Apr 6, 2014
FormX (All reviews)
The anime is airing, so here's a review if you still aren't sure about this series. Note that it's a great and captivating series but the review does point out some negative aspects.

Story: 8/10
Character: 6/10
Enjoyment: 7/10
Overall Rating Bias: +/- 1

I do recommend the series though, the world is worth discovering and the events that occur around the main character worth following. If you want a science fiction take on magic in a realistic setting, this is worth checking out.
Watching the anime will most likely relieve the technical explanations, setting descriptions and bring character depth.

If you are Caucasian or just not Chinese then you can pretty much ignore this first paragraph (rant). It's unfortunate but this series has an underlying bias, discriminate would be a bit too strong of a word, towards the Chinese. In every arc, the antagonists and/or their ultimate organization(s) are Chinese. This isn't the main problem, the issue is how they are portrayed. They and their actions are portrayed as dishonorable, villainous, aggressive, and unintelligent. Their magic and technology are archaic, incompetent, elementary and ineffective. Of the 3 named characters, one is sly, the other is arrogant, and the last one is supposed to be "the world's top 10 close combat magician" is a savage and has virtually no technique. Although there are other problems, this is the main reason for the lower rating accounted for in the rating bias.

As a novel, or maybe as a translated novel, a huge problem are the explanations. There are long and complex explanations on magic and magic techniques every chapter, so it really interrupts the flow of anything. You would have to choose between focusing on reading the story or understanding the explanations, that is how bad it is. And of course the first chapters are chock full of these and if you can't get around them you won't for the rest of the novels because it uses jargon.
Watching the anime first would probably enable you to skip these boring explanations, and the setting (also female appearance) descriptions.

Character wise, there are only two worth mentioning: Tatsuya (main) and Miyuki (sister). There are friends and others that appear consistently but their character depth do not go much further beyond their descriptions (looking at you Erika, Leo and Mizuki). The anime and voice acting will probably bring more life to them.

Tatsuya is interesting, at least when you don't know much about him, because at first he is a mysterious underdog who likes to keep a low profile and has a few secrets, and you know it has to do with being secretly strong. This is a refreshing MC that I like. However, as it goes on you may get tired of his self deprecating attitude despite being OP and the fact that there will be no real romance in the novel.

Miyuki is the heroine, if there has to be one. You either love her or hate her depending on whether you like sibling love. Later on her unconditional love for her brother is explained, but even then she's a bro con from the start. Her struggle with her feelings, Tatsuya and Miyuki's relationship with their family and their peers are all interesting things to watch. She's responsible for most of what fan service there is.

Americans are later introduced but naturally the ones of importance are just blonde anime characters, not quite Americans. The strongest US magician becomes a transfer student and develops some feelings for Tatsuya due to of course losing and departs as a rival.

As for the plot itself and its development, it is decent for the first two arcs, since the setting, magic, combat, and characters are still being laid down and revealed at the same time. The content itself is also engrossing, showing the school life at a magic high school and a magic competition between schools. The two later arcs are relatively less interesting with one being a one sided slaughter and the other about hunting vampires/parasites, hence some flaws are more apparent.

Still, the series was hard to put down because the overall plot was the driving force independent of the arcs, namely discovering Tatsuya's many talents, the drama within the magician families, the future of Tatsuya and Miyuki, their relationship and the revelation of their powers and identities. The world the author creates is also intriguing; set in the future with modern times as the history, and bringing magic into the mix.

The flaws mentioned earlier, I'm not sure how to put it, but something that feels like bad politics and strange logic on the authors part. It probably won't bug you if you don't think about it. Examples, but you may find more:
Japan has of course remained independent, but the Asian Alliance has the China, Korea and other countries as one while Canada and Mexico have been assimilated to the United States.
Japanese magic techniques rule all.
A common trope where high school students take the limelight, but here they are also the forefront in purging terrorists, military engagement, investigating and resolving murder cases.
Magician families have become the new nobility, but there is still a stigma against magicians in general public.
Despite university level facilities at the high school and classrooms that no longer require teachers, there are still no magic instructors half the students enrolled.