The world building continues as we see how quickly events can scale in the background.
What They Say:
Kamijo is a student in Academy City, where people use science to develop supernatural abilities. The guy’s got a lot of heart – luckily for a young nun named Index. She’s on the run from a sorcery society that covets the astonishing 103,000 volumes of magical knowledge stored in her memory. When Index stumbles into Kamijo’s life, she finds a faithful friend and protector. While Kamijo’s easily the weakest kid in Academy City, he’s got something else going for him: the Imagine Breaker, an unexplainable power stored in his right hand that negates the powers of others.
With scientists and sorcerers attacking from all sides, the Imagine Breaker will definitely come in handy, but it’s Kamijo’s loyalty to Index that will be his greatest weapon in the fight to keep her safe.
Contains episodes 13-24.
The audio presentation for this series is fairly standard as we get the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English language mix is done in 5.1 encoded at 384kbps. The series is a pretty straightforward one when it comes to its sound design with its stereo presentation but it does a good job of managing things. The dialogue is generally well placed when needed and there’s a bit of depth here and there, but it doesn’t rise to anything really noteworthy. When it comes to the action, it ramps things up a bit and definitely hits a bit louder, but generally just uses the stereo channels better to make it a fuller sounding fight. The 5.1 mix bumps this up a bit, mostly by adding more volume to it, and the mix as a whole comes across decently even if there isn’t a huge difference between the two tracks. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes for this set is spread across two discs with six episodes on each. Animated by JC Staff, the series has a pretty decent look about it with a good mix of dark scenes and daylight scenes where we get general character time as well as action for both. The show has a real world look about it for the most part but ramps things up with the magic action and some of the bloodshed which is a bit stronger than one might expect after the first few episodes. The colors are pretty all over the map at times with some very dark sequences, which is where you’ll see more noise in the backgrounds, to some very bright and colorful city scenes that definitely stand out well. The series isn’t one that’s hugely striking with its visual design, but it has a solid approach, some good animation throughout and a transfer that does a decent job of bringing it across.
While we had a limited edition with the first part, this one brings us just the second part in a standard single sized clear keepcase with a slipcover so that it can fit into the box. The front cover uses a good full cast shot, which includes characters that aren’t used in this particular set, and it works well with the various shades of blues since the characters stand out more. The back cover is fairly standard as we get a mostly dark panel for the background which allows for several large shots along the left that are appealing and a large section along the right for the logo and the premise of the series. The episode and disc count is also listed clearly as are the extras included in the release. Production credits are easier to read in general with the white on dark background and the technical grid covers everything clearly and accurately. The set has a hinge inside to hold one of the discs while there is also artwork on the reverse side of the cover where each panel has a different grouping of characters that shows off just how varied this set is.
The menu design for the series is simple but fits in fairly well thematically as it uses a lot of blues for the background where we get the magic symbol dominating it. In front of it, we get a character pairing that’s a bit more vibrant and colorful with some detail to it that works well and brings a little life to it. Each disc uses a different combination of characters so it changes things up pretty nicely. Below the character artwork we get the logo which is also just above the navigation strip which has the standard selection bar. The languages are set up to default to English with sign/song subtitles and the whole layout is easy to navigate around and use without any problems.
The extras for this release are designed more for English language fans as there are a pair of commentary tracks for ti by the English language production team. We also get clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are found on the second disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A Certain Magical Index in its first half of this season was quite a busy work where it had so much to introduce that it really felt like too much at times. The world here is expansive within Academy City with science, magic, espers and even more that could come to light as it goes on. While the season is named after Index and she’s a big part early on, thankfully she gets to be less and less as it goes on and Toma becomes the real focus of it all, both with his Imagine Breaker right hand and the way he’s a catalyst for drawing in so many other people to his side in different ways. And to make matters more interesting with him, having him lose his memory and maintain that problem for the season (and longer, going by what I’ve skimmed) definitely makes him a different kind of lead.
This set has a carryover storyline from the first set in which we see events between Misaka and Accelerator really hit a high note. With the way it’s unfolded so far, understanding how he’s had these twenty-thousand clones made in order to try and become something more, a Level 6, discovering how the first ten thousand or so went down was certainly intriguing, especially with how Misaka is trying to stop him before anything else happens. It makes sense that based on the way it plays out, Toma gets heavily involved in it all and insists that he has to be the one to stop Accelerator since doing so would change perceptions all the more since he’s a level zero. Things do play out here as one would expect, particularly with Toma’s power, but what we get out of Accelerator is interesting as he’s the kind of “villain” where there’s more to him.
And that does get worked through in this set a good bit more later on after a different arc with other characters play out. Bringing Accelerator back is a surprise, especially since they also introduce a new Misaka into it as well, the twenty-thousand and first mode, a Last Order model, that wasn’t fully grown and is basically a child with all that the Misaka’s know. She’s trying to find out how to proceed from here, not feeling threatened by him since he’s completely done with that route, but because he ends up with her for sometime, he discovers a plot being orchestrated that’s going to use her to cause a massive problem with the other ten thousand Misaka’s out there. By taking all the other cast members out of the equation, focusing on these two makes him far more accessible and you can see how he’s going to be more of a key figure in the larger storylines that exist. His time with the young Misaka is pretty much my favorite arc of the set.
One of my least favorite involves Toma after his initial encounter with Accelerator where he and a few others end up going to the beach for a forced vacation in order to let things cool down in the City. It brings in Toma’s parents a bit but it also goes off the rails quickly as an event is happening there where someone is starting a spell called Angel Fall. The whole plot of it didn’t work well for me, the introduction of the characters for it felt awkward and it came across as though it wasn’t sure what it wanted to do. The way it changes things up since it’s not real is a little much, especially where Index gets all done up in a few strips of cloth for a bathing suit. There’s some decent material here, especially in finally getting to know Toma’s family a bit and seeing why they tried so hard for him to get him to Academy City works well. But everything else was just too forced and awkward.
Similar can be said about the final arc in which we get a new arrival in Academy City with Sherry, who intends to cause quite a scene and a rift overall. There’s a certain kind of feeling that we’re just thrown into things rather than a good build up to events and that carries into this one as well. With the way it goes along, you know how it’ll happen since it’s the final couple of episodes of the season and it has to have some minor closure, but it’s the reveal along the way that I liked. In the midst of the scheming and fighting, we learn about the Five Element group, which is basically a shadow organization that sort of officially runs the city, and there’s a fear about Toma from them. They see him building up this group of friends, but to them it looks like allies, of all different stripes. Combining that with his own abilities, you can see how his friendships could be something more and speaks about how the franchise can progress overall, though more so in the books I suspect.
With the second half of A Certain Magical Index, there are things to like and things that don’t work well. I like the concept of the series and world overall, but it’s execution has been problematic at times in terms of explaining things out well and making it accessible. It has so much going on and packs enough things into a short enough space that in a lot of ways it never feels like it slows down enough to let you really connect with them. The only time in this set that I felt like I got to know the people involved was with the Accelerator and young Misaka storyline as it had a lot of time with just the two of them talking and seeing changes in Accelerator come to fruition. With this series, I can see so much potential with it but can’t help shake the feeling that it can only really be exploited within the light novels themselves.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for Episodes 14 & 23, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 11th, 2012
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.