First Look: A Certain Magical Index Season III

Alternative title(s): To Aru Majutsu no Index
Light Novel Adaptation by J.C. Staff
Streaming on Crunchyroll (World region only, English-language Simulcast Pending)

Premise

Tensions are rising across the world in the aftermath of the attack from God’s Right Seat. The Roman Catholic Church and Academy City seem to be on the path to war. Touma Kamijou finds himself once again at the center of it all, and along with his allies they may be the only ones that can stop the conflict.

Jel’s verdict: The Magic Is Gone

For the uninitiated, A Certain Magical Index is a huge, dumb urban fantasy series with lore detailed and ridiculous enough to rival the Fate franchise. I generally mean that in a fun, “so stupid it’s good” way, so let’s call that a positive. Unfortunately, it’s also probably the last notable harem show to hit it big before the isekai boom, which has always been it’s achilles heel. Regardless of how you want to define the series, be warned there is nothing here for you if you did not watch or like the first two seasons, or even if you only watched its sister series, A Certain Scientific Railgun. Run away now while you still can.

For those of us who did watch the previous seasons, this episode feels like we never left. Touma haplessly stumbles around into seeing various girls’ panties while trying to get lunch, and then they dump the heavy plot elements on us at the end of the episode. It all feels very comfortable and easy at first, and part of me felt a little excited to get back into some of the crazy, super powered action the original series delivered.

Nostalgia can be misleading though, and by the end of the episode I think I realized I’m a much a different person than I was 10 years ago, the world is a much different place, and I would hope that anyone else who watched this when it originally aired would also have grown and changed since then. I could ignore the avalanche of panty shots and accidental gropings as mild inconveniences back in 2008, I don’t think I can now. Putting aside the fan service, even the fact that they had to shoot poor grandma at the end of this episode for incredibly arbitrary reasons made me feel uncomfortable. It’s clear the author has no respect for any of his female characters not named Mikoto Misaka, and that’s really difficult for me to stomach at this point.

That said, grading Index on a curve against present day light novel trash makes it feel tame by comparison. Touma himself is actually a good dude who respects the women in his life, even if the author doesn’t. I’m not defending the series’ actions, but I’m not going to condemn it as strongly as I would other, newer shows that feature human garbage for main characters and a disturbing penchant for slavery scenarios. I can’t recommend the series in good conscience anymore, but I may continue to watch if only for my own personal closure. With the series slated for two full seasons, we’ll see if I can make it through.

(Quick note on official streaming: Crunchyroll is only streaming the series in languages other than English outside of English speaking territories. The original series was licensed by Funimation, and season 1 and 2 were recently made available on Crunchyroll as part of their 2016 deal that allows them to share catalogs. As of writing, no announcements about an official English language simulcast have been made by either company.)

Zigg’s verdict: A Certain Something

Look, I’m certainly not going to contradict Jel’s statement that this is kind of a bad show – it’s trashy as all get out, bad to its female characters and, if season 2 was anything to go by, will descend into a disastrous, confusing mess quicker than you can say ‘World War 3’. Nevertheless, I have to say I still found some enjoyment in this, in the absurdly over-the-top theatrics of the bloated cast, and just the basic garbage fire of the whole thing. It’s junk food anime – it’s very bad for you, and you certainly wouldn’t want to encourage anyone to have it every day, but there’s definitely some adolescent charm in the whole affair.

It helps that, unlike the legion of light novel nightmares that followed, Index never takes itself too seriously, recognising the essential pulpiness of the entire affair. Even though Touma is absolutely the unbeatable head of a vast harem, he’s also a comedic chew-toy most of the time, a far cry from the modern trend towards overwhelmingly cool, powerful heroes, and that’s something I can respect. Academy City is still a great place to set a show too, all blue skies and gleaming tech, and if the story can keep things a little more on the rails I think this could be a fun, low-rent romp, which is all I really want from it.

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