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A Certain Magical Index [Anime] Review

Posted on December 21, 2012 AT 01:09pm

A Certain Magical Index is a very certain anime about a certain girl and a certain boy. Have I certainly said certain enough?

The anime is one of many parts of a larger media franchise all based off a light novel series of the same name by Kazuma Kamachi. There’s also 2 different mangas, a second anime series (Funimation only licensed the first) an OVA and an upcoming feature film. But I digress.

The story follows a small 13-year-old girl named “Index” who is a nun of a secret sect of the English Church known as “Necessarius”. Index has an eidetic memory and memorized all 103,000 volumes of the Grimoires, secret magical texts that have all the world’s magic within them. In order to ensure she doesn’t turn on the church, once a year, her memory of that year with the obvious exception of the Grimoires, is wiped by sorcerers. The Church is able to get away with by telling the sorcerers, who are also Index’s former friends, that “85%” of her brain is used for storing the Grimoires and the remaining 15% for the year’s memories. If she exceeds this percentage her brain will “overload” and she’ll die. It is unknown how long they’ve been doing this but apparently it’s been awhile. All of this changes though, when she meets and befriends the world’s most unluckiest boy, high school student Tōma Kamijō.

Toma is a student at an unnamed high school in Academy City, a fictional city located somewhere just outside of Tokyo. A majority of Academy City’s population are students, scientists, and teachers. Most of the population are known as “Espers” and have psychic abilities that range from simple regeneration to control over electricity and movement vectors. Their powers are derived from fictional fringe science and allows Academy City to be an estimated 30 years ahead of the rest of the world. Toma’s power is known as “Imagine Breaker” and it allows him to instantly cancel or completely neutralize any supernatural attack whether it be psychic or magic when he makes physical contact with his right hand.

Toma and Index meet when Toma finds Index slouched over on his dorm balcony, having collapsed from hunger. He feeds the girl his terrible cooking and she informs him of magic, the Grimoires and everything. Having lived most his life in the highly scientific world of Academy City, Toma doesn’t believe her at first. That is until he is attacked by the sorcerer Stiyl Magnus.

After Toma defeats him using his wits and Imagine Breaker, Stiyl explains Index’s situation. Some time later Toma meets another of Index’s pursuers, the sorceress Kaori Kanzaki who once again explains Index’s problem to Toma. Toma chooses not to buy into the Church’s lie and instead confirms his suspicions by discussing it with his teacher, who explains in reality, a human brain can store a potentially limitless amount of memories, thus proving Necessarius is full of shit and had instead cast a spell on Index that made it so if her memories weren’t wiped every year she would die. After discovering this, Toma finds the spell’s rune on her body and touches it with his right hand, canceling it out. Unfortunately, this activates a latent programing in Index’s mind called “John’s Pen” that acts in self-preservation, using some of the magic contained within the Grimories to attempt to kill Toma and wipe Index’s memories. Toma once more use his Imagine Breaker and cancels the program, but his own memory is destroyed in the process. From here the story finally starts off, with Toma choosing to to hide his memory loss from his friends and continue to fight foes from both sides of his new-found world.

Magical Index provides a very interesting take on the “Science vs Religion” motif. At first I wasn’t sure why they had to have both psychics and sorcerers, as it seemed redundant given their abilities, but as I learned more about the world and story, it started to make more sense to me. Yes, the two are essentially the same, but at the same time, they’re not. Espers derive their powers from Science, relying on careful calculations and precise control to do things. Sorcerers rely on the power of “faith” and use the stereotypical magic circles, runes, chants and the like. For the purposes of the series, it makes complete sense, I swear.

I really enjoyed the series’s premises and that it took full advantage of the fact that both sides were superhuman. It was a very interesting take on Science Vs Religion. The one thing I didn’t quite understand, was that despite Magic and Science being portrayed as mortal enemies, the citizens of Academy City, with few exceptions, were completely unaware of the feud. Toma laughed his ass off when Index first tried to explain Magic to him. For such a global conflict, one would assume the residents of Science’s capital would at least have some understanding of the situation. Even after a sorceress infiltrates the city to take out Toma and Index, nearly destroying an underground mall with plenty of witnesses, the public is simply told it was “a terrorist”. This brings in a Big Brother sort of element to the series, that is unfortunately never really explored.

As far as characters go, I quite liked the motley crew that Toma assembles. Toma himself is actually powerless. Imagine Breaker only works with physical contact, which forces Toma to come up with his own ingenious tactics to get in close to his enemies and touch them. He is an excellent street fighter and even though he consistently gets low grades, he shows that he is in fact a lot smarter then he looks. A non-superhuman main protagonist in a series focused on superhumans was a very welcome change of pace, especially in this sort of genre of anime.

Index may have all the magic knowledge of the world locked in her head, but she can’t actually use magic, unless it’s an absolute emergency and John’s Pen activates. This ends up bringing a nice sense of balance to her character. She is also humorously ignorant of the modern world and its wondrous technology which leads to many misadventures with Toma, usually at Toma’s expense. Because she spends almost the entire series in loose white nun robes, she’s not much for a sexy character, which I really liked. She was just there to be Toma’s friend and primary plot point. However, when Toma does something she doesn’t like, she likes to bite him all over. At times, it seemed the joke was a little over used which was a minor flaw in her character.

Ow. That’s going to hurt in the morning.

Then there’s Mikoto Misaka, a pissy little bitch that can control bioelectricty using her Esper power. Mikoto is about the same age as Index, maybe a year younger;  it’s never made clear. She has a very confusing love-hate relationship with Toma, that sometimes I laughed at and sometime I wondered what the hell she was doing. When they first meet she explains she’s one of the seven most powerful Espers in Academy City, a Level 5 and then proceeds to attempt to kill him because he tried to save her from a gang of thugs. Later, it is found out that Mikoto has several younger “sisters”. The “sisters”, all called Misaka Misaka, like how Mario’s real name is Mario Mario, are in fact clones of Mikoto. There are thousands of them too. They’re all part of a rather gruesome experiment to create a Level 6 Esper. The process involves the city’s most powerful Esper, a young man referred to as Accelerator, killing as many as Misaka Sisters as he can. Mikoto decides to make her relationship more confusing by telling Toma all this and then begging him not to interfere because she’s going to just commit suicide and end her “sisters” misery. And kids, suicide totally solves all the world’s problems. For real! However, in effort to save the plot from eternal emo hell, Toma’s hero complex kicks in, and he interferes, saves everyone and all is right in the world again. That just makes things a little more confusing because now Mikoto has feelings for Toma, but due to her being a total bitch, she has a rather hard time expressing said feelings. Oh and her younger female roommate is totally in love with her, because every anime series needs preteen lesbians when lacking in sex appeal.

All in all, loved the first series and I really hope Funimation licenses the second series for North American shores. The first series had some pretty solid plots and characters, though all had their own minor flaws.

Summary: Great anime with a very cool take on the Science vs Religion motif.

The Good: The main protagonist was not superhuman in the least bit, which made all of battles believable and really added to his development along with the rest of the cast.
The Bad: Some of the characters didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The reasoning behind Esper powers could have used a little more logic and a longer explanation.
The Ugly: Mikoto is a bitch who needs to take the advice of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and kiss the boy.

Score: 9.0

James Conrad is a Pokemon fanboy, lover of the arts and is forever broke.
Tweets: @JRCnrd

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