A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 2

By Kazumi Kamachi and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan as “To Aru Majutsu no Index” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On.

Kamachi wrote the 2nd volume of the Index series in 17 days at editorial request. I imagine it was a combination of “wow, this series got very popular very fast” and “a book we had slotted for this month fell through, fix it fix it fix it.” And so the 2nd book of the Index series, which Kamachi says deals with the subject of a “failed hero” and a “failed heroine”, ends up being something of a failed novel as well. This is not to say there aren’t many points of interest, especially for the Index fans, and there are certainly some evocative passages. But the first Index book was about magic and science smashing together and seeing what happened. The second book is a horror novel, and darker than it really needed to be at this early stage of the game.

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Introduced in this volume: Aleister Crowley, Aisa Himegami. There’s also a subtle mention of Misaki Shokuhou if you know who she is from Railgun. For Railgun fans, this takes place at the same time as the final episodes of the first anime season. Oh, and for those curious, this shares the same readability issues as the first – the prose is awkward and verbose, inclined towards long lectures about magic and science, bolds text for obscure reasons, etc.

You’ll notice I left off our villain for this book, Aureolus Isard (yes, Isard – look, some romanizations are bound to be different, deal with it). It’s not exactly a spoiler to say he doesn’t pop up again, mostly as his function was fulfilled in this book – he is what Touma is not. Yes, Touma muses as to whether he might have become someone like Aureolus if he hadn’t been able to save Index in the previous book, but where it counts, Touma is a ‘hero’. He refuses to kill the fake Aureolus even though he probably would be justified, while our so-called villain not only has to dispatch a cut-rate dummy of himself in order to lengthen the book a bit (the anime cut this entire part out, and while I normally gripe about things like this I can’t blame them), but he happily sacrifices an entire building full of students to fill his plans, which in the end are less ‘save Index’ and more ‘notice me, Index’. He doesn’t deserve more space in this review.

Index doesn’t really get much to do here, something you will sadly be hearing me say a lot from now on. That said, she does manage to figure out a lot of what Aureolus is doing just from watching how he uses magic, so once again shows how she’s very dangerous with all the knowledge in her head. Most of the real character development goes to Stiyl Magnus and Touma himself. Stiyl begins the route towards being an actual ally of Touma rather than an enemy reluctantly assisting him. His love of battle and callous attitude towards collateral damage begins to shift about halfway through the book, something he notes himself, wondering if Touma has influenced him. Like Aureolus, he too harbors a grudge against Touma for saving Index when he could not; unlike Aureolus, he’s willing to accept it because it means Index is happy.

As for Touma, it’s only been about 8-9 days since he lost every memory in his head, and the most amusing part of the book is the fact that it doesn’t actually make a damn bit of difference. Even though he spends much of the time wondering what his old self would do and how his old self would have reacted – and it’s suggested this is why he’s reluctant to follow through on Index’s obvious romantic feelings towards him – in the end, the reader is amused because old Touma and new Touma are exactly the same – when you wipe Touma down to nothing but ‘learned information’ with no personal memories at all, he does the exact same things for the exact same reasons.

Lastly, there’s Aisa, who also suffers a bit from being underdeveloped in this novel. Her backstory is tragic, but we don’t really get inside her head enough to feel more than a brief “oh, what a horrible thing to happen to a little girl”. Index at least got a bit more focus in the first book. Still, she actually manages to survive to the end of the book, unlike most of the rest of the students in that building. (The death of the students is the main aspect of the ‘horror’ I was talking about, and it’s really creepy and horrible, and I’m not sure I mean that in a good way). Given that Index likes to have character ‘types’, and Aisa is a mostly stoic girl with a monotone delivery, I think she’s a good bet to be a valuable member of the main cast.

Unless, of course, an even more popular stoic girl with a monotone delivery shows up in the next volume and makes Aisa fade into the background so much that she almost becomes a joke character. But really, what are the chances of that happening?

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