About a year ago I watched To Aru Kagaku no Railgun and found it very well written and enjoyable. I knew it was a side-story of another series, To Aru Majutsu no Index, which I hadn’t yet seen. Since I liked Railgun so much, I decided to watch both seasons of Index soon after. And now, after completing season 2, I feel that something was definitely lacking…
The first arc of season 1 involving Touma’s first encounter with Index and the “world of magic” was very exciting and is still my favorite arc. Index’s backstory is unique and interesting, and the emotional factor involving Stiyl and Kanzaki’s feelings towards her is also very gripping. Unfortunately, none of the 40 some other episodes of the anime thus far had me as engrossed as that. I really only perked up when the Railgun girls were around, which wasn’t much (the arc with Kuroko in season 2 is my second favorite). I liked a few other random parts, such as scenes involving Accelerator and Last Order, but for the most part, out of nearly 50 episodes I found myself tuning in more out of wanting to just complete the series already rather than because I enjoyed it.
So now that I feel this way after completing both seasons, I have to ask myself – why did I not like Index after hearing good things about it and after enjoying Railgun so much?
One thing I thought about is that Index is marketed as a seinen series, but to me it’s very close to a shonen series with its many intense and often bloody battles, ongoing subplots, and constant spiels by the main character about friendship and never giving up. This is certainly not a problem since I love shonen series if they’re done right. But the first problem with Index for me is our shonen-esque hero, Touma.
I was trying to like Touma all this time, but as a main character in this kind of series, he’s just too insufferable, and the outcomes of everything he does are too predictable. It’s a similar problem that I have with Bleach’s main character Ichigo – they both don’t develop all that much over the course of so many episodes, and because of the way the stories are structured, it’s hard to make any defeats they have in battle dramatic because you know they’re not gonna die and will be fit to fight again soon enough. After watching characters like them in battle enough times, I have virtually no emotion no matter how horribly they get the crap beat out of them because it becomes, like, the status quo. It’s really only Touma and Ichigo I feel this way about, so there’s either something wrong with me or something wrong with them.
Back to Touma specifically, he’s either Mr. “let’s help everyone” overly righteous soul that always manages to save the day, or he’s the brunt of gags like Mikoto and Index’s jealousy. That’s really all I got from him all this time. But my main issue of all is that he hogs the spotlight way too much! In pretty much every single arc/event in both seasons of Index, it’s always Touma who comes out the hero or who gets to have the flashy one-on-one showdown with the main villain. I honestly think I wouldn’t have disliked him so much if I just didn’t see have to see him so much! At least Bleach and similar action series with large casts of characters give us plenty of breaks from the main hero and have numerous arcs dedicated to development and battles for the other characters, with the main hero sometimes not appearing at all for many episodes. I was hoping for an episode where Stiyl, Kanzaki, Mikoto, Himegami, or even Index would be able to take center stage for a few episodes in a row without any interference from Touma. The only major arc where Touma wasn’t the main hero was the last arc of season 2 where Accelerator managed to take the spotlight for a while and get some development. Being a main character is one thing, but getting enough screentime to practically have your own series when you have a large roster of other characters waiting to be developed, is quite another thing.
It could be because Touma got all the good scenes that I didn’t find many of the other Index characters all that likable either, at least for my tastes. They were either distant or underdeveloped, like Kanzaki and Yoshi/Yomikawa, too overly anti-hero-ish like Accelerator and Tsuchimikado, too cutesy like Index and Last Order, or just plain fan service bait like Fukiyose. It’s a shame because out of Index’s long list of characters, many of them – like Komoe, Himegami, and Angelene – caught my interest but they just never had a chance to take center stage. I haven’t read the original light novels, so maybe there’s more focus on other characters later on. But after 50 episodes, a lot was done for plot but not for characters.
Does she even have a purpose?
This further lead to the last problem I had with the Index anime, which could partially be my fault. I kept getting confused about the plot in many arcs and figuring out which characters belong to which organization and what their goals are and what all the terminology meant. Now, I’m certainly not someone who’s good at remembering details in anime, but usually I can follow enough to still enjoy it and not feel like I have no idea what’s going on. But many times in Index, especially during the arc with Orsola Aquinas and the final arc with Accelerator and Kihara, I felt totally lost. It could be that because of the aforementioned lack of character development, I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to pay close attention to the terminology and subplots and whatnot.
Overall, I didn’t dislike Index 100%. The magic vs science world that it’s set in is extremely fascinating, as are the many nifty powers that the characters have. I would say the battles were cool, but since they pretty much all involved Touma mutually beating up the current antagonist, they weren’t that entertaining. To conclude, I wouldn’t say I wasted my time with Index, since I’m always interested in getting to know yet another fairly big anime franchise. But after so many episodes, I was really hoping to like it more.