Book Review: A Certain Magical Index Volume 12

A Certain Magical Index Volume 12 cover

I hope that everyone is doing well, and getting plans set aside for the upcoming weekend.

Things have been going fairly well here, as things are not as bothersome as they have been, and I can still do what I enjoy doing.

Recently, the last of the titles that I preordered for this month from Amazon arrived, and it is that means it is time to get busy.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called A Certain Magical Index Volume 12 by Kazuma Kamachi.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.

It is just another ordinary day in Academy City, though students are getting a half day to get their uniforms switched out if necessary, and everyone, except Touma and a few others, are enjoying the day of relaxation.

However, after Last Order provokes one of her fellow Misaka clones, Accelerator goes to search for her and becomes entangled in something that might cause quite a bit of chaos when a familiar face reappears in front of him, and another threat starts making their presence known by wreaking havoc of their own.

I was rather unimpressed with this volume.

While many should know that I am not as big of a fan of A Certain Magical Index as I am of Railgun, I have not hated the books as much as I did the anime, especially now that I am getting to the end of what was covered towards the end of the second season, and I was even glad that the novels did a few things right, such as explaining Misaka and Touma's relationship better around the time that the bridge scene in first book occurred, even if it still does not make as much sense as it did when the events of the first volume of A Certain Scientific Railgun, or how Mikoto Misaka's involvement made more sense and Touma first fight wih Accelerator was much more believeable in the third book.

However, just because many things have been done right in the past, that does not mean that I would give the writer or creator a pass on anything they do, even if fans of this series acknowledge that this might actually be the first volume where this series becomes any good, since somebody did tell me once that the first 11 books were not as good as the rest of the series.

Fortunately, there were a few things that I did like about this book, so I do not need to jump right into what I hated, which I would prefer not to do, even though I have done it more than once now.

This book gave me quite few laughs.

Once of the best things that I enjoyed about the second of the two adaptations that this series received was how Misaka 10032 reacted to Last Order and took out a gun and begins to chase her around, which ended up making it one of the best moments in the second season anime, and those events played out this volume as well.

However, I found the whole thing here to be much funnier because Misaka 10032 was not only overreacting to Last Order's childish behaviors but she also rationalized it by saying it was appropriate judgment based on logic and declares she has decided to revolt, whereas all the anime did was show the initial reaction and then skip right to the point where Touma meets Misaka 10032 in the mall.

Now, I am well aware that we, as human beings, are not exactly rational creatures, and is talked about in a post that I linked to in my review of Spice & Wolf Volume 14, and that means that the solution to our problems is not always rational, but seeing the irrationality in Misaka 10032's behavior and her trying to justify it really gave me a good reason to laugh, especially with how more of the chase prior to Misaka 10032's meeting with Touma.

If things had played out exactly as how they had occurred in the anime adaption, I would have been kind of disappointed, but enough to make me absolutely hate it, as it was one of the few things that made the second season of the anime worth watching.

Thankfully, a few more things were added in and it really helped to illustrate why this moment in the series was so great.

Of course, the hilarious stuff did not end there, but that still ended being the highlight of the comedic moments, as it stood out much more than the anime did to the point where I feel like giving Kazuma Kamachi a major amount applause.

Hopefully, this kind of humor will remain in the series once the stuff from the second season of the anime concludes, because that is the only way that my opinion of the series could change, and even give me more reason to follow this series than just because there are some events not explained in A Certain Scientific Railgun, which are, ironically, rare occurrences, though it is a spinoff of this series.

Then again, it did take a while for this series to become even remotely interesting to me and Kazuma is only human, so things could go downhill again after the Academy City Invasion concludes, which is what I expect to happen but hope to be proven wrong.

I also liked how yet another person that could challenge Accelerator appeared in the series.

Even though this volume is the original source for much of the latter half of the second season, so those that have seen the anime already know who I am talking about, it was still quite refreshing to see somebody other than Touma lay the smackdown on Accelerator.

