What better way to spend a snow day than wrapped up in a slanket with a mug of hot chocolate and an unhealthy marathon of anime ready to launch. Catching up on some more recent titles, I fired up To Aru Majutsu no Index with great expectations, only to be sensuously teased for 6 episodes before being dumped unceremoniously shortly after. Well, at least work is still paying me whilst doing this...
Sweeping the viewer off their feet with almost instant action, there is a brief introduction to the main protagonist, Toma Kamijo, and his ongoing narration of the show. Attempting to save an innocent girl from the unwelcome advances of a group of thugs, the poor guy finds out that feisty Misaka doesn’t need any help as she is one of the strongest level 5 espers in the city. A shocking battle between the two sees an unlikely victor emerge, as the useless Kamijo discovers a previously unknown power in his right hand that completely nullifies magic. Arriving home tired and confused, a new surprise arrives on his balcony in the form of a white robed sister named Index. Inside her head are 103,000 forbidden grimoires and following close by are a society of sorcerers, determined to prise this knowledge out of her. And all of this in the first episode!
As they say, all good things must come to an end, and sadly this bustling excitement burns itself out just one quarter of the way into the show. An exciting build-up and introduction to some very sexy characters soon makes way for a vaguely interesting mess that doesn’t want to choose a form or direction. What was once an exciting epic fantasy battle slips into a dull, middle-of-the-road highschool comedy, verging on harem fluff. The dynamic between Index and Kamijo remains utterly hilarious with some decidedly perverted undertones, but this is nudged aside in favour of exploring some less fascinating side characters. For a show entitled “To Aru Majutsu no Index”, the leading lady plays a surprisingly small role.
Much of the show also spends its time dedicated to explaining in painful detail how both the scientific and magical worlds work. Giving an in-depth background to each bad guy and subsequent clarification of exactly how their powers work, the lengthy chronicles seem like a buzz kill to the intermittent fight scenes. There is also a feeling that business has been left unfinished as the final episode winds up; but the promise of closure in the second season, To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, is quickly stifled given the writers opted instead to focus on an unnecessary side-story.
Ultimately, if the show continued in the same vein as the opening arc, it probably would have been one of the best shows to come out of 2008/09. Instead, trying hard to cater for too much of the anime community, To Aru Majutsu no Index flits restlessly between comedy, action and highschool romance. It almost feels as if the series is wringing its hands apologetically as it serves up a lukewarm dose of ecchi harem, especially after the initial promise of something so deliciously sublime.
As the years speed by, animation becomes much more accomplished, and To Aru Majutsu no Index is no exception. The impressive visuals need to be watched in HD quality to fully appreciate how beautiful and fluid the character movements are, especially during the fast paced action scenes. Bold designs make use of a rich colour palette, particularly stunning in the fantastical magic battles (the ones that really tested the power of my processor). Deft use of CGI highlights the frenetic action, sending bright shocks of electricity dancing across the screen and causing monsters to evolve out of fierce flames. All the characters, whether the loli-styled flat-chested teacher or the busty tsundere come right out of familiar wide-eyed anime tradation, but little touches show that they have their own personality loving sketched into their other features.
Kicking off the first episode in style, a funky rock track accompanies the exciting bustle of the onscreen fantasy and repeatedly warms up the viewer as the opening for the entire series. After this pumping inception, the closing track is a veritable letdown. Once again, the genre confusion that plagued the plot rears its ugly head as a trashy ballad poured forth from my speakers. On the plus side, the voice acting is mostly excellent; Kamijo’s seiyuu perfectly portrays his tortured personality as he attempts to juggle some feisty females. Index is reduced to cutesy comic relief and instead transforms into a high pitched and frankly annoying brat – a big contrast to the remainder of the excellent cast.
Kamijo has a likable nature, and I instantly took a shine to his dry wit and tongue in cheek narrative that suit the jocular nature of the series. This is complimented by the child-like naivety of Index as she attempts to adapt to her somewhat bizarre situation. The comedy between the two, although decidedly ecchi in places, can be laugh out loud funny as the pair try to hide their feelings for each other. The sister chewing on poor Kamijo’s head as she doesn’t get her own way sometimes made me question how old she is supposed to be, but always through stifled giggles. If the focus of To Aru had remained on the slapstick humour, the show would have been superb. Instead, a cluster bomb of support characters means they lack any real depth for emotional attachment.
To Aru Majutsu no Index, although reasonably enjoyable, is one of those shows that I’ll probably completely forget about within a week. With no real standout plot and some lacklustre generic characters, it will probably become mixed up with the superior Shakugan no Shana in my confused memory banks. To the writers: Stick with ecchi or stick with fantasy action, I don’t care which, as both were entertaining individually, but lose their punch when messily combined.
Toma Kamijo's right hand has the ability to nullify any form of supernatural power, whether it be magical, psychic, or divine; he lives in a city populated by students with these powers. Yet unfortunately for Toma, his arm also seems to nullify good luck. Despite his bad luck, Toma tries to stay out of trouble and just live out his life, trying to be the "good guy" whenever he can; but trouble enters his life one day when he finds a young girl hanging on his balcony. She turns out to be a nun of the Church of England, bearing the Index-Librorum-Prohibitorum - a collection of 103,000 forbidden texts, and as a result has a number of people after her. How far will Toma go to protect his new companion from her pursuers?
As a not-so-closet perv, I love watching anything involving panty-shots, handfuls of cleavage and an innuendo fuelled plot. Although most of my reviews will err on the risque, I also love the obscure, the twisted and things that make you think - drop me a line if you want to discuss any of them!