「武装集団（スキルアウト）」 (Busou Juudan (Sukiru Auto))
“Armed Group (Skill-Out)”
For a short two-episode arc that coincides with the conclusion of this second season, there was actually a fair bit of lead-in to what’s around the corner, suggesting that this is the foundation for a third season sometime down the road. We’ll probably be seeing more of GROUP after Touma and Accelerator cleaned up most of Skill-Out, after the latter cornered their leader Ritoku and caused him to commit suicide over being killed.
Action-wise, I was quite impressed by what Ritoku could do with military-grade “Hard Taping” applied directly to his body, granting him both superhuman speed and power that normallys require a Power Suit to use, as it was enough to overwhelm Awaki’s Move Point, a Level 4 teleportation ability. It was a bit sad to see him die though, given how he’s a noble leader that doesn’t attack Espers indiscriminately and only the ones who use their powers on Level 0’s — something that Accelerator didn’t care enough to understand. The kicker of course was the picture of Fremea Seivelun seen on his cellphone, which was a bit of a cameo for novel readers who have gotten into volume one of the “Shinyaku” (New Testament) continuation that was just released this past month.
The highlight (or lowlight depending on how you want to look at it) was of course Mikoto’s mother Misuzu, who was completely wasted on the sidewalk when Accelerator walked by. The uncanny resemblance to Last Order that caught his attention was almost too funny, especially when he tried to brush it off as a mere coincidence. It’s always a blast seeing Accelerator in uncomfortable positions, as not many people can get away with falling on him, tripping him, and then giving him a nice dose of alcohol breath. Had it been anyone else, he probably would’ve killed them right there and then. In conjunction with Touma getting a first-hand taste of “Mrs. Misaka’s” cougar-like ways, I probably would’ve been perfectly happy if this sequel decided to close out on a comedic note altogether.
Of course, the alternative is better with Touma using his head for something other than telling people what they should and shouldn’t do, followed up by his trusty right hand. I actually had no idea the latter half was going to be about Misuzu completely, with Skill-Out sent in to stop her from taking Mikoto away from Academy City. I’ve never actually seen Mikoto as someone that Aleister’s heavily concerned about, but she is one of the few Level 5’s in the world, so I guess it only makes sense to keep her around with a war between science and magic brewing.
Aside from a pretty funny moment during Touma’s rescue operation (i.e. charge in and save her), I gather the decision to fit this arc into the anime was to formally introduce Hamazura Shiage to the series. It may not seem like it from this episode, but he actually becomes a pretty prominent character in the overall series akin to Accelerator. Hino Satoshi’s been cast to play him, which I found kind of amusing since he stars in J.C. Staff’s other big production, Shakugan no Shana. That isn’t quite enough to say a third season is guaranteed, but it does suggest that J.C. Staff has cast Satoshi with one in mind. Welcome to the series Shiage. I hope you enjoyed the bulletproof glass to the face welcome care of Touma.
It’s been over two years since the first season finished airing, but my lasting impression was that it featured a diverse cast of characters in a very rich story, backed by good production values from J.C. Staff. The downside was that it often suffered from over-explaining the plot rather than visually guiding viewers through it, which I perceive as a fallout from how the light novel’s tendancy to do so. After all, when you’re just reading text, story is story even if two people are simply standing in a room talking about it. Imagination is key, so it doesn’t really matter if the characters are running around and fighting off the evil Roman Catholic Church or just hearing about how they plan to rid the world of science. As an anime, balance is pretty key though, something this sequel handled really well in some arcs and really dragged out in others.
I’ll be quick to admit that I didn’t particularly enjoy the runaround in Daihasei arc from episodes eight to thirteen, or the subsequent Queen’s Fleet arc during episodes fifteen at sixteen. It’s something that becomes more apparent because I blogged the series, as I’ll give what was divulged each episode a fair bit of thought, only to find that most of what was brought up will never see the light of day. If you’re simply watching the series, it’s a lot different because you can take what is revealed at face value and then decide what was truly important after the arc is over. Obviously, I don’t have that luxury when I’m covering episodes on a weekly basis, so this is the reason why I wasn’t enthralled about covering this series to begin with. It’s fun to watch, but not so much fun to blog — a sentiment that I now share with Omni.
That’s not to say it’s a total drag, because the other four arcs were very enjoyable with the lengthy exposition toned down. There were also the bridging episodes where the character interactions were the primarily focus, which turned out to be some of my favorite in the entire season. The cast of characters are very likeable and the production quality is generally good, so there’s really little reason why To Aru Majutsu no Index isn’t a safe recommendation to any type of anime fan. If you’re willing to overlook the times where it can get a little bogged down from having all the scientific and religious stuff explained you, then this is an otherwise great series that has a little bit of everything. It’s definitely one of the better offerings out there, even though I can’t really say it’s anywhere close to being one of my favorites. Regardless, if there is a third season, I’ll definitely be watching.