What They Say:
The Book of the Law – an encoded grimoire containing catastrophic magic – has been stolen, so naturally Kamijo, Index, and a few familiar faces join in the crusade to protect the one nun who can decipher the powerful text. But as the group battles church sects and holy assassins, they realize that discovering who their true enemy is may be more difficult than saving the sister.
Meanwhile, an organization known as the Science Society resurrects an esper-producing program, a school festival brings out the competition – and drama – in the student population, and a mysterious figure negotiates the purchase of a sacred relic that could threaten the future of Academy City.
Contains episodes 13-24.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward and solid for this show as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and the new English mix in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works a good mix of dialogue based scenes and action pieces, which combines the whole magic and science angle well, so that it’s kind of all over the map in a good way as it deals with the situations. Whether close quarters combat, large magic specials or some other technological wizardry, the series uses the forward soundstage well to create a good design that draws you into the show. The Japanese mix hits things right with a good bit of warmth to it and overall use while the English mix kicks it up a notch or two while also adding a bit more bass to it. The end result is a pretty engaging mix overall that brings the show to life without any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2010 and 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set contains the second twelve episodes of the series spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by JC Staff, it pretty much follows the same look as the first series that they animated for it, just with a bit of extra color and punch here that serves it well. Part of the appeal is that unlike the first season that we got (as of this writing), we didn’t get it in high definition. So getting it here shows a good bit more detail and color that really does allow it to pop in a good way. There are some softer scenes that feel like they’re done purposefully, mostly ones involving Kuroko and what her division is up to, but in general the transfer for this has a lot of good looking colors, solid fields throughout and dark levels that are clean and without any issues such as noise or breakup.
The packaging for this release works the same as the first set as we get an O-Card slipcover for it that mirrors what the disc packaging itself is, just with brighter and slicker looking colors. The front cover uses the familiar logo with the II on it as we get more of a cast shot here with characters involved in the later arc that once again is done in an illustration style that makes them seem even younger than they are. I uses the same background as the first one with the city street so we get some nice continuity there. The back cover is fairly traditional with a lightning strike done in purple underneath the strip of shots from the show, which add a good bit of color to it all. The premise is nicely covered without revealing all the nuance of it. The extras are pretty clearly listed while the production information is super, super tiny. The technical grid rounds out the rest of it which breaks down things for both formats in a clear and easy to read – and accurate – way. The release does come with artwork on the reverse side which is really nice where one side has the gang in their school uniform done in illustration style while the back has a shot of some of the villains of this half of the series.
The menu design for this release is kept simple but decent and functional as we get clips playing throughout it in general that shows off various characters and sequences to set the mood. It’s not deep or filled with anything terribly huge that really catches your eye, but it works well enough to get the basics out there. The logo is placed throughout the middle while we get a blue strip along the bottom that doubles as the pop-up menu where the navigation comes in. It’s quick and easy to use and the style and font with the colors used makes the navigation very easy to read and move about in. Submenus load quickly and we had no problems during the main menu or during regular playback.
The extras for this release are pretty standard fare but certainly welcome as English language fans make out with a pair of commentary tracks for episodes three and seven and there are also the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A Certain Magical Index had some good fun with the first half of the season as it went on and it was just plain fun to reconnect with these characters. I, like many others, ended up finding more appealing things about A Certain Scientific Railgun, but I like that a lot of what we get here takes place after the events of that series since a lot of that series was prequel material for Mikoto that tied into the first season here. With this season, going back to Kamijo and Index after all this time was certainly a bit jarring, but it worked well to provide a different view of Academy City, one that does feel in some ways to be more violent than the Railgun series.
The downside to the structure of this series is that the big arc we had in the previous set running through the end of it is brought to completion here. That works on a weekly basis of course, but here it just feels anticlimactic to see how a huge threat to Academy City ends up being dealt with. The idea of using the city to change the nature of the world with the relic it has, shifting the balance from science to religion, certainly provides a lot of fear for those involved and it’s good to see how motivated and intense Kamijo is in dealing with it. Though there is an anticlimactic element to it, it does work well in going big with the event itself and having a creative way of bringing it to a close, including a scary/comical epilogue moment that is one of my greatest fears when it comes to flying.
