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.
Given the events of the last volume, and the fact that the cover art looks for all the world like a fun romantic comedy, I imagine the average reader went into this book thinking it would be a nice, relaxing volume. And it is… for about the first quarter of the book. Then Acqua of the Back arrives, and everything pretty much goes to hell. But hey, at least this book has Touma and Index in it, right? Well, not so much. Index is once again relegated to comic relief (she even lampshades how useful she WOULD have been after everything has already happened), and Touma is removed from most of the fighting by, yet again, half-fatal injuries. No, this book is about the Amakusa Church, their guilt-driven Saint Kaori Kanzaki, and their #1 Touma fan Itsuwa, who can cook, clean, is pretty with a nice chest, wields a spear magnificently, and loves Touma. In fact, in a series filled with heroines with major faults, her main fault may be not having one.
Introduced in this book: Fiamma of the Right, the “Knight Leader”, and the Third English Princess, whose name I will hold off on till I see how Yen romanizes it. This takes place about three days after Touma and Index get back from France. Touma is starting to worry about his attendance credits, and well he should – he’s barely been in class this semester. We have basically passed all the Index spinoff titles in terms of chronology. There are, of course, several ongoing plot threads from previous books. Itsuwa is dispatched to be Touma’s bodyguard after the events of tBook 14 (and so that the Amakusa Church can try to get them together as a couple, something doomed to failure). Acqua’s threat to Touma a couple books ago is carried out here, and he very nearly succeeds. And Mikoto has found out about Touma’s amnesia, and it’s bothering her, mostly as she’s not sure when it happened.
This book, as with a lot of shonen titles, is about seeing people who are so much better, faster, and stronger than you, and then getting up and fighting anyway because it’s right. Acqua doesn’t care what Touma’s motivations or desires are – his hand is a weapon, and therefore he treats Touma the same way. (Honestly, given the last two members of God’s Right Seat, he’s the least villainous, but that’s only by degree.) Itsuwa and the rest of the Amakusa fight because they know Touma is a good person, right hand or no. And Kaori leaps in to fight because Acqua is about to kill the rest of the Amakusa, and she may be keeping her distance from them but she still wants to protect them. In fact, arguably it’s Kaori who learns the biggest lesson here – no, not Tsuchimikado’s stupid ero maid thing, which made my teeth grind. But you can’t protect the ones you love from the shadows and by pushing them away. It only hurts them more. Seeing Kaori and the Amakusa team up was absolutely the highlight of this book, and I like that for once Touma did not get in the final blow (or even break any illusions), though he certainly made it possible.
It appears we’re going to be focusing on England next time (and watch out for Fiamma describing how to bring the island nation down to its knees in a way that sounds suspiciously similar to a no-deal Brexit). Also, I worry my discussion of the lack of a role for Index and her desire to help more may change for the worse soon – it sounds like Fiamma’s big plan is basically to capture her. In any case, though Kamachi remains as bad as ever at wacky harem antics, this is still an excellent volume of Index.