Throughout much of this series, regardless of whether you focus on the anime or the novels, Accelerator has been presented as this unstoppable monster, which does make his rampages very enjoyable, I do not really see how Accelerator would be such a good character to follow around when his victories are pretty much as guaranteed as Touma Kamijou's, except for when Touma faced off against Accelerator in the third book, and I am saying this while admitting that I am a fan of Accelerator.

This series is already considered to be garbage by a lot of people, but even Accelerator had as little depth as Touma, then I do not see how I would even find this series much more interesting when he takes the spotlight, and losing to only one person would make him a truly uninteresting character.

However, when the researcher who was around when Accelerator discovered his power appeared on the scene, along with the rest of the Hound Dog, things became as exciting as, if not more than, I expected them to be by having Accelerator not only dealing with the limitations that he has had since the events of the fifth book but also had damage dealt to him by the said researcher.

The espers in Academy City supposedly have people monitoring them, as mentioned in this volume, and that means that they should have a good idea of how to neutralize those abilities, and, thankfully, Kazuma Kamachi remembered this obvious fact.

If Kazuma had Accelerator come out of this unscathed, I would have been much more disappointed with this book than I am because it would have made it look like one of the researchers that dealt with Accelerator before had not done his homework and made it that much more difficult to root for Accelerator, as much as his fans would like to do, not to mention make Accelerator's involvement in the Academy City Invasion arc less exciting.

However, because Accelerator did not seem to be as overpowered as he usually is, I ended up being very interested what is going on enough to the point where I wanted to go out and get the next volume right now.

Unfortunately for me, I must wait for it to be release, just like everyone else, which will not happen until November, according to the product page on Amazon, so I will just have to put up with the wait to find out what Accelerator is going to do next.

Still, Kazuma does deserve to get some praise for doing something right in a series that many, including myself, think is that great, and so I will give him a good round of applause.

Now, if only Touma's victories stop feeling luck-based and start feeling deserved, because that is the only way that this series can ever become any good.

The thing that I liked the most though was how this volume ended.

While I am still tired of the events in this series being stretched out more than they need to be, especially because Kazuma has been unable to make things as interesting in this series as Isuna Hasekura did in Spice & Wolf, I still expect to see some kind of ending that would get me interested in the events to come and Kazuma deliver that quite well.

Now, his track record has not improved dramatically enough for me to say that I am glad that I am following his work, but he was somehow able to succeed in making me interested in reading the rest of the Daihasei Festival, by explicitly eluding to the danger that is to come at the end of the 9th book, which kind of surprised me as I was not expecting Kazuma to do something that many readers expect to see, though I do not think that I would have liked the book if I had not gotten volumes 9 and 10 at the same time because it seems to be a bit weak reading through it now.

Here, however, things ended in a much better way than they did back in the Daihasei Festival arc.

Towards the end of the book, the new threat to Academy City begins their rampage and then uses a radio lying around to contact Aleister and tells him that she plans to eradicate the city and everything and everyone in it, which intrigues Aleister enough to start acting himself, while mocking the terrorist's actions.

This way of ending the book not only ended better because there was obviously more to come, with Accelerator wanting to rescue Last Order again, which helps to show that he is becoming less of monster, and another threat out there, shows something happening on both fronts, as opposed to explicitly saying that there is more to come by saying that there is danger out there.

Readers are some of the smartest people out there, because we have access to a lot more information out there than those who only pay attention to television and movies and books and other written mediums can go much more in depth than any video can, and we do not like it when we are told something that should be obvious. We want to pick things apart and figure them out for ourselves because we use our minds a lot, but when the writer says that there is more to come, by explicitly reminding us of danger, instead of showing what is going on, the work ends up feeling rather unimpressive.

In fact, if Kazuma had not written the book like this, and did the same thing he did back in the 9th book, I would have been disappointed enough to not even continue on with this series beyond the end of arc, as Kazuma Kamachi would have ended up making this series seem to be just as terrible as J.C. Staff's anime adaptations.

