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Apr 012011

Episode 24 – Armed Group (Skill-Out) – 武装集団 (スキルアウト) (Busou Shuudan (Sukiru-Auto))

It looks like JC Staff decided to tailor this series to the light novel readers until the end. Because of that, it’s still a bit difficult to figure out exactly what is going on, or to be more precise, specifically what certain things actually mean. Then again, for a final episode, this episode itself was rather odd. I’m still not quite sure what the “higher ups” that they’re fighting against exactly entails, and not to mention, the whole plot with Mikoto’s mother (Misuzu) reeks of foreshadowing of things to come. The very fact that she was targeted definitely means something is afoot, as to what that is though, this season of the anime doesn’t really say. The fight sequences in this episode were actually rather nice and well executed for the most part, with Accelerator taking up a gun for the very first time (which was a surprising, yet welcomed change). Overall, for a finale, this episode didn’t really bring the closure you would normally expect. It was done that way intentionally though, paving the way for what seems like will be a season three.

As I already mentioned earlier, the fight scene here was actually relatively well done. The parties involved in the fight actually fought their fights with not only their fists, but in a more calculated, well thought out manner. Of course, there was the occasional randomly charging in without a second thought, courtesy of Accelerator, but even he acted rationally and pulled out a gun when he was at a disadvantage. The rather straight-to-the-point, yet reasonably thought out, battles in the beginning of the episode were definitely a refreshing change from the usual “Touma punch = win!” equation we’re so used to seeing in this season of the anime.

The odd thing about this episode was how it managed to cram in it’s serious moments with Accelerator and the skill out fight, yet at the same time throw in some absurdly goofy moments with Misuzu, which killed a lot of the momentum that the first few scenes had built up in the episode. Surprisingly, though, things turned out rather interesting with the whole notion that the higher ups “refuse to let their resources leave the city”, whereas resources are the espers themselves. In particular, since Misuzu was targeted for trying to leave with her Level 5 railgun daughter (and the higher ups tried to get her killed for it), obviously something much bigger in scale is amiss in the background that we aren’t quite aware of yet.

The fact that Accelerator is in a group that is trying to uncover what is exactly going on was a rather intriguing little twist that I hadn’t expected here, and is a nice change from the typically ambiguous role that Accelerator has been playing up until now. If you couple all of this with how Touma is starting to become more entangled with what is going on as well (hints being the chats he’s had with Tsuchimikado over the past few episodes). Either ways, there are some rather strong hints at more things to come with this episode, which is a rather weird way to end a season (though it’s also blatantly hinting at a season three).

Overall Enjoyment: 3.9/5

Final Impressions:

The first season to the To Aru Majutsu no Index franchise was actually a relatively decent series. Nothing revolutionary, mind you, but it had some solid stories and occasional intriguing world building. It did have some pacing issues (especially with Touma’s monologues), but overall it was a enjoyable watch. Unfortunately I can’t say nearly as much for this second season here, which definitely was a flawed adaptation in my eyes.

The most important aspect here, the story, was really weak at times. There were some extremely poorly thought out moments that literally had me facepalming (I won’t ever forget the stupidity that is the Daihasesai incident), and overall each arc repeatedly had some rather weak climaxes. To compound on that, the villains for most of the arcs really outright sucked, with almost all of them feeling rather small and unimportant. Even Vento, who seemed like a rather influential character, felt like a pushover in the fights we watched with her involved. Not to mention, Touma has the tendency of going back into his monologue mode at times, which kills the buildup an episode may have had up till that point. Pacing for this series was all over the place too, where sometimes things happen so fast that there isn’t much time to let the full impact of the moment sink in.

