This episode starts with a very nice quick pace, as Touma alerts Tsuchimikado and Steyr about Oriana. The chase is on, but Oriana – Route Disturb, her magical name – proves quite wily, thwarting their pursuit with a host of booby traps and counter-spells to give them the slip, and neutralizes Steyr’s magic. It turns out she’s able to write grimoires on the fly for specialized, if limited, purposes on the fly, an ability called Shorthand.
A couple things apparent in this episode: Tsuchimikado and Steyr believe in something bigger than themselves, and both are willing to put themselves in mortal peril and sacrifice their lives if it means preserving the peace and protecting the innocent. Touma isn’t new to this, having put his life on the line on numerous occasions, but in most cases, it was to protect his friends, not the world order. An aside: Touma’s Imagine Breaker is put to good use in this episode, showcasing just how versatile and powerful negation magic can be.
It’s a pleasant coincidence when Misaka shows up on one of the teams participating in a ball toss competition where a Shorthand trap is set. Though Touma finds it, he loses time by believing Misaka’s right next to it (Misaka’s confusion is priceless). It turns out to be just a flyer, however. Fukiyose ends the match and incidentally touches the real Shorthand, releasing a counter-spell that knocks her out. Oriana definitely has the upper hand, but Touma has Imagine Breaker in his arm, and vows to foil her plans. Rating: 3.5
Tsukasa Ayatsuji finally reveals her true self, and like Junichi, we like what we see. There’s always something extremely entertaining about a perfect girl turning out to be not so perfect after all. Flaws make a good character. In fact, a flawed character is closer to perfection than a flawless one. For 21 weeks, whenever we’ve seen her heard her, she had a placid smile and the polite, metered, matter-of-fact voice of a Nissan GT-R’s navigation system. She’s no longer that impossible and frankly dull avatar. Her expressions and tone are infused with a new energy.
I’m definitely liking the balance of their relationship so far: she toys with him, but he toys with her right back. He may be better off staying away from someone so self-involved, yet he can’t turn away. She’s also intrigued by his kindness. He took the first step to knowing her better by agreeing to work on the committee with her, and he’s become the first person other than herself she’s actually interested in. Thinking about him even disrupts her studying.
Tsukasa is also defined by her relationship to her free-spirit sister, a Luna Lovegood-type without a care in the world. Tsukasa has all the cares, and as someone who has to build facades around herself when interacting with people, it isn’t surprising she resents her sister’s freedom. The more Tsukasa comes out from behind those structures, and the more frequently she drops the miss-perfect act – the more interesting and sympathetic she becomes. Junichi feels the same way. Rating: 4