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…

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 – 16

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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.

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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 – 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 – 14

Kamijou Touma, Kuroko Shirai

Kuroko is waiting up for Onee-sama when Touma is a the door. Kuroko lets him come up to the dorm to wait with her, but when the dorm supervisor arrives, she stuffs him under Mikoto’s bed. There he finds documents sticking out of her teddy bear, and learns about Accelerator and the clones. He sees that the next experiment will take place in just under and hour, and so races to Mikoto, heading her off on the bridge.

The Tree Diagram calculated her death in 185 moves against Accelerator, but she plans to foil its prediction by going down in the first, on the small chance it will cause the researchers doubt its other predictions and cancel the project. Touma won’t let her pass, and when she attacks with electricity, he doesn’t cancel it with his ability, and is knocked out. He tells her he’ll prove the researchers wrong by beating Accelerator, saving Mikoto and the sisters.

Misaka Mikoto

Had Touma not been worried about his treasured friend and gone to her dorm and been stuffed under her bed, he may have sat in that room with Kuroko as Mikoto let herself get killed by Accelerator; either by disguising herself as a sister or simply asking him to kill her in one shot, something Accelerator probably wouldn’t mind doing that much. But he was worried, and he wasn’t going to let that friend sacrifice herself for such a limited return. At first Mikoto assumes Touma has come to confront, scold, and possibly even punish her; something for which she’s prepared.

What she wasn’t prepared for was Touma putting his body on the line to show her his resolve to stop her, someone who on that bridge on that moment fulfilled the inner wishes Mikoto had long repressed as foolish: miracles can happen, heroes can emerge, and damsels can be saved in the nick of time. And most importantly, she has worth; worth that warrants finding another way to achieve her goals without sacrificing herself.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Good for Kuroko being mature and letting Touma up. She doesn’t know it, but she saved her Onee-sama’s life.
  • We thought Touma and Mikoto’s exchange on the bridge was a emotional, pardon the pun, electric tour-de-force.
  • We’re a little conflicted about the ramifications: the heroine is essentially stepping aside to let the shining prince save the day. That being said, Mikoto isn’t your typical damsel in distress, tears this week aside, and will likely have plenty to contribute in a climactic fight with Accelerator.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 13

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Learning that Tree Diagram is gone and unsure of her next move, Misaka takes out her aggression on the nearest Sisters facility, which is evacuated as she tears the place apart, vowing to destroy everything. However, when she watches MISAKA 10031 being killed by Accelerator on a monitor, she breaks down. Touma looks for MISAKA and hears gunshots, but by the time he arrives in the alley, only a puddle of blood remains of her. He informs Antiskill, but the mess is cleaned up once they arrive. Touma meets the sisters and learns about the experiment, and heads to Misaka’s dorm to talk about it.

Kamijou Touma has been blissfully unaware of the Level 6 Shift experiment and the existence of more than one MISAKA sister, but that’s all over now, as he meets a whole company of ’em, performing cleanup work after one of the ones he met met a sticky end. Flash back to Accelerator’s very first fight against a clone, when he easily disables her, but is initially weary about killing her off until the gold-toothed scientist assures him they’re merely puppets, and for the clones’ part they won’t stop trying to kill Accelerator until they’re dead or physically unable to. Whatever sliver of remorse he had in that first fight has completely evaporated, and now he has “fun” with the experiments, tossing out riddles and such before going in for the kill. It’s awful.

Also awful? Kamijou Touma finds out about the fight going on too late. Even if the sister wouldn’t have allowed him to intervene in the experiment (i.e. not let him save her life) there’s a chance he could have at least slowed Accelerator down. When he reports the death to normal authorities, he is too late again, as the sisters had cleaned up the mess, but the fact remains, if Touma continues to pry, he’ll be a target too. As Misaka is growing desperate beneath the weight and scope of the task before her (destroy everything and everyone involved, playing every bit the righteous “villain”), now would be a good time for Touma to step in and help in some way, any way, before she goes nuts, destroys herself, or both.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

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)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 11

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Mikoto crosses paths with Kamijou Touma while he’s wrestling with a money-stealing vending machine. Kuroko rushes to the two of them in horror, but leaves when she realizes they’re not a couple and Mikoto is happy. A MISAKA clone then shows up, ruining Mikoto’s mood when she tells her the Level 6 Shift project is proceeding on schedule. She does some digging and learns 183 facilities have been contracted for the project, and realizes all of Academy City may be in on it, so she decides to take the whole city on, even if she has to oppose Kuroko and Judgment.