The animation and art also went downhill extremely fast, with some huge notable gaps in quality within the first few episodes. It’s rather obvious that JC staff thought that good production values wouldn’t be needed for a popular series like this, which would explain the rather mediocre animation. To be perfectly honest, if there had been more of a budget to put into the fight scenes and stuff here, the conflicts in this series would have been significantly more interesting. The lack of good animation and action sequences, though, made a good majority of the fights leaving a rather weak impression. Music also was a bit on the mediocre side, with nothing terribly notable I can think of.

The biggest reason to keep watching this show would definitely be the characters, for the most part at least. The characters are admittingly rather generic and stereotypical at times, yet it’s the diverse cast that probably draws in the most people to this show, from the tsundere Mikoto Misaka, to the obsessive Kuroko, to the preachy Touma, to the often helpless Index, and of course, the ever so crazy Accelerator. The dynamics between the cast does keep things interesting at times, though I’ll also admit that this season had it’s fair share of stupid, fanservicey (yet sometimes entertaining) moments.

Overall, I can’t recommend this series in good faith over the first season of this show. If you do finish the first season and enjoyed the characters, though, this second season would turn out a lot more enjoyable for you. The big flaw to this show was how it was tailored to the light novel readers for this show, so if you didn’t read the light novels, a lot of the small details would fly right over your head. Mind you, I didn’t read all the light novels, so I experienced this firsthand as well. The fact that JC Staff decided to take the easy way out and tailor this to the light novel readers also means that they could skip over a lot of the small, yet important, details that would make the story make more sense. I certainly would’ve appreciated it for particular arcs. Overall, a decent series, but definitely could use some more structured focus on both story, small details, and less random fanservice that kills momentum.

Animation/Art: 7.0/10

Music: 7.0/10

Characters: 8.0/10

Story/setting: 7.0/10

Overall Enjoyment: 7.3/10

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 262011

Episode 23 – Before the War – 開戦前 (Kaisenmae)

Erm, what is exactly going on here? For the episode before the finale next week, this week’s installment of Index II is rather weird. I mean, there is seriously just too much going on at once here, and the pacing is a complete and utter mess. The little mini-stories in this episode had very little relevance with each other, and some of the stuff going on felt rather meaningless. For buildup towards a “war” between Academy City and the Catholic church, this episode felt really really weak. From the brief 4-5 minutes that Hyouka crying her eyes out, to Accelerator being recruited for some weird mission, to Touma getting randomly punched and invited to a Sukiyaki party, this episode felt all disorganized and all over the place.

The first event that stood out to me was how Hyouka was all depressed and feeling down at the beginning of the episode. I’m sorry, but while you may be crying up a sob story about how you’ve “hurt everybody around you”, I can’t muster up any sort of sympathy considering we didn’t see her hurt them, nor did we see her feel forced into hurting them. This moment was very, very poorly executed, with a major lack in details and explanations for her little sob story, which made the entire situation feel extremely out of place and lacking.

And then there’s the weird “slapped by Himegami” moment, and the random invite to a sukiyaki party. Considering the serious tone the direction of the story seemed to be going at first, the slapstick comedy moments just killed any sort of built up momentum. Touma’s extremely awkward “english” joke (it was a joke, right…?) just further reinforced the whole “out of place humor” feeling to this episode.

Then we got another completely unrelated plot twist, with Accelerator, Kondou, and Mitsuki out to hunt some skillouts. Besides the sudden change between each story, there is a lack of explanations for everything going on, as well has how in the world everything going on here is related to each other. The story feels really messy right now, and I’m assuming it’s because this TV series was pretty much tailored to the light novel readers (which I am not one of).

Honestly, this episode makes me wonder if JC staff is even trying anymore with this series. The episode was poorly thought out and executed, and feels rather out of place in the whole “war” story that this series has been hinting at (Aleister’s ominous presence certainly helps with regards to the war issue). Explanations are needed all over the place, and some proper flow and pacing to the plot is definitely needed here.

