A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 11

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.

The Index series is very fond of building on previous volumes and showing us that nothing takes place in a vacuum – there are no “stand alone” novels, everything impacts something else. And so this volume ends up being something of a direct sequel to the 7th volume, as Touma and Index win a trip to Italy (that was clearly rigged, though that’s not made explicit) and barely manage to arrive in a small city near Venice before they are once again embroiled in the Roman Orthodox’s attempts to regain power whatever the cost. This also follows up on events from Vols. 9 and 10 = Lidvia failed, and so the church is even more desperate, and looking for scapegoats. And what better scapegoats than the group of nuns who failed in the 7th book, led by Agnes Sanctis, who it turns out is far too similar to Touma and Orsola for her own good. For a book that goes to Italy and back in under 24 hours, there’s a lot going on here.

Introduced in this volume: Biagio Busoni, Itsuwa, Pope Matthai Reese, Vento of the Front. The latter two are not explicitly named. Busoni is the villain of the volume, but like Lidvia he ends up being another in a series of failures. Itsuwa is the most important introduction here, but you wouldn’t guess it from her small and pointless appearance in this volume, where she spends the entire time handing Touma hot towels and harboring an obvious crush on him, which the other Amakusa Catholics encourage and get frustrated by. (So she clearly saw Touma in action in Book 7, even if she wasn’t named – the anime adding her makes total sense.) The Pope and Vento appear in the final cliffhanger scene, and make it clear that the Church is not going away. Timeline-wise, it’s the end of September, and the festival has mostly ended but school hasn’t started up yet, which is why Touma and Index can go to Italy. In the Railgun timeline, we’re starting the Dream Ranker arc, though honestly at this point it gets harder to mesh timelines – Railgun hasn’t hit books after this one yet.

As you might be able to tell by the cover, Index gets significant time in this book, even though Agnes is the heroine that Touma is saving this time around, and arguably Orsola gets more to do. I have a bit of a reputation as an Index apologist, but even her detractors would have to admit that she’s at her best in this book, showing off her knowledge of Europe and ability to speak multiple languages, saving Touma and Orsola from a sniper attack, and continuing to use magic despite characters literally saying she can’t use magic mere pages later. (I understand what they’re trying to say – Index herself has no magic ability, she’s just using the books within her. But it’s semantics at this point, given she’s speaking spells that alter the trajectory of bullets and the like.) Actually, the one big flaw in this book is Touma, who spends most of it being far grumpier and angrier than he has any right to be – Index does bite him a couple of times, but the prose makes it very clear that he was asking for it heavily.

And once again we have the Roman Orthodox Church as villains, though Orsola exists to show off the goodness that can still exist within them. Of course, she’s off to join the English Puritans, and from a strictly religious standpoint, this could be disquieting – but this is a fantasy where magic is thrown around like candy, so there’s no need to examine it too hard. As always, the book goes out of the way to avoid using the word “Catholic” in regards to this church, even though we have the Russian Catholic Church mentioned. Indeed, for a book with as much religion as this one has, Jesus Christ is never named explicitly – which could be a simple translation choice, but also makes sense, given that these Roman Catholics seems to place far more faith in powerful tools, such as the Cross that Jesus died on (Crossist is used a lot) than Jesus’ teachings, which only Orsola seems to take to heart. Again, Index is fascinating in many ways, but devout Catholics may want to skip it.

This volume ends with a cliffhanger, but I’m not sure that we’ll see it resolved in the next book, as Touma’s punishment game should take center stage. Also, isn’t it about time we see Accelerator again? In any event, this is a very good volume that will please casual light novels readers.

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