Recently I’ve been slowly making my way through my anime backlog, and recently finished Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (A Certain Scientific Railgun). That prompted me to catch up on the Toaru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index) light novels, which are on their second “season”, New Testament.
The first “season” of the light novels ended with a really epic arc featuring battles on an immense scale, which you would hope from an arc named the World War 3 arc. It’s why a third season of the anime is on my most wanted list.
But I would love even more an anime adaptation of the Othinus arc in New Testament, because I think it is one of the greatest and most epic arcs in Japanese media I’ve ever read. I’d highly recommend it if you have the time to watch through all of Index, then read from where the anime leaves off and through to New Testament. But given that Index is 23 novels and New Testament is 11 novels at this time (not to mention that Index is licensed now and it will take ages for all the novels to be published), I’ll give a spoiler filled description of why I think the Othinus arc is one of my favourite stories thus far.
Just to be sure, spoilers be ahead.
New Testament 1-8
So the Index series ended with an immense though short-lived war between the sides of “science” and “magic”, though the sides were not actually that clear cut and the ultimate villain was really acting on their own. Regardless, the victory of “science”, led by the technologically advanced Academy City, caused some magicians to band together to try and bring down Academy City, forming a group named Gremlin. The New Testament series up to the 10th book has focused on the actions of Gremlin.
So over the first few books the protagonist, Kamijou Touma, and his allies battle with Gremlin as they cause trouble in Hawaii and Eastern Europe. Eventually it is revealed that the ultimate plan of Gremlin revolves around their leader, Othinus, who is a magic god, a magician who has reached a level of power so great that they are capable of an infinite number of actions. However, that infinite possibility means that her actions are equally likely to fail as succeed. The plan of Gremlin is to complete an artifact that would ensure every action taken by Othinus would succeed – a 100% success rate.
Her main opponent is Kamijou Touma, a student of Academy City who possesses the mysterious power Imagine Breaker, which lets his right hand completely negate almost all supernatural phenomena (magic or science based). In the course of New Testament it’s revealed that Imagine Breaker is essentially a backup plan naturally created by the hopes/fears of magicians – a power that could reset the state of the world if a magician changed the world too much. At any one time Imagine Breaker inhabits one person, moving to another if that person dies.
After many battles with Gremlin members, Touma manages to confront Othinus and the creation of the artifact is stopped. Unfortunately, due to complicated reasons Othinus manages to achieve a state where all her intended actions have a 100% failure rate, meaning she can simply do the opposite of her intention to always succeed.
And so, despite Touma’s success in destroying the artifact, Othinus destroys the world.
New Testament 9
The next novel begins with Othinus and Touma finding themselves alone in a completely black void, Touma having been protected by the power of Imagine Breaker. This entire novel is basically a single fight, as Othinus attempts to break Touma’s spirit, because given Touma’s history of victory in the face of overwhelming odds she states that she would not be able to directly kill Touma.
So she sends Touma into different versions of the world he knew. In one he is considered the number one enemy of the world, hunted by every single person on the planet. In another he finds himself in the body of a stranger, who is “Touma” while not actually being Touma. In another he finds himself in a world of peace and happiness, one that exists because Touma never existed. This last world almost leads Touma to commit suicide, only for a special entity to make Touma remember why he fights.
And so after enduring numerous different worlds designed to break Touma through despair and pain, Touma finally confront Othinus directly. Which is where we find out the true scale of this battle. Touma quickly dies to Othinus, but we find out that this is not the first time that Touma has died to Othinus – for some reason she does not want to truly kill him. This cycle of Othinus and Touma finding themselves in the black void, Othinus trying to break Touma, and Touma dying fighting against Othinus, has been happening again and again. An Endless Eight if you will – but each cycle much longer than a summer holiday, and each cycle designed to break down Touma.
Touma loses almost all of his memory each time he dies, but he slowly instinctually remembers his previous actions, especially his fights against Othinus. And eventually, after some thousands of cycles Touma figures out what to do.
He realises that this whole thing was not the first time Othinus remade the world – that Othinus became a successful magic god before meeting Touma and remade the world several times. The Norse God Odin, various gods of war, and many other myths were actually representations of Othinus from previous worlds.