Overall Enjoyment: 2.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 132011

Episode 22 – Divine Punishment Spell – 天罰術式 (Tenbatsu Jutsushiki)

Sorry for the very late post. For some reason, wordpress refused to let me upload these Index II screenshots, and yes, it only acted up on the Index II screenshots (which is why my Moshidora post went up fine). Maybe WordPress has something against Index or something (=.=); Then again, I’ve been having technical difficulties for a while now (RSS subscribers should know what I mean when they see the screenshots). Hopefully things will go back to normal soon, or else I may end up eliminating screenshot uploads altogether.

Anyways, back to the episode, am I the only one who thought this episode had very, very poor explanations? Seriously, there were a ton of random events that literally either made no sense, felt like it came out of nowhere, or at times both. My guess here is that this episode was really, really bad at explaining key details that the original light novels covered, which is why it felt so dang messy). Aside from that, though, there were some rather brutal fight scenes and such. The only big issue I have with the conflict is that it felt like it ended too suddenly.

My biggest issue with this episode was the very random events that had almost no explanation at all whatsoever. For one, why in the world did Touma all of a sudden get a confidence boost and start maniacally laughing at Vento? He blabbed something about Hyouka on his side, and how he would save her, but the entire moment where Touma was speaking felt extremely awkward, sudden, and unexplained. The sudden boost in confidence in Touma later on, when some sparkly dust started floating down from the sky (courtesy of Hyouka) made just as little sense, with an obvious lack of explanations here.

And let’s not even mention how Kihara decided to blatantly ignore Index and just attack Accelerator, even when he was literally a meter or two away from her. Considering how Accelerator wasn’t even fighting back at that point, why in the world did Kihara decide to leave Index alone, even when it was obvious that she was up to something? The other major “random” moment would be when Accelerator randomly sprouted black wings and disintegrating Kihara by sending him at mach speeds through the stratosphere. And why did he sprout wings again? And how was Accelerator even functioning, considering how his brain can’t function properly without support from the Misaka network?

There were a ton of moments that felt very awkward, though I guess this would go back to how this series is biased towards the readers of the light novels; since I haven’t read the light novels for this arc, I’m not surprised that some things going on feel rather lacking in detail. At least the fights and stuff were well animated, though a bit on the uncreative side. Vento’s backstory did kind of kill the momentum and tension though, which made their fight (and sudden end) feeling rather anticlimactic. Production quality was better than normal, which makes sense considering we’re close to the end of the series.

Either ways, this arc was better than some of the more recent stuff being put out by this season of Index, but it is by no means the best. Curiously enough, it seems that this entire arc was just mere buildup/suspense-building towards what looks like will be an even more major event in the final few episodes. The episode preview mentions war, which certainly perks my interest. In that regard, you could say that the entire “Academy city invasion” arc was just a huge hint at what will be coming up in the final few episodes. Foreshadowing at it’s finest, eh? >.>;

Overall Enjoyment: 3.4/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Mar 052011

Episode 21 – Teaching Device (Testament) – 学習装置 (テスタメント) (Gakushuu Sochi (Tesutamento))

There are a bunch of different plot lines going on at once, and while each individual one is interesting, at times it feels like it’s starting to get very crammed. I mean, we have the Accelerator story along with the Touma/Vento plot line, alongside the Aleister/Last Order/ Misaka sisters/ Hyouka story, and the Tsuchimikado plot line, all going at once. There are a ton of separate stories going on simultaneously, and that kind of kills any buildup a different plot line may have had. You can definitely see all these separate plot lines coming together though, with some rather eyebrow-raising events in this episode (especially towards the end). There was, once again, a ton of exposition that this series is well known for in this episode, but in a way it’s all buildup towards the eventual confrontation between Vento, Touma, and Hyouka. Vento still doesn’t feel like much of a threat, but I guess things will change up in the following episodes.

There is a lot of stuff going on this episode, with Accelerator once again randomly beating up underpowered minions. As I noted in my previous Index II post, while Accelerator going crazy is cool and all, just seeing him one-sidedly beat the living daylights out of a bunch of guys that can’t even fight back properly is just boring. It’s pretty much just brutality with no thought put into the fight, and makes me wish we could get some more well thought out, proper battles.

