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

9 min read
This was… a frustrating start to the third season.

The adaptation continues as the sprawling cast gets back to work.

What They Say:
Your favorite characters return in this third installment of A Certain Magical Index where stakes are higher than ever before. Academy City and the Roman Orthodox Church are at each other’s throats, and several independent groups are ready to take advantage of the chaos. Meanwhile, Toma is busy dealing with a very hungry Index and the deadly members of the Right Seat of God. Will Toma’s luck improve, or will his right hand be his undoing? The time is nigh to put Imagine Breaker to the test.

The Review:
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.

Originally airing in 2018 and 2019, 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 thirteen 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 previous series that they animated for it, just with a bit of extra color and punch here that serves it well. The show is one that has a good level of slickness to it as the various special effects from various people shine, be it magic or science, and there’s some strong color design work in it as well that ups the richness over the previous two seasons as well. 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. It definitely helps to make it an engaging presentation.

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 thanks to the cardstock. The front cover uses the familiar logo with the III on it as we get the very familiar key visual from the season with the core group there. The background is definitely eye-catching with its colors and helps to make it something that really draws your eye in. The back cover is fairly traditional with a darkened sky background that makes everything come across well. 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 utilizes more of the Japanese cover artwork which is always welcome – especially when it uses both panels. In addition to the digital code sheet, we get a nice insert-sized booklet of about 24 pages that shows off character designs for a lot of the cast and the related home video covers for this half of the season.

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.

The extras for this release are pretty standard fare but certainly welcome as English language fans make out with a commentary track for the first episode from the dub team 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)
Coming some seven years after the second season wrapped up and other elements were explored, A Certain Magical Index III brings us the first thirteen episodes of the twenty-six episode season. I’d last watched the second season back in 2014 and had enjoyed it well enough but I’ve also made clear over the sprawling run for this property that I tend to like the other characters’ shows more than Index. Accelerator and Railgun click better for me in their storytelling dynamic and the characters involved, though naturally there’s enough crossover. That gives it the shared universe feeling we don’t get often in anime, which for me makes Index the required pickup property in order to get the full story for the other works that I enjoy. Of course, with it adapting so much from the novels, it’s getting a bit dense. This season as a whole covers the fourteenth through the twenty-second novels. That’s a lot.

This season… I really struggled more than I did before. While part of it is the preference of the other characters, the other is that the gap of about seven years since the prior series really makes an impact. This season really feels disjointed as we’re just thrown into things and I don’t think we really had a great sense of feeling embedded within these characters lives unlike before. Here, it feels like we’re along for the ride and it’s almost a greatest hits kind of look at it, just from the side instead of from within. The appeal of the show was always the way Academy City was set up and the number of organizations here but this is designed for those that are really invested in the property as a whole. Considering it’s starting by adapting the fourteenth novel, well, you’re expected to know everything that happened before and who all these organizations are. And there’s a lot of nuance with relationships and backstories but we don’t get recap or even minor nods to help smooth out those connections.

The main premise of the season that we lean into at the start here is where it’s picking up from the prior season involving God’s Right Seat. It’s interesting to see how this sect is handled in the show, a secretive group within the Roman Catholic Church, because their intent is to create a war that sprawls out between magic and science. The manipulations and objectives are interesting at times but it gets messy amid all the characters running around and trying to draw on who is who, which had me pulling up wiki’s along the way to make sure I knew who someone actually was. For example, while Shiage has been around since the start, things pick up more for him in the third season and there are some really great sequences early on for him as he deals with Teitoku, which lurches into a range of other issues since plenty of people want to take down Teitoku. The core concept starts to work but then it’s like a pile-on of characters.
One of the characters I do like plays a good role in this along the way as Itsuwa has come back to Academy City. With a change in English voice actor this time around, we get to see her take on the role of bodyguard for Toma since Acqua is looking to take him out after the earlier events involving the God’s Right Seat group. She’s a lot of fun in general even if they do overplay her physical traits and sexy factor, but it’s a good balance when factoring in Toma and his ways along with Index. Hell, when Itsuwa shows up for this it’s just good to get back to the other two for a bit as the show goes down some side quest paths a good ways. Itsuwa’s timing is naturally important as well since it comes as Acqua isn’t holding back and we get a solid sprawling fight between them. I love the way people just demand Toma’s arm, the Imagine Breaker, like it’s just so easily detached. I mean, I get it, but it still cracks me up.

This half of the third season also does some fun stuff in getting the group out of familiar surroundings for a bit. The story takes them to events in Europe where we see problems in the Eurotunnel that has Index called in to help suss out what went down. This provides for some welcome new locations to take in, especially when we eventually get to places like Edinburgh, and separating them from Academy City for a bit helps immensely even if does mean a slew of new characters to take on. That in itself isn’t so bad but keeping track of all of the factions and who belongs with who and who supports what just becomes complex enough that I wish we had pop-up menu flowcharts to show how it all connects.

In Summary:
This was… a frustrating start to the third season. I can see why a lot of fans were thrilled with it because it really does go deep into a range of areas and organizations. There’s a lot of build-up and promise of things to come in the first two seasons and it’s exploited well here. But the gaps in seasons and being a casual fan made this more of a frustration because it needed note cards in order to really know what was going on. But it’s also a season where they threw a lot of money at it with some great scenes throughout, lots of great character designs, and some intense action sequences to thrill to. Funimation’s release is pretty good as the show looks great and has a dub with a largely returning cast to tackle the roles. I’m definitely curious to see the second half to see if it comes together well enough or if it just becomes even more overwhelming. This may be a show where it’s best to binge the hell out of the first two seasons first before going into it unless you’re a sizable fan of the novels as well.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary Track, 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 1st, 2019
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 325 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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