Review of A Certain Magical Index (2008)

Moving picture, 10 hours

Seen in 2022.

This review refers to the first season, running in the fall and winter of 2008–2009. Later seasons followed starting in 2010.

In a city dedicated to science, a boy who can cancel out superpowers meets a girl who’s got 103,000 grimoires in her head like “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981).

An action comedy, putting some of the Internet-meme-friendly ideas of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006) in a more conventionally superheroic package. By genre convention, the male protagonist goes out of his way to help, so it’s like To Heart (1999) with superpowers, including even an android girl of sorts.

The stylishness and solipsism of Melancholy are left out, but the non-haram harem is included, and in fact further emphasized through a number of incidents where girls lose their clothes. One such girl, one of the peripheral “Misaka sister” clones, is apparently young enough to be in elementary school. That puts this production on the edge of child pornography. Child characters are also killed with little sentiment or ceremony in a mid-season arc. Index looks, in retrospect, like a portent of the edgy, right-wing themes that would displace more wholesome subject matter in the low-effort late-night Japanese animation of the 2010s.

The show was a hit, and its main spin-off even more so, but it’s hard to see why. The protagonist, Tōma, functions a lot like his equivalent in the moodier Lunar Legend Tsukihime (2003): His power is impressive in magnitude but narrow in application, being essentially negative/destructive. This implies a viewer full of teenage angst: Someone who isn’t confident enough to build anything but wants veto power over others. The supporting characters are also pretty boring and the setting is a purposely inelegant mishmash of many premises. Some fans seem to appreciate the quality of the action animation, but that only gets good in the season finale.

References here: Witch Craft Works (2014).

moving picture animation Japanese production fiction series