Bloom), Tatsuya’s lack of practical ability has rendered him as a Reserve or Irregular student (also known as a Weed). There’s a clear distinction between Blooms and Weeds, with Weeds being discriminated against by most Blooms.

WHEW that was close, we almost got through a whole anime season with no incest bullshit!

Although I glossed over a lot of it in the synopsis there, the opening minute alone of Mahouka gives us a gigantic heaping pile of exposition, which is one of my least favourite ways to start a show off. Show but don’t tell, guys. It’s not like you were particularly strapped for time or anything, given that after the exposition is done with pretty much nothing else happens.
Well, okay, that’s kind of a lie, things do happen, it’s just that they’re all very slow and dull. Our two lead brother and sister characters establish themselves as incredibly aggravating in the span of less than a minute after they appear on-screen, and also introduce my biggest problem with the episode as a whole: almost no one in this show talks like a normal person. Everyone’s dialogue is incredibly hokey and contrived, and most of it is really hard to take seriously. The younger sister Miyuki is also head over heels in love with older brother Tatsuya, another least favourite thing of mine, and to make this interaction even more uncomfortable she uses the most humbling and polite speech possible when addressing him (he doesn’t afford her the same luxury, of course). When talking to her brother. So to recap, the opening of the episode tries to build up this big epic future about training for magical warfare and the fact that World War III actually happened and then we get to spend the rest of the episode following these two sops around.
Some other characters appear, all of which seem more interesting than our leads, and then they go and visit a shrine where some sensei-type tries to molest Miyuki, which is portrayed as something really wacky and funny guys!, although it annoys Tatsuya and prompts this sudden fight-scene with a hilariously unfitting R&B insert song. Then its back to the school where everyone discriminates against the ‘weeds’, without any real clear indication of exactly why (perhaps that comes in the next episode). We do get to learn a little tiny tidbit about different types of magic, and to be honest I was really interested in what exactly a ‘magical engineer’ was, although the episode never really dwelled on it. There’s also a scene where Miyuki is using some kind of ice magic that lets her skate across the ground at high-speed, which I thought was really cool, but other than that there is far too much telling and not enough showing or Generic Prestigious Anime Academy 101.
The animation is pretty high-quality and the overall look is definitely at the higher end of this season, but this first episode left me with the impression that this show has no idea what it’s doing. There’s way too many ideas that it never dwells on for too long, letting the insufferable lead characters take centre stage instead. Some of these ideas are actually pretty cool – even if rather hammy – so I’m willing to give it the chance to explore them. I just don’t want to have to put up with some creepyass incest just to see them.

Some of these magic scenes were pretty cool. Nearly all these ‘Bloom’ characters look like they’d make better main characters, too.

Out of 5,