Unfortunately, this is the high point for this half of the season for a bit as it shifts gears after that by having Kamijo’s luck “turn around” from his usual bad luck to something that will seem good but will be invariably worse. With a lottery win that gets him and Index a trip to Chioggia, Italy, there’s a lot of things moving to make it easier for them. Getting them out of Japan isn’t a bad thing, and out of Academy City at that to see how other parts of the world operates, and we get some good Venice style locales as it starts getting underway. While there are plenty of food gags and Index getting lost regularly, we also get to reconnect with Orsola, who was supposed to be in London but is spending a little time here to finish getting all her stuff to complete her move. It’s fun seeing Kamijo and Index deal with local cuisine and other gags, including bathroom humor, but that’s just the soft entry into the show.
Where it goes from there really leaves me less than thrilled as we see Orsola being targeted by an assassin, which fits with past events, but it shifts into an area where it’s hard to suspend disbelief. When the attempt fails, the assassins flee on some ice ships that are magically created and head out to see, which Kamijo and Index end up hitching a ride on. As it turns out, this is the Queen’s Fleet and is under the command of Bishop Biagio, who is looking to kill Orsola. There’s a lot of material about the ship itself, of which it’s part of a fleet of, and we get that fleet moving along. It’s just too much to really take seriously though with hugely detailed old style ice ships that are lightly crewed and are used as punishment services for Sisters that err in certain ways. There’s an overly complicated plot that goes into all of this but it’s just such a quick, forced event that takes place within the space of a day – and has Kamijo summing up his special trip in that day, that the couple of episodes that it ran was pretty much a chore, especially with the additional Sisters that get involved.
Once the show shifts back to Academy City, we do get a pretty good arc that gets underway, as well as some fun before it involving Mikoto trying to get Kamijo to follow through on their penalty bet, which includes having him act like her boyfriend so she can get some speciality item that she wants. Which is great because the two are hugely awkward with each other and others are trying to break them apart in great fashion. Where it goes from there though is what I like, though it’s not quite convoluted but rather just built upon things from the past. We’ve got some decent time in this season seeing Index and Kamijo working together, but we also see how Last Order, who we’ll just call Mikasa from here on out, has essentially become a part of Accelerator’s life and is helping to slowly turn him into a much better person against his will. A lot of it is because he does have some guilt over what happened with all the clones and that’s turning into a sense of responsibility for this pint sized younger version.
Where the show goes from there is definitely involved as there are a lot of moving parts, but the initial big piece that gets underway is that Accelerator has to deal with his old mentor, Kihara, who is now after Last Order himself and has larger plans underway as part of something big. With Accelerator in bad shape even before all of this, he’s not able to do much about it, though he does push back as hard as he can and it’s really good to see him become so humanized after his encounters in the first season. Mikasa has made a real difference in his life and watching him now have someone to fight for, instead of just fighting to get stronger, makes him a far more engaging character. What also makes this arc interesting as it progresses is seeing how Accelerator and Kamijo are both trying to find the women in their lives, but are doing it separately with some connection between them that they don’t know about. Even when they do talk over the phone, they don’t realize who it is that’s on the other end, which makes for some really amusing moments.
As the arc ramps up even more, it does have a lot of fun with what goes on here, but I have to admit that having another area where the city is threatened in such a big way kind of devalues the overall experience. We’ve had that happen several times over the course of the two main seasons as well as the two Railgun series that it’s too familiar overall, though I do like the change-up of the characters here. Focusing more on Accelerator here definitely changes the dynamic a bit as he starts to figure out a reason to fight for something. Though with the way the Roman Orthodox Church operates here, there’s definitely more than enough reason to fight against something as well with how they operate. The show plays well through the final arc here as it goes on, and we get a rather interesting epilogue story that again focuses more on Accelerator as his mission and purpose really solidifies. If there was a point to it that I didn’t care for, it’s that we didn’t really get a good connection for Kamijo and Accelerator, even though they came real close to it. There’s some good settling of events here, and a decent turn towards getting the Skill Out group to realize that they really are taking the wrong approach, but it’s all setup for more to come in the end.
The second half of A Certain Magical Index II is a bit of a mixed bag overall, which is certainly how I feel about the property in general. I love the show as something that can go in so many different directions and it’s ideal for spiraling out a “shared universe” approach to it and expanding the whole thing. But the translation of the internal logic of the novels doesn’t always work, particularly in our brief and rather off putting Italian arc, which makes me wary. It’s too easy to go to a big end of the city kind of threat, taking the more personal stories and dangers out of the picture overall. There are definitely positives though as I really like how Accelerator is coming out through all of this and I’d love to see a series with just him and Last Order. I’d also like to see a series that actually deals with Index, but she’s again underused here as it feels like they really don’t know how to use the character.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 16th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.