To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 02 – We’ll Always Have Avignon

As Stiyl interrogates Lidvia and Biagio in the Tower of London (er, whoever they are), Touma lands in the Rhône River, right by the Pont Saint-Bénézet. Fortunately for him, an ally is on that bridge and jumps in the drink to save him.

That ally is the kind and lovely Itsuwa of the Amakusa Sect, who must change into skimpier clothes when her outfit is soaked by the rescue, leading to a couple of awkward scenes between her and Touma.

What connects Stiyl’s interrogation and Touma and Itsuwa’s advrentures in Avignon are The Right Hand of God, a group of individuals who have apparently successfully purged themselves of most of the original sin inherent in all humans, giving them some angelic powers.

Touma also learns that the Document of C is officially the reason for the demonstrations. Whomever has the relic wields more power than a president with Twitter, able to mold the masses into believing whatever they say, even if there’s no proof to back it up. In this case, they are being told the Academy City is evil and the source of all their ills.

Touma teams up with Itsuwa to locate the geoducts being used to remotely control the relic from the Vatican. In the process we once again witness the unique and charming Amakusa tradition of hiding magic in ordinary everyday objects like bottled water…or underwear.

Itsuwa’s attempts to render a geoduct inoperable are interrupted by a member of the Right Hand of God calling himself Terra of the Left. Despite the earthy name his attacks seem to be wind-based, but Itsuwa dodges and Touma nullifies the strikes with his Imagine Breaker.

Of course, it’s the same age-old problem with Touma: his power is almost strictly defensive; he can hold off Terra but can’t defeat him. Perhaps the addition of Tsuchimikado to Touma and Itsuwa’s ranks will help break the stalemate.

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To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 01 (First Impressions) – Misfortune and More Misfortune

Here we are, back in Academy City. I remember most of the faces, as well as most of their connections. There’s yet another threat looming as a large and ominous protest by a religious group takes place all the way in Toulouse, France, and the worlds of magic and science seem to be teetering on the precipice of another nasty conflict.

Seemingly in the middle of it all is Kamijou Touma, he of Imagine Breaker—and eternal misfortune—fame. In less than two days he loses his wallet, gets bitten by Index, gets detention for a debate over bunny girls, gets beaned by a Fukiyose fastball, and then yelled at and attacked with lightning by Biribiri.

And all that turns out to be the least of his problems. An old lady who encounters Index later nabs Touma and takes him somewhere secluded at gunpoint. She’s part of Academy City’s governing board, and seems interested in Touma’s ability should the Orthodox Church be using the protests as a booster to “attack the world”, something to which the city would have to respond.

This old lady is then promptly shot by Tsuchimikado, who then whisks Touma off to France via supersonic jet and skydive, where he and Touma will recover a Roman Orthodox magical item called the Document of Constantine. It’s a good thing Tsuchimikado’s stepsister Maika is cooking for Index, because it doesn’t look like Touma will be home for a while…

GATE – 19

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With Mort out of the picture (he doesn’t seem to be dead, but he’s in no condition to rule), Zolzal takes over and wastes no time stoking anti-peace sentiment among both the armies and masses. Tyuule, who has had proper clothes for a while now (compared to a burlap shift anyway) is overjoyed by this development, because she’s certain Zolzal’s warmongering will lead to his downfall.

Using Zolzal as her pawn, Tyuule has bascially stolen a march on both Pina’s peace negotiations will now only serve as stalling as Zolzal approves unethical tactics in order to weaken the JSDF and its position in the special region. He and his advisors may be fools, but they at least realize a head-on fight won’t work.

Pina wants to try to slow Zolzal’s march to war, but her other brother Diabo flees the capital to round up a force of foreign countries to deal with Zolzal the only way he thinks they can: with the sword. And while I like Pina and appreciate her position as the only sensible member of the royal family, that doesn’t mean I find her character all that compelling.

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That’s why I was glad for the cut back to Rondel, where characters I frankly am far more invested in about are engaged in activities very much unrelated to the interminable palace intrigue of the capital: Lelei’s preparations to become a master. Her big sister Arpeggio comes more into focus as someone who’s always been in her genius little sister’s shadow.

There’s also an unexpected reunion between Rory and Mimoza, the two of whom last met 50 years ago. Rory’s advanced age and natural gregariousness owing to her demigod status, you never know who she’ll bump into next, and I like how Mimoza took her “homework” seriously, devoting years to studying the history and pre-history of the world to determine why there are so many races.

