The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Toaru Majutsu no Index

Title: Toaru Majutsu no Index aka A Certain Magical Index
Genre: Action
Company: J.C. Staff
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 5 Oct 2008 – 19 Mar 2009

Synopsis: Academy City is a city of espers, where science has allowed people possess supernatural powers. Kamijyo Touma is a resident of the city, but his powers are weak, and are categorized by “Level 0” (and they also bring him constant misfortune). One day he finds a certain girl, dressed as a nun, hanging over the rail of his balcony. This girl is named Index, and she claims to be on the run from a magical society.

The Highlights
Character designs: All female characters appeal to at least one type of moe archetype.
Info-dumps: Lengthy and often; frequently happen mid-battle.
Plot twists: Excessive, to the point that it’s hard to care what’s happening.
Action: Good, when the characters finally shut up long enough to fight.
References: Extremely subtle; extra points if you spot references to Idolm@ster: Xenoglossia and Marimite.

The shounen action genre is one of the most populous in anime and with a slew of new ones coming out each season, one needs to ask for each of them “what makes this one unique”. For Toaru Majutsu no Index, the answer is “virtually nothing”. Its flaws are somewhat unique, I guess, in that they’re not the sort that typically afflict titles in this genre, but if you’ve seen Shakugan no Shana(1,2) or Bleach, you’ll know what to expect from a strictly modular, patently moe, magic-based fighting anime like this one.

I’ll readily admit a wearing patience for this type of anime, which is designed to be mostly visceral and in-the-moment, and has no intentions of being anything deeper than short-term, consumable entertainment, but at the very least a series like this should be entertaining. There are two major sticking points for Toaru Majutsu no Index and the first is that the characters rarely aren’t talking long enough to actually fight. This series loves the info-dump, so expect them to be often and lengthy. The info-dumps struggle to be engaging for a few reasons, not least of which that their very presence mid-battle challenges suspension of disbelief. You know the lengthy monologues are directed at the audience and not the characters on screen when a protagonist stops mid-battle to explain why, under normal circumstances, she can’t attack the bad guy, but because of subtleties in her technique, she can, while the bad-guy stands there with a look of distracted disinterest. But another reason why the info-dumps fail to be engaging relates to the second major sticking point, in that, there’s so many plot twists that the info-dumps are akin to listening to the boy crying wolf. One episode had, by my count, eleven plot twists, and there’s rarely an occasion where they aren’t used excessively. They come so frequently that investing in what’s going on becomes a challenge; as soon as you figure out that you shouldn’t believe any explanation that comes before four minutes from the end of an episode, it becomes easier to predict what’s going to happen (but much harder to care).

Most of the cast is fairly one-dimensional and being based on a novel series, its narrative is modular (in other words, episodic on a longer time-scale) and ultimately inconclusive, but there are a few well done things in this show. From a technical point of view, this anime is very solid; the soundtrack is surprisingly sophisticated and the animation is polished. When the characters actually do fight, it looks good; sure, there’s not too much more to the fight scenes than flashing lights across the screen and lots of fast (well-chosen) camera movements, but I’m not going to decry exciting cinematography. However, the character designs are pretty unimaginative; all the female characters appeal to at least one moe fetish. There’s a nun, a pseudo-loli, a tsundere, a maid, a clumsy meganekko and a girl voiced by Mamiko Noto, just for starters, so if generic moe is your thing, chances are you’re covered.

The characters are a mixed bag, and character development is so rare that it’s almost an afterthought (although when it does happen, it is usually well done). I find it interesting that this show’s title character virtually went missing after the second arc. I realize that Misaka is the more popular character, so she’s going to get more screentime than Index. But I do consider it somewhat of an indication that pleasing the audience was a higher priority than putting together a unique and/or compelling narrative.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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