A certain magical Index that’s lacking

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.

23 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Alvin B. says:

    Hey thanks! You managed to help me reduce my backlog of “to watch” anime a bit more, and in just a couple of minutes! There’s little you can say about an anime that will make me drop it faster than “too shounen” and “character problems”…

    • Yumeka says:

      Index isn’t “shonen” along the lines of Bleach and Naruto, but it certainly has many of their staple characteristics. So if you can’t stand that, then yeah, Index probably isn’t for you.

  2. It’s pretty common for there to be this fissure between fans of the Index anime and Railgun anime. A lot of people who love Index really disliked Railgun, and I’ve seen many who liked Railgun who dislike or at least feel mildly ambivalent about Index.

    Even though they’re set in the same universe, the two shows are really quite different in terms of style and approach. Index is a lot more of a sci-fi universe that feels like it’s constantly building towards this giant all-encompassing plot, whereas Railgun, when it comes right down to it, was just about a group of friends and their bonds to each other. If you take a way all the sci-fi trappings from Railgun, it still stands on its own quite nicely, whereas if you try to take the sci-fi away from Index, it seems like little more than your average shounen action show. (And incidentally, a lot of people do try to view Index as a shounen action show and go away frustrated because there’s too much talk/sci-fi/world-building and not enough action!)

    For myself personally, I actually like both shows for different reasons, but I’m a bit more partial to Railgun as well. Having a smaller core cast really allowed them each to be developed well, and you left the show feeling that you had gotten to know these people. With Index, even after double the episodes, it feels like the plot is still just getting started while the cast of characters continues to expand. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, but it definitely takes more of an investment to “get it”. And for people who have been feeling a bit ambivalent about it so far, it makes you wonder whether the payoff will be worth it. (And you’re right that, with Touma as the central protagonist, the outcome of every arc is fairly predictable, so you probably have to be in it more for the sci-fi than the action/suspense.)

    And incidentally, I do agree that the first arc of Index was the best part of the show so far. It was tightly-written, emotional, and focused — and at the end of the day, it seemed clear what it was trying to do: this was a love story. But then they started going into the next arcs and expanding the world by leaps and bounds, so it sort of felt like the author kept piling things on as if to prolong the story. And like I said, I do enjoy it well enough, but I concede that I sort of wish it could have remained a bit more focused on building a tight dynamic between the central cast, which is what Railgun did quite well.

    • Yumeka says:

      As always, excellent points =D You’re right that Railgun and Index both have very different approaches and goals in their series even though they take place in the same universe and use the same characters. Because Railgun could almost be a slice-of-life show, whereas Index needs understanding of its complex plot and setting in order to be appreciated, I agree that it requires a lot more commitment from its audience. I guess I prefer anime that’s character centered rather than plot/setting centered, so for Index, if I’m not invested in the lives of the characters (which I was with Railgun), the array of subplots and terminology goes over my head.

      Glad someone else thinks that first arc of the series was the best. Too bad all the love and emotion between Stiyl, Kanzaki, and Index is practically never shown again for the rest of the episodes =/

  3. Osu! says:

    You like Haruhi im assuming right? Well just like Haruhi To aru majutsu no index is based of a VERY popular Light novel series. These past two seasons of index are just build up and Railgun was made so Misaka fans could be happy. Funny thing is kuroko, misaka, and Uiharu are all index characters originally. Anyway, Im one of the faggots who spends his time spreading this around. If a season three were to happen here is what i guarantee.
    I guarantee.

    -shocking revelations
    -the plot finally starts
    -less touma speeches
    – More accelerator and Shiage ( guy with blonde hair in ep 24 of Season 2) since they are both main characters.
    – Touma beaten till near death.
    -The Haxest people in index are introduced.
    -lovely Misaka moments
    -A whole arc full of killing( if u want that)
    -More fun characters.

    But you don’t have to wait for index 3 to come out since it most likely won’ t come this year since JC has Shana in mind. You can just read the novels here .

    http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=To_Aru_Majutsu_no_Index

    The first 6 aren’t translated yet becuz they were season one. Season 2 was Volumes 7-SS1. Since u just watched the whole series i suggest you read volumes SS1-Volume 16 and you can read good summaries for volume 17,18, & 19 here.

    http://toarumajutsunoindex.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Light_Novel_Volumes

    They are in english and have pictures so they keep u entertained. The plot is finally starting. The true story starts when magic and science cross paths. Let me know what u think. A good day to you sir/madam.

