A Certain Magical Index: The Movie – The Miracle Of Endymion (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 90 minutes approx.
It would seem that the Index franchise is popular enough in Japan to warrant the cinema spin-off treatment usually reserved for the bigger anime series. But the universe created by Kazuma Kamachi does have a wide scope for storyline possibilities, evident by the two series it begat, so maybe this feature length transition it isn’t that much of a surprise after all.
The film begins with Spaceplane Orion averting near disaster after an engine blows and crash lands in Academy City but the 88 passengers survived the craft, except for the pilot, regarded by everyone as a miracle. Three years later this miracle has led to the construction of the Space Elevator, Endymion intended to take people into space without the need of spacecraft.
Endymion is near completion and a street singer named Arisa Meigo has been chosen to be the campaign girl for the opening event. Touma Kamijou and Index meet Arisa after one of her performances when they are attacked by a group of magicians led by Stiyl Magnus, which is interrupted by the Black Crow Unit. Their leader Shoutaura Sequenzia warns Touma that Arisa could instigate a war between magic and science.
A promising set up with layers of intrigue established pretty early on, as well as using Arisa and her music as a conduit to introduce all the familiar faces from both Index and its sister show A Certain Scientific Railgun letting us know they will be involved in this adventure. Considering how the normal route in this instance is to have these characters simply show up at a critical point in the story, we can credit writer Hiroyuki Yoshino for getting it right for once.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few things he gets right with the script. Whether it is down to the 90-minute run-time or the abundance of ideas he conceived proved a little overwhelming to manage, this same sense of forethought and planning wasn’t afforded for the new characters, especially the antagonists. This leads to the mystery of Arisa’s powers and the relevance of it to the evil masterplan being a rushed and confusing affair to follow.
Initially it would appear that we have two potential villains in Stiyl (who was a good guy in the second Index series, suggesting the timeline for this film was between the two seasons) and Shoutaura and the Black Crow Unit. Motives for hunting Arisa down are not made clear aside from the fear that she could start a science vs. magic war – Shoutaura and her squad of Tachikoma meets Tron vehicles representing the science side.
Her employer is the president of the Orbit Portal Company, the space travel group behind the Endymion, Ladylee Tangleroad. This being anime she has the appearance of a 10 year-old Gothic loli although she is in fact an immortal being. Since she only appears in the latter half of the film, her motivations for wanting Arisu’s powers are functional rather than substantial but her pernicious intent is at least obvious.
Shoutaura is unable to process music and refuses to believe in miracles which seems a random quirk to have but becomes relevant later on. There is a subtle inference to be made regarding the characterisation of Shoutaura as a Major Kusanagi clone – she is often naked or in skimpy underwear when not in her skintight uniform, has built-in cybernetic abilities and of course, there are the Tachickoma-like Black Crow vehicles.
Yet of all the new characters, Shoutaura is considerably more interesting than Ladylee and Arisu whose mystery is again not explored with any real detail but its relevance becomes clearer later on. Essentially Arisu is another cute face to exploit, her musicality demanding sexy pop idol costumes and cheerful dance tunes to entice fans to buy the soundtrack CD (if there is one).
At the risk of taking the story too seriously, the biggest plot hole is, with the plethora of higher ranking Espers and official bodies in Academy City, how is Touma the one to be specially transported into space to rescue Arisu and thwart Ladylee’s plans? If they had included a scene where he and Index try to plead their case to the authorities or even launch their own unsanctioned campaign that would have worked but instead they get to play heroes just because.
The finale is as you might expect, an all hands on deck scenario bringing the disparate cast together to prevent disaster from happening. But this is the Touma and Index show, leaving the others with just a brief window to show off their skills in what amounts to little more than a token gesture for each supporting character, a problem that has blighted many a film spin-off. At least Mikoto Misaka has her own series to shine in…
For a theatrical release the production values are given a considerable boost given how impressive the TV shows looked, meaning if you watch this on Blu-ray you are in for a treat. The musical performances and outer space scenes invite an additional glossy, experimental approach to the visual, bursting with the requisite kaleidoscopic excess and futuristic élan.
What stands out the most about this film is the eagerness to justify its theatrical release by overloading the story with plenty of appetising ingredients at the expense of basic constructs. It begs for a longer run time to flesh things out more but I fear Yoshino would have made it even messier. Anyone unfamiliar with the Index or Railgun shows are not well served with this adjunct as a starting point, whilst some aspects will prove frustrating even for returning viewers.
As a standalone tale, The Miracle of Endymion should have been the perfect opportunity to hit a home run for the Index franchise but “going big” has proved too much and the early potential of the story isn’t successfully fulfilled. Given the inconsistency of the TV series maybe expecting a great film was simply hoping for a miracle…
English Language 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby TrueHD
“Telepath” Theatrical trailer
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black