What They Say:
Your favorite Raildex Universe characters gather for the epic conclusion to A Certain Magical Index. World War III has broken out, and every faction of the Church and Academy City is swept up in the chaos. The true identity of DRAGON spells trouble, and Accelerator learns that Last Order’s life is in danger. Meanwhile, Toma is on a mission to defeat Fiamma, leading him and the others to Russia for one final battle between magic and science.
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 second batch of 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 slightly 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 battle/action aspect getting underway as the two sorta-sides face off against each other. It’s a bit of a different color design from past releases and with its illustration style stands out more because of the use of the shades of green. 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 – some of which I think would have been better for the release.
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 final episode from the dub team and there are also the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences along with a couple of promos.
As this season went on, A Certain Magical Index ended up getting a lot of grief both in Japan and abroad for its production. Some of it was pretty unfortunate in choosing to go after the director for aspects out of their control, but with the way the season has felt unfocused and oddly paced at times, that’s generally who bears the brunt of it. I struggled with the first half of the season as it didn’t feel like it brought me back into the world well and then spent most of its time with characters that already have their own spinoff series like Accelerator and the Railgun projects. What I wanted here was more time with Index and all that comes from her and the way the world operates. While we do get some time with her it didn’t feel like it came together right. And I still think a decent chunk of that is simply that the property as a whole is getting unwieldy and fan expectations are out of line.
This set has the unfortunate task of opening up on the last episode of five-episode arc that began in the previous set, so with a gap of a few months between sets it’s not exactly something that resonates well. So much so that it feels like the set starts on a loss. To complicate things, the next arc is one that runs at the same time as the previous arc but deals with other characters. As much as I do like the darker side to Academy City as it presents a nice contrast to the upper level glittering side of things, the focus on Accelerator more than it needs to in the show as a whole. This one covers just three episodes but it provides for some good action sequences as Accelerator and GROUP are after the DRAGON organization which ties into his past some. It’s working Accelerator’s path toward figuring out how to deal with Last Order and the cure that he needs to find for her and I do like the way he deals with this in general. But it’s just a bit of filling in the blanks in the grand scheme of things.
After those four episodes from the two arcs, the final arc covers the remainder of the season (and, apparently, something like three volumes of light novels as well in varying degrees). Going under the name of the World War II arc and bringing the original novel series to a close, it’s what takes the core groups to Russia with their individual agendas of those that they’re trying to save. It does work with characters I like as we get Touma here trying to save Index while Accelerator is doing his best for Last Order. And we get Shiage in the mix as well trying to find a cure for Rikou with what she’s been poisoned with. Everyone has their defined goals, those they’re trying to protect, and time running out in order to do it. But with it spread over something like nine episodes, the whole thing simply becomes incredibly drawn out as it deals with each of their smaller arc and the strange things brought in throughout the series as a whole.
Again, I’m frustrated that I liked Accelerator’s story the most because I wanted more Touma and Index material. But Accelerator is the one that struggles the most in my view with what’s going on, especially with his past with the Misaka’s and the way he was hunting them an age ago. That we get a sequence in this set that has him reliving that with a mild change or two brings back memories of when I liked the show more, which is counterproductive. I liked the digital angel of sorts that he was dealing with and there are moments where Touma does get his chance to shine amid everything else going on. But mostly, the season in general felt like a chore but this set even more so as it got into the final arc. And that’s largely because it didn’t feel like it laid down the right foundations for it to come together with meaning, to keep us engaged in it and feel invested in the fights that the cast have. We know what they are and why they’re happening, but the nature of the design of the season keeps it from really connecting.
Frustrations aside for the moment, I did enjoy a lot of the visual creativity of the season and in the main lengthy arc overall. I’m not convinced there’s a really cohesive aspect to how a lot of this property works, or at least in how it was translated from novels to anime, but it has some really impressive aspects to it that make for good viewing even if you’re not vested in the story. Funimation also puts in a solid effort here with a clean and appealing looking encoding of the series, a dub where the cast is having fun with characters they haven’t been able to play with for a while, and a solid enough collection to bring it all together with. This may resonate more with those who’ve read the novels and have a richer understanding of the world, but as a casual viewer I just found myself increasingly lost when it comes to a lot of the details.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 26 Commentary, Promo Video, 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: January 7th, 2020
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.