Her conclusions are fascinating: the Gate isn’t just something that connects to the Ginza; it’s a cyclical portal that has dormant periods like a volcano, and each time throughout the centuries, it has opened to a different realm. Beings from those realms would come through, fight, breed, and become a part of society in the world. Even more intriguing? Humans were almost certainly the newest race to come through.

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Other revelations include Arpeggio’s side-job copying books (underlining her pathos relative to her wondersis) and Lelei’s sneaky little pronouncement that Itami is not, in fact, single, since she and he spent three nights in the same room together. She also firmly contends Tuka’s nights didnt’ count because she was insane at the time and thought Itami was her dad. I’m inclined to agree.

But Arpeggio’s inability to snag Itami as a husband because Lelei got to him first is the last straw, and she’s forced to challenge her sister to a magic duel by way of inverted soup bowl (thankfully, not scalding). While Itami is appropriately lost and of the belief the sisters are taking things too far, everyone else carries on as if this was a regular occurrence … because his is the thirteenth such battle between them.

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Arpeggio was a whiny sad-sack for so much of the episode prior to the duel, it was good to see her in action, holding her own against an aggressive Lelei who unveils heretofore unseen abilities like witch-like flight. I also appreciated that the sisters’ distinctive styles match their personalities: Arpeggio grounded and practical, Lelei with her head in the clouds, dreaming big.

Despite its non-lethal nature, the duel is fast and loud and exciting. The girls eventually essentially tie when both their magical defenses are broken (though Arpy’s broke fist), but that’ when things almost do turn lethal – when a cloaked assassin very nearly puts a crossbow bolt between a defenseless Lelei’s eyes.

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His attempt is thwarted by Grey, who has just arrived with Hamilton to protect Lelei and escort her back to the capital, where she’s become an Imperial hero due to her actions in the fire dragon battle. I say her and only her because she’s the only human; as for being an Imperial citizen, Lelei takes exception to that classification, as she still considers herself a member of the Rurudo clan first and foremost.

Regardless, Zolzal no doubt wants to make her another tool in his upcoming war with the Greens. Tyuule is now trusted to meet with senators on his behalf to present them with new laws that will allow him to arrest and convict whomever he chooses – no doubt laws he deems necessary in times of war. As for Itami, he probably has the right idea: simply run for now, while staying appraised of the increasingly volatile political situation.

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GATE – 18

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For abandoning his original mission, Itami is stripped of his command and suspended for two weeks by his immediate superior (the chain is the chain), but he’s also awarded a number of commendations both from the MoD and the local powers who benefitted from the defeat of the Fire Dragon. He also apparently owns Yao Haa Dushi now, which is…interesting.

He’s also given orders to “investigate the Special Region’s resources”, which is basically carte blanche to do whatever the heck he wants (which isn’t all that different from how things have been up to this point). With this new/old power, he has Lelei practice her driving skills as they head to the academy city of Rondel.

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There, Lelei prepares to appeal to the academic authorities for a mastership, which means dressing the part. This requires interaction with the hyper Grand Master Mimoza, but Itami, Rory, Tuka and Yao also end up meeting Lelei’s sister, Arpeggio, with whom Lelei seems to have a strained relationship, at best.

I must say, the transition from the resolution of Tuka’s dilemma to Lelei’s arc seemed a bit…abrupt. It’s also a bit laughable how regularly Itami escapes punishment for breaking protocol. For a show that glorifies the JSDF, a force of thousands working as one, both GATE and the force are awfully forgiving to a single soldier who always acts on his own, simply because it always seems to work out.

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Anyway, that’s all we see of Itami & Co; the rest of the episode is spent with the crew in the capital, including Sugawara, who is being constantly hounded by the 12-year-old noble Sherry, who has fallen in love with him and is committed to being his future husband.

This would be annoying, except that Sherry exhibits wisdom beyond her years, understanding what needs to be done for Japan and the Special Region to achieve peace (though a senior diplomat is clearly concerned with Sugawara’s relationship with the girl). Meanwhile, Prince Zolzal is frustrated with the apparent progress in peace talks, while Tyuule, now allowed to wear more than a burlap shift, continues to barely restrain her contempt for the shitbag.

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The night Pina and Zolzal’s dad emperor Mort (quite the foreboding name) welcomes the Japanese diplomats bearing POWs from the initial attack on Ginza (people Zolzal knows by name), Tyuule’s latest scheme is set in motion. It’s a pretty simple scheme: she poisons the wine the emperor drinks to toast to peace.

