By Kazumi Kamachi and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan as “To Aru Majutsu no Index” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Prowse.
And so, once again, we have the “final” volume of Index in North America. Last time we thought it was the 22nd volume, then Yen picked up the two short story volumes after the fact. Now, we even get a translator’s afterword by Andrew Prowse thanking the readers, saying this is it for now, and please keep reading the manga. All it needs is “And the adventure continues…” after the final page. In other words, don’t expect New Testament unless there’s an anime. As for this volume, it’s far more of a short story book than the first one, though the stories eventually do tie together up to a certain point. It’s also a lot goofier, with Kamachi’s usual hit-and-miss attempts at humor and lots of powerful teenagers doing dumb teenage things. There’s ninjas, hackers, slashers, fixers, and those who fight using only their GUTS! That said, it’s a reasonable amount of fun, and Index fans should have no reason not to pick it up, especially since good sales might also change Yen’s mind.
Introduced in this volume: Balbina, Gunha Sogiita, Tabigake Misaka, Ollerus, Silvia, Kuruwa, Seria Kumokawa, Stephanie Gorgeouspalace, Misaka 17000, Misaka 18022, Misaka 14333, Misaka 15110, Misaka 10090, Misaka 12053, Misaka 19009, Misaka 11899, Misaka 16836, Misaka 10501, Misaka 19900, Misaka 12083, Misaka 10855, Misaka 17203, Misaka 19488, Misaka 15327, Misaka 13072, Misaka 17403, Misaka 10050, Misaka 10840, Misaka 12481, Misaka 18072, Misaka 19348, Misaka 17009, Misaka 15113, Misaka 14014, and Misaka 18829. (Sorry, I had to.) This takes place over the course of the entire series, and even prior to it, but in Japan it was released between Vol. 16 and 17. As you can see by the list above, leaving out the Misakas, there’s a lot of major characters who make their debut here (including some we’ve seen “debut” in English in Books 19-22, or the Railgun manga). That said, three make the most impact: Gunha, a Level 5 who gets by by essentially having Shonen Champion power (I’d say Jump, but if you look at him he’s clearly more an Akita Shoten boy); Ollerus, a somewhat distracted young man who also proves to be the most powerful person in the book; and Seria Kumokawa, a 3rd year at Touma’s school who also appears to be one of those powers behind the throne sorts.
There are some definite high points here. Uiharu gets two stories showing off her masterful computer skills, though the end of the second one implies she is fine with destroying data to avoid letting the hackers win. We meet Mikoto’s dad, and he’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect, being the sort of man who can casually threaten to bring down Crowley should he so choose. Touma and Index are absent from the book, and Mikoto’s only in one story, so this is definitely focused on the minor characters. The main “plot” involved a group of 50 “uncut gems”, who seems to be kids with powers that are unaffiliated with a country, and everyone trying to find and control/kill/do whatever with them. The best scene in the whole book occurs when Seria decides to have all these “gems” retrieved by Misaka clones, leading to an action scene we only here about via the Misaka Network, equal parts badass and funny.
It’s not a long book, and as a final volume of Index the 22nd book works better, but I’m pleased Yen went back and picked up these two books. Who knows, if Japan can get over the disaster that was the third Index anime and do more, we may see New Testament someday. Till then, don’t get your jeans slashed, don’t get into a hacking battle with Uiharu, and don’t piss off Academy City so much you get yourself super killed.