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A Certain Magical Index II Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

A Certain Magical Index II
A Certain Magical Index II
The magic (and science) are back!

What They Say:
The Book of the Law – an encoded grimoire containing catastrophic magic – has been stolen, so naturally Kamijo, Index, and a few familiar faces join in the crusade to protect the one nun who can decipher the powerful text. But as the group battles church sects and holy assassins, they realize that discovering who their true enemy is may be more difficult than saving the sister. Meanwhile, an organization known as the Science Society resurrects an esper-producing program, a school festival brings out the competition – and drama – in the student population, and a mysterious figure negotiates the purchase of a sacred relic that could threaten the future of Academy City.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward and solid for this show as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and the new English mix in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works a good mix of dialogue based scenes and action pieces, which combines the whole magic and science angle well, so that it’s kind of all over the map in a good way as it deals with the situations. Whether close quarters combat, large magic specials or some other technological wizardry, the series uses the forward soundstage well to create a good design that draws you into the show. The Japanese mix hits things right with a good bit of warmth to it and overall use while the English mix kicks it up a notch or two while also adding a bit more bass to it. The end result is a pretty engaging mix overall that brings the show to life without any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2010 and 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set contains the first twelve episodes of the series spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by JC Staff, it pretty much follows the same look as the first series that they animated for it, just with a bit of extra color and punch here that serves it well. Part of the appeal is that unlike the first season that we got (as of this writing), we didn’t get it in high definition. So getting it here shows a good bit more detail and color that really does allow it to pop in a good way. There are some softer scenes that feel like they’re done purposefully, mostly ones involving Kuroko and what her division is up to, but in general the transfer for this has a lot of good looking colors, solid fields throughout and dark levels that are clean and without any issues such as noise or breakup.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release isn’t a limited edition but we do get an O-Card slipcover for it that mirrors what the disc packaging itself is, just with brighter and slicker looking colors. The front cover uses the familiar logo with the II on it as we get a younger looking image of Kamijo and Index together against the purple filtered view of Academy City. He has a serious look about him while Index gets as serious as she can, but that goes only so far. The back cover is fairly traditional with a lightning strike done in purple underneath the strip of shots from the show, which add a good bit of color to it all. The premise is nicely covered without revealing all the nuance of it. The extras are pretty clearly listed while the production information is super, super tiny. The technical grid rounds out the rest of it which breaks down things for both formats in a clear and easy to read – and accurate – way. The release does come with artwork on the reverse side which is really nice where one side has the gang in their school uniform done in illustration style while the back has a serious looking image from Kuroko and her story that also breaks down the episodes by number and title along with the extras included.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is kept simple but decent and functional as we get clips playing throughout it in general that shows off various characters and sequences to set the mood. It’s not deep or filled with anything terribly huge that really catches your eye, but it works well enough to get the basics out there. The logo is placed throughout the middle while we get a blue strip along the bottom that doubles as the pop-up menu where the navigation comes in. It’s quick and easy to use and the style and font with the colors used makes the navigation very easy to read and move about in. Submenus load quickly and we had no problems during the main menu or during regular playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty standard fare but certainly welcome as English language fans make out with a pair of commentary tracks for episodes three and seven and there are also the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the 2008 series did so well, it was no surprise that another series would be coming to adapt more stories from the books. What ended up really exciting fans from the first series that was the Railgun material, which spawned two series of its own that have been released here. Admittedly, I was more of a fan of that work as well, especially since the other series that came out revolving around it worked as prequel and character establishment material that blended into the first season of this series. But in the end, I also really like Academy City and what it offers as potential for storytelling. What we get doesn’t really scratch the surface well though as it’s more superficial as it introduces a lot of ideas that you can imagine other writers really digging into in some interesting ways. That has this season, at least in its first half, offering up a lot of fun ideas, designs and settings, but not able to really capitalize on it.

Because of its light novel origin, the structure of the series is again one where it’s largely made up of smaller arcs. This is something that I certainly like since it compartmentalizes the series a bit, though there is obviously the potential for an overall theme to emerge with the season overall, particularly with the stronger focus on the religious organizations this time around. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of a re-introduction at the start of the set as we essentially get a standalone episode that focuses on Index getting kidnapped and reaffirming that Kojima will go to any length to get her back. It’s a decent enough piece overall to show the two of them and their kind of awkward relationship, and a touch on the powers and magic that they employ, but it’s also an opening episode that leaves you feeling like you should know more than you do if this is your first time watching the property.