With Mort dead, Crown Prince Zolzal is now emperor, and it’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen that he’s not at all up for the job. Of course, that’s just fine with Tyuule; he’ll press for an all-out war against Japan and the JSDF – a war he can’t possibly win – and in his foolhardiness and the arrgance she built up in him, he will hopefully destroy himself and his empire, giving Tyuule the revenge she’s sought all along.

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To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 24 (Fin)

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The four small groups holding back Study’s AIMs are supplemented by the entirety of Judgment, stepping in after Anti-Skill’s hands were tied. With Febri’s help, Mikoto reaches Janie’s general position, but Aritomi sends hundreds of AIMs to surround her in an arena. When the first waves of AIMs are taken out, his colleagues sortie in heavier-duty robots armed with a facsimile of the Meltdowner’s beam weapon. On the front lines, they’re taken care of by a robot built by Kongou Airlines and piloted by Saten and Uiharu. In the arena, a furious Mugino and the rest of ITEM mop up the robots.

Fearing defeat is eminent, Aritomi enables Janie’s “Final Stage”, which will launch a missile from orbit that will turn Academy City to Ash. He tries to commit suicide, but Mikoto stops him, vehemently voices her commitment to protecting Febri and the city. As Shinobu and Saten coax Febri into forming a connection with Janie, Mikoto and Kuroko pilot the Kongou-bot up into orbit – with the Sister network assisting with calculations. Mikoto launches the robot at the missile before it fractures into warheads, averting disaster. Later, after Mikoto & Co. bid farewell to Shinobu, Febri, and Janie boarding an overseas flight, they agree to grab lunch before heading to their classes.

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We’re not going to sit here and tell you this episode didn’t have its share of plausibility issues. If you watched, you saw what we saw: a bunch of frail high schoolers holding back giant sophisticated robots with glorified shields and spears and low-level esper powers. We saw live ammunition being fired into large crowds of unprotected people and no one was shot. We saw Study Corp’s mission quickly evolving wanting to be recognized to wanting to turn the entire city to ash. And yes, we saw the a hastily-built off-screen mecha being used to even the odds on the ground, then used to launch into orbit, where Mikoto and Kuroko hold their breath while destroying a missile.

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None of this makes any damn sense, but Raildex has never been about plausibility or hard science. It’s been about cute slice-of-life interrupted by elaborate spectacle. And we’ll admit, watching everyone fighting together in one huge climactic battle was fun and exciting enough for us to forgive the many implausible jumps the episode takes as the stakes are raised. Of course, we were also a bit spoiled by watching the Index film, in which pretty much the same thing happens, only even more parties are involved. But as ridiculous as things got, the point is, many people together can do great things, things no one could ever do alone.

This season started with Sisters who thought they were expendable puppets. Mikoto and Touma helped them understand they were more. And those sisters were the first expression of that idea that there’s strength in numbers, a lesson Mikoto finally learned which led to all the great deeds that took place in this finale. Study was a group working together too, but they were megalomaniacal thugs threatening the city and the innocent. Once a larger group was mobilized against them, Aritomi never had a chance. In the last montage, we see that no one is alone and all’s right in the world…until the next baddie comes along.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki

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On the streets of Academy City, Touma and Index meet Meigo Arisa, a street singer/songwriter with mysterious miracle-like powers. She wins an audition to become the “spokes-idol” for Endymion, a space elevator nearing completion. Touma protects Arisa as she’s pursued by both the church – who believe her to be a saint, and Ladylee Tangleroad, the CEO of the company that built the elevator who has been cursed with eternal life. She sends her employee, the militaristic music-deaf Shutaura Sequenzia to retirev Arisa seeking to use Arisa and the elevator to create a magical device that will end her life – destroying half the world in the process.

When Shutaura learns of Ladylee’s true plans she turns against her. With the help of his many friends, acquaintances, and one-time enemies, Touma and Index launch into orbit to reach the top of the elevator, where Arisa performs before a massive crowd. As the parties on the ground disable Endymion, Index disrupts Ladylee’s spell, while Touma convinces Shutaura not to kill Arisa, punching her in the process. It turns out Arisa was the manifestation of Shutaura’s own wish when she was aboard the doomed space plane piloted by her father. Arisa merges with Shutaura, who regains as Ladylee’s spell is destroyed, ending the crisis. Life returns to normal.