Vento continues to be the least seemingly threatening antagonist so far, considering how she has done virtually nothing to the actual main characters. It is rather obvious that she is the one behind all the random comatose people, though, so I’m probably still underestimating her abilities. Seriously speaking, though, she has only attacked Touma with her weird floaty energy ball maybe 6-10 times, and they all did virtually no damage. In terms of a threatening presence, as of now Vento has been all talk no bite. She talks like a tough guy, but has done nothing to really back it up so far.

I’m kind of puzzled as to how relevant the Tsuchimikado story is here, considering how he really hasn’t been linked to the rest of the cast in any way shape or form. I take it he’ll play a larger role in the future, but as of now his importance to everything is a big question mark.

What was very interesting about this episode, though, was the actions of Aleister. He is somehow using the Misaka network (with Last Order as the central node) in order for to power up Hyouka into what I’m assuming is a false angel. Considering the power of Mischa when she was inhabited by an angel earlier on in this series, I can’t imagine how powerful an artificially produced angel would be. Even if it was artifically produced, an angel of any magnitude is probably devastatingly powerful, or so I would think. According to Index, Hyouka is not quite an angel in the traditional sense, which makes me wonder what crazy science Aleister has pulled off in order to produce such an odd existence.

All in all, this episode continues the buildup that has been going on in this series for a while now, with the now imminent battle between Hyouka, Touma, and Vento probably the climactic moment for this arc. The battles have been rather lacking, but the plot twist here was a rather interesting yet unexpected thing to do. Aleister did mention how the weapon he is deploying is still in it’s early development phase, which means he has even more plans stored away somewhere. Not to mention, he seems to have some very intricate plans thought out for Touma and his imagine breaker. What exactly Aleister is up to should prove to be a very intriguing point that I suspect will be making it’s reappearance in future episodes.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 262011

Episode 20 – Hunting Dog Unit (Hound Dog) – 猟犬部隊 (ハウンドドッグ) (Ryouken Butai (Haundo Doggu))

Well, this episode had some rather interesting developments, but the fights themselves were kind of mediocre. Seeing Accelerator in action is pretty awesome, but at the same time seeing him brutally torture Anti-skill members that can’t even fight back was a very one sided battle with a painfully predictable outcome. At the same time, the battle between Touma and Vento was starting to get a bit more interesting, but I’m kind of doubting that Vento is the “strongest amongst the catholic church”. Vento’s attacks may be deadly, but they aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be; to be entirely honest, Vento was very disappointing in terms of a threatening enemy. Then again, there seems to be quite a bit about Vento we don’t quite know yet, so I could just be underestimating her as of now. There are hints at something much larger in scale that is occurring, but as of now there are scant details about what exactly is going on.

Now that Last Order is no longer around Accelerator, it looks like the one thing that was really holding him back has disappeared as well. He pretty much goes on a rampage killing anybody that is in his way in his search for Last Order, which is a rather sudden shift in his actions considering how he wasn’t so brutal before. I guess the attack on Last Order was the trigger for his pent up stress and anger, which he is expressing by ruthlessly killing off his pursuers. While we do get to see Accelerator in a very bad mood, the “battle” between him and his pursuers was so one-sided that I actually feel bad for the pursuers. They don’t stand a chance against his abilities, which makes the contents of their confrontation rather boring. What made the entire scene interesting was Accelerator’s rather crazy personality change, which is a stark contrast to the one he had around Last Order.

