A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 8

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. Translated by Andrew Prowse.

For the most part, the Index series has Kamijou Touma as the viewpoint character, with most of the books being from his perspective. The exceptions we’ve seen are the 5th book, which has a substantial chunk from Accelerator’s POV, and this novel, which has Shirai Kuroko taking center stage, though honestly the way the book is framed also seems to imply that she really shouldn’t be doing this. Not that she isn’t badass and awesome – she does a number of amazing things throughout the book – but the book puts her through even more damage than Touma, and suggests that this is sort of the thing that happens to protagonists. In addition, she and Touma have the same general outlook as to why they’re getting involved, at least when Misaka is involved – protect her worldview. And if Misaka is an optimistic girl who thinks people are basically swell except a few bad apples, then by god it will be so. Which is fine, except Touma is much better equipped to take on said world, which has a lot more to it than Misaka’s clone experiment.

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Introduced in this volume: Uiharu Kazari, Kongou Mitsuko (For once I refuse to acknowledge Yen’s official spelling), Musujime Awaki. Technically we’d seen Awaki twice before, but we didn’t know it was her. Continuity-wise… eurgh. This is the volume where it’s very clear that this is being written before A Certain Scientific Railgun has really gotten off the ground – it comes out a full year before the Railgun manga debuts. As such, Uiharu’s characterization seems very odd with her obsession with being ladylike. The “teasing Kuroko” thing is still around, though, and Kuroko still does not react well. This is right around the time Kongou is introduced in the Railgun manga, which is why it sounds like she’s meeting Kuroko for the first time, and talking about Cliques. That said, in the anime, where she’s introduced much earlier, this makes no sense. This is why spinoffs give me a headache. Oh, and Accelerator and Last Order are still in hospital, being watched by Aiho, who it’s revealed here is friends with Yoshikawa Kikyou.

Whenever I’ve discussed Kuroko before, I’ve said I’ll save my beef with her till this review, and here we are. So let’s face it: Kuroko is a “Comedy Lesbian”, something much beloved among Japanese anime and manga authors. Kuroko is a bit more single-focused than many others, but exhibits the same symptoms – a constant desire to get into Misaka’s pants, even if that means sexually assaulting her without her consent. This is OK to the reader because it’s clearly meant as “comedy” scenes, not to be taken seriously, and Misaka always fends her off. It drives me nuts. It particularly drives me nuts as whenever she’s not in that mode, Kuroko is quite a nice character, devoted to keeping the peace as part of the student task force “Judgment”. At least I won’t get as much of it in the novels, where Kuroko is a minor character by dint of simply not being all that involved with Touma.

The storyline itself ties together many of the loose ends from Books 3 and 5, as Awaki helpfully notes, being very much in the “school of villains who love to hear themselves talk’. She is very clearly set up to be a dark counterpart to Kuroko, right down to similar hairstyles and similar powers – they’re both even Level 4! But Awaki’s villainy is based around selfishness and fear, and Kuroko’s heroism, comedy lesbian antics aside, around selflessness and pride. There is much discussion of the powers that Academy City is developing, and how students who are found to have that kind of power really feel about them. There is also a LOT of technobabble, and Kamachi’s flaws as an author sometimes become apparent in that he will get more excited about his worldbuilding than he will about what’s actually going on. That said, the fights in this are top notch, and Accelerator vs. Awaki at the end has a great quotable line.

So another good book for Index fans, and quite short too – I think it’s the shortest in the series to date. Next time won’t be that, though, as we get Index’s first two-book arc, devoted to the Citywide School Athletic Festival.

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