    • Yumeka says:

      I did mention in my post that Index is based on light novels. But like manga, I don’t have much motivation to read fan translated novels online unless they’re the original source of an anime I really loved (only ones so far have been Haruhi, Kannagi, and Inuyasha). Since I’m not that into Index, I don’t care to read the novels…but there’s a chance I’ll continue to tune in if a season 3 comes around despite all I said in this post. Like with Bleach, I’m curious to see if my commitment will pay off =P

  4. Kal says:

    I completely agree with you here. I watched Index season 1 first, then railgun, then Index season 2. I actually fell asleep during some of the episodes in season 1. They were too long, dragged along like a pregnant octopus out ot the water, and were simply Ok-ish. It actually took me a long time to pick up railgun, due to index, but I simply enjoyed railgun 120%. The 4 railgun girls fit so much better together, and the storyline and plots are quite intriguing.

    So what was the problem with Index? You already mentioned the characters. Touma, I dislike a lot. Sure he’s heroic and a nice guy, but there is nothing about him that has you rooting for him. He’s pretty bland and boring. He lost his mind in the 1st arc, and apparently not much changed. Come on, that’s pretty big right there! Index is another one. Her backstory is incredible! a girl with 103,000 magical grimoires in her mind! Awesome! And how many times does she use that? was it 1 or 2 times? The rest of the time, she’s just an awkward little kid, which did not have me rooting for her either. Misaka, the magicians, accelerator, last order; the secondary characters were much more likeable.

    However, the main reason I did not like index much, is the premise. We are told, in every single episode, “when magic and technology meets…”. And? that’s exactly what does not happen in 2 whole season! The mages are aware of the technologically advanced academy city, but there is never any real confrontation. Season 2 has 1 mage attacking the city, but she does not confront any of the high level espers. No confrontation with Misaka, or any other. Just Touma… again… single handedly fixing it all. After that, academy city is still unaware of the existence of magic. So, where it magic and technology meeting at? if you know tell me, cause I wanna go and see!

    I understand the anime tackles some of the arcs from he light novels, so I’m sure it would be much better if I actually read the light novels. I might, some day. So I’m sure the people that read and liked the novels, probably liked the anime much more. I’ll stick with railgun. Railgun just took the best characters and best part of the Index universe and fleshed it out really nicely.

    • Yumeka says:

      From what I’ve heard, Index is one of those series that spends lots of time building up to something big (a little too much time if you ask me). So the whole “magic and science colliding” thing might not be till season 3 or 4. That would be cool and all if they spent their build-up time wisely rather than highlighting Touma as the savior all the time and ignoring a cast of potentially more interesting characters. Like some of the above comments have mentioned, with a smaller cast and less emphasis on plot, Railgun is a much more character focused series, which works a whole lot better for many fans.

      And I totally hear you about Index only using her powers a few times throughout all these episodes. I was waiting for the episode where Index (or Stiyl, or any other character for that matter) would have to fight a villain alone and get some character development for her struggles, without Touma rushing in to save the day.

  5. Having read the translations of the novels, I will admit that Index actually has good stories. I just think that somewhere between the original work and JC Staff, something happens to bring misfortune to the adaptation. I’m partial to the end of episode 13 in the second season (Daihakusei) as how I feel towards the anime: “That’s it? That’s what happens to save the day?” It’s difficult to understand the full details if you haven’t been following the novels (especially with the second season) and typically the places that explain the details usually spoil future novels for those who don’t want to be spoiled. I try my best to avoid spoiling anything that comes up, but I’ve been spoiled several times just trying to figure out what happens in the universe.

    Out of all of the stories, you’ve picked the one arc where JC Staff spent plenty of time adapting it (6 episodes, the most for any of the novels) as your favorite. Being partial to Railgun, I have to chose Kuroko’s arc as my favorite if only because the rest of the novel sets the universe alive for Railgun.

    I’m in complete agreement with relentlessflame about the two series and that’s why Railgun appeals to me. I do love the scientific setting and how things can logically make sense but if it goes away Railgun‘s strength of characters can still have me enjoy the show. I still find it ironic that even though Railgun‘s manga is most like Index‘s novels, the anime focused on relationships between the characters and became more successful than the originals.

    I can’t disagree with any of the complaints you have with Index’s anime adaptation. I can add to them, but I’ve already posted about my full thoughts. I’m annoyed with Index as it’s got a lot of potential, yet it never fully realizes that potential by itself (that and the second season would be better as The Accelerator/Last Order Power Hour). I want this franchise to succeed as it’s a solid franchise, but it’s so infuriating to watch most of the time.