Thankfully, he realized that readers were not dumb people and was able to deliver and ending that might just be impressive, whereas the last two-part storyline ended was only impressive upon first reading, which makes me feel like giving Kazuma a good round of applause.

Hopefully, things will start ending better after this part, otherwise I will be putting this series in the same garbage can that I would put the first book of Sword Art Online in, so that I do not need to be reminded of how terrible this series was.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else thar I particularly liked, at least that could not be shoehorned in with what I already talked about.

Because I could get some laughs, especially from scenes that I was already familiar with, Accelerator did not come off as all-powerful, and therefore dull, because somebody other than Touma managed to hurt him, while putting up a decent fight, and this volume ended much better than the last book that began a two-parter by letting the reader see that there was more going on, this was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked a few things about the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, only two things bothered me, one of which contributes to why one of them is an issue and brings up its own frustrations.

First, I just could not really get into this book until it was more than half way through.

Whenever I read a book, I want to be pulled right into the world and become engrossed enough in the work that I do not want to stop reading for any reason, which is something that any avid reader would want to get from a book or series, regardless of whether they just discovered it or not.

However, when I read this book, I did not get that feeling that I just had to read this book until Hound Dog took Last Order and Accelerator got beat up by Amata Kihara.

Really, Kazuma? Do you think that this is great writing? My own writing may not be perfect, as many of my readers should be able to notice many of the typos and mistakes I make, and I notice it as well, but I do know for sure that the most important thing is to grab the audience's attention quickly and maintain it from beginning to end, because that makes it easier for the readers to be able to overlook the most minor of problems.

Unfortunately, Kazuma forgot that over the course of the twelve volumes, and it makes him look like a joke.

If I had to say why this problem exists, there are two reasons.

First, nothing happens for much of the book and things just felt dull.

When I opened this book, I saw that I was being given a little glimpse into the everyday lives of some characters that have appeared in the series, and thought that I would be able to put up with it, since a great story will not necessarily begin the main plot right away.

However, instead of being introduced to the real plot after getting to know what is happening to the characters, the book just goes through and covers at entire day without anything happening.

Now, even though I was fine with this kind of thing happening in Spice & Wolf, as it did happen quite a bit, it is unbearable here because practically none of the characters were interesting and Kazuma cannot seem to write about the mundane moments of life in a way that it still ends up being interesting, which is what Isuna Hasekura was able to do quite often.

Yes, I do understand that Kazuma Kamachi was trying to create something without any conflict, so that the readers could have a break from all of the nonstop action, but that does not mean it is a good idea.

In order to pull this off, not only do the mundane events of life need to come off as interesting, but the characters need to be interesting as well.

For example, in Spice & Wolf, Lawrence and Holo seemed to be fairly interesting characters and had some great conversations to the point where I did not care one bit whether they did anything or not, but what made the side stories so engaging was that Isuna was able to consistently write things in a way that I found myself interested in what was going on.

Sadly, Kazuma failed to bring any of that to the table because things just did not seem to be interesting and almost none of the characters, including those whom I actually like, ever get fleshed out in this series because of the huge cast.

Spice & Wolf and many of the other great series that I know do not have such a large cast, and, as a result, get enough time to be fleshed out enough to appear to be human, yet many of the series with a large cast lack this kind of depth, with Yu Yu Hakusho and a few others being the only possible exception, and this time to taken to flesh them out helps to make the characters seem to be that much more interesting.

This is why I find A Certain Scientific Railgun to be the superior portion of the Raildex universe, other than things being explained better, because I actually feel like I am getting to know each of the four main characters over the course of the series, whereas the character here feel kind of flat.

At this point, people might be complaining and saying that Magical Index at least does world building better than Railgun, but a world can still be built up enough to be interesting without having so many characters, as Isuna Hasekura was able demonstrate quite well in Spice & Wolf, with how realistic the world felt, even though there were only two characters that consistently appeared in every installment.

