Sure the writing hasn’t improved by an inch, but this is much more entertaining than the last 4.
One thing I have to appreciate about this show is that it builds a foundation on previously established information. The discrimination that seemed trifling at first gradually blurs the line between which side is in the right. The political aspects start to expose a world at war outside the school setting. Powers that were only introduced as theories now showcase how varied they can be, and characters start to have a purpose as conflict starts to rise. None of this ever reaches the depth necessary to be considered profound, but at least it’s opening itself to discussion.
I think the major reason these eps were fun to watch was the pacing. The first 4 was so focused on lecturing about its universe that very little screen time was dedicated to getting to know these characters or show off their budget. But thanks to what I mentioned in the previous paragraph, they now had the time to evenly divide or mix between all 3 of them. The plot can build intrigue without having to bring the story to a halt. Characters can elaborate on their beliefs and personality traits while in the middle of a fight or a casual chat at the hospital. The setting can build upon its world by actually SHOWING the cool things magic can do in battle. I’d even argue the drama can shine at points, particularly those involving Mibu’s backstory on kendo and a believable relationship with former-asshole Kirihara. The set-up for the new arc isn’t bad either, introducing the usage of experimental flight magic, potential rivals/buddies, and giving Tatsuya more humanity than a sense of humor.
Speaking of the fights though, GODDAMN were they impressive. I know that most of Madhouse’s budget went into No Game No Life, but they made the best out of what they could spare for this. Sure there’s some cheap cuts here or there, and the actual action is scarce, but most of these fights are fluid, detailed, well-choreographed and fast paced.The magic adds to every attack rather than halt the pace of the fights, and it even gives the side characters a time to shine. I mentioned it in my abysmally positive first impression of Mahou Sensou, but it deserves repeating again and again; Madhouse knows how to do action.
But like I said in the first sentence, none of this seems to be a vast improvement overall. Purposely glossing over some facts while info dumping for others is never a good thing, even if you pay off towards the end. Accepting cliches as part of your identity doesn’t change how tropey the story feels. Explaining that several students have training equivalent to special forces does not make children annihilating a terrorist branch seem any less ridiculous. Plus the discrimination aspect still leaves a major plot hole even with the blurred lines; why does it matter who has more talent at magic when even attending this school is restricted to a minor percentage of the world population? All of these flaws have slowly become part of this show’s identity, but it still waters down whatever themes it has to the level of melodrama a young adult can digest.
With a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise lackluster introduction along with a promising continuation, this show has finally caught my attention. It still retains a lot of the flaws I mentioned before, but it also seems to have embraced it as part of its identity. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but the payoff here has won me over at a basic entertainment level.