    • Yumeka says:

      You’re right that the first arc was the longest and that’s probably why it seemed more fulfilling. Episodes after that just kinda rushed from one new plot development to another without stopping to develop the characters or explain details. As is usually the case, I’m sure the original source material focuses more on these things. I doubt I’ll ever have the motivation to read the novels but maybe one day I’ll read through all the Wikipedia pages on Index XD Like I said, I do find the Index universe very fascinating but I agree that the franchise is wasting potential (I actually feel that way about the Pokemon anime adaptation, and many others too). Sometimes they should just put the fans in charge! =P

  6. Suzushina Yuriko says:

    In defense of Index.

    The main problem was that the novels animated just so happened to be Index’s worst ones. Volumes 7, 9, 10, and 11 were the novels that simply were there for building up tensions between AC and the RCC and did not connect to each other at all. It was only starting from the Invasion arc that Index’s story started getting into the awesome territory, with the sales (Dengeki’s #1 bestseller at 10 million copies last November, beating Haruhi’s and Shana’s LN sales) and the rankings (completely took over every single category in the Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! rankings) to show for it. This is all made worse by JC Staff’s adaptation, which completely sucks the life and emotion out of all of the scenes in favor of rushing 8.5 novels in 24 episodes, with crappy animation at times to boot.

    I do agree that Touma preaches and punches way too much. However, I find Mikoto more annoying because she has Touma’s same overly idealistic views AND she charges in a situation recklessly without considering the consequences of her actions and words. Touma at least plans things out and is careful (not touching Hyouka, asking experienced magicians what was okay to cancel out during Daihaseisai).

    “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.”

    That’s because this IS Touma’s series. That’s what a main character is. If you’re tired of Touma, you’d be happy to know that there are three protagonists in the entire series, all of who have appeared in the second season. The third was recently baptized by Touma’s fist.

    Comparing Index with Bleach is very unfair, and you’re not taking into account the amount of episodes and the source material each one has in the first place. In the six novels to be animated if a third season comes, Touma completely disappears for two of them (volume 15 and 19) and is absent for the majority of one (volume 16).

    Stiyl got his own SS novel. Kanzaki got her own SS novel as well and a volume completely dedicated to her and the Amakusa. Mikoto got her own freaking manga, anime (which his practically guaranteed to have a second season), AND multiple SS novels – I really don’t need to see any more of her, and she wouldn’t contribute anything to the plot anyways. Himegami sadly is forgotten. The plot ends up revolving around Index like a black hole, especially in the Russia arc, and did you forget that Index played a very important role in about four of the arcs this season? Of course, everyone forgets that little detail.

    “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.”

    Please read the light novels. They explain everything and give you the full range of emotions and explanations that should have been there in the second season. I really hope you’re not discouraged by these two seasons as a third would probably satisfy your complaints (less Touma, more time on other characters, less exposition)

    For some hints of what’s to come in a third season, keep these phrases in mind – “Saint vs. Saint”, “Academy City Battle Royale”, and “English Civil War.”

    • Yumeka says:

      I’m glad to know that the Index novels are a lot better and that much of my negativity towards it is due to how J.C. Staff adapted it into an anime. I can’t say I’ll ever have motivation to read the novels but I’ll make sure to distinguish that it’s the anime I’m criticizing and not the novels.

      The reason I compare Index to Bleach and other shonen anime is because it has so many of the same qualities, just that it’s based on novels rather than manga and isn’t as long (yet). If you want to call it a seinen series, I can’t point out as many similarities it has with those as it has with shonen series. And as for Index being “Touma’s story,” every good anime I’ve seen with a large array of subplots and characters like Index lets its other characters shine through at least once in a while. Naruto is of course Naruto’s story and Shana is Shana’s story (their names are even in the title) but I don’t feel like they hog the spotlight and get all the good scenes all the time.

      And as for Index herself, playing an important role isn’t always the same as doing something significant. I understand that many arcs revolve around her because of who she is, but I don’t recall her actually doing anything that was memorable to me (besides the first act, and the latter arc where she’s singing while Accelerator is getting the crap beat out of him right behind her).

      I’m sorry, I don’t mean to burst your bubble about a series that you seem to like very much. I try to avoid posts like this because I don’t want to create hard feelings with anyone who likes what I’m deriding. But I appreciate your input and you’ve helped me become a bit more positive about the series as a whole.

  7. Hogart says:

    What? Index was supposed to be a seinen? How could that possibly hold up to scrutiny?

    I think people were willing to look the other way for the first season, because it was fresh and the production values were quite good. But after a while this type of simplistic and childish fluff takes it’s toll, so the show’s just too long for it’s own good.

    Railgun had the advantage because anime fans prefer seeing girls instead of guys, and because the “Raildex” universe was only just starting to get stale. If Railgun 2 stays the course like Index 2 did, it will do no better than Index 2 has.

