The festival moves on to its next event, Balloon Hunter, which involves contestants wearing small balloons on their helmets in a competition to who can pop the other team’s. What Tokiwadai’s team doesn’t know is that Misaka’s not actually there, just her clone, who is much more tactically minded AND knows the terrain because it was used in the Sisters experiment. The battle is fierce and requires both teams needing to think five steps ahead at times. Baba, the MEMBER member, has been leading the charge on strategy, eventually going on to target Misaka (or who he thinks is Misaka), but even that proves to be a challenge. It’s only thanks to a lucky hit that she’s taken down, losing the game for Tokiwadai. She meets up with Misaka later, who congratulates her for doing well then lets her get lunch. But soon, Misaka collapses mysteriously, possibly due to something from Misaki and Klein, who capture her.
Elsewhere, Misaka gets lunch with her mother, but meets up with Toma AND Misaki in an awkward exchange.
In terms of the timeline of the franchise, this episode apparently takes place after the next couple episodes of Index’s version of this arc. From what I’ve read, Railgun’s version is supposed to go past the period of time covered in Index by next episode, but even though I know these plots aren’t meant to interact, but I did notice some issues with the continuity watching episodes from both shows side by side. By this point in the story, Toma is supposed to be in full mission mode finding a magician named Oriana Thompson and knowing that many people’s lives are on the line here, but his appearance here seems weirdly casual given how he was shown to be feeling around this time in the other version. Or maybe one of the versions is wrong? I dunno, it’s just something that bugged me. Once we move past those episodes it probably won’t be an issue.
Putting aside to connections to the rest of the franchise, this episode seems to be about the same as last weeks, if only with fewer characters to feel as invested in or rooting for. The balloon game was a fun watch for the time it was given, but even with a few clever spots in there, it felt VERY low stakes and wasn’t nearly as creative with its game as the race last episode. Then again, the balloon game also had a deeper layer with the involvement of Baba from MEMBER, though the end result of that plan is…unclear. Was it really just to knock out Misaka in this one game? Or did this start something up for later? 10032 collapsing later wasn’t because of Baba’s involvement, so what did he do? What was his contribution to the story?
Maybe we’ll get to that later, but we do get bits of steady development forward. Aside from the aforementioned Misaka-napping, Misaki also gets a little moment between her, Misaka-Prime, and Toma. Now, had I not spoiled myself on certain things in currently unadapted Index novels, I would not know about why there was an odd air to this scene, but it does help to understand what’s going on there a bit better. And her plans look to finally be ramping up, so we’ll hopefully get more action then. Because otherwise, I think my memories of this season so far could easily be erased. I’m not even kidding, but also definitely not hinting anything that’s coming later, so don’t even ask me if I am! Because I most certainly am not.