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Certain Magical Index: Complete Season 1, A
A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to review the collection sets for A Certain Scientific Railgun S, the third season of a franchise I wasn't too familiar with outside of it's immense popularity here in the states. Despite my first exposure to this franchise was the 3rd season, I was hooked and immediately sought out the first two seasons and immersed myself into the Raildex universe, falling in love with the well written characters, fun stories and doses of comedy injected in to keep things light. Now that I have the opportunity to review where the series all started, and in newly converted Blu-ray no less, how does the first installment to the franchise fare?
For those not familiar with the franchise A Certain Magical Index as a whole centers on the life of Toma Kamijo (voiced by Micah Solusod), a regular guy whom doesn't seem all that special in a city full of magic users, and Index, the keeper of something mysterious called the 103000 grimoires, books containing powerful magical knowledge that many people seek out to use for their own devious plans.
A big element in the series focuses on magic, each magic user (usually called Espers) in Academy city are ranked according to their abilities, by way of leveling system, between numbers 1 through 5. Toma is what's known as a Level 0, a commoner with absolutely no esper capabilities. However, he does possess a power not seen before in his right hand, called Imagine Breaker. What the Imagine Breaker is capable of is that of negating ALL magic, including esper and even divine powers, making him a formidable opponent for even the most feared esper, Accelerator (Voiced by Austin Tindle), whom is pursuing the opportunity to become the first ever level 6.
Index also has a unique way of it's storytelling as well, the timeline jumps around so much that it's like you're watching a Tarantino film, and the series is broken up into several 2 to 6 episode arcs with the occasional filler or "break" episode in-between the main stories.
While there are far too many different arcs to cover individually in this review, a few of the standouts included are...
Episodes 10-14, shockingly one of the longer arcs in the series, focused on the Sisters storyline, a storyline that is expanded much more in the fan favorite, A Certain Scientific Railgun S, which covered the first 16 episodes of that season. In this Arc, Toma and Mikoto discover that Mikoto has been cloned, and those clones are being used in an experiment to be killed by the strongest and most feared level 5 esper user in Academy City, Accelerator. While Accelerator receives much more development later in the season and in the following seasons, here Accelerator is portrayed as nothing but a sociopathic psychopath. He's never met his match and has destroyed everything or one that has gotten in his path, he's has been tasked with killing 20,000 of Mikoto's clones in order to advance in becoming the first level 6 esper ever. Accelerator has already accrued over 10,000 kills and has no signs of slowing down. Toma, knowing he's the only one who can rival Accelerator due to his Imagine Breaker negating abilities, decides he me must step in and put an end to Accelerator and this evil experiment.
My other two favorite arc's here in this first season both came in later in the series and are relatively short, the first is 3 episodes and picks up right after the Accelerator arc. Due to his interference with the Level 6 experiment, Toma is sent to a beachside resort with Index in tow. It started off as more of a filler comedy episode with the introduction of Toma's family as his parents will be coming to see him for the first time since he had lost his memories, and is happy to see his father. However, when his cousin shows up looking like Mikoto and his mother, resembling Index, Tōma is convinced they are playing a trick on him. What started out as a comedy arc, but it ended up becoming a strong story when Toma realizes something darker is brewing at the resort.
The other is a brief two episode arc where we get some insight into Accelerator, whom is fed up with the clone experiment and decides to try and live his days in peace. The only problem with that is, is that no one fears him anymore due to his loss against Toma, a non esper user, so he spends his days fighting off those who want revenge on him. His life is suddenly intruded on further when a Misaka clone, referred to as the "Last Order", shows up that isn't quite as developed as the others, but to make up for that, she has emotions. The Last Order follows Accelerator around and the two begin to form a bond together. It's a nice arc that gives us a lot of development and some great insight into Accelerator's character, along with giving us some more information on his participation and the background of the Sisters experiment.
+ The Blu-ray upscale is great and is worth the double dip for fans who own the DVD sets.
+ Fun story arcs.
+ The action sequences are gorgeous.
+ Well developed and fun characters.
- The dub is a bit grating, though it improves tenfold in later seasons after the actors had gotten more experience under their belts. There are some good performances though, like Monica Rial as Index and Rob McCollum as Stiyl. Micah Solusod solidly fits the bill as Toma, though I wouldn't say he's great. The weakest link is Austin Tindle, whom just doesn't reach the heights of the Japanese actor, though he's fantastic in Railgun S. The rest of the cast range from mediocre to bad.
- Way too much exposition.
Video and Audio:
The first season of the Index/Railgun franchise, A Certain Magical Index, has finally been made available on Blu-ray here in the states, and it was worth the wait. The image is vibrant and clean, and the details are sharp. The hands down best thing about the animation are the action scenes, which are beautifully animated and are easily the highlight of the series, visually speaking. The character designs are solid, albeit a bit bland, although each character does stand out. The backgrounds are greatly detailed as well. The animation of the series remains fairly consistent throughout. A terrific production overall.
There are two audio options for the complete first season of Index. The first is a 5.1 TrueHD Dolby English track, and the second is the original TrueHD 2.0 Japanese track. I sampled a few episodes of the Japanese track and watched the rest in the Englih dub. The Japanese track was excellent for this series, and I'd honestly recommend it over the English dub, although I'm quite used to the English voices after 4 seasons of the series, there is something missing with the performances in this season. The music never overtook the scenes that were taking place during the quieter moments while ramping up during the action scenes. The mixes were done well with no dropouts or distortions present. It's overall a solid mix.
- Episode 3 commentary with Monica Rial, Micah Solusod, and Jad Saxton, whom play Index, Toma and Komoe, respectively.
- Episode 6 commentary with Zach Bolton, Rob McCollum, and Cole Brown. Zach is the ADR director for the dub on the series, while Rob and Cole play Stiyl Magnus and the Frog doctor, respectively.
- Episode 14 commentary with Micah Solusod, Brittney Karbowski, and Austin Tindle, whom play Toma, Mikoto, and Accelerator, respectively.
- Episode 23 commentary with Monica Rial, Stephanie Young and Alexis Tipton, whom play Index, Sherry Cromwell, and Hyoka.
- Two Textless opening songs and two textless closing songs.
- US trailer for the dub.
- Trailers for various other FUNimation titles including Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, One Piece, One Piece: Film Z, A Certain Magical Index: Season 2, Princess Jellyfish, and Ghost in the Shell: Arise.
A Certain Magical Index is a fun series. I'd say it's a little heavy on the religious and historical overtones because they seem a bit out of place, but the series is solid from start to finish with several enjoyable and exciting story arcs. The characters for the most part are all well written, there's some laughs, nice artwork, and the Blu-ray upscale looks terrific. The only real downside to the first season of Index is the spotty dub cast choices (though they've improved over time.) Index is recommended.