Certain that his Imagine Breaker just reacted to something in that handshake, Touma contacts Tsuchimikado and Stiyl to send them his GPS coordinates but what began as simply tailing Oriana Thomson quickly becomes a chase scene as she breaks into a run along the crowded streets of Academy City.
They manage to catch up so he points out the woman in the painters uniform with the board and noticing that there’s more people after her she comes up with a plan, for this she leads the three of them to the automated bus terminal where she’s set up magical traps to go off according to their movements. Because of this Stiyl is content with just throwing Touma at each one however if they don’t want to lose her they’ll just have to run right through them, so while Stiyl standbys Tsuchimikado and Touma run ahead but lose her when they’re faced with a concrete wave along with all sorts of ways that she could have escaped with no indication to which way she went.
Luckily however Tsuchimikado was able to find one of her flashcards which he’ll be able to use as the catalyst to finding her with the All-Direction Rational Formation, and while he sets it up Stiyl will be the one to activate it since using magic could kill him. As Stiyl prays the four cards begin to spin before colliding together to present a map clearly showing her location, however Oriana already has a counter for something like this and Stiyl is hit with her counter-spell. For something like this to happen they deduce that she must have some form of a shorthand grimoire written by herself which would degrade with time, so in order for Stiyl to be able to use the Formation again they’ll have to locate this first and the only way is for Stiyl to activate it again. Touma objects but he goes through with it anyway, telling him that his fault if that girl is sad at the moment.
Elsewhere Index is disappointed that she couldn’t cheer for Touma while Komoe tries to cheer her up, Seiri also happens to pass by and suggests using spices. Back in the bus terminal, though the attempt to locate the counter-spell was a success Stiyl lies crumpled on the ground, and to Touma it looks like Tsuchimikado couldn’t care less so he confronts him on it. However in doing this Tsuchimikado had to use magic as well so he bandages his wounds, telling him that he’ll destroy it and stop Oriana no matter what, unfortunately the location is a middle school where an event is about to start.
So in order to destroy the counter-spell they’ll have to infiltrate the event, acting as middle schoolers so Tsuchimikado shoves him into the mud before diving in himself as both an excuse to get into the school and a way of bypassing the Antiskill’s identification procedures. The event itself is a ball tossing game between the nearby middle school and Tokiwadai, meaning Mikoto is also participating and easily finds Touma in the crowd.
Seiri kicks off the event and even though Tokiwadai is outnumbered they easily overwhelm the opposing school as Touma and Tsuchimikado search for Oriana’s flashcard. In the resulting chaos the poles start to fall with Touma only just managing to save a girl with Tsuchimikado’s help, but the falling pole is destroyed by none other than Mikoto. Once she calms down a bit she prepares to lean against the pole but Touma spots a card on the pole and not wanting her to get hurt he tries to stop her while not fully explaining why. She starts to blush and reaches for the pole so he tackles her and mistakes her infatuated state as a fever, which snaps her out of it.
The card on this pole wasn’t Oriana’s flashcard however just as Seiri spots him and ends the match, he sees a piece of paper under her hand and with only a touch it activates, sucking out her lifeforce. While he managed to dispel it Seiri still remains unconscious and is hospitalised, and as he destroys the counter-spell Touma is infuriated at how someone completely innocent was hurt because of Oriana.
Considering that a large part of this arc is spent chasing after Oriana it’s a lot more fun to see animated, as the animation itself serves to add quite a bit to it and while it was slightly disappointing to see the magic exposition cut. If the episode was not to be weighed down by it a large part of it would have had to be removed anyway, however while it still seemed to focus on the magic aspect to the series it was great to see some of the short in between sort of scenes kept in.
If anything the animation adds to this arc, as it goes without saying that something like a chase scene would benefit from both being animated and having music to accompany it. Both building up tension and giving a sense of urgency while the animation itself has an exciting feel to it from how it darts around with a fast paced style. Let alone this is something pretty important considering how much of the arc that the chase scene will basically encompass. Oriana’s traps also seemed to benefit from this a bit as just how dangerous they were could easily be seen, with one false move being enough to take out anyone unfortunate enough to activate and get hit by one.
While some of it may have been retained I have kind of mixed feelings to how the magic exposition was cut, as on one side it explained things like what Grimoires were and how a magical array works but on the other it’s utterly pointless compared to the events at hand. So while it may have helped elaborate and explain on some aspects of the world that the story is set in, it wasn’t really something that was needed and may have actually weighed the episode down if something as lengthy like it were to be included.
Tsuchimikado’s character also seemed to be both reintroduced and redeveloped in this episode, as while he was shown to be something of a trickster versed in magic from just this season alone. Things like how he can’t use magic without severely injuring himself to the point that he’s only saved by his esper ability along with how he’s friends/bros with Touma were brought back up. Which the latter was actually pretty fun to see as they teamed up to do things like run through Oriana’s traps and infiltrate the middle school event. One of the things that it also brought up that I liked was how the first impression you get from some of his actions makes him look like a douche such as how he told Stiyl to trigger Oriana’s counter-spell and didn’t even care about what happened to him afterward. But soon after that it’s almost completely reversed as with that scene he showed that not only was he injured as well but was also prepared to take the weight of what had happened to Stiyl as another reason for why he had to stop Oriana at all costs. It’s just something that I like about his character.
One of the highlights of this episode also happened to be how Touma and Tsuchimikado infiltrated the middle school event after the counter-spell, that not only stopped them from going any further but also posed a serious threat to anyone unfortunate to unknowingly activate it. Which while the event itself felt down scaled a bit it also seemed to benefit from being animated, with all sorts of things flying around as Touma and Tsuchimikado looked for the flashcard. It also lead to Mikoto showing up again in a rather cute way and reacting in a similar sort of way to when she met Touma in the first episode of this season to when he was trying to get her away from what he suspected to be the flashcard, for reasons he couldn’t really explain and part of me wonders how the Railgun manga will eventually handle this scene. But more than anything the scene itself served to make Touma’s battle and will to stop Oriana a lot more personal, as for absolutely no good reason one of his classmates and someone completely innocent had been hurt because of her, so it’ll be interesting to see how this extra piece of resolve will add to their eventual battle.