The last episode ones? A Certain Magical Index II, Soredomo Machi wa Mawatteiru, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

The first A Certain Magical Index series was both appealing and frustrating. It brought us some interesting characters but too often fell to incoherent stories with one magical group or individual after another showing up, as if they were pulling cult terminology randomly out of a hat. And Index appeared far too rarely in the show named for her. The spinoff, A Certain Scientific Railgun, had some of these same problems, maddening story arcs, sloppy writing, but grounded itself in the adventures of a handful of girls. The series was as much about their friendship as it was about level-uppers. Because of this the strange world managed to grow, and I found myself missing it when it was over. Which is to say I’m delighted to see A Certain Magical Index II.

I’m happy to say Touma is still Touma, a guy with no magical powers but a right hand that can dispel magic. He’s also unlucky and put-upon by everyone he meets, while all he wants to do is live peacefully and get his homework done. An appealing character whom I was always glad to see when he showed up on Railgun. And Index is … Index. Her main job in the original series was to get kidnapped or threatened, when she appeared at all, oh, and to bug Touma. The new series starts us with a minor stand-alone story to get us back into their world. A guy kidnaps Index so he can get a look at one of the forbidden books in her brain.

It turns out he wants to save the cursed woman he loves, he’s not really bad, etc. They do reintroduce a theme used very well in Railgun, that of a city where some people have powers, others don’t and the friction that can cause between them. I hope they get back to that. And as a bonus we briefly see Misaka, pissed and flustered in turns around Touma, though she gets more flustered than I expected. Hmm. Next week more old characters return and I’m going to have to catch up with all their affiliations and rivalries. Since this stuff dragged the original series down I’m not looking forward to that. Maybe this time they’ll do a better job.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru is about Hotori Arashiyama, a half-assed girl, and the half-assed maid cafe she works in.

About the only thing maidy about it is the outfits. They don’t even serve tea, can’t be bothered. This seems to suit Hotori fine. It suits Hotori’s classmate Sanada, too, since he’s one of their few customers and so gets time alone with her. I’m not sure where the story, if any, is going to go. The first episode has two: first, Hotori’s friend Toshiko shows up and tries to get the place to act more classy. In the second their homeroom teacher shows up to berate them for breaking school rules. Slapstick ensues, some of it funny.

A clumsy maid exercise goes awry.

I liked the premiere well enough but I’m not sure it has staying power. There are a lot of quick camera shots to keep us on edge and keep us from noticing that the character designs aren’t all that much, though the art looks fine. It’s quirky, which I always like. We’ll see.

Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 1 brings us four cute and annoying little detectives attending Holmes Detective Academy. Apparently in this world everyone’s either a detective and a thief. A “golden age” of, er, thieving and detecting.

Meet the Milky Holmes girls.

Everyone has a “toy,” some sort of inner power that gives them certain abilities. Milky Holmes (the name of the four-girl team) has lost their toys, thanks to some deviousness or other concocted by their nemesis, Lady Arsene. Not content with that, Arsene and her cohorts work in the academy and are using their influence to drive the girls out of school altogether, a big drop from before, when Milky Holmes was the envy of the school. The girls have three months to get their toys back—or else. Why Arsene, who as Henrietta, is the headmaster, doesn’t just expel them I don’t know. Some weird things are going on behind the scenes. And where did Kobayashi Opera, who trained the girls, run off too? What was that mysterious bolt of lightning during the girls’ humiliating attempt to defuse a bomb in front of the student body?

Meet Lady Arsene. Now, whose side are you on?

Not to say I’m interested. The girls are shrill little clichés. The bad guys, known as the Gentleman Thieves, are clichés as well, but they’re more fun to watch than the heroes. The show is fully aware of this and devotes most of the ED to showing Arsene in revealing poses. Twenty, posing as a teacher, has some good moments of narcissism, not enough to save the series, but things liven up when he’s around. In the end the series had better whip the Milky Holmes girls into shape if I’m going to keep watching it.

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