The first main arc we get involves the hunt for a particular grimoire that has been stolen with the Book of Law, which in turn also has a nun named Orsola that’s being sought after because she can decipher this powerful work that can cause a whole lot of headaches. Initially, she’s on the run from the Roman Orthodox Church and ended up with the wandering group of Amakusa Catholics, but she was wary of them as well because of the book and its potential. Her luck, of course, is running into Kojima who takes it upon himself to try and protect her. This leads to a pretty good series of chases over a couple of episodes and a real push by the Roman Orthodox side through the Agnese Forces and their strongarm ways to try and get everything back before it falls into the English Puritan’s hands. There’s a lot of the whole “you should understand this without it being said” applied to it when it comes to the religious organizations, though some of it does get explained to the slightly clueless Kojima. The action is what sells it and there’s a good, growing sense of urgency about it, but I kept feeling like I lacked the foundation, especially with the Amakusa side that just left me thinking of Rurouni Kenshin filler episodes more than anything else.

A more interesting arc involves Kuroko that goes on which references the whole Tree Diagram that was destroyed in the A Certain Scientific Railgun series of events. While everything in space went kaput, there are those that see a lot of value in some of the wreckage and part of the Tree Diagram has been brought down and into Academy City, something that Kuroko as part of Anti-Skill gets caught up in as she recovers the case only to be ambushed by Musujime, a teleporter herself with a few different quirks about her abilities. With the potential of the Tree Diagram in some form being restarted, it’s no surprise that Kuroko goes all out in trying to stop it and to deal with the wreckage since she doesn’t want Mikoto to go through anything like she did before. It’s a nice bit of mild closure to the referenced events from elsewhere with the Tree Diagram and it allows Kuroko to have a good bit of standing and understanding as she grapples with dealing with all of this while trying to hide it from Mikoto.

The longest arc on this set is also incomplete as it goes into the next set as it revolves around a festival that’s kicking off in town with lots of sports and fun, but turns into something larger and more dangerous for the world. Naturally. We get a lot of the usual school festival silliness at the start, especially with some of the parents showing up such as Mikoto’s mother and Kojima’s parents, who are kind of smitten with Mikoto when they meet her even though she denies any real involvement with Kojima. There’s this sense at first that the episode is going to be a decent little standalone piece that involves the main cast nicely and adds some little bits of character material to flesh them out more. but in the final minutes, we see instead that it’s the prologue to a lengthy afternoon of danger that Kojima gets drawn in, one that has him thankfully keeping everyone else at bay while he deals with it alongside Tsuchimikado and Styil.

What kicks it all off is Kojima, after getting in a spot of trouble, ends up accidentally brushing up against a woman that stands out in the area and it ends up cancelling some magic she had protecting her. That causes him to take notice and follow her, and in turn discovering that she’s potentially up to some really bad things amid a city in the throes of a festival. The woman, Oriana, is actually working with the Roman Catholic Church with something called the Stab Sword by brokering a deal involving it. What the truth is though is that the item in question isn’t actually a weapon or a sword, but the Cross of Saint Peter. The intriguing part is that because of what it represents and what it can do, if placed in the proper area in Academy City, it can alter the landscape of the people to draw them under the realm of the Church itself due to the martyrdom aspect of it. It’s something that’s glossed over to be sure, but the idea of what the end result is definitely is intriguing.

What’s odd is that as information comes in, with it initially being about Kojima who then stumble across Tsuchimikado and Styil, is that they really don’t bring in anyone else to help take Oriana down. The arc runs across about five episodes here and it really is quite engaging in watching it play out, but we mostly see a long series of chases and pauses, punctuated by some real bloodshed, as the trio alter their ways of trying to figure out what she’s up to and stop her. But instead of bringing in a lot more people or some backup in some sense, it’s kept small. It’s just an unusual approach for them, even with their personalities, especially once the stakes are known. That said, it is a pretty fun run as they go at it and it serves as a good bonding moment for the trio as they deal with the attacks and traps while also getting a handle on how to use Kojima’s power in a good way.

In Summary:
With the structure and style of this series, it’s easy to see why the Railgun series tends to be more popular. It’s a bit better defined, a little tighter and smaller with its stories and a good bit darker as well. This second Index series has a lot of things going on in the four stories we get here but the lack of a cohesive feeling to the stories can be a bit bothersome at times as you find yourself wanting more from it. What we do get though, when broken out into their individual parts, are some fun stories that lets Kojima shine well as he deals with life in Academy City and his uncanny ability to get sucked into big events without even realizing it. I like Kojima. I get annoyed by Index. I want to see him getting closer with Mikoto. And I’d like to see them avoid Church related material for a bit, but I don’t really see it happening for a bit. The property itself has some really intriguing ideas and there are some great pieces here, but the show as a whole still has that less than unified feeling that can make it a bit tough to get into at times. I definitely enjoy the show, but it’s one that I appreciate a lot more when I break it down to the individual arcs.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 28th, 2014
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.

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