Reviewby Theron Martin,
A Certain Magical Index
BD+DVD - The Miracle of Endymion
The world of Academy City is such an expansive, involved franchise that bringing it all together in a single 85-minute move is a tall order. That is exactly where The Miracle of Endymion stumbles. It is so focused on trying to shoehorn in every recurring character from both the A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun sides of the franchise that it does not leave enough time to properly develop anything else. As a result, Miracle is a hodgepodge of insufficiently developed and explored story elements padded out with a ton of cameos and plenty of action.
The story approach involves the central casts of both Index and Railgun but with almost no cross-over between the two; at any given time each protagonist and/or group is doing its own thing largely or entirely independent of the other. In fact, beyond one scene where Mikoto visits Touma in the hospital, the two casts do not interact at all. On the plus side, this does provide a smooth and plausible way to examine both sides of the central conflict: on Touma's side is the push by the Church of England's representatives to neutralize what they see as a catastrophic risk, while on Mikoto's side is the effort to puzzle out what Ladylee might be up to and run damage control. However, the storytelling fails to establish at all how Ladylee's grand scheme is supposed to work or set up much for compelling motives.
The character development is a much bigger problem. The established characters are fine, and anyone familiar with both TV series paths will find nothing inconsistent in their portrayal, but the new characters falter. Exactly why Ladylee is so keen to do what she is, and why she is willing to put so many other lives at stake to achieve her goal, is only ever vaguely implied, and she never really shows much of a personality. Shutaura, the elite squad commander, has an ill-defined ability and only two personality modes (angry and passively annoyed). Arisa comes off a little better, as she gets to express in more detail what her hopes and desires are, but a little more might have been hoped for here since she is the movie's central character. Lesser new characters fare even worse; the three young witches accompanying Stiyl are never even named (or if they are, only briefly) and get almost no identifying personality characteristics, while the two agents employed by Ladylee are never identified, even by type; they seem like they might be some kind of magical automatons, but we are never told even that much.
Naturally the movie has a fair amount of action, but as nifty as those highly-mobile stealth tanks are, very little of the action in the movie gives the grand sense of major events going down. It is all fun enough to be passable and is animated quite well, but little of it even approaches the sense of tension and excitement of the grander fights in the various TV series. The musical numbers are decent enough, whether they be the street performances done early on by Arisa or the more heavily-produced idol shows she does in the late stages, but nothing there has an epic, show-stopping feel to it, either, and both they and the action scenes sometimes seem more forced in than a natural progression. A few small doses of fan service are offered, but they largely stay in line with the level seen in Index.
Beyond the fight animation, the artistic effort is only a minor upgrade from the level of the TV series. The backgrounds are maybe a little crisper, but character designs and rendering are hardly any improvement over TV series level. New characters Arisa and Shutaura both have eye-pleasing designs, with Arisa having more of a wholesome look (despite being involved in the raciest scene in the movie) while Shutaura was clearly aimed more for sex appeal with her sleek battle suit and certain camera angles concerning her; this dichotomy in both look and personality (one is softer, the other is hard-edged) actually does feed into a late plot twist, so it was not just done for effect. Except for one scene where a character gets shot, graphic content lands on the milder end of what was seen in the various TV series; it is certainly below the level of the Sisters arcs, for instance.
The musical score, on the whole, is entirely unremarkable. The unimpressive pop songs are one group of minor problems, while the heavily-synthesized background music being only sporadically effective is another. Again, it is no significant upgrade from the TV series if it is even that good.
All performers from TV series roles return for the English dub of the movie, for better or worse. Amongst new characters, Maxey Whitehead gets a rare turn as a prominent female character and does what she can with Ladylee, while Whitney Rodgers (Yozora in Haganai) is merely passable as Shutaura. Megan Shipman, who is a music teacher for her main career and also voiced one of the ITEM members in Railgun S, was called upon for the heavy-singing role of Arisa. She does great in the speaking parts but is unimpressive in the singing, due in large part to some awkwardly-phrased English lyrics. In fact, the dub as a whole is rough in places – not pervasively so, but it is definitely present enough to drop this one below Funimation's normal standards for smoothness.
Funimation's release of the title comes in its standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, complete with bonus interior artwork. The Blu-Ray carries a disclaimer at the beginning clarifying that Funimation is only able to provide a 2.0 audio track for the Japanese dub due to contractual obligations, while the English dub gets the normal 5.1 track. Most of the Extras are a collection of trailers and promotional videos for the movie, but it does have a full audio commentary featuring all of the lead English cast except Mikoto's Brittney Karbowski, who was apparently giving birth the day it was recorded. It is entertaining enough to be worth a listen on a second pass-through of the movie and some of the commentary on the effect that voice acting can have on one's voice can be interesting.
The story for the movie was penned by original light novel writer Kazuma Kamachi, and the way it is retroactively slipped into canon even becomes a joke early on. Kuroko being in a wheelchair places the movie at some point not long after episode 7 of Index II, but really, this has no more of a canon feel to it than any of the various movies for series like InuYasha or Naruto. Overall, it is serviceable entertainment for franchise fans (anyone who has not seen most of the previous animated content will be lost, so it is definitely not an entry point), but there is nothing miraculous about it.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : C+
+ Nice designs for new characters, some good action scenes, nearly all recurring franchise characters get at least a cameo.
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