A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 12

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.

I’m afraid that I just have to say it at this point: Kamachi is simply not very good at writing comedy. Deli\berate comedy, like the events of the first 3/4 or so of this book, seems like it should be something of a success for him, but he gets tripped up by his own overly wordy prose, and also the tendency to rely on familiar cliches and character types – “tee hee, she’s embarrassed to admit her feelings” pretty much defines Mikoto, but it’s not funny per se. The anime actually improved much of this by cutting it down and removing the musty prose, and it’s one of the few times I recommend watching the anime as it handles the material better than the source. Unfortunately, as most of this book is a “cooldown” book, we’re left with another even-number volume curse. It certainly picks up speed by the cliffhanger ending, though.

Introduced in this volume: Amata Kihara. For the most part, this is catching up with old characters and seeing how they’re doing. Kihara is a nasty piece of work, and keep an eye out for his last name in future volumes, as he’s party of a family of nasty pieces of work. We’ve also seen another Kihara, Gensei, as one of the main villains in a Railgun arc. Speaking of Railgun, take those timelines and crumple them in a ball, as we see Mikoto run into Uiharu here, and she barely knows who she is beyond “Kuroko’s friend”. The anime corrected this, of course, since it already took place after Railgun’s first season. This is the trouble with sprawling continuities with multiple spinoffs – you’re going to get contradictions like this. (Uiharu is also OOC here, still being in the “I aspire to be a pure young maiden” stage.) Obviously, this also takes place immediately after Vol. 11 of Index, as Vento of the Front has arrived in Academy City and is here to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

The main conceit of this book, however, is to reintegrate Accelerator into the main events of Academy City. After his seeming heel-face turn in Vol. 5 (though he’d be the first to deny that was what it was), he’s been getting healed in a hospital, and he and Last Order are finally able to move out. Not that they’re going far, as they’re moving in with Yomikawa and Yoshikawa, who continue to have vaguely yuri subtext if you bother to hunt closely for it. Accelerator is quite grumpy about the fact that he can’t use his power for more than 15 minutes anymore, and can’t use it at all – even to keep himself coherent – without the help of the remaining Misaka clones he hadn’t killed off. His understandable self-hatred is a running theme, as he doesn’t really believe he can ever be redeemed (many fans would agree). As for Last Order, she’s still pretty much a brat here, stealing Misaka 10032’s goggles and taking off.

The highlight of the book, deliberately, is the crossing of heroines. Touma is out on a “date” with Mikoto as his punishment game for losing at the Athletic Festival, and Accelerator is out and about trying to find where Last Order has run off. As a result, they each run into the other’s main girl – Last Order has a chat with Touma, and Accelerator comes across a very hungry Index, who he proceeds to feed hamburgers, which may be a mistake. This is not really the highlight per se, of course – as I indicated earlier, the comedy is not as good as it could be, and the anime did it better. What makes it a highlight is the end of the book, where things turn serious – Kihara is here to take back Last Order, and nullifies Accelerator’s powers. Meanwhile, Vento of the Front has invaded and is taking out all of the security forces with apparent magical powers. As a result, at the end of the book the heroines have shifted once more – Index is here to rescue Accelerator (somehow), and Last Order is tearfully asking Touma for help.

It’s a nifty cliffhanger, and should be resolved next time. We also may get even more old faces, as Aleister talks about using Hyouka Kazakiri (remember her?) to help wipe out the Roman Orthodox Church invasion. Somehow – how he plans to use a meek, busty, somewhat nonexistent girl is something that will have to wait for another time. In the end, this isn’t the best volume of Index, but I suspect it needs to be judged when read with Vol. 13, due out in November.

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