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Shane Vincent

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On Magic, High Schools, and World War III

First, a little background information on me, and why I am writing this article.  I love storytelling.  For as long as I can remember, I have been analyzing and deconstructing the elements of that great craft munch in the same one would take apart a mechanical object to better understand how it worked.  In particular, I really like and am especially critical of worldbuilding and “near-future” settings (20-100 years in the future).  Thus, when a story goes into both the realms of worldbuilding and near-future, you can be sure that I’ll be especially critical of it.

And this season, we had one anime that went into that realm: The Irregular at Magic High School.  After watching the first episode, I have two accusations to make against against this series and they are as follows:

1. The worldbuilding/setting is flawed, especially in regards to WWIII and the International Magic Association

2. The story is not “sci-fi,” but rather “fantasy” presenting itself as sci-fi

Let’s first examine the first point.  For this, we only really need to look at WWIII, which serves as the backbone on the story’s world building.  (The information I shall use comes from this wiki page: http://mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com/wiki/World_War_Three and also this wiki page http://mahouka-koukou-no-rettousei.wikia.com/wiki/Magic_Association#International_Magic_Association; if you feel like I am missing an critical information, feel free to tell me)

To put it quite blunt, the whole WWIII and International Magic Association scenario is absurd in the highest degree.  First of all, let us consider how it started:

“World War Three was caused by two major factors:

1. In the year 2020 advanced agricultural production became a solar-powered industry. This leads to a temporary population boom.

2. Starting around 2030, the entire planet underwent a radical drop in temperature; the world’s overall food supply deteriorated on a massive scale.

While the effects were felt less in developed countries, it greatly affected the emerging industrial nations already experiencing an accelerated demographic explosion brought on by radical economic growth. What occurred next, started the conflicts:


-Inhabitants of the northern regions of China tried to illegally cross the frontier with Russia, to escape the drop in temperature and desertification. Russia deported the illegal immigrants, because environmental migration is not recognized as legal under international law.

-Following Russia's harsh treatment of the Chinese migrants, China accused Russia of lack of humanitarianism, while Russia simply replied that they were following international law. Talks between Russia and China became more aggressive, until they eventually broke down.


The incident would later influence several other events, such as low-scale conflicts over resources, and would be the primary trigger for World War Three.”

While I have to question what it means by “advanced agricultural production became a solar-powered industry,” lets say, for the purposes one this article, that the events of a decreasing food supply are valid/possible.  But then we come to the actual political event that resulted in the war, that is, the deterioration of relationships between China and Russia.

First of all, the idea of China getting mad on grounds of “humanitarianism” is about as hilarious as the idea of Russia paying heed to international law.  From the information provided, I simply cannot see how these events would cause anything but minor political waves.  And then suddenly WWIII has broken off without any explanation as to what caused tense relations to lead to a major modern war.  In short, the events leading to WWIII can be described as thus “Step 1: Lol politic.  Step 2: ?.  Step 3: Profits!”

Now onto the actual war:

“World War Three began as wide scale border disputes throughout the world in 2045 and ended in 2064. It spanned almost twenty years.

It brought many changes throughout the world, with only less than a third of the population of before the war (from approx.9 Billion people to less than 3 Billion).”

No matter how I look at this, I fail to see how a it would be even remotely for the  modern world to sustain a state of “Total war” for 20 years.  It’s just not possible.  Either one side would side would be completely annihilated, a peace would be sought, or MAD (mutually assured destruction) would force an end to the war well before 20 years time could be reached.  And without the use of nukes, and probably even with the use of nukes, the death toll would never come close to 2/3’s of the population.

For example, let’s look at the last major war, WWII.  In particular, let’s consider the rise and fall of Nazi German.  On 1 September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, sparking WWII.  Hitler’s advance was stopped 3 years later in 1942.  The complete and utter defeat of Nazi Germany came 3 years later with the unconditional surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945.  From the time Hitler first mobilized his troops to the time when Berlin was under siege, a little more than 6 years had transpired.  In that time “over 60 million people were killed, which was over 2.5% of the world population” - wiki.  (On a side note, America did not join WWII until 1941, meaning that the UK was effectively soloing the war up to that point).

In the time that has transpired, the world has grown a lot smaller, armies much more mobilized, and the tools of warfare all that more efficient.  And as time passes, this will only become more and more true.  In effect, any major war would not last long.

Now let us consider that International Magic Association.

“The International Magic Association was established in 2046. Its original purpose was to prevent the pollution of the Earth beyond what it could recover from through the use of radioactive and nuclear materials in weapons of mass destruction. 

Within the bounds of their stated purpose to halt the use of nuclear weapons, Magicians freed themselves from the yokes of the countries they belonged to and were permitted to intervene with their skills in border disputes. Even Magicians on the front lines taking part by killing each other would cease their skirmish when they observed signs of the use of nuclear weapons; and, whether it was their own country or their enemy’s country; they would cooperate to stop the deployment of nuclear weapons.”

“Thus, in the period of war that lasted twenty years, there was not a single usage of nuclear weapons.”

Nothing about the IMA makes any sense.  It denies common sense knowledge about war, politics, and human behavior.  Consider this: the IMA was formed AFTER WWIII.  Yet despite that, it seemed to have the magical ability to instantaneously convert all (or most) of the worlds magic-users to its cause, magic-users that were most assuredly military/government personnel.

Lets think of it this way: WWIII has started.  All of a sudden an international organization pops up out of nowhere, and at the same time huge sections of military personnel from all the world’s countries vow allegiance to this organization (an act of treason, I should add).  Such a notion is incredible absurd and I’m surprised that such an idea would be presented outside the ravings of a conspiracy nut.

Even if a few magicians did decide obey this organization, they would be court-martialed for their act of treason.

And then there is the issue that nuclear launches aren't detected until AFTER the launch.

---

Now onto my second point.

First of all, let’s examine what can be construed as sci-fi.

“Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. It often explores the potential consequences of scientific and other innovations, and has been called a "literature of ideas".  Authors commonly use science fiction as a framework to explore politics, identity, desire, morality, social structure, and other literary themes.” - wiki.

While there can be some argument as to what exactly is and isn’t “sci-fi,” for the purposes I will use the definition provided by science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein: “a handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.”

Does The Irregular at Magic High School follow this definition?  To this question I answer a resounding “no.”  I have already shown above that the series lacks anything that can approach “realistic speculation about possible future events.”  Instead I call this series fantasy, in so far as fantasy “follows rules of its own making, allowing magic and other fantastic devices to be used and still be internally cohesive.” (Diana Waggoner, The Hills of Faraway: A Guide to Fantasy, p 10; via wiki).

To end this point (and thus this article), I will leave you with Rod Serling’s comparison of sci-fi to fantasy: “fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.”
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