To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 09 – Saint v Saint

Kaori crosses swords with Acqua, whose birth name we learn to be William Orville, a former mercenary for the Anglicans but moved to the Roman Orthodox church. We also learn that Kaori, on her own, is absolutely no match for him.

His attacks have her flat on her back and spread eagle across vasts fields of rubble and debris, though to her credit she never stops getting up and dusting herself off, a resoluteness he admires even if he’s quite certain there’s nothing she or anyone else can do to keep him away from Touma.

As for Touma, he’s limping towards the battle when Misaka encounters him, and insists that he allow her to help. That might well have made the fight an easy one for him, but he declines the offer, and while she’s not happy about not being able to fight, she can understand there’s significance in him going it alone.

That’s ironic, since Kaori, who left the Amakusa church in part to protect her comrades, categorically can not stand alone and survive against Acqua; he’s just too goddamn talented and powerful, and the more beat-up she gets, the more his confidence in victory soars.

But he didn’t count on Kaori calling to Amakusa to jump down to the level of the battle and combine their powers to help her. Itsuwa was just getting done talking about how she and her group’s fighting was child’s play compared to the scale of a saint-on-saint battle (and it was), but Kaori doesn’t need them to defeat Acqua, she just needs a little help.

She gets it, and Acqua is sufficiently distracted in trying to bring the hammer down on all of them that he completely misses Touma slipping him below him, in the direct path of the attack, which Imagine Breaker nullifies in a very satisfying moment.

In Acqua’s moment of vulnerability, Itsuwa comes back at him with Saint Breakout and this time it works. The multi-pronged attack on him actually reminded me of the Avengers in one of their attempts to use teamwork and elaborate tactics to bring Thanos down on Titan. They failed, but Touma, Itsuwa, Kanzaki and Amakusa succeed: Acqua is defeated.

After a brief flashback to when William Orville left England, Touma wakes up back in the hospital, under the gentle ministrations of Itsuwa. The two get a little too close for Index’s comfort, especially considering she was by his bid longer.

Kanzaki wants to thanks Touma for his help, but is a bit squirrelly about it until Tsuchimikado breaks out a “fallen angel maid” outfit for her to wear. Unfortunately we never get to see it in all its glory, but it certainly makes an impression on Index, Itsuwa, and Touma! Glad to see the lighter side of Index closely follow the stern and serious climactic battle.

From there we’re shown the next threats to Academy City in Fiamma of the Right, apparently the leader of the Right Hand of God. While Acqua took out a pillar in the Vatican, the damage Fiamma causes attacking the Roman Pope cracks the dome like an egg. That is not going to buff out!

After Fiamma takes off with Index as his target, the Pope orders the fourth member of RHoG, the pierced-up Vento of the Front, to go after Fiamma. Of course, Vento doesn’t take orders from the Pope, but she’s going anyway.

Finally, we also get a glimpse of Mr. Academy City himself, Al Crowley, upside down in his office-cocoon thingy telling his computers to do various things relating to Imagine Breaker. Looks like we’ll have plenty of material to work through to fill the remaining sixteen weeks.

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To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 08 – Unfinished Sentences

As a battered Touma recovers in hospital, Itsuwa is briefly overcome by regret for being beaten by Acqua so easily, failing so completely in her mission, and yet still being thanked by her charge. Tatemiya snaps her out of it by rattling her cage, and as the rest of Amakusa sharpens their blades for a rematch, Itsuwa regathers her fire and commitment to beat Acqua to a pulp.

If only it were that easy. While Itsuwa talks big and she and Amakusa have a deep bag of tricks including Saint Breakout, specifically designed to deal with saints, all of it is for naught, as Acqua isn’t just a saint, but the Right Hand of God, possessed with the angel Gabriel and master of both human and angelic spells.

Even Breakout isn’t enough to so much as singe his collar, and Itsuwa ends up taking a fall off the dome of the underground district and has her turtleneck burned off, leaving only her crop tank. The rest of Amakusa can’t do any better. With only them between Touma and Acqua, the situation is most dire.

