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 mentioned that Fiamma of the Right’s plans for England sounded a bit like Brexit. Little did I know that the feeling would triple as I read this new volume, set almost entirely in the United Kingdom. The villains are trying to start a war with France – well, in reality France is a proxy for the Roman Orthodox and Russian Catholic Churches, but you know what I mean – and are discussing what happens with trading rights and shipping in the UK and sounding an awful lot like Theresa May, to be honest. This is entirely coincidental given that this book came out in Japan in March 2009, but it does given the danger a little extra frisson of reality. Which is more than can be said for Kamachi’s rewriting of English history – Henry VIII’s motives for breaking off with the Roman Orthodox church are made a lot more noble and grand than reality, and I suspect the court are telling Touma a sanitized version of the truth.
Introduced in this book: Queen Elizard, Princess Limeia, Princess Carissa, and Princess Vilian, who was in the last book but is officially named here. We also meet all of New Light, a Norse-based magical group and terrorist organization, which like most other organizations in Index has four people in it: Lesser, Bayloupe, Florice, and Lancis. Yes, it’s romanized as Lesser, so any fans of the fan spelling who are still getting the official version will be annoyed once more, as Lesser is honestly the only one of these four you’ll need to remember going forward. Timeline-wise, we’re about five days after the events of Book 16 – Itsuwa has returned to the UK, though after taking the time to heal up and briefly discuss the upcoming culture festival, Touma and Index join her. This means this is another magic-heavy book, so don’t expect lots of Mikoto here, though she at least does discuss Touma’s memory loss with him briefly.
This is the first volume of a two-parter, and so as you can imagine the book consists mostly of everything going wrong for our heroes. By the end of the book Index is captured and knocked out (punched in the stomach, no less), Kaori has just been beaten so badly that everyone is sneering at her, Agnes’s Roman Orthodox nuns are mostly captured aside from the ones whose names we can remember, and two of our supposed heroes are in reality betraying everyone – for the good of the nation, of course. Lesser (who is a hoot in general, you can see why she’ll be back) picks on Touma for being there at all, noting that as the only Japanese guy in the midst of a fight between UK denizens, he can’t possibly understand why anyone is doing anything. Of course, I have no doubt that is also Touma’s strength. We also see a bunch of former villains who are now theoretically on the side of good, also showing off – Sherry and Oriana, to be precise. At times Index reads very much like, well, an index, making sure that everyone gets a cameo.
So overall decent volume, though I will pick on the translation just a bit – I’m not sure if Laura Stuart’s English is supposed to be as bad as her Japanese, but a lot of the ‘slang’ in this book reads very badly if we’re meant to assume she is British. On the bright side, while we do have more of Kamachi’s attempts at being funny, one of them actually succeeds this time – the sequence in Buckingham Palace, starting with Touma, Index and the scones and progressing through the introduction of the Queen is very well done, and very funny. I tip my hat. (It also provided the cover image.) I also approve of one translation convention – everyone in charge in England refers to Index as “the Index” and treats her exactly like you would an encyclopedia, not a person. It’s very obvious and very well done. Index fans will want to pick this up, especially now that the third season of the anime has shown itself to be rushing everything so badly. You’ll want to see what actually happens.