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First things first: woe betide ye who attempt to watch this film as a newbie to the Index/Railgun franchise. Aside from having no idea why a normal guy like Touma keeps shrugging off multiple blows and severe burns to his body, and has a tiny bitey nun for a roommate, all of the dozens of cameos in the film will go right over their heads. We ourselves have a certain soft spot for the franchise, and so were eager to see what they could do with a feature-length film. The results were very ambitious, and we came away from the viewing feeling it succeeded insofar as it adapted the spirit of the show – magic vs. science – and was a most entertaining romp, complete with robot fights, mecha/car chases, and space battles, all taking place in gorgeous settings.

We also dug the idea of dual heroines in Arisa and Shutaura. Looking back there were plenty of clues that they were pretty much the same person split in two: music was Arisa’s life, but Shutaura’s ears couldn’t even discern it; Arisa remembers nothing prior to three years ago; they both possess halves of the same blue bracelet. Arisa’s meteoric rise to fame reminded us of Ranka Lee’s similar arc in Macross Frontier, a series we kept thinking of due to the similar space opera-y milieu the film adopts in the second half. The film looked and sounded great, we had a lot of fun watching it. Had it run in a theater near us, we would have definitely felt we got our money’s worth.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 22

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After some wrangling, Therestina Kihara Lifeline gives Mikoto a lead: whomever created Febri, a “chemicaloid”, want the world to know they exist, perhaps during the upcoming assembly. Uiharu searches through past participants and Kongou recognizes Aritomi Haruki on a file, and ties him to Study Corporation, which owns a suspicious old factory. Mikoto goes there to find ITEM destroying its security robots. When they leave she breaks in and finds Nunotaba Shinobu, who hands her the recipe for Febri’s candy. Airtomi arrives, saying it’s a fake, and offers the real stuff in exchange for Mikoto accepting a paralyzing shot. She does, but he destroys the vial anyway, calling Febri an expendable spare for their greatest invention: “Janie.”

Tokiwadai’s Level 5 Railgun has gotten a harsh education in the realities of Academy City. She may claim to “love” it , but not all of it loves her. As she lives her happy top-flight esper high school life with her regal title, it’s not surprising that she’d lose sight of the very real unsavory elements in the city, including a group of non-espers toiling in obscurity, seething in envy and resentment as the espers of the city get all the attention, utterly unable to do anything about it. In this episode Therestina and Aritomi both pay her sarcastic deference to her title, as if to pat her on the head and say “oh, you silly!”

Of course Therestina is safely behind bars, and can only gloat about having put Mikoto in a bad mood (which subsides when Kuroko assures her that – Level 5 or not – she loves her onee-sama). Aritomi wants to experiment on Railgun, and by episode’s end, he has her right where he wants her: isolated and defenseless, with the clock on Febri running out. Nunotaba is caught in the middle; her compassion for Febri mirrors her compassion for the MISAKA clones. But Aritomi doesn’t care about any of that. Very soon, that tank labeled “JANIE” will open, and if his plans succeed, the world will know he and STUDY Corporation exist.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Therestina’s cell is pretty…sparse. Where’s the bed? The toilet? Why isn’t that heavy metal chair bolted to the ground? 
  • But hey, at least they let her have M&M’s (or the Japanese equivalent). We liked how she offered one to Mikoto believing she’d assume it was poison, only to eat it without fuss, which led to Therestina giving her info.
  • Mikoto puts her trust in Aritomi as well, holding her arm out to receive that injection…but that didn’t work out so well.
  • If there was any doubt that the show seems unsure what else to do with ITEM, this week they get a brief pool scene and are then used to distract security for Nunotaba. But work is work, right?
  • Loved how Mikoto and Kuroko’s lovely little moment was cut short when Mikoto realized her roommate was trying to cop a feel.
  • While on the train, Mikoto spots that bridge remembers one of our favorite scenes of the franchise. Of course, Imagine Breaker is kinda useless against non-espers…
  • Can’t someone buy normal, modern clothes for Febri? What’s with the wedding cakes?

