Touma Kamijou is just trying to get his summer homework done on his last day of vacation, but unfortunately his bad luck says otherwise.
On August 31st, while most students are doing their homework Touma Kamjiou is drawn into multiple situations as a result of his previous actions and association with Index. However, while Touma’s day plays out, Accelerator uncovers a far more sinister plan that threatens all of Academy City in the form of the last Misaka clone from the Level 6 Shift Project.
Fans of action or fantasy stories containing science fiction elements with a more unique setting will likely find A Certain Magical Index very appealing.
A Certain Magical Index’s fifth volume is essentially divided into three stories that take place on the last day of summer vacation, two revolving around Touma Kamijou (but are unrelated to each other, poor guy) and one focusing on Academy City’s strongest, Accelerator. The chapters of the volume served as switches between stories, which was actually a narrative structure that I felt worked well as it was interesting to see unrelated stories play out in chronological order instead of just one full story and then another. It was also interesting because of the tonal differences in the stories as Touma’s portion is significantly more lighthearted than Accelerator’s.
The first Touma story has him forced to play the part of Misaka’s boyfriend as she tries to avoid another boy with a crush on her named Mitsuki Unabara. Things escalate a bit quickly and it turns out that there is an organization outside of Academy City that fears Touma’s ‘faction’ of allies and is trying to destroy them from within (big jump there, I know). I felt like this was the weakest of the three stories, primarily because of the villain whose motivations felt a bit half-baked to me. That being said, the international impact of Touma’s crew is interesting and hints at what I hope will become an overarching story since so far the series has felt very episodic. The second Touma story (and the final part of the book) was more interesting in that it was more fast-paced, although the villain wasn’t particularly developed either. Essentially, both stories were fairly short and primarily operated as breaks from Accelerator’s story, which left Kamachi less time to do the more advanced character characterizations he is so very fond of.
Fortunately, plenty of time was spent characterizing Accelerator, the previous more-or-less villain of the third volume. As you might be able to gather from the cover, this is the main story of the book, which is just as well because it is also by far the best one. At the beginning, I was a bit skeptical of how Kamachi would be able to turn the esper who killed ten thousand of the Little Sisters into a somehow sympathetic character, but by the end of the volume I was definitely convinced. Accelerator’s confrontation with a unique scenario, that the killer of half the Little Sisters now is faced with the choice to save the other half, was the perfect battleground to transition the character’s role in the narrative. It was fascinating throughout this story to see Kamachi’s use of Accelerator’s unique abilities, and the social position they put him in felt quite masterful to me. I’m looking forward to where he takes the character next.
It’s also worth mentioning that the translation, while definitely not bad before, has improved quite a bit over the course of these past five volumes with translators Andrew Prowse and Yoshito Hinton honing their craft. Bits such as the multiple lines of ‘...’ are gone and phrasing has been tightened and flows more smoothly. Kamachi’s writing feels almost like a Japanese C.S. Lewis at times and is supposedly very tricky to bring to English, but as an English reader I felt that his unique style still managed to reach me through the translation.
While I still feel that the third volume was my favorite in the series thus far, A Certain Magical Index’s fifth volume is no slouch. The narrative structure with multiple unrelated stories is interesting, and the transition of Accelerator from the role of villain to a more sympathetic character was handled quite well. If you’re looking into picking this one up, expect much of what has already made you enjoy the series along with a slightly different style of storytelling.
A Certain Magical Index Vol. 5 was authored by Kazuma Kamachi and published by Yen Press on November 17, 2015. A Certain Magical Index was an ongoing series in ASCII’s Dengeki Bunko imprint, and received two anime adaptions by J.C. Staff in Fall 2008 and Fall 2010. Volume 6 will release in North America on February 23rd.
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