A Certain Magical Index Season 1 Part 1 Review

Anime


A Certain Magical Index Season 1 Part 1
Studio: J.C. Staff
Publisher: FUNimation
Format: DVD
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Price: $64.98 – Available Here

Overview:
Over a decade ago, many anime fans were lucky if a company managed to produce an English version of the show shortly after its release in Japan. Nowadays it has become somewhat commonplace for many anime series to be released in English within a year or at most two thanks to various advancements in technology and working relationship between studios.

However thanks to a number of issues involving the Japanese side of things, one series called A Certain Magical Index (Toaru Majutsu no Index), which originally aired back in 2008, met with many delays. Now the first season has finally come to North America courtesy of FUNimation in two separate parts. Does Part 1 A Certain Magical Index’s first season kick things off well? Let’s find out.

Story:
In Japan there exists a technologically advanced city known as Academy City where many students from around the globe are gathered. What makes Academy City so special however, is not it’s advanced technology but the fact that many of the people who live there are “espers” or people possessing supernatural abilities. The city ranks these espers with level one being the weakest and level five being the strongest. Now A Certain Magical Index’s story follows a very unlucky boy named Kamijo Toma who happens to be the lowest of the low, a Level 0 who has no powers whatsoever.

However unbeknownst to nearly everyone in the city, Kamijo does indeed possess a special ability, something which is eventually called the “Imagine Breaker.” You see, his right hand can dispel any supernatural power regardless of where it originated from. Kamijo’s life suddenly changes when he discovers a hungry nun hanging on his balcony rail. This nun is named Index and she is on the run from a magical society with ties to the Church. The church wants Index because she happens to hold 103,000 magical grimoires within her memory and even one of those grimoire could cause devastation on a massive scale.

With magicians from the church closing in on Index, Kamijo must face off against forces he never even thought existed just a few days before, however even within the scientific Academy City, threats begin to rear their ugly head and Kamijo must do everything in his power to not only save Index but also stop the machinations of those around him. Can his Imagine Breaker shatter the enemies’ plans?

A Certain Magical Index is formatted in a way that makes each story arc within the series individually contained for the most part. There are two and a half arcs presented here in Part 1 of the series and each arc manages to stay relatively separate from one another, with only character relations staying true between each arc transition. While this does help keep Kamijo on his toes as he must face off against not only magic but also science as he helps those around him, it does mean that the story can be a little disjointed thanks to these transitions.

The series does feel a bit cliché at times thanks to the fact that Kamijo seems to always be the underdog in these situations as he faces off against everything from giant firebeasts, skilled sword users and even people who can bend reality to their will, and, at least so far, he also seems to attract many of the women around him and each story arc in Part 1 focuses on helping a damsel in distress and the only one who can help her is Kamijo and his miracle shattering right hand.

On the other hand, that is what makes the series very enjoyable so far. Now while that may seem contradictory, it is far from it. The reason for that is because it takes these clichés and makes them work through plenty of exposition and some complicated, but well-explained, systems unique to the series. While Kamijo usually solves things with his right hand, the way that he manages to figure out an enemy’s weakness usually involves some thought on his part. Rather than just charge in blindly, Kamijo often manages to figure out exactly what he needs to do to try and overcome an obstacle.

This leads to plenty of emotional scenes and a few plot twists along the way that are then explained with heavy amounts of dialogue. A Certain Magical Index Part 1 is loaded with exposition and explanations which are handled well and easy to understand though it would be understandable if a few viewers managed to get lost in the sea of exposition that makes up many of the story arcs in part 1.

That being said, there is still plenty of action and a nice dose of humor (usually involving Kamijo being the butt of the joke) laced throughout the first half of the series and the show manages to find a nice balance between talking and action. In fact many action sequences usually involve a mild amount of exposition, which actually makes the fights more enjoyable as the emotions of the fighters are brought to the surface and each fight feels more intense thanks to the amount of dialogue exchanged between the combatants.

Now A Certain Magical Index Part 1 ends smack dab in the middle of a story arc, and cruelly enough the story arc it ends on is one of the most interesting ones introduced in the series at the moment thanks to the dark and cruel turn the arc takes right from the get-go.  It is worth noting that the first two story arcs are not bad by any means, though the middle arc is weaker than the first, this is a great cliffhanger for fans who don’t immediately pick up Part 2 alongside the first half.

Visuals:
A Certain Magical Index Part 1 is a gorgeous anime at times, especially when it comes to action sequences but it still has its faults. Anytime that the characters are not in the middle of a battle the visual quality in the characters’ faces drops in quality, especially when it comes to mid-range shots of the characters.

That being said, any scenes that focus on one or two characters only and any action sequences feature some great animation and visual splendor. The powers displayed by the magicians feel nice and powerful and even Kamijo’s Imagine Breaker, despite being simplistic, always has some great impact whether it is to punch someone out or block an incoming attack.

It is also worth noting that  the character’s that are introduced in Part 1 feature some very memorable designs and each one seems to step out of the norm in some way or another and their facial animations in combat are handled gloriously. As for the environments, many events seem to occur at night or in dark areas which serve to provide a nice sense of foreboding.

Audio:
As one would expect from a FUNimation release, A Certain Magical Index Part 1 features both the original Japanese voice track as well as the brand new English dub. The English dub cast manages to fit well with the characters and Michah Solusod’s portrayal of Kamijo’s various emotions is worth noting and the same can be said for Monica Rial’s work with the energetic Index, especially whenever she has to drop to a monotone voice for the character. For fans of the original Japanese voice work, it is worth noting that the Sister dialogue displayed in Part 1 does match the original Japanese, where Brittney Karbowski includes the “says Misaka” part at the end of each statement.

A Certain Magical Index features some rather impressive background tracks throughout this first half of the season with memorable tracks for comedic scenes as well as action scenes. The opening music for Part 1 of A Certain Magical Index is “PSI-missing” by Mami Kawada which serves as a great rock opener for the series while the ending song is “Rimless~Fuchinashi no sekai~ by Iku. Iku’s closing song is more melodramatic and calmer and serves as a great way to end many of the dramatic scenes the first half of the show loves to end an episode on.

Extras:
As far as bonus features go for A Certain Magical Index Part 1, there are your standard fare of extras in the form of a textless opening and closing song, trailers for other FUNimation shows and episode commentaries for Episode 3 and 6.

Episode 3’s commentary features Monica Rial who handles the voice work for Index, Jad Saxton the voice of the little teacher Komoe and Micah Solusod the voice of Kamijo Touma. The three have great chemistry in the commentary and there are plenty of humorous moments as they discuss work and their time with the show. The three comment often on the events of the episode and have plenty of “d’aww” moments whenever Index or Komoe are on screen.

Episode 6 features commentary by Zach Bolton, the voice director, Robert McCollum the voice of Stiyl the flame magician and Cole Brown who voices the “Frog-Faced Doctor.” This commentary follows the episode heavily and contains plenty of explanation, mostly thanks to the fact that a lot of elements of the series have to be explained to the (new to me at least) Cole Brown. While this is a bit entertaining, the commentary is rather sub-par and could be passed up without missing much.

Overall:
A Certain Magical Index Season 1 Part 1 manages to not only take cliché elements and make them exceptional, it does so by finding the sweet-spot on the balance between exposition and action. While there are some drops in visual quality throughout the first half of the season, each battle is well animated and thought out well. With great characters and story arcs to kick things off and a killer cliff hanger leading into part 2, it appears that when science and magic collide, a great anime is born.

9-0-capsules-out-of-10

As a big fan of anime and games I'll be quick to cover anything that happens to be of interest.

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