“In which our hero has his first moment of growth and our heroine commits treason.”
Despite the massive amount of fighting this episode—first with Lina versus Tatsuya and then Lina versus Miyuki—it's actually the episode's closing scene that is the most interesting and has the biggest lasting implications. As Tatsuya and Miyuki ride home from school, Miyuki confronts Tatsuya with a shocking truth—one that has the potential to shake up how we view the character and how he views himself.
Up until this point in the series, Tatsuya has described himself as being completely unable to feel emotion—except in the case of his sister. This explains his over-the-top loyalty to Miyuki and why most of his life revolves around keeping her happy and safe—she is literally the only thing he truly cares about on an emotional level. Outside of things relating to her, he acts on pure logic; or at least, that's what he has believed until now.
In this episode, Tatsuya explains that he is bothered by the fact that he let Lina move unchecked for so long despite knowing there was something suspicious about her. Perhaps if he had dug into her mission sooner, Leo wouldn't have been injured by the parasite-infected magicians. In Miyuki's eyes, this is a breakthrough. For him to be worried—to have a regret about someone who isn't her—means that he has come to care about someone else on an emotional level. She posits that Tatsuya may care about others more than he thinks—that he is his own unreliable narrator (and thus ours as well).
This is a huge step towards making Tatsuya a likable, relatable character. Up until now, the series has given us no indication that he is anything more than the unfeeling creature he purports himself to be. However, if his experiences at the magical high school have changed that—even in the tiniest of ways—it adds new significance to all his previous actions and decisions. But more than that, it means that he is capable of character growth.
Yet, while Tatsuya may be showing empathy for those around him—including, supposedly, Lina—that doesn't mean he doesn't do Lina dirty to an extreme degree.
Tatsuya not only destroys Lina's magical illusion that changes her physical appearance and renders her un-targetable to magic, but also does so in front of the enemy she is tasked with hunting down. While she is still wearing a mask to hide her identity, Tatsuya rips it off and calls her by her civilian name.
Tatsuya could not have put Lina in more danger if he tried. He has publicly exposed her secret identity in front of an enemy. How hard would it be to find a blond-haired, blue-eyed, high school-age magician named “Lina” in Japan? Not very, I suspect. The safety that her secret identity provided is now a thing of the past. She could be attacked anywhere at any time.
But it gets worse. Lina is under orders to kill anyone who learns her true identity. Even with her illusion off (and Tatsuya clearly knowing who she was), she had some plausible deniability as long as her mask was on. However, the moment it's off, she has no choice but to follow those orders. There's just one major problem: she can't.
Despite being the head of America's strongest magical army unit, she doesn't have the power to overcome Tatsuya or a fully-powered Miyuki—at least, not in a way that doesn't cause ridiculous amounts of collateral damage. She gambles on a way to escape the pair (i.e., the duel with Miyuki) but gets herself trapped in a bargain she is obviously unauthorized to make: that she will answer Tatsuya's questions if she loses. While she does stipulate that she'll only answer “yes” or “no”—and thus will only confirm or deny Tatsuya's already-formed suspicions—this doesn't change the fact that Lina is effectively committing treason, and in doing so, completely shatters my suspension of disbelief.
The episode directly states that members of Stars are super loyal to the USNA (so much so that it takes a magic, mind-altering parasite to change that). Lina herself is a Lieutenant Colonel and reports directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff—aka the leaders of the military. For a real-world equivalent, she is basically the leader of Delta Force. Thus, the idea that she would give up classified information—especially classified information about a US army unit conducting an illegal operation on Japanese soil—is pure insanity. The political fallout from this information (not to mention the additional information that AWOL USNA solders are committing serial killings in Tokyo) would cause a diplomatic incident that could lead to war—especially in the current uncertain times caused by Tatsuya's WMD magic attack on China.
Lina should have outright refused to answer Tatsuya's questions after she lost the bet and escaped, or die trying. Her word to him should be nothing compared to her oath to the USNA. But apparently, keeping her word and giving up state secrets to a stupidly-powerful classmate she's only known for a month is more important.
This (terrible) decision leaves Lina with two options: lie about what happened—despite four soldiers under her command seeing her unmasked in front of Tatsuya—and thus further compounding her crime, or report the truth and get court-martialled. While we don't see which option she chooses, we do see her vent to her handler, which means that Lina has either made her an accomplice in her treason—or already disclosed what has happened to the people back home.
Now, Tatsuya, for his part, does protect her secret. He tells no one of her involvement with all that is going on—not even his aunt. He even dodges all the questions his friends asked about how he obtained the information about the USNA's AWOL soldiers to keep her out of it. It helps support the following scene where Miyuki points out that he clearly cares about Lina—it's just a shame he didn't figure this out a few hours sooner before he showed her identity in front of a person who wants her dead and set the stage for an international incident.
• Despite the fact that Lina should be pulled from the mission and put in prison, I have a sneaking suspicion that the fact that she committed treason will be conveniently ignored by the story.
• To anyone wondering why I'm caught up in Lina's treason breaking my suspension of disbelief but have no issues with the obvious unreality of magic, it's because the setting of The irregular at magic high school is “our world 75 years in the future but with magic.” That means it should follow the rules of our world except in the cases of magic and how it affects things. Giving top-secret information to a potential enemy has nothing to do with magic, so it's logical to assume that it should be treated as it would be in the real world. Not doing so breaks suspension of disbelief—at least in my case.
• While I glossed over it in the review proper, the action scenes in this episode were fantastically choreographed and visually stunning.
• I can't help but wonder what trouble unleashing the most powerful lightning and ice spells in the middle of Tokyo caused. I bet the army and police freaked out—and so did anyone within miles of the fight. I mean, hell, who wouldn't be curious about a miles-high pillar of ice and lightning magic shooting into the sky?
• So the parasites were created/came to our world due to humanity messing around with creating black holes... Yup, totally checks out.
• I'm confused about what the forehead kiss magic does. In the first season (ep 24), I assumed that it unlocked the part of Tatsuya's power that Miyuki was in charge of keeping in check—one of the several safeguards preventing him from using his WMD power at will. In this episode, however, Tatsuya does it to Miyuki. This means that either A) some of her power is locked away just as his is and he figured out how to temporarily break the block or B) when she kissed him last season she gave him some control over her powers to augment his own and now he is returning it. I think it's “A” but the wording in both Japanese and English is open to interpretation and we've never heard anything about Miyuki's powers being locked away before to my recollection—so it feels super out of left field at the very least.