The most jarring thing is obviously the fact that the show follows Shiba Miyuki as a protagonist instead of Tatsuya, whose grandiose, overpowered exploits have made him quite an enjoyable character to witness in action. However, it was never lost on us that his younger sister had as much, if not more, potential to be an interesting main character overpowered in her own right. The first detail that hints at the change is the opening sequence, in which a great fire breaks out in a fancy shopping mall and Miyuki is there to use her charms and her ice magic to calm down the people around her and the fires. “This is my fate. This is what I must do,” thinks Miyuki as she runs down the stairs, rushing to save the day from a deranged magician with devastating fire abilities.
The first episode shows us exactly what the difference is between the first season of the flagship show and this spin-off: with Miyuki as protagonist, we see some of the things that Tatsuya could not have seen because he simply wasn’t around to see them. As a result, there are alternate perspectives of common incidents that not only give us nuance but sometimes a whole lot more dialogue between characters. Miyuki is revealed to have been at the mall with her brother before he was summoned by their aunt, Yotsuba Maya, head of the Yotsuba of the Ten Master Clans. Tatsuya is then briefed about the magician who happens to be attacking the mall where Miyuki is waiting for him. She uses overwhelming magic to take him down when Tatsuya arrives.
The change in protagonist also comes with a visual indicator: the animation of this particular Mahouka is softer and a lot brighter. The characters’ features are slightly smaller and rounder than the two seasons of the flagship series, leaning towards a more shoujo-esque feel. That may be biased on our part as shoujo doesn’t necessitate bright and sparkly; however, with the basic idea behind this spin-off being the depiction of the events of the first season from the perspective of the female characters in this show, the decision to change studios from Madhouse to Connect has the added effect of literally showing us that the events of this season are coming from a different perspective altogether. Whether or not that’s intended is unknown, but there is an altogether different feel to this season, brought on by its propensity to being rather slice of life-y in comparison to the first season of the parent story, as well as having a lot more light and comical moments.
There are large differences between the first season and The Honour Student at Magic High when it comes to some of the events we get to see, since they are sometimes from the perspective of former supporting characters like Eimi, Honoka and Shizuku. This spin-off serves as an interesting buffer between the first and second seasons in the sense that it gives increasing credence to the increased importance of several characters in the second season in particular. It also does us the favor of showing the major difference in schooling experience between the so-called “Blooms” and “Weeds”, where in the first season we were seeing the experience of a Weed, now we’re seeing that of a Bloom. All this considered, the experience of The Honour Student at Magic High is not an exact replica of its parent, but a retelling. The problem is that perhaps because of the timing, this feels unnecessary especially considering that we’ve already progressed so far in the parent story, not to mention the fact that the first and second seasons are literally six years apart in terms of release. The Honour Student at Magic High definitely would have hit a lot harder if it had dropped during the lengthy absence of the parent story.