As for Vento, if she is seriously the “strongest amongst the catholic church”, the catholic church must seriously be lacking in strong members. For all her threatening actions, all she does is stand there and shoot magical balls at Touma, which might I add seem very easy to block with the Imagine Breaker. If you include the fact that Touma isn’t attacking Vento at all (making it so that Vento has all the time in the world to kill him), Vento’s abilities are rather disappointing as of now. Then again, there are other hints of Vento’s abilities, such as the reason behind why everybody is falling unconscious. At times it’s quite obvious that Vento is behind the strange comas that everybody is falling under, especially after seeing what happened to Yomikawa after seeing Vento’s image. We don’t really have an explanation for Vento’s abilities yet, so I’m probably just underestimating her as of now (… Or at least I hope I am).

The battle between Vento and Touma was just as disappointing, where when Touma finally decided to go on the offensive, Vento conveniently (and very randomly, might I add) coughed up blood and ended up running away from the scene. I’m guessing that the coughed up blood was the result of the countermeasures Aleister was taking against Vento, and considering how it seems that the Misaka network and Kazakiri seem to be involved here, I am curious about what the guy who is always upside down in a glass tube is plotting.

In the end, this episode was disappointing in the sense that there was very little satisfying action, and much more buildup. Then again, I don’t really mind the buildup here, which is pointing to some very interesting future conflicts. There are still questions with regards to why everybody is falling unconscious, and what Aleister is doing in response to this invasion, but the stakes involved in this conflict continue to rise. One thing that is duly worth noting is how, as usual, Index and Last Order are virtually useless in the conflict, and Misaka doesn’t really play a role here either. Brief cameos are okay, but they don’t really contribute much to the actual episode’s content…

Overall Enjoyment: 3.6/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 192011

Episode 19 – Amata Kihara (Researcher) – 木原数多 (けんきゅうしゃ) (Kihara Amata (Kenkyuusha))

The major conflict finally starts to go in motion with the appearance of Vento of the Front, as well as Kihara (a researcher who happens to know Accelerator very well). There have been slight hints ever since the end of the Ice ships that something big was going to happen, especially with the appearance of Vento of the Front and the involvement of the Pope at that time. As for the episode itself, while getting some action between Accelerator and Anti-skill was a welcomed change, the fights themselves were a little… lacking. I guess it’s just me wondering why Accelerator, as capable as he is, couldn’t think of any reasonable countermeasures against Kihara. Besides the fight, Index and Last Order seem to have swapped their traditional roles as sidekicks for Touma and Accelerator, though considering how Index and Last Order aren’t terribly useful in battles, I don’t quite know what difference they will make.

The fight between Accelerator and Kihara was kind of dull, though the actual violence itself was pretty intense. The fight was equivalent to a basic brawl between Kihara and the rather defenseless Accelerator, with Kihara just throwing straight punches and Accelerator eating them up like no tomorrow. I guess for Accelerator, who is used to not having to dodge, dodging may be outside of his train of thought. I do think that Accelerator is bright enough to figure out countermeasures to Kihara’s attacks, especially if you consider the complexity of the “vector equations” Accelerator has to manipulate in order for to use his own abilities at any given time. Maybe I’m giving Accelerator too much credit here in thinking that he could think of a good countermeasure on the spot, but it did make the fight rather one-sided and predictable.

Ignore the next two paragraphs if you don’t really care for flaws in logic (or just physically impossible) stuff that happens in this show. I mean, this show does have some pretty absurd takes on logic anyways, so yea…

If you really think about it though, there are inherent contradictions or extreme impracticalities with Kihara’s fighting style against Accelerator. For instance, assuming an attack has to actually hit Accelerator for it to be reflected, Kihara’s fist must 100% always be moving forward to reach Accelerator’s physical body. After all, you can’t get your fist to reach an object without moving towards it. The moment it “reaches” Accelerator it should be instantly reflected because the fist was already moving forward. I mean, you can’t “reverse” your fist and expect to “reach” Accelerator’s body in the first place because you would be pulling your hand away. In other words, Kihara’s attack must always initially hit Accelerator in a forward direction for him to even have a chance of using his “reverse” strategy, and this forward punch should be instantly reflected. There are a few ways around this inherent flaw, such as if Kihara actually uses a very weak forward attack so that the initial reflected vector does minor damage, then pulls a very strong reversion so the vector is actually reversed, but based on seeing Kihara’s very fast forward-directional punches this episode, an instant reversion with that much kinetic energy seems extremely unlikely.

