Episode 07 is usually an important one for one-cour animes. It tells you if a good series stays consistently good or if a bad series shows promise of a turn-around (e.g. Buddy Complex). This unfortunately, is not the case for Mahou Sensou. As reviewed previously, the show had some promise (as high school based magic genre animes generally have a steep uphill climb to challenge) but poor execution and a narrative full of holes meant even the veteran seiyuus couldn’t save the show. Until Episode 09 that is. But is this too late?
What went wrong with Episode 07? I’m gonna be strict and say EVERYTHING. After a decisive battle, our protagonists ought to be regrouping and strategically planning ahead. But no… instead this episode focused on Takeshi’s nightmares induced by the conveniently named ‘nightmare’ magic sprouting out from his sword, Twilight. This should’ve been in episode 03 or 04 when Takeshi first got the frickin’ sword (awesome as it’s meant to be, recall how it was found in the school’s warehouse…). See what I mean by narrative holes? So NOW we understand the bleach-esque relationship between Takeshi and his sword. What about the rest of the cast? Don’t they have relationships of understandings with their weapons too? Takeshi ends up naming his sword but we don’t hear any of the other characters calling their weapons by name. Takeshi gives Twilight a new name – Touwa (Eterna), who’s character design reminds me of Yuzuriha Inori from Guilty Crown and is in any case, a fanboy’s dream – refer to Log Horizon‘s episode 18 where Princess Ienessia is similarly dressed to capture the hearts and bravado of volunteer soldiers.
Next is Aiba-niisan. Of course he’s a sis-con as they always are. Same goes for Ida – the tsukomi trope regarding the disparity between the siblings is so done to death not even Suzumura Kenichi could save it with his comedic timing. But how on earth is Aiba-niisan now a teacher too? Does everyone just automatically graduate to become a teacher? Is that how magic school works? Aargh. Just aargh. Thankfully Morikawa-sama’s sis-complex isn’t the over-the-top annoying type as they usually are portrayed. I still like the serious undertone in this show and the production team should really just stick to that instead of trying to add in unnecessary tropes.
Speaking of siblings, we see in episode 08 that Takeshi’s younger brother, Gekko, finally joins the fray. What we’ve known up till then was that the relationship between Takeshi and his brother (and mother) was not good. We never knew why or what that meant the home dynamics was beyond being at cold war with one another. So now with Gekko in Suzaku Magic Academy – nobody bothered asking how he got in although Ida’s little sister Futaba’s entrance is quite amusing (oh Ida-niisan…), we finally get some back story to the sibling relationship, or do we? Nope, not really. We still don’t know what the catalyst was that caused a rift between the brothers, so much so that Gekko has sided with the Trailers (just how did that happen at the end of episode 06?) and aims to kill Takeshi. Amazingly, no one but 1 Hitouji Makoto sensei (Yamaguchi Takayuki) senses that Gekko’s too good to be true, and doesn’t tell anyone! But episode 08 moves the plot along with Trailer big boss Kazuma finally waking up and taking back the reins of his leadership against Wizard Brace. No explanations as to how Kazuma went into a deep sleep of 17 years in the first place though… sigh.
Episode 09 is what we’ve really been waiting for. This climatic finale arc attempts to tie all characters and plot lines together by weaving in Takeshi and his younger brother Gekko’s sad/dramatic past together with the reason the magic factions are at war in the first place. It’s not neatly done but with more action scenes, at least the graphics and effects have stepped up. It’s interesting how Twilight used to belong to Takeshi’s mom but at the same time, it does feel a bit too-much-too-late kinda forced. Why introduce this crucial back story and character this late in the show? See, the potential was there! If only the series composition was done better to front load the story rather than leave things so hurriedly explained in the final arc. Speaking of arcs, I can’t actually tell if there were any proper sort of arcs thus far. That’s how bad things have been with Mahou Sensou… ORz. And what happened to Fukuyama Jun‘s character and Hotaru? They went back to the Trailers and… disappeared from our story? Bring Jun Jun back cos I really like evil, deep-voiced Fukuyama Jun! He doesn’t do such voices enough!
As badly woven as things are, we at least now understand the rationale for this war and to be fair, I think it was fairly well done since the “antagonists” have garnered my vote (plus they’re just cooler. I mean, Namikawa Daisuke as Ghost Trailer leader Ryuusenji Kazuma is just, cool). Kudos to Okamoto Nobuhiko‘s Gekko for holding his own as sinister, cynical younger brother with a massive chip on his shoulder (shin actually) against Miyano Mamoru‘s Takeshi. I must admit, as someone who’s not a fan of Mamo-chan, he really is propping up this show nicely, considering how this same season he’s also voicing bad-ass Nobunaga (Nobunaga the Fool) and bad-ass Alexius Muu in Magi. He’s not too dramatic, which is his forte and it’s the same subtlety used in Gundam 00 that’s got me drawn to him here. Hopefully the rest of the production catches up to the seiyuu’s efforts in the final 3 episodes! Crossing fingers won’t be enough.