“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in honour at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.” – Matthew 22:44.
In the futuristic Academy City, studies are taking place to enhance the power of espers. Unfortunately for student Kamijo Toma, he is a student with zero ability whatsoever. At “Level 0”, he is one of the lowest ranking espers in the city, and often gets into fights with one of the top Level 5 espers, Misaka Mikoto, who can control electricity. Toma’s only true abilities seem to be generating his own bad luck, and his right hand, which seems to nullify any attack that comes his way, meaning that whenever Misaka attacks him he usually comes out unharmed.
One morning during the summer holidays, Toma wakes up to find someone asleep on the balcony of his flat. The person in question is a young girl dressed as a nun. After Toma gives the nun some food, she reveals that her name is Index Librorum Prohibitorum. She is a sister of Necessarius, a secret branch of the English Puritan Church, and has been forced to memorise perfectly 103,000 grimoires. Index is on the run and is allowed to hide in Toma’s flat, although Toma automatically causes problems when his right hand accidentally destroys Index’s sacred robes, which Index can only re-attach using large numbers of safety pins.
After returning home from a typically bad day at the remedial classes which he has to take under his lolita-like teacher Komoe Tsukuyomi, Toma is horrified to see Index outside his flat, bleeding. She has been attacked by a sorcerer named Stiyl Magnus, who has the ability to control fire. Using his right hand, Toma is able to defeat him and take Index to Komoe, where Index uses Komoe and her own suppressed knowledge to heal herself, but Toma is again attacked by another sorcerer, sword-wielding Kanzaki Kaori. She reveals that because the knowledge of the grimoires only leaves 15% of Index’s brain free, every year Index’s memory has to be wiped clean, and it is up to her and Stiyl to do it. Toma however realises that this does not need to be done, and is able to prevent Index from losing her memory, but in the process of doing so, loses his own.
Toma therefore has to pretend to know about Index and the people he has met previously. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that his relationship with Index means he is now the target of more sorcerers, as well as scientists. Over the course of this first series, Toma has to battle alchemists, clones, spells which result in unsuspected body-swapping, and golems, all of which highlight the fact that Toma really is down on his luck.
The best aspect of A Certain Magical Index is the action. There are plenty of fights involving Toma, which, due to his nullifying ability, he is able to cope with – even if after the end of every single storyline he or a friend of his end up back at the same hospital. Some of the action is pretty gruesome. In the story involving the alchemist, the said character is able to make anything he says happen. So, for example, when he orders Stiyl to shed his skin, in a flash all of his skin seems to come off leaving just exposed muscles and organs on display. Rather stomach-turning. Admittedly however, the plot does sometimes drag a tad.
The voice acting was also good, especially that of the younger, or at least younger-looking, characters such as Index and Komoe, provided by Yuka Iguchi and Kimiko Koyama respectively. Concerning the English dub, however, the performance of Index by Monica Rial is poor at least in one respect: given that the character is English she makes seemingly no attempt to do an English accent.
The quality of the animation is good, while the music is OK. The only track that really seems to stand out is the second opening theme, “Masterpiece” by Mami Kawada, which makes good use of deliberately distorting the vocals. The extras in this collection are relatively few: some episode commentaries, textless opening and closing, and trailers.
One thing that this series does have in its favour is scope. This is one of the few anime to have produced a spin-off which is as big as the original: A Certain Scientific Railgun, focusing on Misaka. However, you should be able to watch the two series separately without problems. (This too will be released by Animatsu later in the year.)