No rest for the weary…well, hardly any, as Mikoto doesn’t have much time with Kamijou Touma putting her at ease. This episode started with an ordinary guy (who can negate any esper power) and an ordinary girl (who can summon lightning on a whim) having a few precious normal moments. But by the end, Mikoto is almost certain she’ll have to shed any hope of living a normal life if she wants to deliver justice to those who wronged her and her clones, the dead of which now number 10,021.

But while Mikoto is going to take on this massive burden, she can’t abide the clones getting all up in her face; that just makes things worse. Sure enough, by episode’s end Accelerator is chewing on the ear (we think) of the clone who meets with Mikoto. We learn how he became involved with the Level 6 Project, and well, it doesn’t really do much to humanize him; he basically joined up because he liked how fucked up the human experiments were. So yeah, still a heel. And while Mikoto is determined to keep Kuroko out of the impending action, she’s also conscious of the fact they may not be on the same side when the shit hits the fan.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 10

Misaka Mikoto

During a lull in the fighting, Mikoto notices that Frenda didn’t clean up all of her bombs before leaving, so when she confronts Mugino, she has an army of dolls she can control with magnetism. Mugino destroys most of them by her refracting beam with silicon chips, and reveals that she’s the Meltdowner, fourth-strongest esper. One doll smacks her in the head, and while she’s out, Mikoto heads to the command center and destroys the remaining equipment, completing her mission. Mugino wakes up and their fight continues, until Mikoto lures her onto a catwalk above a large pit and uses Frenda’s explosive tape to send her falling. Mikoto escapes and spends the night in a hotel. The news says the company she was attacking has declared bankruptcy. Then she bumps into Kamijou Touma.

Once we learn that Mugino is the fourth-strongest esper in Academy City, we knew Mikoto was going to have a hard time staying alive, let alone defeating her far less-winded opponent. If what Mugino says is true, the rankings are somewhat arbitrary anyway, so for all Mikoto knows, she’s actually less powerful or evenly-matched. That means a direct attack won’t work; she has to think outside the box. Her saving grace is Frenda’s carelessness in leaving behind so much material Mikoto can use against Mugino. This diminishes (if not outright cancels out) all of the cunning and ingenuity she demonstrated whilst softening Mikoto up for her boss. But while it was a case of Villains Acting Stupidly, in her defense she didn’t expect to be so quickly dismissed by said boss.

As we predicted last week, going it alone against even a wounded Mikoto was a bad choice on Mugino’s part. She allowed her pride and desire to be seen as someone who defeated the Railgun in a fair fight drive her judgment, and while up to this point ITEM was is complete control of the situation, her selfish decision combined with Frenda’s goof-up led to Railgun escaping their clutches and living to fight another day (we like how Mikoto extended a lifeline to Mugino at the last minute, only to have it swiped away.) The next morning after visiting the last facility, which is abandoned and inoperative, she reads that headline and thinks for a second that it might be over. But nothing’s over. There’s still darkness in the city that must be rooted out. The odds may never be in Mikoto’s favor, but she won’t stop moving forward.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Wow, Frenda left a shitload of bombs at that facility! And Mikoto was able to modify them to be manipulated in no time at all…
  • Mugino clearly resents the fact that a uppity, puny little girl is ranked higher than her. Mikoto uses her vanity against her by calling her an old hag in turn.
  • While Frenda told Mikoto she couldn’t care less about the morals of her client, Mugino decides to learn more about the project they’re working on, and learns something even we might not know.
  • Hi Touma! Seeing as how he’s in the OP, it was only a matter of time before he showed up. With his help Mikoto probably could have easily defeated Mugino, but he was probably asleep in bed during that battle, so…