Academy City Series

Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Magical Index

More from the Academy City series:

Original Run: October 4, 2008 - March 19, 2009
Number of Episodes: 24
Genre: Action, Comedy, Supernatural
Based on the Series Created By: Kazuma Kamachi

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for A Certain Magical Index. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

Welcome to Academy City, a place built on scientific discovery. A world leader in advancement, its population consists of 80% of students, most of whom have a wide range of psychic powers. It’s a place like no other, and yet, scientists are not the only ones looking for influence.

Around the world, many religions do not rely on the power of science, but rather magic. Churches of the world and academic institutions are in a constant struggle. Both sides are looking for their edge, and at long last, a decisive weapon may have surfaced.

Touma Kamaijo (voiced by Atsushi Abe) is a student residing in Academy City. Designated as a Level 0 esper, he tries his best to live an ordinary life. However, two things make do so problematic. The first is his ability to dispel all other abilities, both psychic and magical. The second is the sudden appearance of a young nun named Index (voiced by Yuka Iguchi).

Index has access to the Church’s most valuable knowledge, thus making her a frequent target. For Touma, though the odds are forever stacked against him, he cannot sit by when someone needs his help. Facing the strength of both divinity and discovery, he is the only one who can make a stand against either.

Series Positives

If you’re just joining us, I had watched A Certain Magical Index’s spin-off series, A Certain Scientific Railgun, first.

In my Railgun review, I said two things, and because of these two things, my outlook on Index was shapped.

  1. I enjoyed the hell out of Railgun.
  2. I wasn’t convinced the order of these shows was all that important.

So, where does that leave Index?

It was a good show. Just like it was with Railgun, Index was an easy series to get through. Had it been ten or even fifteen episodes longer, you wouldn’t have heard me complaining.

Remembering Railgun, there were only two significant crisis events. Index did something similar. However, instead of two large scale events, there were several; this show didn’t take many breaks. It still managed to have humor and be silly, but while that was happening, a problem was always getting resolved.

Every time an issue came to a head, it felt dire. That alone was enough to establish a significant amount of weight. That’s not easy to do, even for a story that spends its entire runtime on a single arc. Thus, it’s all the more impressive that Index had six.

There were about four episodes per arc, and in that short amount of time, Index had to lay the groundwork, set up the threat, and deliver a satisfying conclusion. This processes included introducing new characters and developing older one. There was a lot that needed to get done.

The two arcs with the best exaction were the ones that involved Accelerator (voiced by Nobuhiko Okamoto). When first introduced, he was a villain, there’s no getting around that. He played the role well, and this was a guy you did not want to see win.

Then, when Accelerator was brought back later, something was different. You never forget what he did, but the story gave a glimpse behind his previous behind his actions. By the end of this arc, the Index managed to do a full reversal. Accelerator became one of the characters I want to know more about.

Another similarity between Index and Railgun was the strength of their main characters. Since these were long series, we spent the majority of our time with these people. It’s good that this wasn’t time wasted.

Let’s start with Touma. At the start, I didn’t have that much of an opinion on him. Personality-wise, there wasn’t much going for him. As the series progressed, though, that changed. Touma was always able to keep a cool head, even in the most desperate of times.

Touma’s ability to neutralize powers, on paper, didn’t sound all that impressive. And yet, in action, it proved its worth. He could go toe to toe with some of the series’ most destructive espers.

Still, Touma’s biggest strength was his resolve. If he knew he had to put his foot down, he wasn’t going to back down. And if a fight were going to happen, he wouldn’t run. But he was never the one to throw the first punch.

The second character I want to talk about is Index.

I’ll admit, for the majority of this series, Index felt like a sidekick to Touma. I wish that weren’t the case because she wasn’t a useless character. She possessed and could control all knowledge of magic’s history and usage. When she activated that power, she became rather formidable. I feel the show did not use her to her fullest potential.

The final person I want to mention is none other than Mikoto Misaka (voiced by Rina Sato).

Her appearance in Index allowed us to get a much more detailed look into her past. This was something that wasn’t well explored in Railgun. Although I wouldn’t call her history dark, what she went through wasn’t sunshine either.

It might be because I saw Railgun first, but Mikoto never felt sidelined. She was a key player in what was going on. HOWEVER, there was something that bothered me.

Had I started with Index, I think I would have enjoyed Makoto’s character. However, I don’t think this anime provided enough reasons to warrant her spin-off.

Series Negatives

Railgun is superior to Index in every conceivable way. It’s no question which of the two I prefer. Railgun is just better, and it comes down to a single reason.

Railgun got treated itself like an adaptation, whereas Index got treated itself as though you better know what the series is before going into it. Remember how I said you don’t have to watch Index to watch Railgun. Well, you sort of need to watch Railgun to watch Index.

This confused the hell out of me.

I looked everywhere to confirm, and sure enough, Index released first, both in manga and anime form. So, why then did Index feel like the spin-off and not the source series?

Index’s story does a crap job of explaining details.

For example, let’s use the Academy City’s peacekeepers, Judgement. Unlike in Railgun, they weren’t major players in Index. That was fine since this was Touma and Index’s story. Be that as it may, Judgement’s inclusion in this series can’t be ignored.

What do we know about Judgement? What was it; how did it work? Using only what we can find in this series, the answer is, “I have no idea.”

Here’s a list of other questions:

  • Why is Mikoto, a level 5 esper, not in Judgement?
  • What do the levels even mean?
  • Is a Level 4 that much weaker than a Level 5?
  • How do people get their levels? Are they born with them? Do they work for them?
  • What are espers?
  • Why are there espers?
  • Espers appear to be supernatural beings. So, why is a city based on science and reason the one with supernatural beings?
  • How is magic all that different from espers?
  • Why is the Christian Church the ones who are dealing with magic, a.k.a. which craft?

I trust you see the problem.

Railgun took its time. Yes, it may only have had two major events, but when it wasn’t focusing on those, the series was building a cohesive world; Academy City felt alive. Index took that illusion away.

There was nothing to Index’s version of Academy City. It was an arbitrary location, not the setting to a larger than life story.

If I had seen A Certain Magical Index first, I wouldn’t have been this gung-ho about continuing the series.

Final Thoughts

This was a good show, but how it earned a second season and a side story, I don’t know. Sure, it had cute elements and decent action. Except, why wasn’t Railgun a byproduct of that?

I’m not disinterested in Index season two, and you can be damn sure I’m looking forward to watching Railgun S.

That aside, A Certain Magical Index was entertaining. It may not be the greatest thing to let you know what’s going on, but it still has good characters, a charm that cannot be denied, and more than enough reasons to keep you glued to your seat.

A Certain Magical Index has earned a recommendation.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise A Certain Magical Index? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

More From The Academy City Series

A Certain Magical Index

Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Magical Index II
Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Magical Index III

A Certain Scientific Railgun

Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun
Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun S
Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun T

A Certain Scientific Accelerator

Anime Hajime Review: A Certain Scientific Accelerator

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