I guess you could say Kihara’s “fight style” is impossible in the sense that Misaka’s railgun cannot actually do the damage it seems to do if you go based on the anime’s canon 1030m/s value (check out this somewhat complex post by the MIT Anime Club if you’re wondering what I mean with regards to Misaka’s railgun). In the end though, most of the time Anime physics has never made any sense anyways; I think I’m probably just being wayyyy too picky here.

Anyways, my random ramblings aside, the more important event here would be the involvement of Vento and Aleister, where Vento essentially declares war on Aleister, Touma, and the rest of Academy city. Vento certainly seem confident with regards to her capabilities, but it seems like Aleister also has some trump cards up his sleeve.

Somehow, the involvement of the Misaka network and Kazakiri Hyouka will play in Aleister’s counterattack against Vento, which should be an interesting conflict to see. At the same time, I do wonder what ability Vento used to be able to effectively shut down Anti-skill, which probably means that it will be Touma that will be up to fight against Vento (because Imagine breaker should render her ability useless on him). Not to mention Last Order and Index might get more involved in these occurrences, which could complicate things even further.

Either ways, this episode was essentially buildup to the eventual confrontation between Vento and whatever Aleister has planned for her. I am curious as to what Vento’s abilities actually are, consider how she is the “strongest weapon” amongst the Catholic church’s members, and was even able to threaten the Pope in an earlier episode (whom I’m assuming is rather powerful).

Overall Enjoyment: 3.8/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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Feb 112011

Episode 18 – Specimen Number (Serial Number) – 検体番号 (シリアルナンバー) (Kentai Bangoo (Shiriaru Nanbaa))

It seems that we still haven’t gotten back to the main story, and instead we get another filler episode in terms of plot progression. Admittingly, this filler episode was rather entertaining at times with the presence of the Misaka sisters, but that still doesn’t account for how there isn’t really much going on here. We get some random fanservice scenes (as usual), with no significant events at all whatsoever. There has been no mentioning of the “god’s right hand” that made it’s appearance a few episodes ago, nor have we figured out exactly how Touma and Accelerator will be involved in an upcoming conflict. That being said, the fact that for the first time Touma meets Last Order, and Accelerator meets Index, could be foreshadowing at something to come in the future. Either ways, there isn’t really much to be said about this episode.

Right off the bat we get a bunch of fanservice involving Kaori, a washing machine, and the rest of the English church, as well as a fanservice scene with the English archbishop (which was completely unnecessary). Besides the document Stiyl was showing the archbishop, those moments literally had no relation to the rest of the episode with Touma, Mikoto, and the Misaka sisters. The rest of the episode, with the Misaka sisters and such, was mostly comedy with Touma getting pulled into the cross fire.

The comedic scenes between Misaka-imouto and Touma were entertaining, but the most significant portion to this episode would be Touma’s meeting with Last Order. Considering how the Misaka network was saved by Touma, Last Order never did get a chance to properly meet or thank Touma until now. The fact that they’ve finally meant is probably indicative of something major that’ll happen that involves them both, though it isn’t quite clear what this “major” event will be.

Either ways, this episode had a ton of jokes and gags involving Touma and his misfortune with anything related to the Misakas. We did get some screentime where Accelerator is searching around town for Last Order with Index, but in the end this relationship didn’t really go anywhere either. Honestly speaking, there was virtually nothing except for jokes/gags about anime this time around. That being said, the next episode preview seems to be hinting at a major change in pace for this show, probably with more fighting and punching that is a staple to this series.

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Screenshots are later in the post.

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