- Genre : Action, supernatural, sci fi, harem, magical girl, exposition
- Episodes: 24
- Studio: J.C.Staff
Academy City is a place of wonders. Man-made wonders. A world of logic and science where gifted young men and women (called Espers) are brought together to sharpen their skills. A place where people strive to make the world better through the advancement of technology. But this world of reason is suddenly invaded by the chaos of Magic in the form of a young woman called Index. A nun from the mysterious Necessarium branch of the Church of England, she carries within her the secrets of the 103,000 forbidden magical books collected by the church. An unimaginable wealth of arcane knowledge. And nothing is more dangerous than a little knowledge.
A Certain Magical Index is one of those animes that had always existed in the periphery of my mind. I have heard the name regularly throughout the years and always figured I should watch it someday but at the same time never truly felt the need to. I finally got that push when the third season recently came out and a lot of bloggers I respect got very excited about it. The first this I noticed is: I had always been mistaking the anime for The Irregular at Magic High School… Good start Irina!
I had to look it up and the first season is now 10 years old. I actually thought it was older. Although A Certain Magical Index doesn’t look bad by any means, there’s something a little dated in the designs and aesthetics. Visually, in my mind, it stands somewhere between the classic anime look and the modern one. The animation can get a little jagged in more high-speed scenes, but the art is very consistent which is nice.
The voice acting on the other hand was not my favourite. I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on the actors though. I’ll get back to this a bit later but suffice it to say, a mix of very shallow direction and basic writing has made the script rather unwieldy and you often get the feeling that characters are spouting memorized monologues rather than having natural conversations. This could in fact be a stylistic choice but it’s not one I enjoyed.
You know what, let’s get to those writing issues right away. Somewhere around episode 5, I started calling A Certain Magical Index, “Exposition, the Animation”. And it only gets worse as episodes progressed. This series really does not adhere by the “don’t tell, show” doctrine. I understand that the world A Certain Magical Index is trying to create is rather large with many complicated rules, but pretty much every episode features at least one (if not several) minutes long speech explaining everything that’s happening. And it still feels confused.
Aside from the clumsy exposition which gets boring quick. It’s the anime equivalent of a wall of text. The major problem I had with the story is the murky character motivations. It was difficult to follow or sympathize with anything on screen because I never got to know the characters all that well and the show never gave me any substantial reason for why they were behaving the way they were.
The story is actually broken down in several miniarcs. The ones featuring Accelerator and Railgun being my favourites by far as those side characters were ironically more fleshed out. However, the main plot is concerned with Touma’s ongoing attempts to “save” Index. Why does Touma put himself and others in constant danger to “save” Index. As far as I can tell it’s because she’s cute and he’s the hero. Why is Index running away? The few people we meet from the church actually care a great deal about her. She’s also an amnesiac so she doesn’t really have any specific examples of mistreatment….
Why is Academy City forcing cruel experiments on children to create a level 6 Esper? Just cause they can? Are they at war?
Honestly, as soon as you scratch below the surface, a lot of the reasoning amounts to “because plot”. To be fair – I was slogging through this series (it really took me way longer than usual to get through) when it suddenly disappeared from my Crunchyroll feed so I missed out on the two last episodes. It makes no difference to everything I’ve said so far but it is possible that these issues get resolved in the last episodes and that the following seasons are much better.
Also, even though I did find it a bit tedious, I stuck with it because there were elements I liked a lot. The universe seems unrealized, but it is very rich and expansive with a lot of potential. As I said, I enjoyed Accelerator a lot and his redemption arc was downright interesting and would have convinced me to watch season two had it still been available.
Fact is, I can see why some people enjoyed this show a lot. It has a decent amount of action and keeps changing. The mid-season trick of switching around character appearance due to magic was a great way to revitalize the series and something I hadn’t seen before. There’s simply this feeling of the narrative being unfinished. Like it needed a few more editing passes before it was ready to go out because it sometimes gives the impression that they were working with an outline rather than a complete script.
My final verdict is this. If it reappears on Crunchyroll, I will watch season 2. I won’t go out of my way to find it though (and yes, I know it’s on Netflix). Unless you guys tell me it gets much better…
Favorite character: Accelerator – The Railgun clones
What this anime taught me: Watch quickly for nothing lasts forever
Technically, alcohol is a *solution*
Suggested drink: a Vesper
- Every time a phone gets broken – take a sip
- Every time anyone has a smoke – take a sip
- Every time Touma has rotten luck – take a sip
- Every time Index bites Touma – take a snack
- Every time we see a cross – get some water
- Every time anyone casts a spell – take a sip
- Every time someone aggressively tries to save Index – take a sip
- Every time we meet a homeless cat – take a sip
- Every time a girl is starving – get dessert
- Every time Touma is in the hospital – take a sip