A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 20

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 talk a lot when reviewing Durarara!! that Narita likes to write books that set up plot guns on the mantelpiece than then books where the guns are all fired. To a certain extent, the next three volumes of Index are Kamachi doing the same thing, as all the back and forth of the last nineteen volumes between the Magic and Science sides has led to World War III, with Russia and Catholic Europe fighting against Academy City and Protestant England. Of course, the war is merely a front for Fiamma of the Right, but you could say that about a lot of real-life wars. This book is also notable for trying to feature the three male protagonists equally, all of them somewhere in Russia: Touma and Lesser are trying to find Sasha Kreutzev before Fiamma does; Hamazura is trying to get someone to help Takitsubo but ends up pinned down by a group of privateers; and Accelerator is trying to save Last Order but is hampered by the worst possible person coming to stop him. Literally.

There are an awful lot of folks introduced in this volume who are only in this arc. The two who seem to warrant mentioning further are Elizalina, a young woman who has an alliance of various states right next to Russia which are totally not the Baltics in the same way that the Roman Orthodox Church is totally not the Roman Catholic Church; and the “Femme Fatale”, who we know very little about from this book, but we’ll be seeing more of later. Ah yes, and Misaka Worst, of whom much more just below. Meanwhile, Lesser is attached to Touma here as the author knows that he works best when bouncing off someone else, and also that her type (the tease) hasn’t really been used around him before. Of course, she reckons without Touma’s complete lack of interest; I don’t think he’s ever really calmed down or had two days to run together since the start of the series to think about which girl who wants to bang, if any. In any case, Touma fails at his main objective, and is also guilt-tripped by Fiamma. Fortunately…

There’s Accelerator’s plot. I have to be honest, the concept of Misaka Worst is excellent. From the meta of describing herself as the “Third Season” of Misaka clones (though given how bad the anime’s Season 3 was handled, that joke gets a bit dark) to the concept of her being the repository of all the negative feelings the other clones have (which is why she gets to be something other than ‘deadpan’) to the scientists of Academy City creating her as the ultimate Accelerator-stopping weapon as they know he’s resolved to never kill another clone, so he has to other kill one and break or let himself be killed. He avoids killing her for the moment, but breaks anyway, in a truly epic primal screamfest of despair and fury. Fortunately, Touma shows up, not only to punch sense into Accelerator by telling him to stop getting hung up on “good and evil”, but also to stop himself from getting caught in in Fiamma’s bullshit and realizing it’s OK to save Index even if it means admitting he lied to her about his memory. Oh yes, and to reset Last Order’s fatal sickness with his right hand, though she’ll get worse again fast.

I didn’t mention Hamazura, but then he didn’t really get to do much except show how the “powerless” guy can also be cool and save the day. (Speaking of which, a mother and her kids are saved by Touma, and then later saved from a different crisis by Hamazura. I was bummed Accelerator didn’t save them as well.) That said, Vol. 21 promises he’ll get more to do; Academy City sent Misaka Worst to stop Accelerator, and now we get Mugino, who unsurprisingly is STILL not dead, being flown to Russia just to destroy Hamazura. Oh yes, and there’s the real Misaka as well, who is frustrated at Touma being in Russia saving the day without her and decides to hijack a plane so she can see what the fuss is about. If nothing else, this means we’ll get a lot more women in the next book… and also possibly a much higher casualty count.

If you’re interested in reading Index 20, the series is likely review-proof for you. But this was a good volume, light on the fanservice (Lessar’s pathetic attempts are pretty much it), heavy on the action, and filled with war being hell. The war continues next time.

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