In the future, there is only Hello Kitty…wait…no…in the future there is magic, and espers, and magical espers, and espers with magic, and maids. Always with the maids. A Certain Magical Index aka Index from here on out, is supposedly the story of Index, a silver haired young woman who happens to land on the balcony of Kamijo Toma, a student in Accademy City who posses none of the talents listed above. Kamijo is, in fact, a Zero on the esper scale of 1-5…or is it 6? He is an absolute nothing, nobody important who happens to hide a secret in his right hand. No, not that kinds of secret. He also happens to be the actual main character of Index, along with his Imagine Breaker hand.
Index, as best as I can tell, is an assemblage of a couple of light novels and it shows. For a 24 episode show, it never really gels into any specific plotline, skipping along through whatever seemed to have captured the production crew’s attention out of the books. The first 6 episodes form an arc, then the next couple form a arc, and then other arcs come in, and disappear, and come back later. The only real constants are the very repetitive music, the production crew’s insistance on getting all of the female characters naked whenever the plot allows, and Kamijo. Index herself, despite being the name character for the show, is far less important that you’d think after the first story arc wraps itself up. She’s also kind of annoying and a biter, so that may be for the best overall.
In fact Index is loaded up with side characters that never get to be as interesting as they really should be. Magician of the Church of England Stiyl Magnus, magician of the Amakusa Catholic Church Kaori Kanazaki, Kamijo’s teacher Komoe Tsukuyomi, Accelerator the genocidal esper, and a whole host of others really don’t amount to anything despite the plot’s best attempts at making them interesting. Only Mikoto Misaka, a level 5 esper aptly nicknamd Zapper, and the target of Accelerator’s rampage by way of a secret government/military something or other plot, ever really amounts to more than a cipher for plot points. It’s a shame really, as they all start out as very interesting characters before they get subsumed in a haze of plot twists and just plain annoyance. There are also a lot of cats for some reason, possibly as a stand-in for the director saying “do this, do that,” as they always seem to force major plot points to happen. The occult, religion, conspiracy theories, and other similar stuff get ladled over the show like gravy at a cheap diner, but none of it ever seems to be very interesting once Stiyl is out of the picture, and he leaves really early.
The plot itself, in all of its disjointed glory, isn’t really as interesting as a story based on the premise of “Hey, there’s this girl, and she has 103,000 grimores locked inside her head!” should be, in no small part because she barely figures into the plot after the first 5 episodes, and her plot replacement in the form of Zapper, her “sisters,” and Accelerator drop out after the 14th episode, leaving another 10 episodes to be filled into with an attempt to make Kamijo’s life more interesting after his unfortunate accident at the end of the first plot arc, but it all falls very flat till the absolute last few episodes when they manage to introduce a character with what has to be one of the saddest backstories this side of Wreck-It Ralph. What makes it more frustrating is that Kamijo’s story really should be more interesting as he’s not the bland milquetoast character you usually get in these kinds of shows, but the gyrations of the plot never really let him shine like he should, and Index never really becomes interesting at all. It’s not that it’s bad, but given the way things start it’s rather disappointing that Index never seems to become what it could be.
Adding to the disappointment is the animation. It’s quite obvious that different teams worked on different episodes and that some espisodes got far more money than others, but it’s all for naught as it never gets to be anything more than passable. The vocal tracks are perfectly fine, though switching between them doesn’t make the annoying characters less annoying, especially Misaka’s “sissy” Kuroko Shirai (who I’m convinced was only a part of the show because it was made by J.C. Staff and they just had to have an exceedingly inappropriate character). FUNimation does a fine job with the package, with 4 commentary tracks featuring the English voice actors mostly joking around with each other, a full set of clean opening and ending sequences, and a very nice hard-side box to hold it all. However, it’s putting lipstick of a very nice pig in the end. A Certain Magical Index manages to take a really interesting idea and make it utterly bland. If you’re seriously into occult-themed entertainment you might find something to like here, but it’s far less than the sum of its parts.