Well, dear readers... it has been a few weeks since I posted a review, but I’m back! And with me, I brought A CERTAIN MAGICAL INDEX, another fine series to add to the list of shows that I’m not very crazy about.
What’s most frustrating for me when watching a series like this is the incredible potential that seems to be repeatedly squandered by equal parts laziness and cliche. Here is a show that I was dying to get into, but couldn’t bear to keep watching; bright patches of creativity awash in a sea of boring.
First, a bit about the plot. Toma Kamijo is just your average high school kid (who happens to be harboring a great power within his body, duh!). His right hand, as he comes to discover, is not so much magical as it is anti-magical. Any person or object he touches with it will see their own magic power temporarily nullified.
Enter Index, a young girl (in fact, a nun with the Church of England) who falls onto his balcony while fleeing from powerful sorcerers. For no other reason than this being anime, Toma assigns himself as Index’s protector and vows to fight back against these sorcerers if they ever come back.
And you know they’re coming back!
This all gets more interesting when we learn that, while Index and her aggressors are magic-users, Toma is a firm believer in Science-with-a-capital-S. A resident of futuristic Academy City, he’s just one of the many students in this university-packed part of Tokyo, known for its futuristic adherence to the more earthly arts of logic and math.
If you saw the words “magic” and “science” close together and immediately braced for long, awkward arguments about faith in facts vs. belief in powers-that-be, you’ve probably been to this rodeo before. To make matters more confusing, though, Science has yielded very magical-seeming powers of its own in the form of Espers, a group of normal humans with psychic abilities that look a lot like the stuff the sorcerers are up to.
So, it actually sounds pretty cool, right? A futuristic city. Magical battles. Science Vs. Faith - - the ultimate showdown! Except that, in the... eight or ten episodes I actually endured of A CERTAIN MAGICAL INDEX, none of this ever happened.
Instead, the proceedings were continually delayed by scene after scene of mythology-making expository rants and nonsensical plot contrivances. No less than six episodes are spent filling Toma in on the backstory of the Church of England’s secret magical sect, Necessarius. Then he gets hit in the head by an enchanted feather and forgets it all.
Let me repeat that for effect: six episodes in, they completely erase the main character’s memory. But he has a feeling - - a deep, untouched emotion - - that tells him he must continue on even though he has no idea what is going on around him.
Well, I guess that makes one of us.
The animation in A CERTAIN MAGICAL INDEX is crisp, but uninspired. There’s no specific look here to make it distinct from any other anime about a young boy who is “the One” fighting to save a young girl who is also, in her own right, “the One.” When things pick up, the magical effects are well done, but aren’t typically staged for excitement. It’s not unordinary to see Toma pause while fending off an attack to have a yawn-inducing five minute discussion on the merits of faith in the face of danger.
But what did I expect? After a groan-inducing “action” sequence early on in which Toma hurriedly flips through a phone book and calls research laboratories to save his love from probable death, I figured it probably wasn’t a show for me. I thought, “This is heroism? Really?”
When he then looked at her sleeping face, and the frame zoomed in on her shiny, pouting lips, I held my head in my hands. “Oh, Come on. A kiss for sleeping beauty? If it aint broke, don’t fix it, I guess.”
But when he skipped that kiss, and instead reached a finger into her mouth to touch a hidden magic seal placed deep in the back of her throat...? I could only laugh, then. What a stupid, stupid show.
Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.