If Kazuma had actually taken time to flesh out each of the characters that he introduced in this series, beyond being the stereotypical characters that many of them are, I would have been as happy to read through these kinds of events as I would have reading the side stories of Spice & Wolf.

However, because he tried to write about average life in Academy City without interesting characters or making the mundane seem interesting, I just could not really get into the groove of things.

The second and biggest reason that it was hard for me to get, and is the thing that I hated most about this book, was that there were too many interludes.

An Interlude or two might be a nice thing to have in a book, as it gives the reader a break from the monotony of the plot, but having too many of them can both ruin the flow of the whole book and make it harder to get into.

In the case of this book, it causes both of these problems exactly.

When I read a book, I want to go from chapter to chapter while a consistent enough flow is maintained so that I can keep myself engrossed in what is going on, and is something that any avid reader would want to see from any work of fiction.

Here, however, Kazuma breaks this flow up by having every chapter has an interlude, most of which go off to somewhere else in the world of the series.

By having such a constant shifting of perspectives, it makes things too difficult for me to follow along or even get interested, which irritates me more than being glad to see what my favorite characters are up to.

Readers want to be able to follow along very carefully and the way to do that is by having a clear focus in the writing, which translates out to limiting the perspectives, and is a reason why smaller casts are more enjoyable than large owns, but Kazuma thinks I, and other readers, care to see what everyone is up to, and, hopefully, get some enjoyment out of the more poorly executed moments of humor.

When the volume starts up its first actual chapter, we are following Touma around and watching his relatively dull life that Kazuma think that we will find hilarious, then goes off to Accelerator and Last Order, before switching over to London, where Stiyl interrupts Laura's bath and starts up the next chapter back in Academy City with two characters from Railgun, then back to Touma, then back to Accelerator, and so on for each of the five chapters, with only the fifth being even remotely interesting.

Seriously, Kazuma! If you plan to deliver something like this, and make the readers confused by it, I would have outright demanded that ASCII Media Works to cancel this series and send all 20+ volumes, including the New Testament books, of this series down to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench where it belongs, because this is not something works well in prose.

Lights novels might still have illustrations, but the story is mainly told through words and that means that the things that are expected out of a great book are also expected from a light novel, and that means that this constant shifting needs to go, as well as many of the interludes.

I do not care about Kanzaki or anybody else enough to want to ever see them again, and I am trying to read a book. Stop getting in my, and every other reader's, way, Kazuma, because this is what causes readers, like me, to stop caring about anything a writer produces, which means that cannot afford anything.

If the only interludes were that that were still in Academy City, or all but the one featuring Vento of the Front, and the whole book itself focus on characters in Academy City, it would have been much easier to enjoy this book, and I might have ended up liking it quite a bit.

Unfortunately, Kazuma did this and ending up making one of the problems with this book even worse, which makes me lose any respect I had for him outside of the Railgun portion of the universe, and lessens my interest in the next installment.

Thankfully, nothing else bothered me, and I can at least put this behind me for a few months.

While there was not a whole lot wrong with this book, the issues that did rear their heads, such as too many interludes and difficulties in becoming interested in the work, caused enough damage to take this book from okay to garbage.

Despite the fact that there were a few things to like, the negatives were badly enough to make this a waste of time.

I recommend this only to fans of A Certain Magical Index, as they would be the only ones able to put up with everything wrong with this book, and they will be able to enjoy getting a few laughs.

As for everyone else, I would recommend avoiding it like the plague, but if you really want to read this, skip all interludes, except the fifth one, and anything that does not have either Misaka, a Misaka clone, Last Order, or Accelerator, as everything else is utterly pointless and it will cut out most of the stuff that was not great.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you dare, buy either the next volume from the link provided earlier or the reviewed title from either Amazon or The Book Despository, so that I can finish the rest of the Academy City Invasion arc and find some more worthwhile reads for you guys.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.