Acqua is about to finish Itsuwa off, but someone shows up he must give his full attention: Kanzaki Kaori herself, there not just to bail out her former sect, but to protect Touma. Miss Half-Cutoffs exchanges words with Acqua, but as much as he’s said this episode, he’s really not interested in talk when it comes to Kanzaki. He wants to see what she can do against him. And so they begin.

Meanwhile, Touma wakes up to find Index dozing by his bedside, but as far as he’s concerned there’s a battle to return to, so he gets up and gets going. I really don’t know what else he can do considering how easily he was taken down by Acqua’s saintly powers, but who knows…when there’s a saint in your corner—even a non-Right Hand one—anything is possible.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 07 – The Bodyguard

Like a jargon-heavy book that keeps making you flip to the glossary in the back, the Academy City Underworld arc was so laden with groups, individuals, motives and goals that I had to refer to the Index wiki on more than one occasion just to find out who the hell some of the people were. As a result, it was hard to sit back and just enjoy the action.

So thank goodness this week is a far simpler Index episode (even though it takes a number of turns), featuring a straightforward plot and familiar, beloved  characters. It certainly starts out where Kamijou Touma would prefer to be, at school, where the most fraught action is being chased by a burly teacher when he and Tsuchimikado are the only two able to escape school to get to the convenience store for the lunch they want.

For all the misfortune swirling around him, Touma does catch a break every once in a while. In this case, a very lovely break in the person of Itsuwa, who mistakes Saigo for a hostile and takes him out for Touma. She’s come to A.C. to serve as Touma’s bodyguard due to stirrings that the powerful Saint Acqua of the Back (or Rear) is going to target him.

The rest of Amakusa is there to back Itsuwa up, as well as to try to get her to pull the trigger on Touma, whom she apparently likes. In this venture it’s Itsuwa who is more unfortunate, since she must contend with the jealousy of Biribiri, who makes a welcome return to the show. Misaka was actually concerned that Touma had amnesia, only to catch him deep in Itsuwa’s bust. Thankfully, Touma manages to keep Itsuwa from mistaking her for a hostile…even though she kinda is!

This also marks the rare Index III episode that actually has sizable portions of Index in it, as she watches with concern as Itsuwa enters her and Touma’s home, buys the loyalty of Sphinx with some high-quality bonito, and starts making dinner.

Like living a simple high school life with occasionally exciting lunch runs, just seeing a girl in his kitchen making dinner gives him no end of joy. The fact that Itsuwa is acting like a proper house guest and helping out exposes how comparatively little his other guest Index does.

Of course, the reason Index doesn’t help out is that her help often only causes more work, such as when she pours an entire bottle of drain cleaner down the shower and almost causes a fire.

Itsuwa cuts off their ensuing dust-up, rents a motorcycle and sidecar, and takes Touma and Index to a splendid public bathhouse in the 22nd School District, which is entirely underground yet has a giant screen in its “sky” projecting the real sky. It’s a really beautiful motorcycle ride that shows yet another side of the sprawling city.

Naturally, Misaka ends up in the same bath as Index and Itsuwa, and as Itsuwa clumsily tries to explain how Touma came to end up in her breasts she then becomes the target of Index’s ire, while Biribiri stews until she overheats and a medical team with a stretcher has to be called.

I presume Misaka had to be temporarily taken out of comission in order to lend more peril to the final act of the episode. Touma and Itsuwa go on what could be construed as a romantic evening constitutional, but once they reach the bridge (Touma and bridges don’t mix!), Acqua suddenly appears, and wastes no time mopping the floor with the both of them.

Itsuwa is a strong and honorable bodyguard, but she simply has no chance against a Saint, and her restoration spells have limited effect on Touma due to his right arm. About that arm: Acqua will let him live if he cuts it off and gives it to him. He couldn’t care less about Kamijou Touma, he wants Imagine Breaker taken out of the equation of church and global affairs.

