DVD Review: A Certain Magical Index

certain-magical-index 1It’s the sort of thing that’s always happening in anime – a high school kid finds a strange girl draped over his apartment balcony and feels compelled to befriend her … although, to be fair, the girls usually aren’t dressed in voluminous white robes that make them look as though they’ve just escaped from some Masonic ritual. The boy’s name is Kamijo, and he’s a student in Academy City, a beacon of science which frowns upon magic but is full of people with technologically enhanced psi powers. The girl is called Index and she comes from a very different, magical-cum-religious background. In fact, it soon emerges that the church she belongs to has turned Index into a walking library of thousands of grimoires – books of spells.

Kamijo does have one very unusual ability of his own, and that’s the power to cancel out other people’s attacks with his right hand. No surprise, then, that he quickly becomes Index’s, er, right-hand man as he fends off various fire and sword-wielding types who turn up looking for her.

The first disc of this 24-episode set is devoted to Kamijo’s mysterious new roommate and the possible negative effects that having all this eldritch info crammed into her noggin might be having on her. At the same time, it sketches in a backdrop of various militant church factions squaring up against each other not unlike the set-up to Hellsing (but handled in a much lighter way.) After that, however, the show seems to lose faith in Index, and she’s relegated almost to bit part player status as the story shifts direction. In particular, a character named Mikoto is brought to the fore – a stroppy high-school girl with lightning-flashing psi powers, who happens to have a clone, Misaka 10032 (who’s actually much nicer than the original). These two are in great danger from Accelerator, a psi guy who can manipulate vectors (sounds nerdy, actually very nasty). And as Kamijo tries to keep them safe, the show takes on a darker, more gory edge.

Inevitably, all this changing horses in midstream is somewhat unsettling, especially as certain-magical-index 2Index’s name is still there, writ large in the title, even after she’s been all but forgotten by the scriptwriters. But the individual storylines are entertaining enough, and what bind the whole thing together is an amiable sense of humour and a series of superbly rendered action scenes. The animators at JC Staff really bring their A-game to all those flaming demons, glowing runes and crackling bolts of electricity. Plus there are some fetchingly conceived supporting characters, such as Kanzaki, a swordswoman with Zoro-like cut-through-anything blade powers and jeans with only one trouser leg (well, could catch on). Not a show with the sharpest of individual identities then, but it certainly has its moments. 7/10

EXTRAS Four giggly audio commentaries with the voice cast (including a particularly raucous all-girl one), who make quips about the studio décor, tell anecdotes about their experiences at various conventions and say a few things about the show too. 6/10

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