There is a mansion on top of the hill, and within it live two witches.
Kinoko Nasu’s worlds certainly hold a very special appeal among a certain age group and demographic – the one that the Japanese internet has taken to call sufferers of chuunibyou, second-year of middle school syndrome. It’s the age where worlds of magic and fantasy appeal to impressionable teenage minds, immersing them in a world of escape from the pains of adolescence. Where they can stop being their normal, boring identities and become somebody special – like being wizards and magi fighting alongside heroes of old.
And indeed, Type-Moon’s flagship series, Fate/stay night, is a big source of this phenomenon. Seven magi who get to summon great heroes and fight each other for the ultimate prize – for the chuuni teenager, it’s a perfect blend of elements. It’s a great base for teenagers to let their imaginations run wild and make their personal identities as Masters and their Servants, as I was painfully guilty of when I became a fan of the Fate/ franchise.
But beyond the seemingly-endless spawns of Fate/ spin-offs lies a side of Type-Moon that goes far past the chuuni appeal, one that values the mundane and quiet over the flashy, action-packed battles that people have come to expect from Fate/ spin-offs.
I’m talking about Mahou Tsukai no Yoru (henceforth Mahoyo), of course. Released in 2012 after four years of delays, it drew attention for its absolutely insane special effects – a feat which, since then, only a handful of VNs have come close to achieving. And unsurprisingly, Type-Moon fans were incredibly excited for its release and have been awaiting a translation ever since.
However, I do remember a loud subset of fans who expressed disappointment that Mahoyo was not quite the action-packed magic battle VN that they were expecting. While it’s true that the fight scenes that Mahoyo does have are mind-blowing, these are quite few and far in-between compared to the number of scenes where the protagonists just sit around and talk in the mansion over a cup of tea.
One look at Mahoyo’s opening movie should tell you the kind of atmosphere to expect from the game. The magus Aoko Aozaki takes a stroll across town from her mansion to school on a rainy day, set to the game’s relaxing main theme. She, the oddity, takes a walk among the mundane everyday life of her city. And this sets the tone for the rest of the game – Mahoyo is the story of the daily lives of three oddities trying to make the best out of living in the ever-changing landscape of the city.
Mahoyo takes place towards the end of the Japanese economic bubble, right before its collapse. Nasu, in an interview, describes the kind of atmosphere he experienced during those times:
The latter half of the 80s was a time where everyone dreamed of modernization making the world a better place to live in. That dream crumbled away five years later, but a part of me still treasures the optimistic atmosphere that I experienced back then – even if it turned out to be a huge mistake. Now that it’s the 2010s, I’m very happy to look back and write on those experiences.
In other words, the late 1980s represents a time of progress, when everything is in a state of constant flux. There is a bright image of the future, where everything appears to be shiny and new. Everyone is willing to jump into the unknown, holding great hopes and expectations for the future.
That atmosphere is significant to Kinoko Nasu’s idea of magic. Magic – magecraft in some translations – is an art that grows stronger the older it is. Magic developed during the modern age pales in comparison to those from the time of gods. As civilization progresses, mysteries that were once in the domain of magic become accessible to the common man. Whereas during the ancient times, the ability to control lightning would have been considered witchcraft, today, electricity is nothing but another part of our daily lives. Magic loses its power the more mysteries of its mysteries are revealed; thus, magi practice their craft in secret, away from the prying eyes of civilization, only passing their craft to those whom they deem worthy as successors.
In an age where magic has lost most of its power, Mahoyo appears to be asking: “What can a magus do to survive the modern era?”
In a world where the mysteries of magic are quickly becoming the domain of the mundane, Aoko Aozaki stands out as a magus. While feats that were formerly considered magic are now becoming commonplace, there still remains mysteries that are far beyond the grasp of human hands – true miracles, known as “Sorceries”. Aoko Aozaki holds the fifth, and while we get a glimpse of what it does in the story, the full extent of her power is yet to be revealed. What’s important, however, is not what it does, but what she does with it.
It is said that those who attempt to perform these Sorceries would be killed by a red shadow, for performing miracles far exceeding what mankind can handle would deem you the enemy of the world itself. Aoko does not give two shits about that. If the red shadow represents the collective consciousness’ fear of the unknown, then Aoko would just cast away that fear and jump in. When Aoko was forced to give up her normal life in order to become a magus, this is what she said:
I mean, no matter how much I scream or cry, nothing would change, right? This is something only I can do, so I’ll face it with all my might. Even if I get thrown into a river against my will, there has to be something I can do. I won’t run away until the bitter end. Until then, I’ll dance as gracefully as I can.
Perhaps, then, that what a modern magus needs is the strength and courage to move forward and accept change. The kind of courage that lets you say “fuck you” to adversity and be able to perform miracles that would change the world. The kind of strength that lets Aoko, Alice, and Soujurou face their daily lives despite being strangers to the idea of “being normal”.
To end this post, I’d like to talk about Soujurou Shizuki, the other protagonist of the story. Having lived in the mountains for so long, away from any contact with civilization, he is suddenly thrust into the bustling city and has to adjust to the rhythm of urban life. The culture difference is so vast that he just accepts anything strange that occurs as just another part of life in the cities. To him, a faucet that provides clean water to his apartment is just as magical as a living doll out to murder Aoko. His point of view provides a different aspect of magic from Aoko’s and Alice’s – that the wonders of modern life that we have taken for granted could be as magical as an abandoned amusement park springing back to life.
So perhaps, magic doesn’t need to be as flashy as blasting beams at golden werewolves, or summoning giant trolls out of rivers. The fleeting moment you spend with a cup of tea might be more magical than you think.
 TYPE-MOONの原点を辿る「魔法使いの夜」インタビュー。奈須きのこ＆こやまひろかず＆つくりものじ氏の3名に聞く，ノベルゲームの未来と可能性. 4gamer.net http://www.4gamer.net/games/115/G011514/20120511075/
 魔法使いの夜 Mahou Tsukai no Yoru.