A Certain Magical Index II Complete Collection (Cert 15)
3 Discs DVD/4 Discs Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 572 minutes approx.
When season one of A Certain Magical Index was released in the UK a little under two years ago, yours truly wasn’t overly impressed with it. Now the second season is upon us, have the flaws from before have been addressed or are we in for more of the same?
The answer is a bit of both. There are three major arcs explored over the 24 episodes in this collection, with time given to allow other cast members to grow, but Index remains a bystander in her own series which is again both a blessing and a strange move.
Returning to Academy City home of magical beings called Espers, diminutive nun Index, holder of the 103,000 grimoires, and her de facto guardian Touma Kamijou, possessor of the Imagine Breaker, are still fighting off religious groups wanting the books stored in Index’s head. After the opening standalone episode to ease us back in after the gap between seasons (and doing a lousy job) the series kicks off in earnest.
Essentially split into two themes of “Religion” and “Science”, the first set of antagonists to appear are the Amakusa Catholics, who have kidnapped a decoder named Orsola Aquinas so she can translate the Book of law, which they have stolen. Teaming up with former enemy Stiyl Magnus and the Catholic battle nuns known as the Agnese Forces, Touma is thrust into the heart of a battle that takes many twists and turns.
The second major arc involves a group of dangerous magicians who have infiltrated Academy City to procure the Stab Sword, a weapon powerful enough to kill a saint. The central agitator here is a permanently inappropriately dressed woman named Oriana Thomson, a woman as dangerous as she is buxom, whose propensity for violence knows no bounds.
It becomes apparent quite early on that this second season is much darker than the first, with the gore factor increased quite considerably if memory serves. The lame harem humour hasn’t been ditched however – Index is still a needy, irritating little brat with barely any significant purpose and Touma is still the ubiquitous victim of the accidental boob grab, panty flash frippery of the genre.
One major upgrade is the quality of the story telling which has improved, allowing each scenario to develop across three or more episodes instead of concluded in one or two. The drama quotient gets a noticeable boost which benefits the characters in proving their worth and endearing themselves to the audience. Actual development remains scarce but the cast feel more rounded and interesting as a result.
Whilst the religious motivations for causing havoc are toned down, the perpetrators of chaos in the remaining are still of faith but their beef is with science, viewing people like Touma as a heretic. In Italy, Touma and Index become embroiled in a tussle with Bishop Biagio Busoni and his fleet of magic ships, to stop the Bishop from reprogramming the Agnese nuns into his own killing machines.
Back home, Touma deals with a psychotic heavily pierced agent for the Vatican, Vento of the Front, whose brother died in hospital therefore science is evil to her. She is another bloodthirsty little madam who cuts a swathe of destruction through Academy City, but if that wasn’t enough, a second destructive force called Hound Dogs are also running riot, which requires assistance from an unexpected source.
That unexpected source is Accelerator, also appearing earlier in this set, who gets to dominate both this story and the closing arc. Having joined a group of Espers called, er, GROUP, their first mission is to thwart the attacks of the renegade faction Skill-Outs, a violent collective set on wiping out other Espers.
One thing is for sure, and that is you get a lot of bang for your buck in this collection. Even when the situations become silly and spurious, it is all action with nary a dull moment to be found. That isn’t to say that everything is of high sustainable interest or to everyone’s taste but the pace never drops and something is happening, be it heavy expositional dialogue or explosive battle action.
An issue that blighted the first season rears its ugly head again here and that is the execution of the adaptation from the original light novel series by Kazuma Kamachi. In the first season, the problem was throwing in too many stories to cover; this time around, it seems that director Hiroshi Nishikiori is pandering too much to the fans of the source material, the air of assumption being far too palpable.
For example, the arrival of Hound Dogs and Skill-Outs is to abrupt and little about them is revealed, yet for those who have read the novels will have a better understanding of who they are and what drives them. They may be portrayed as solid and identifiable antagonists here but they lack depth and substance beyond their pernicious intentions.
Similarly, supporting characters come and go at an alarming rate, returning from season one with no reminder of who they are. One such example is Hyoka Kazakiri, who had her own arc is the first season, literally is brought back out of nowhere as a focal point in the Vento fracas. And Mikoto Misaka and her clones are heavily featured which is baffling since they have their own series, the sequel of which is also coming soon!
On the plus side, the artwork is top notch and the animation is consistently high quality throughout. The Japanese voice cast throw themselves into their roles, especially Atsushi Abe as Touma, whose default repertoire is to deliver a moralistic lecture prior to ending the fight with his opponent. It is a bit “lather-rinse-repeat” but it is not like other anime heroes aren’t the same.
A Certain Magical Index II is much more enjoyable than its patchy predecessor, revealing more layers of its obvious potential, but once again suffers from indulging in the counterproductive sub-harem comedy nonsense.
English Language 5.1 Dolby TrueHD
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby TrueHD
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):
Episode 2 Commentary
Episode 7 Commentary
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Textless Opening Song – “No buts!”
Textless Closing Song – “Magic∞world”
Disc 3 (Blu-ray):
Episode 14 Commentary
Disc 4 (Blu-ray):
Episode 22 Commentary
Textless Opening Songs – “No buts!” / “See visionS”
Textless Closing Songs – “Magic∞world” / Memories Last
Rating – ***
Man In Black