In his surpassing charity, Acqua doesn’t simply take what he wants, even though he’s certainly capable of doing so (unless Imagine Breaker somehow prevents the arm from being separated from Touma’s body). He gives Touma one day to decide whether he’ll give it up willingly, or die. And since Itsuwa is his sworn bodyguard, she and the rest of Amakusa will certainly die defending him before he does.

So yeah, a Saint with the Right Hand of God either wants Touma’s arm or his life, and Itsuwa alone won’t be enough to stop him. Like I said, straightforward! I imagine one needs a Saint to fight a Saint, so we’ll see if Kanzaki enters the fray…not to mention Misaka once she recovers from overheating in the bath.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 03 – Precedence: Show Higher; Tell Lower

I realize Index is shounen, and a lot of chatter and explanation of tactics is par for the course, but by God there seemed to be a lot of it this week! Much is made about Terra of the Left’s “Precedence” ability, but as a member of the Right Hand of God, neither his presence or his abilities evoke terror. One big problem is it just takes so goddamn long for him to spit out the various incantations that give one thing (like flour) precedence over another (stone, metal, flesh, etc.).

Terra’s seiyu is the venerable Ootsuka Houchuu, but saddling the old man with explaining his attacks and making him say “Precedence: X higher, Y lower” every time he attacks just slows the battle way down to the point where when he gives Touma and Itsuwa “ten seconds” to attack or run, I had to laugh out loud; Dude, you’ve given them over half an hour!

Touma and Itsuwa eventually end up with Tsuchimikado, but only for a hot minute, as they split up again so he can face down some of the invading Academy City Powered Suits. Again, much of the battle is spent with him talking, explaining how he’s going to bring the suits down.

Two other weird little details: when Touma calls Misaka to ask if Avignon’s in the news (which it most definitely is), they didn’t bother to add a “phone filter” to Misaka’s voice, making it sound like she’s there in the Papal Palace with him. Not only that, for a kid who can’t always afford food, he’s racking up quite an international call charge leaving his phone on the hook!

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, well, I am, but only because the show is so consumed with explaining every, attack, effect, and motive, it all kinda ends up muddling together into a gray mass that makes it easy to be distracted to the little things like the sound Misaka’s voice or Touma’s phone bill.

And at the end of the day, Terra and his attack just aren’t that impressive; certainly not as much as Imagine Breaker (even though Touma either forgot its true power or wants confirmation from Terra). Touma punches Terra a couple times, and then destroys the Document of C when he touches it with his right hand.

Back in the Tower of London, Lidvia continues explaining how the Right Hand of God wants to not only gain the power of angels, but gain equivalency with God himself and even surpass him. Such a lofty yet abstract goal is akin to Jafar’s final wish to the Genie in Aladdin: becoming an all-powerful genie. Sure, you can juggle planets in your hands, but to what end? At what point do you have enough power?

I’m not sure, and neither is the show. The Right Hand of God are simply Bad Guys, and Touma, Misaka, Itsuwa, etc. are the Good Guys. Spending the better part of two episodes on Terra feels even more pointless when we learn the RHG isn’t even really a united force; after having a chat with Terra, Acqua rips a column of the vatican off its mounts and crushes him with it.

Besides being a needlessly destructive way to kill someone, it was also a “twist” that had absolutely no effect on me. Acqua is an even more boring dude then Terra, who at least had a certain joie de vivre about him. Meanwhile, the second straight episode ends with Misaka just hanging out in her dorm, doing nothing. Not a rousing start!

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.

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…

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 16

railguns16

The Sisters dissipate Accelerator’s storm, and Mikoto tells him she won’t let him kill any more sisters. When he’s about to attack her, a blood-soaked Touma stands up, walks to Accelerator, breaks his hand, and delivers a decisive blow to the face. Touma is hospitalized, and in the night, the MISAKA he saved visits him, saying the experiment has been cancelled. Mikoto visits him in the morning with cookies. Mikoto meets up with MISAKA, and learns that it may not be that hard for them to learn to be human beings and not just guinea pigs. Mikoto bakes homemade cookies for Touma, but misses her change to give them to him, but she does gets him to call her by her name.