And her reason for remaking the world so many times was the same reason that Imagine Breaker exists – she had lost sight of her original world, and had been trying to remake her original world. She had been trying to undo the changes she made with each new world, but her power only let her create new changes, not undo them.
Finally, in the 10,031st (a number of significance in the series) fight between Othinus and Touma, Othinus gives up on trying to restore her original world. The endless cycles and the ease with which Touma died in every fight had finally worn her down. She resolves to finally kill Touma for good and create a new world – but Touma dodges her attacks. Endless repetitions of the fight were like fighting an over-levelled boss in a game thousands of times. Touma had read Othinus’ moves and was able to fight her one-on-one.
But in the end, he couldn’t avoid a spear Othinus sent through herself into Touma, fatally wounding Touma. Before his death, he tells Othinus to use Imagine Breaker to restore her original world. With his death, Othinus is finally alone.
As is usually case, she only realises what she’s lost once it’s gone. She realises that what she wanted was someone who understood her, having been vilified in basically every world she created. And so, rather than choosing to return to her original world – one she barely remembers except as being a hated villain in, she chooses a different world to return to – Touma’s world.
New Testament 10
After that eternity of battle, Touma wakes up in his original world, just before Othinus chose to destroy the world. Realising what Othinus has done, and realising that his allies still viewed her as the ultimate enemy capable of destroying the world, he intervenes and escapes with Othinus.
Which results in both Touma and Othinus being targeted by essentially every major power in the world. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances of the spell that allowed Othinus to achieve a 100% failure rate, Othinus loses her ability to use magic.
The rest of the novel is a very interesting series of battles as Touma has to fight every major friend and ally he’s made over the years as he and Othinus trek across Denmark in order to remove the spell that makes Othinus a magic god, which would eliminate the threat Othinus presents to the rest of the world. In this way Touma believes he can save Othinus.
It’s a really fun novel after the epic previous novel, as Touma gets the living hell beaten out of him by friends and the weapons of the major powers, and either reasons with them or uses his wits to beat them. It’s like a “best of” Kamaijou Touma – fighting familiar foes in ways and for reasons that exemplify the character.
I won’t say how it ends, but I enjoyed it all the way through.
What I like about the Othinus arc
Firstly, it’s the scale of the Othinus arc – it combines events on a world scale with an epic battle that occurs on a massive time scale. And unlike Endless Eight, the cycles are designed to mentally break the protagonist. In NT9 Touma is made to question every reason he gives for fighting to save the girl(s) of the arc (and the occasional guy). And it’s after reaffirming his reasons for fighting that he is able to make the entire world his enemy in order to save the girl who he was fighting just moments before. Which is the second reason I really like this arc – it is the ultimate representation of what Touma does and his reasons for it; that he will fight to ensure that any girl in front of him finds happiness, even if the entire world will fight him.
It’s also the arc in which Touma relies more and more on his friends, including the first battle in NT (and maybe the whole series) in which Touma, Index and Misaka Mikoto (best girl) cooperate against the same enemy – the trio I would say are the flagship characters of the series.
Also, of the many redemption stories in the Index series, I was most attached to this one. Accelerator’s redemption story was spread out over multiple arcs and might not even be finished, while characters like Fiamma of the Right don’t have the depth of story that Othinus has had dedicated to her.
Finally, NT10 is basically shounen battle fanservice, as familiar characters are pitted against Touma while the major powers of the world unleash some of their ultimate weapons to take down Touma and Othinus. Even if Touma’s allies and friends don’t fight him at full capacity, just the number of fights Touma has with them is interesting in and of itself.
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about this arc. The Index series is probably not the best shounen media out there, and it can be easy to get lost amongst its descriptions of how magic and esper powers work. There are some stories that aren’t that compelling – the Baggage City story in NT4 was a little bit of a slog. That said, it remains one of my favourite titles because of arcs like this. A dark experiment or threat that shows little mercy, a girl in trouble, and one idiot ready to take the world on to make sure everyone goes home happy.
This post also appeared on Number 17. Feel free to comment on it there.