    @Restlessflame
    Take away the sci-fi and “plot” from Index and you’ve got a highschool harem show. Take it away from Railgun and you’ve got is K-On without the music. But keep the sci-fi and plot, and they’re almost the same show, just less religion-vs-science and more adults-are-bad.

    I’d attribute almost all of Railgun’s success to anime fan’s preference for seeing a cast of highschool girls (I remember the negativity about Index boiling down to “too much Touma” and “needs more Biribiri, not “too much action” and “needs more slice of life”).

    • Yumeka says:

      You’re right that Railgun appeals more to otaku who like female centered casts as opposed to having the spotlight on an “action hero” male character like Index, another reason why I feel Index is more shonen-like. However, I would disagree that they’re virtually the same show – Railgun is much more focused on its four main characters and their bonds, and can stand well by itself as a slice-of-life/character driven anime without the sci-fi. Index however, is very focused on plot rather than characters, and would have hardly anything to offer if that was taken away.

  8. Tara says:

    I think you might have just made me realise what I didn’t like about Index O.o
    I only watched the first season and although it started out great I started to not like it that much without being sure exactly why, it even became like a duty just to get through the series. Probably why I decided not to watch the second one x.x But yeah, I think I’ve finally realised some of the reasons I didn’t like index that much, so thanks =)

    • Yumeka says:

      Heh, well, glad I could help =P The main reason I found watching Index a chore sometimes was because of all the terminology and fast-paced subplots popping up. Oh, and it was tiring seeing the same old “Touma arrives to save the day, gets beaten to a pulp but manages to punch the lights out of the current antagonist, then ends up in the hospital, rinse and repeat.”

  9. H says:

    Hmm. I also have one character that i extremely dislike mainly becuase she is there just for fan servise really. Without Miu Kenechi probally would’ve been alright. They could have just had a diferent heroine one with smaller boobs. Sigh. And her vioce over in English isn’t that good.
    bye.
    –End–

    • Yumeka says:

      Is that character from Index? If so, then she must be really insignificant ’cause I don’t even know who she is.

      • H says:

        Oh, sorry dispite being a girl i watch some shonen series and Kenichi: The Mightiest Disipline is one of them. You should watch it though. It come on Funamation a lot. And it’s really funny. Well, sorry to have confused you.
        bye.
        –End–

  10. foomafoo says:

    I consider myself to like Index as well but the points you raised were not that of an issue to me. If I’d be pointing out an issue of the anime, I think it would be the pure action-esque and direct approach of the anime contrary to what I’ve heard the LN is all about. I’ve read snippets of the LN and I can say that Index is good in building up ominous atmosphere in the novel before something big erupts. I’ve read the Amakusa arc which I find good in the novel, but I found highly disappointing in the anime primarily because I didn’t feel the build up and the heavy atmosphere during the search for Orsola, plus the lesser detailed story. I find this very lacking… Index’s dialogue should have been long due to the explanation of Amakusa portals but.. I don’t remember Index talking that much. She only gave abrupt opinions about the strategy.

    LN has a better narrating method unlike the anime. Plus, you can clearly see that the anime has this tendency to give so much weight in the fanservice instead to the story. Some readers of the LN said that the ecchi factor was simply mild in the LN and I can attest to that since I’ve read the part of the LN where Touma and Agnese.. blah blah I guess you know that but it wasn’t given that much of attention while the anime gave it a relatively longer screentime than it should have, in my opinion. Instead of the plot/story being consistent, (well I think it is consistent) attention is very much diverted to fanservice, which shouldn’t be the case if you read the LN (in my case).

    I never liked Touma’s dragging speeches as well but I’m not that bothered by him because I honestly think that his possession of the interesting Imagine Breaker weighs out all the not-so-good qualities of him (bias eh? :P).

  11. Accelerator says:

    Accelerator? Overly-anti heroish? I see no problem with that.

  12. Catherine Meyers says:

    Hi Yumeko,

    First I have to say you have a great blog, great reviews, one can tell you are very knowledgeable about anime, would you be interested in a link exchange?.

    On topic, I started reading To Aru Majutsu no Index, the manga, I thought, hmm this is interesting, a friend told me it had an anime and that the second season just started. Began to watch it, enjoyed the first season, (I wanted Kanzaki to appear more though), then something happened and all we could see was Touma punching the face of the “bad guys” to defeat them, over and over again. All the great characters it has, were not explored at all in the second season and then I simply stopped watching. After reading this though I might as well finish it, but just to say I saw the whole thing because you guys made it clear I won’t be rewarded hehe.

    Cathy

  13. khryoleoz says:

    Wow, you’ve captured 100% of my own feelings towards this series. It’s a shame that Touma was pretty insufferable. And I love Mikoto a lot. I wish they’d do a season 2 of Railgun.

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