And at long last, that squealing, tiresome little shit Accelerator is finally brought down to earth, just when he thought he was about to gain absolute power. And throughout the episode, we learn that people can move beyond what they were programmed to do. The Sisters were born and immediately ingrained with the idea that they only existed to be killed in service of elevating Accelerator to Level 6. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to live; it’s that it simply wasn’t an option they knew of. Now that Touma and Mikoto have treated them as humans and put their lives on the line for them, they can finally move beyond that laboratory programming and see themselves as human beings, and Mikoto’s sisters.

Similarly, Accelerator was brought up being told he was the most powerful, which meant he’d always run into conflicts with those who wanted to challlenge his power. So he was further instructed to achieve a level of power that no one would ever challenge; that’s how he’d validate his existence. The thing is, that was never going to be possible as long as Touma was around, and after Accelerator is soundly beaten by a Level 0, Touma’s prediction comes true and the whole program is scrapped. Unfortunately, after this ordeal Mikoto returns to being pretty much her usual tsundere self towards Touma – a little discouraging considering how productive their exchange was back on that bridge.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We get flashes of Accelerator’s childhood beford Touma does him in, but frankly we weren’t moved. Guy’s a dick.
  • Touma’s esper power isn’t just Imagine Breaker; it’s the ability to endure epic beatings and lose almost all his blood and still be able to stand and punch people. All in all not a bad ability to have!
  • We loved the little interlude in which Mikoto is worried about how her Sisters will adjust to suddenly having lives to live, only to have her thoughts interrupted by MISAKA swinging while standing and trying to brainwash an older sister to do whatever her younger sister says. They’ll do fine, with Mikoto’s help.
  • Mikoto buys expensive cookies, but Touma isn’t shy about his view that they should really be homemade. See, he’s kind of a dick, too!
  • We only catch the slightest glimpse of Index running down the hall, but she doesn’t get any lines. That’s fine with us…we really didn’t need to see a tiny nun biting a recuperating Touma’s head.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 12

Misaka Mikoto

Mikoto’s plan is to hack the terminal speaking to Tree Diagram in orbit, in order to shut down the Level 6 Shift program, or at least create confusion while she destroys the remainder of the project. Meanwhile, MISAKA 10032 makes Touma adopt a stray kitten. Mikoto infiltrates the Tree Diagram facility all too easily, finds it dusty and long abandoned, and finds reports of the Tree Diagram’s destruction. While waiting for Touma outside a bookstore, Accelerator and MISAKA 10031 arrive, and 10032 goes with them to commence the next experiment.

Mikoto hates it when humans live their lives according to the data and plans laid out for them by machines. It’s a point Gargantia made throughout its run: humans need to be able to think for themselves and make their own choices, even if those choices aren’t always perfect. As we hit the halfway point, Mikoto seemingly finds herself back at square one, with no Tree Diagram to hack and a new plan needed to end the Shift Project. Meanwhile Touma has an encounter with a MISAKA clone similar to Mikoto’s first encounter with the clone who would eventually be viciously murdered before her eyes by the despicable Accelerator (though we love that soulful theme that plays whenever he’s tangling with the sisters, which we also heard in episode five).

From Touma’s perspective MISAKA is neither a clone nor cannon fodder living on borrowed time. She gets sad and mad and annoyed; feels sympathy for a helpless kitten, knows how to guilt-trip him into taking it in. She’s a person; no less worthy of life than the original. We have no doubt that if Touma follows her to her meeting with Accelerator, he too will know the horrors and awfulness that Academy City condones. Only unlike Mikoto, Touma can negate Accelerator’s esper powers with Imagine Breaker. Biribiri has tried doing things on her own, but she’s never been able to last long against the ‘rator. Touma could even the odds, were he inclined to involve himself. And as we all know, he’s never been lucky enough to avoid such situations.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)