To Aru Majutsu no Index (Just Another Magical Index) is a series of Japanese Light novels by Kamachi Kazuma, adapted into two TV series seasons, a spinoff series based on its own spinoff Manga, a couple of OVAs and now a movie, Endymion no Kiseki, the Miracle of Endymion.
I’m not a big fan of spinoff movies based on anime series, mostly because they’re offshoots and they’re like Vegas, whatever happens there, stays there. Movies seem to live in their own bubble, and can disrupt the “status-quo” established by the main media as much as they want; after all, it won’t affect the main story.
I’ve enjoyed a few of them in the past though. The Slayers movies are all fantastic and taking place well before the main series, so it’s not a problem, and 4 out of 5 of them were written by the author, so they’re pretty much canon. The Shakugan no Shana movie was an alternate retelling of the first story arc, same with the fantastic Escaflowne movie.
The good thing about the To Aru series is every single little story, even one as big as this one, can fit perfectly within the universe and canon, if only because the setting, Academy City, allows it.
For those who haven’t seen the series or read the novels, the To Aru series takes place in Academy City; a city filled with schools of all levels, from kindergartens to universities, and research facilities. It’s the scientific central of the world. Schools don’t only teach the basic subjects but also include a special abilities curriculum. Students are trained and sometimes experimented on to develop their own special power. Special Abilities are ranked according to their power on the scale of 0 to 5.
The To Aru series’ protagonist, Kamijou Touma, is a level 0. Well, not really, he’s probably the most powerful esper (what everyone who’s gone through the curriculum is called in-universe) in the world, but all tests fail to measure it. His power is in his right hand, named Imagine Breaker, having the power to cancel out any other power. As long as it’s supernatural, be it scientific or magical, his right hand will crush it. Unfortunately, it also cancels out his own good fortune, making him a misfortune magnet.
The series is about the clash of magic and science, with Touma first jumping in the middle of it to save the eponymous Index, a little girl in a white nun’s habit and in whose brain the church stored the 103.000 forbidden Grimoires (including Lovecraft’s Necronomicon).
Endymion no Kiseki opens up with an accident with an orbital shuttle as it makes its way back to earth, and this short scene is at the heart of the whole plot, with all major storylines and characters and their motivations relating to this one little incident.
I can’t really talk much about the plot or the events without giving too much away, so I’ll keep things as simple as possible.
After that very important opening scene, things shift to Touma & Index strolling around the city, with Index commenting about this huge tower she’d never seen before and Touma telling her The Endymion had been there, in construction, for years and that it’s a space elevator. Afterwards they meet a street singer called Meigo Arisa, another Level 0, who’s on the rise with everyone downloading her songs and who’s waiting on the results of an audition to be “the voice” for the opening concert for the Endymion.
This is where the plot really starts picking up pace, which is fantastic considering this is only about 15minutes into the movie.
That night, while they’re near a fountain square three elemental witches attack them, led by Styil Magnus, one of the recurring To Aru magical-side secondary characters, and while Touma does a bangup job of defending them, they’re ultimately saved by the arrival of some private security forces on some kickass mobile weapons that reminded me of Tachikomas from Ghost in Shell, even if their design is sleeker and really look nothing alike.
From then on it’s a beautiful mix of personal history, awesome set pieces, heartwarming moments and your classical and well executed magical and scientific conspiracies.
Plot-wise, the story is quite strong if not a bit convoluted, especially at the end. When the real explanations are given, there’s a chance you’ll end up more confused than you were before. The new characters, from the mecha-piloting Shutaura (weirdest name ever), to Arisa, to the extremely cold and somehow relatable Ladylee Tangleroad (that’s her name I swear), to the trio of Styil’s apprentices, are all very well written and executed, though maybe the witches come off a little flat, mainly because they don’t show up nearly as much as they should nor are they given enough attention. Arisa in particular is a fantastic character I’m only sorry I won’t see her again in another To Aru media.
At its heart, it’s a story about faith, not as in religious faith, but the sheer power of belief and how it can, collectively create miracles, and what the price or the consequences of those miracles can be. It’s also about loss and the despair that comes with it, but intrinsically tied to the miracle theme, with one character refusing to believe in miracles, even hating the very mention of them because of a past experience, while another central figure hoping to snatch up a miracle for herself, so she can be free of her curse.
This being an anime spin-off movie, it fan-service galore, with pretty much all characters making an appearance, with Arisa spending some time with the To Aru Kagaku no Railgun (the spinoff manga/TV series) cast, notably her relationship with Misaka Mikoto, one of the few Level 5s, nicknamed Railgun. Accelerator, Last Order and even the Sisters make an appearance, as does Kanzaki, the Sephiroth-style-impossibly-long-sword-wielding Saint. Even if it the most minor of characters, it’ll have a cameo appearance and that’s good, not only because I enjoyed the eye-candy, but they’re included in a way it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the plot and they all contribute in a relatively significant manner. Besides, I love hearing the Sisters talk, especially Last Order.
Visually speaking, it’s beautiful, with CG mixing seamlessly with the more tradition hand-drawn pieces. It’s sad to say most animations fail to integrate them properly, resulting in some odd moments when you, as the audience, realize something is CG because it stands out too much or doesn’t fit properly with things around it. That’s not the case with Endymion no Kiseki. You’ll have a hard time figuring out what is CG and what isn’t, if you manage to stop paying attention to the thoroughly engrossing experience for enough time to take notice of such things. I couldn’t do it on the first go, I had to wait for the second to really check things out and even then, a big part of me just wanted to watch the movie. The concert stage near the end is the only piece where the quality slips, but only for a couple of seconds, but you probably won’t be paying much attention to that.
Sound is also amazing, with appropriate and very engaging music pieces for each scene. Of particular note are the beautiful songs, performed by Misawa Sachika, Meigo Arisa’s seiyuu (voice actor) and J-pop singer. To Aru veteran, Kawada Mami, performs the theme song.
In conclusion, this is a very well done and even better executed one-shot anime movie, with fantastically developed characters and with enough eye-candy for both newcomers and fans to enjoy. The plot can be hard to wrap your head around, but the overall experience is thoroughly enjoyable.
I leave you with the theme song, Fixed Star.