By Kazumi Kamachi and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan as “To Aru Majutsu no Index” by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Prowse.
Last time I said that Index was not in the book at all. Well… she’s not in this book either. More importantly than that, however, is that Touma is entirely absent from this book as well, though one might argue that his presence is felt in terms of the two protagonists who take over for him. In fact, as the series goes on and expands, we’re going to see this more and more. A Certain Magical Index is not just about Touma anymore. And so we have other protagonists that step up. (No, sorry, Mikoto, you aren’t in this one either. But you get the more popular side manga anyway.) The first protagonist should be very familiar to Index readers, as it’s Accelerator, who’s still calling himself a villain and thinking of himself as the worst, despite the fact that he saves more lives in this book than anyone else, and has a guardian and adopted daughter more than willing to lay down their life to stop him going mad and destroying the world. As for the other protagonist, I’m afraid I’m going to have to get EVEN NERDIER than usual.
I’m limiting “Introduced in this volume” only to those who either appear in future books or have an impact on future books. So: Shizuri Mugino, Rikou Takitsubo, Saiai Kinuhata, Frenda (Seivelun), Xochitl, Baba Yoshio, Kakine Teitoku, “Girl in the Dress”, Chimitsu Sunazara, Shiage Hamazura, Hattori Hanzou. The Railgun manga is ongoing, which may explain why Kazari Uiharu gets a bigger role in this book than she ever did before or will again. In terms of timeline, it’s the day after Book 14, so presumably Touma and Index are flying back from France. By the way, I mentioned the Railgun manga. Fans of that series will note that over half the people I just mentioned as debuting in this book had large roles in the ongoing railgun storyline to some degree or another, particularly the members of ITEM. Indeed, Frenda pretty much gets all her development in Railgun, for reasons that will become apparent once you finish Index 15. (She doesn’t even get a last name in this book!) Xochitl too is expanded on quite a bit in that series.
As for the obvious, I told a little white lie in the “this volume” above. Shiage Hamazura and Hattori Hanzou are introduced in the first volume of Index short stories, which came out between Books 13 and 14. Yen Press generally does not license side story volumes, so we’re not seeing this. Fortunately, some of the important stuff is covered in the anime, as it adapted the “Skill Out Uprising” story which introduces Shiage Hamazura and has him confront Touma as a rather two-bit villain. Touma, needless to say, kicks his ass. This happens about 9 days prior to the events in this book, in the long break between Books 13 and 14. At some point after that, Hamazura gets picked up by ITEM and turned into their lackey, which is where we see him in Railgun, and also at the start of this book. (The SS volume also shows us Sasha Kreutsev, who Index readers with long memories will remember had her form used by the villain of the 4th novel.) So while I hate to say “go watch the anime” in my light novel review, go watch the anime.
As for this book, it’s rather hard to review, mostly as I’m coming at it about ten years after it was published, and after the author has spent most of Railgun trying to expand on several of the groups and people introduced here. I have trouble judging if something felt forced or if the reader at the time would shrug and move on. As an example, Mugino going completely berserk and attempting to kill the rest of her team is something that I suspect might have had a reader going “huh, where the heck did that come from?” to someone who is meeting her for the first time here, to the point where Hamazura actually has to spell out her motivations to us in one of his speeches. But fans of Railgun will likely be thinking “I was waiting for her to finally snap, and now it’s happened”.
I’d mentioned Touma was absent here, but he’s very much on the minds of both Accelerator, who puts him on a pedestal that can’t possibly be lived up to, as well as Hamazura, who is inspired by him to actually fight back against a Level 5 for the sake of the girl he loves. (In general Kamachi is not great at writing romance, but I give him props for trying. Hamazura and Takitsubo are pretty cute here, and there are one or two hints dropped before the climax that they like each other.) Most of what occurs here, as with much of Index’s plot lately, is a consequence of the previous volume. In this case, all of Academy City’s heavy hitters being called to Avignon means the villainous groups are running amock. Naturally, our group of villains emerges victorious, meaning it’s the last group standing at the end.
I also want to take the time to praise Uiharu, who only gets about 3 pages to show off her badassery, and gets her shoulder and collarbone dislocated for her troubles, but standing up to the 2nd most powerful person in Academy City, and even sticking her tongue out him? That’s amazing. (I also note that Japan, for some reason, has fanart pairing her and Kakine romantically. To which I have to say: NO.) Also kudos to Yomikawa and Last Order for being able to talk Accelerator down. That said, I suspect that every single person in Academy City knows what his weak point is now, and if I were Last Order I would not feel safe.
There’s little humor in this book, and a lot of action and betrayal. As such, it’s playing on Kamachi’s strengths, and ends up being a quick and exciting read. I would like to check back in on Index next time, though. She is in the title.