Before I took on the task of watching A Certain Magical Index, I was told that the series evolves into one giant convoluted mess. With the exception of a few terms, the show’s first season doesn't feature anything that would overload one’s mind with mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, a convoluted story isn't always a bad thing, since a well thought out concept can do a phenomenal job in piecing all of the story elements together.
Even if a premise sounds complicated, I’m always up to the challenge of figuring out the story, since I believe that any piece has the right to be solved. With that out of the way, let’s take a trip into the realm of Academy City as we take a look at the entire first season of A Certain Magical Index.
Welcome to Academy City, a metropolis where people are free to develop their abilities as espers. Based on your level of power each person is given a ranking, with zero being the lowest and five being the highest. In this series based on a light novel by Kazuma Kamachi, we follow the adventures of an unlucky teenage boy that goes by the name of Toma. During his usual routine, he runs into a girl dressed in a nun’s outfit that’s in position that looks like she fell from the sky. With sorcerers chasing after Toma’s new found hindrance...err friend, his new encounter will put him in a greater heap of trouble than before.
Despite Toma’s meeting sounding like the setup to a generic story, Index has the right ingredients in creating a fun filled adventure. In regards to our special nun character known as Index, she’s equipped with the ability to memorize something permanently, which plays an important role in the burden that Toma must shoulder. While her ability sounds very convenient, the higher ups in her group made her memorize 103,000 books that contain every spell in existence. Thus making her the target of every evil sorcerer that wishes to extract her knowledge.
Even when you think that Index’s story is going to be a game of cat and mouse, the truth behind Necassarius (The group Index is part of) and our first set of adversaries help cook up some new ways to keep viewers hooked on the recent happenings in Academy City. In fact, Index dives into other strange happenings and events that go beyond Index’s situation (Such as a mysterious experiment to create the strongest epsers and a sorceress that wishes to create a war between Necassarius and the residents of Academy City), which acts as a means to set us up for the next season. And acting as the trump card in each segment is our hero Toma, since his power known as the Imagine Breaker allows him to cancel special abilities with his right hand.
Besides his special right hand, Toma is also equipped with the ultimate lecture punch. In all seriousness, the punch may not be a special technique, but there’s something about the timing of it that somehow leaves me at the edge of my seat each time. That said, each arc in the series does a great job in building up towards Toma’s climatic dialogue. However, the real draw to Toma's finisher is the sheer delight that comes from seeing him figure out his opponent's weakness. Other than that, we are also exposed to his everyday antics with Index, which tend to be rather silly.
From my experience with J.C. Staff’s works, I rarely have an issue with their animation, since they have a balanced style that can range from decent to good looking. For a show that came out in 2008, Index’s visuals have aged pretty well, thanks to J.C. Staff’s choice with blending their colors and lighting in a decent manner. While the visuals didn't give me the same feeling that I got from watching Waiting in the Summer, Index mostly shines in the timing and effects used for the esper and sorcerer abilities, which manage to show off the sheer effectiveness of each move thrown into battle. I will admit that one of J.C. Staff’s biggest flaws with the animation and artwork is that the animators forgot to erase the eyelashes that are suppose to be covered up by the person's hair. Silly enough, this is a thing that happens frequently throughout the series. All in all, this is only a minor issue that can be overlooked by a good number of viewers.
In regards to the show’s audio, the original Japanese track and FUNimation’s dub are tied in the battle of preferences this time around. Atsushi Abe (Moritaka from Bakuman) and Yuka Iguchi (Tsukihi from Bakemonogatari) both do a good job in fleshing out the relationship between Toma and Index; however, my first impression of Micah Solusod's (Hiraga from Baka and Test) voice work as Toma drove me towards sticking with the show's English dub. Other than Micah’s work, Monica Rial’s (Shiro from Deadman Wonderland) voice is a perfect match for Index’s playful and curious personality. On top of that, Brittney Karbowski’s (Black Star from Soul Eater) work as Misaka won me over when she made the railgun line to Toma during their first encounter. Before I ramble on about my other favorite roles, I felt that FUNimation did a great job with Index's dub, since I was still at the edge of my seat during the show's major moments. As a person that gets emotional over certain pieces of fiction, I think that Index’s dub covers those important grounds.
And speaking of which, both sets come with a series of commentary tracks where Micah, Monica, Brittney, Jad Saxton (Komoe Tsukuyomi), Zach Bolton (Index’s English Voice Director), Robert McCollum (Stiyl Magnus), Cole Brown (Heaven Canceller aka Dr. Frog), Austin Tindle (Accelerator), Alexis Tipdon (Hyoka Kazakiri), and Stephanie Young (Sherry Cromwell) talk about their experience with the project. Since that’s one heck of a huge cast for an extra, the commentary tracks are split into four segments – two per set, with each track containing two or more commentators. If you like to hear the show’s team talk about cats, make fun of their own roles, and/or converse about how their fans predicted their roles, then you will have loads of fun with the random conversations shown in the tracks.
A Certain Magical Index opens up to a world that features both comedic and dramatic moments in a well written manner. As long as you can roll with the complex terms tossed throughout most episodes, there is a huge chance that you will enjoy Toma's misadventures where his luck gets worse with each passing day. While the story acts as a setup for things to come, Index’s ending still leaves you on a satisfying note, so that you can patiently wait for the next season (Aka the one that's supposed to be convoluted.).
8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
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