Disclaimer: I’m writing this having read up to the resolution of the class competition arc in the manga and the novel, and hindsight is 20/20.
To provide a necessary summary of episode one, Glenn Radars is a NEET who gets asked to be a substitute teacher in a prestigious magic school. He completely refuses to teach his class at all and then makes a fool of himself by losing in a magic duel to his student, Sistina. The entirety of the first episode is dedicated to setting up Glenn as a lazy good-for-nothing who doesn’t care about magic at all.
Episode two starts strong, with Glenn offhandedly challenging why Sistina and the other students value magic so much. Sistina responds that magic is about studying the principles of the world, but Glenn asks what use that is to humanity, and quickly descends into a one-sided rant criticizing magic as being only good for killing, only stopping when Sistina slaps him and runs away in tears. In just a few minutes, the show establishes the cynicism underlying Glenn’s terrible attitude towards magic, as well as his immaturity for taking it out on his students.
In the next scene, Glenn shows a glimpse of his original love for magic, helping another student, Rumia, complete her magic circle. As they’re walking home from the school, Rumia explains how being saved from evil mages by a mage of justice inspired her wish to make magic an institution that actually benefits humanity, which further highlights Glenn’s immaturity in addition to outlining his path to redemption through making a real effort to reform magic.
The next day, Glenn apologizes to Sistina and begins his lecture on magic, starting with the spell he lost the duel with, Shock Bolt. By deconstructing the incantation used to cast Shock Bolt, Glenn explains that magic is not the study of the world’s principles, but the study of human autosuggestion that allows the subconscious to interfere with the world’s physical laws. In short, magic isn’t a study of the world, but of how humans interact with it, reinforcing its status as a social construct that can be abused but also reformed.
This nicely ties together Glenn’s cynicism, Rumia’s idealism, and magic as an institution, and it would honestly be great if the episode ended here. However, after some brief success as a teacher, Glenn then steps right into the world of conspiracies that drive the plot of so many generic light novels. As foreshadowed by the implications that it was Glenn who saved Rumia in the past, Rumia is again abducted because she’s actually a princess, and Glenn ends the episode by showing his magical, or perhaps anti-magical, combat ability. All of that well-thought-out characterization and setting becomes merely dressing for the salad that is Glenn’s history as an imperial military-level combat mage, and though it is a dressing which compliments that salad very well, it is one that would have had much more potential as its own salad.
And that’s what you can expect from Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records, as told by its second episode. That being said, I’ve seen anime adaptations add nuance to the source material through good direction in the past, so here’s to hoping my expectations are broken.
(That uniform is seriously illegal, though.)