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 15

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Touma races to the site of the next experiment, but his phone has frozen, so he’s late, and Accelerator is already pummeling MISAKA 10032. He intervenes, catching MISAKA when Accelerator sends her flying, and proceeds to get beaten up dodging Accerlator’s attacks. Touma eventually gets close enough to use his Imagine Breaker, which he then uses to punch Accelerator repeatedly, until Accelerator sets off a dust explosion, disabling Touma. Accelerator then powers up, and is able to manipulate the wind and air, creating a ball of plasma over the city. Misaka uses 10032 to contact the Sisters network, who dissipate the plasma through the city’s wind turbines. Accelerator then turns on Misaka and MISAKA, and is about to kill them when Touma stirs once more…

We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle between Touma and Accelerator. Touma plans to prove the scientists wrong and make them give up the project that’s killing the Sisters, which is a laudable goal worth fighting towards, but he only seems to make Accelerator angrier, crazier, and more powerful, until he’s seconds away from burning all of Academy City away just to test his newly-awakened power to control…well space? You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains.

Our only concern with last week was that a strapping young lad would save the damsel(s) in distress, but thankfully, that wasn’t what went down here. Sure, Touma is helping Misaka and her “sisters” because he likes them, and beause he has an ingrained duty to use whatever power he has to protect the weak. But when Accelerator explodes a mill’s worth of flour, and Touma seems out for the count, Misaka comes in at a crucial moment. If she doesn’t, he’s dead. We wouldn’t rule out Touma’s stunned state to be an opportunity for Misaka to sacrifice herself, but Accelerator’s little display should be ample proof that doing so would be utterly futile. Accelerator can’t simply be taken down a peg, he needs to be defeated, and not just for the Sisters, but for the sake of all of humanity.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A lot of the epic, cinematic quality of this episode is due to the fantastic soundtrack, which doesn’t hold back when it needs to be big and bold.
  • That first punch in the face (complete with familiar “imagine breaker” sound) was so satisfying to watch.
  • Accelerator is very quickly turning into an unreasonably powerful esper. By the end of the episode we’re wondering how in the hell anybody or anything is going to stop (or at least calm) him now that he can make plasmanados. But that’s okay: show us, Railgun!
  • Touma made a very poignant point: the sisters aren’t suicidal at all: they in fact are, as he says, “doing everything they possibly can to live.” The problem is, Accelerator is way, way stronger, and what they can “possibly” do is limited by their programming.

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 06

Misaka Mikoto, Accelerator

Mikoto attacks the boy who killed MISAKA 9982, but he is able to neutralize all of her esper powers. An army of MISAKA clones arrives and stops the fight, and the boy introduces himself as Accelerator. Mikoto spends the night on a bench, and Shinobu approaches her. She tells her that she’s come to see the MISAKA clones as human, but can’t do anything about stopping the Level 6 Shift project. Mikoto vows that she won’t let the scientists involved get away with it. She takes her friends to a cafe to apologize for worrying them, but doesn’t tell them what she was up to.

When she was a little girl, Mikoto was told her DNA map could help in the fight against muscular distropy. She was lied to, but was too young and too inexperienced with deception to realize it. Even if she shouldn’t blame herself for what followed…she does. And in her typical hard-headed Misaka way, she’s committed to cleaning up the mess she started, and doing so alone. Neither a swift ass-kicking by Accelerator nor the complete willingness of the MISAKA clones to sacrifice themselves for the experiment will deter her.

Nunotaba Shinobu, MISAKA Clone

We liked Shinobu showing up again, telling her the story of when she stopped thinking of the clones as mere guinea pigs. You see, all of the MISAKAs are linked together in a vast network of shared memories and experiences, which would be passed on to all new MISAKA clones. In effect, this makes her immortal, but at the same time, the price is her being murdered over and over, thousands of times. As Shinobu says, “Life is life,” whether its guinea pigs, humans, or the clones of humans who have amassed lifetimes worth of knowledge.

That scene, in which MISAKA seemed to express an emotional response to seeing the sky for the first time, is as sad as it is beautiful, since we can be reasonably certain that individual MISAKA is long dead. But she, and all her sisters are still in the heads of those who survive. The last MISAKA there is will have the personalities of all who proceeded her. But despite these metaphysical considerations, Mikoto won’t accept their slaughter. Shinobu may not have the power to stop the project, but Mikoto just might.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Apparently Shinobu’s a fan of randomly inserting English into her speech.
  • The series so far has focused on Mikoto – a good thing – but also known exactly where and when to use Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu. They’ve been used sparingly but effectively.
  • We loved Saten’s promise that they’ll be there for her, if she ever needs help with whatever she’s dealing with.
  • This week they finally rolled out the “Misaka surrounded by naked bloody clones of herself” image, via her nightmare.
  • We’ll see how long Mikoto will last going it alone before her friends start to get involved.