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.

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 19

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.

Just as Index 17 and 18 formed a two-parter, this is essentially the second part of the 15th book, where GROUP battled against ITEM and all the other dark student organizations used by various Academy City folks for Black Ops. They ended up on top, but as you can imagine, that made some people very unhappy. As a result, one of the Board of Directors is trying to deal with them, especially Accelerator. Meanwhile, Accelerator continues to be a really nice guy while insisting he’s a horrible villain. He’s rescuing abused teenage girls, triaging pregnant mothers, and saving little kids. Indeed, the little kid he saves has to literally point out what a hero Accelerator’s being to get the “good guys” to do anything. Are there any good guys in Academy City? Mikoto, maybe, but she’s not in this book at all. Maybe it’s Hamazura, who insists he’s just a thug as much as Accelerator insists he’s a villain. But what Hamazura really is, and this book cements it, is the third male lead in Index.

Introduced in this volume: Stephanie Gorgeouspalace, who bears possibly the silliest name in all of Index. Also, Aiwass, who we’ll definitely be seeing more of. There are a few more of the Aztec teens, as well. Sadly, again, Yen Press has not licensed the Index short story books, which is where we first met Stephanie. Or the Railgun shot story book, which is where we first met Tochtli, though I think she was retroactively written into the Railgun manga as well, like Xochitl was. This takes place at the same time as Books 17 and 18, when Touma is in England dealing with the British Royal Family. It ends with Touma, Accelerator, and Hamazura all separately going to Russia, where we’ll no doubt get the 20th volume. It’s also worth noting that there are only three volumes to go after this one in the main Index series… of course, we also have Index New Testament. Its sequel. Also 22 volumes.

As I said, Hamazura is explicitly called a protagonist by Kamachi in the narrative here, as if it weren’t obvious enough. He also gives the author an opportunity to do a real romance. Touma is, of course, oblivious to his 642 love interests. Accelerator is too self-loathing to even think about a relationship, and Last Order is a daughter to him, not a lover. But Hamazura, despite all the banter and pseudo-flirtation with Kinuhata (who is twelve, making this my least favorite part of the book), is in love with Takitsubo, and she with him. Of the three “threatened” relationships at the end of this book, it’s the romantic one. Accelerator and Last Order are the familial one, and Touma and Index… well, they’re the titular one. It’s also interesting to have it pointed out that, while Touma and Accelerator are part of Aleister’s BIG PLANS, Hamazura is not, and his interference with Mugino (who comes back from the dead to try to kill him some more, and even looks just like the Terminator here) could pose a big problem in the future.

Mostly this book is filled with cool fights, giving Kinuhata more to do (despite my dislike of her underage teasing, she’s developed very well in this book), an analysis of what it means to be a hero, as seen through two guys who don’t think of themselves as one, and setting up the pieces for the last three books, which are a three-parter. It’s a solid entry in the Index series. It also means we are one book away from one of my favorite Index characters being introduced. Is she the best? Well, no, she’s the absolute WORST, actually.

(Final note: I love this cover, one of the best in the entire series. The contrast is fantastic.)

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 18

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.

As with most two-volume arcs in Index, the second half of this is filled with a lot of action, though there is also some time taken for characterization, particularly of the Royal Family. But yes, fights, fights and more fights. Former allies fight each other, as the Knight Leader and Acqua of the Back face off. Many disparate groups team up, as Touma and Index ally with the English Puritans, Agnes Sanctis’ group, the Amakusa group, the third princess, and even the staff of Buckingham Palace to take down the Second Princess. In the end, she’s defeated by literally weaponizing all of England to fight her, as well as her mother pointing out that all of them are, essentially, trying to do what’s best for Britain, it’s just that Carissa is going about it the wrong way. And, unfortunately, we also get the “there’s always someone better than you” fight, as Fiamma of the Right manages to disable Index in some way, and also seems to have a third arm that is very reminiscent of Touma’s.

Introduced in this volume: Well, we do see Sasha’s other Russian Orthodox ally, Vasilisa, as well as her seeming hunter, Skogssnua. Sasha is no longer possessed by an Angel, and seems to have been picked up by Vento. We’ve seen Fiamma before, though this is the volume where he truly comes forward and shows he’s going to be the next Big Bad. Fans of the Index books will recognize that we see a few cameos of future characters in this book, so technically this is the first we see of Leivinia Birdway, Patricia Birdway, and Mark Space. Chronologically, of course, this takes place right after the events of Book 17. Book 19 takes place back in Academy City, and is taking place at the same time as 17-18. We’re very nearly at the big climax for Index (whether we’ll see New Testament, the sequel, is of course up to the readers buying the series and Yen Press), and everything is clearly heading towards a massive World War – but we aren’t quite there yet.

Possibly my favorite scene in the book is right in the middle (and it gets a big two-page color spread), as all the various factions allied against Carissa all unite in a field for a huge banquet before the final battle. As I said before, we see more cooperation in this book than ever before, and this scene is pure gold for seeing previous enemies just hanging out and eating. They’re being made fun of (Lucia and Angelina), they’re being given a pep talk of sorts (Sherry and Orsola), they’re making stupid maid outfit jokes that Kamachi just can’t let go (the Amakusas), or they’re just eating as much as possible (Index and Agnes). It’s a sweet scene that I suspect we won’t see much of coming up – the action seems to be shifting to Russia. There’s also more Brexit references… or they would be if this hadn’t been written nine years ago. And, since I just picked on Kamachi’s stupid humor, there is one terrific joke that involves Agnes hitting a knight in the groin and the definition of chivalry.

This is the longest Index book to date, and it’s almost all battles. But it’s worth it. Next time we return to Accelerator and Hamazura, who have their own problems.