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A Certain Magical Index Vol. #14 Light Novel Review

5 min read

A volume full of frustrating choices

Creative Staff
Story: Kazuma Kamachi
Art: Kiyotaka Haimura
Translation: Andrew Prowse

What They Say
A Certain unlikely Hero…
Ever since the attack on Academy City, the disputes between the magic side and science side have been getting worse day by day. Now protests have broken out in France, instigated by a sinister magical artifact, and world tensions are nearing their breaking point. Unable to just stand and watch, Touma Kamijou flies off to Avignon in order to use his trump card, Imagine Breaker, but he should be a little more wary of what could be awaiting for him in the historic stronghold of the papacy.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
So, we spend about a third of the volume this time messing around with various odds and ends before the main plot actually gets good and truly rolling. Like, there’s many a pages wasted on some shenanigans where Fukiyose and some new teacher are involved in some generic slapstick junk and it’s just… really empty and bland. I mean, the series just is at its absolute worst when it’s messing around with this stuff, because it’s just plain no good at it, and all this is so damn removed from the main plot that it serves no purpose other than to try and fail to be funny. Though there IS at least some setup in this section, discussing the issue of rising tensions between the science and magic sides leading to all out riots that are a problem world-wide. For a brief second, it looks like they’re going to go a bit deeper into things, even bringing up the point that you know, all those billions of members of the Roman Orthodox Church aren’t active enemy combatants. But any nuance is almost immediately discarded and we find out that the magic side is using a magical artifact to essentially mind control their followers, making this into the kind of problem that CAN be punched. I mean, I suppose Touma wouldn’t exactly be able to do anything about any of this otherwise, but it still feels really cheap and lame to raise all that and then immediately invalidate it.

Anyway, after a super fast plane ride and some more exposition, Touma gets dumped off into France. And naturally, he ends up landing right next to Itsuwa, who he teams up with to solve the problem. And now, it’s a little thing that doesn’t actively really affect the book… but this is really contrived, and I can’t help but feel it could have been set up much smoother to be less of a massive coincidence. Anyway, Itsuwa’s character remains that she’s super into Touma, who is oblivious to this fact, and the book essentially keeps throwing her into embarrassing situations right in front of him for cheap gags. I dunno, she still just seems really bland and uninteresting, and it’s hard to call anything here a proper character moment. Really, it just feels like what it is: a bit character thrust into the spotlight, but not really given any more depth in the process. I guess she can at least help in a fight, though, so that’s something.
Anyway, outside of some halfhearted zombie style shenanigans, most of the book goes to a fight with the next member of God’s Right Seat, Terra of the Left. He at least has a kind of interesting ability, with the ability to reassign the “priority” of things, and the combat with him isn’t bad. Though I do love the fact that he also shoots off a powerful slicing projectile. It’s like… I feel like half of the villains in the series so far have had that as their primary means of attack, to the degree that it’s getting downright silly.

When we hit the final stretch, Academy City gets involved too, sending damn mech suits into the city and playing rough! And it’s… kind of a weird plot point to be honest, because it’s a strange mix of trying to go overboard but also hold way back. Like, the book seems really concerned about showing that Academy City is bad too, but it doesn’t want to let them be TOO bad. So they go on a rampage with mechs attacking civilians… but they don’t actually kill or maim anyone, instead just knocking them the hell out. Which I can’t tell if the book recognizes how much damage that kind of incapacitation would actually do to people, by the way, or if we’re supposed to consider it relatively humane and just a bit heavy-handed. Hell, they don’t even get to be the ones to kill Terra when they essentially call in an air strike on him, as he instead gets to escape to make the REAL villains look extra nasty when they take him out!

In Summary
So this is a volume that I want to like, but it kind of keeps tripping itself up throughout. First off, way too much time is wasted on the subpar humor, which just doesn’t land and doesn’t even tie into anything else. And then we get a chance to go back and give a bit character more depth with Itsuwa getting the spotlight… but she doesn’t actually get any proper development. Instead, it’s just some bland, cliché gags and a little bit of a share in the action. But I don’t feel like I really know her any better as a character despite the amount of page time she gets. We also get a big interesting different sort of plot at the start… which then gets shoved into a familiar old framework so soon that you have to wonder why it was even raised. Oh, and the book tries to tread into some darker topics, but then holds back to a frankly kind of ridiculous degree, so much so that it really undermines what it’s doing. The battles are good at least, so I can at least credit the book for that. Hopefully next time around, though, we’ll get something that works as a bit better of a whole.

Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: N/A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B-

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: February 27th, 2018
MSRP: $14.00

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