Other Name: A Certain Magical Index
Genre: Sci-fi / Magic / Action / Drama / Comedy / Harem / Fan Service (Mild)
Episodes: 24 episodes (2 Seasons)
There is a host of anime and manga series being produced and translated these days. Though a lot of it is junk, I occasionally find a series that is a pleasant surprise for whichever reason, such as in the case of the rather odd series Toaru Majutsu no Index. The manga which I haven’t as yet read, was released first and was staggered during serialization with another manga series which focuses on one of the other characters Misaka Misoto entitled Toaru Kagaku no Rerugan (a.k.a. A Certain Scientific Railgun). I haven’t seen it yet due to it being unavailable in an English dub, but I am considering “biting the bullet” and watching a subbed version.
Touma Kamijou is a good-hearted but unlucky guy studying in Academy City. His knack for attracting trouble results in him meeting and befriending a strange girl in a nun outfit that calls herself Index. After numerous attacks by individuals referring to themselves as “Magicians”, we learn that Index has a library of really powerful grimoires stuck in her head for a Vatican sect called Necessarius. When Touma discovers that the Vatican has ordered her handlers to perform the annual memory wipe spell, he intervenes to save her but loses his own memories in the process, apart from the knowledge that Index is important to him for some reason. Now considered her protector, he has to pretend his memories are intact to keep her with him. This is made difficult by repeated weirdness and his own impulsive need to help others.
From the very first episode, we are given a world with more than its share of secrets. Touma comes into direct contact with many of these throughout the series, but by the end we learn that many of the incidents are in some way connected to a guy floating upside down in some sort of glowing tube – the enigmatic Aleister Crowley. Even at the end, he is close-lipped seeming to know a LOT more than he is willing to tell others – the mysterious bastard! The take on Aleister Crowley is rather brilliant, though the idea of him playing puppet-master from the shadows seems rather misleading. It appears to me (though I have been wrong before) that he is attempting to reveal something to Touma throughout, placing clues to secrets that some individuals would prefer to be swept under the rug. Maybe I will learn more about his plans when I read the manga.
The conflict between the various Magic and Esper factions throughout the world plays a significant part in the show, with Touma (an Esper with a power-cancelling ability in his right hand referred to as Imagine Breaker) and Index (a rather knowledgeable girl that is banned from casting magic that is both a tool and a pawn for certain high ranking members of the Church) being caught in the middle. Index is often kept in the dark by Touma about the various dangers he faces, which results in her frequent physical abuse of him. The relationship between Touma and Index seems more like a siblings to me, but you other viewers may notice things that I haven’t.
I really do adore the hero Touma, a chap that helps others in spite of being treated poorly. We want good things for him, and to see him find a girl that treats him with kindness and respect rather than the verbal and physical abuse shelled out by the many girls in his life. During the series Touma gains a following of female admirers due to his willingness to help others in spite of repeated stays in the hospital under the care of Esper doctor Heaven Canceler, but also has to deal with occasional nose-bleeds (not always caused by the accidental seeing of boobs or underwear) and nervousness. He is exceptionally honorable and tends to treat the lunatic women around him with more kindness than they often deserve. Whenever Touma befriends another girl, his female followers often get jealous and think the worse of him even though he always does the right thing. Yes, this includes the always hungry and world-ignorant Index who frequently bites him whenever she gets unset. Though Index sleeps at his dorm room, the gentlemanly Touma takes one for the team by sleeping in the uncomfortable bathtub. His sacrifices for others may result in girls liking him, but the most likely (if remote) candidate of being a real love interest seems to be the “Bug Zapper” Mikoto Misaka, a level 5 Esper known as “Railgun” who we meet in the first episode.
The dialogue offers a distinct voice and plenty of insight for each character often by what these interactions leave out. This is quite a feat in of itself and helps move the storyline along in often curious ways. A great example of this is in the case of Misaka’s clone sisters, each speaking in a manner as if describing a scene from a book. e.g. “I’m sorry about this. It was my intention to meet back with you after I completed the operation… Misaka apologizes with complete sincerity.” This tells us one of the ways in which the process by which each of the clones are made has altered them in profound ways, showing that the girls are distinctly different from the original whilst at the same time telling us that they are fighting to becoming a real person. In the scene where we first meet one I was immediately interested in their backstory.
The world-building adds in a lot of wiggle room for storytelling, which the writer has taken real advantage of by the various challenges that Touma and his associates come up against. Espers are just as diverse as Magicians, forcing our cast to have to adapt to the new threat quickly. Touma might not always win against these challenges, but the world-building does offer plenty of growth for the cast. Whilst some magicians use Golems as their tools, others use blood. Whilst some Espers flip coins at high velocity towards their enemies, others can teleport about the place. The physics of each of the powers are often explained during the series as well, but it never got cumbersome for me personally.
The artwork was rather lovely breathing life into the world by visions of the gigantic windmills powering Academy City as well as the charm of the nearby resort town. The character art was sweet as well, with the rendering of Touma being somewhat different from your typical archetype leading man. There is also enough fan service to keep panty and boob enthusiasts interested as well, while it simply made me giggle as it pointed out that Touma was still in fact an adolescent boy.
The music and casting for the English dub version was solid, avoiding the pitfalls of shows such as Hellsing that would be IMPO improved by a change of casting. Micah Solusod‘s voicing of Touma worked well, with the quirky and annoying voice of the always amazing Monica Rial suiting Index to a T. While I loved all of the voice acting, Brittney Karbowski‘s portrayal of Misaka and all of her sisters was a stand-out.
In spite of my praise for the series, there are a few episodes in the second season (episode 15 – 17) where a few lines left me confused. It could be easily brushed over but it mildly affected the flow of those few episodes as it left me wondering… Well, I probably should let you watch those few episodes to see if you faced the same annoyance regarding Kaori Kanzaki and Motoharu Tsuchimikado’s partnership with Sasha Kreuzhev once a few facts are revealed later towards this section.
The world-building, character development, storytelling and pacing of this series are excellent, offering lots of conflict for our characters to overcome. A solid soundtrack and casting for the English dub version by some seasoned veterans breathed life and did justice to a series with a heck of a lot going for it. Now that I am finished, I am considering reading the mangas for this series as well as the one for Toaru Kagaku no Rerugan. I loved the setting and would love to see more stories set within this rather expansive universe, which means tracking down the recently released film as well. While this series features some teenage characters, I think that adults will appreciate it as well because it deals with some pretty mature subject matter such as mass murder for the sake of science. I give the series a rating of 9/10.