Just my luck…
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Evening readers, the Inverseman here tonight with an old 2008 favorite, A Certain Magical Index. Recently released on Blu-Ray by FUNimation, I’ll be taking a good look at this well-established light novel adaptation and see how it stacks up.
In this world there are those born with supernatural powers, espers, and those who obtain them on their own by the powers of God, magicians. Under the guidance of science, Academy City is a mecca for research and development of esper abilities. Touma Kamijou is a young esper with unusually bad luck who one day meets by chance a young sister named Index, a girl with an entire library of forbidden grimoires memorized in her head. It’s this collision of both magic and science that starts a whole mess of adventures.
I heartily enjoy the world of Index. There are plenty of unique powers, factions, and an overall robust world of espers and magicians. Though at times it gets a little on the convoluted side with random titles, groups, and associations being put out for no real discernible reason (at least as of season 1). That said, the series has a much larger picture with second seasons, spin-off seasons, and novels where I’m sure the answers will lie there. Everyone seems to have some kind of outrageous ability and they try to be scientifically accurate, but at least they’re quite interesting such as Accelerator’s vector reversal abilities.
The characters take a good limelight in the series; they’re quite likable and most of them go through a fair amount of development. Well, that is everyone except a certain bland Touma Kamijou. Touma’s problem is that he’s the winner of the Gary Stu award of 2008, he wins his fights, gets the girls, and unlike the angst-filled god-man of a certain other light novel series, is a personable man of selfless character. In fact, I never really got too into Kami’s story. Even when he gets amnesia, it’s too early in the anime (think fourth or fifth episode) so I never really got to be attached to him or even really care. Overall, he’s not compellingly offensive, but he’s not compelling in a good way either..
Now the girls on the other hand go through their own conflicts and sagas, especially Mikoto Misaka, who I had no prefacing about in the beginning but grew to like. Finally, there’s the villain Accelerator, who goes through a character development that makes his story far more engaging and I will only let you readers find out for yourself what that looks like.
The story is engaging in a very action-shonen way with the aforementioned crazy supernatural abilities, but it’s not entirely perfect. There are a fair number of plotholes and explanations left untouched that I wish were at least resolved in some form. Much of the story and novel follow a battle-shonen style of writing so expect many of the common tropes sometimes played for their own comedy. (Bandages solve everything!) Due to the series of short stories format the novels take, everything feels more episodic, which leaves me engaged with the main cast, but not so much with anyone introduced in the current arc at the time.
The biggest offender of the plot is Kamijou himself. For something claimed to be “devoid of the grace of God”, Imagine Breaker is a deus ex machina in a hand. Most of the plotholes and breaks in the suspension of disbelief come from him. Sometimes Imagine Breaker is used in a smart way, and there’s one instance late in the series that made for a very strong point of tension, but by and large, it’s Kamijou’s “I win” button. Bad luck? No way. With a very high win ratio and a harem of girls, bad luck, my butt.
On the technical side, J.C Staff does an alright job with the animation. It’s not winning any technical awards, but it’s not half bad either. The soundtrack has a fitting science-fiction vibe and gets you in the mood. As for the voice acting, we have some notable names on both sides of the pond, but I will concede that while the dub is satisfying with Micah Solusod as Kamijou and seasoned veteran Monica Rial as Index, the original performance does have it beat. Austin Tindle, you do a fine Accelerator, but Nobuhiko Okamoto truly owns his character right down to his signature laugh.
The DVDs come with a few commentaries from the dub cast as expected from FUNi and not much else. Overall, if you’re looking for something more battle-shonen and an excuse to turn off your brain with some charming characters get into fights, I’d say give Index a shot. There’s a lot more story to see but that will be for a future review, where we’ll look at the second season. I give the first season A Certain Magical Index a decent 3.5/5. Join me next time when I whisper obnoxiously into some girl’s ear.
– Mostly likable and engaging cast
– Sizable amount of worldbuilding
– Notable cast
– Bland main character responsible for the bulk of the plot’s problems
– Story leaves ends hanging with some unfinished business
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