Book Review: A Certain Magical Index Volume 4

index4_cover.jpg

Well, it looks like things are going pretty well, aside from some distractions.

Roughly a week ago now, I got four books from Barnes & Noble, and have covered each of them one by one until only one remains.

Today, I will be covering that last title, which is called A Certain Magical Index Volume 4 by Kazuma Kamachi.

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

With Level 6 Shift experiment shutdown, things have been somewhat peaceful in Academy City, except for word of Touma Kamijou defeating Academy City's strongest esper getting out and causing grief for those that manage the city.

In order to quickly quiet things down, Touma is ordered to leave Academy City with Index, who tagged along, despite Touma's wishes.

However, even outside Academy City, trouble follows Kamijou, and this time, he must face one of the beings that the religious community believe are the strongest of all entities in existence.

I was initially iffy about reading this one.

Even though the last book in the series really held my interest, and even gave off a glimmer of light in a series that many should know by now that I follow only because of those rare instances where things are not explained in its spin off, which I thoroughly enjoy, it at least covered an arc that had some potential of becoming great if done right.

Unfortunately, my doubts were raised again when I found out that this covered one of the arcs I hated the most.

After reading this, however, I kind of liked this one.

Just like the previous book, the moment I opened up the book and started reading, I did not really want to stop, as I was pulled into the world fairly quickly.

Seeing as this positive aspect carried over, I can see that Kazuma's abilities as a writer have definitely improved and is learning how to create a relatively decent story.

Because of this fact, it actually makes me want to continue reading the series for more than just the five or six volumes that I was willing to give this series a chance with, before deciding whether or not it was worth it to just follow the anime adaptations of the Magical Index series, as bad as an impression of this series that they initially gave me when I watched them. This is what I really wanted from the very beginning when trying the series, but instead, I was technically forced to suffer through the tedious and/or abomination that were the first two books.

However, I am still not that optimistic about this series as a whole, so I would not be surprised if things start to take a turn for the worst within the next few volumes, especially since one of the comments I received said that the interesting parts do not even start coming until a few volumes after the tenth one, which will most likely come next year, if the release pattern established by Yen Press this year holds up.

Still, that does not mean that Kazuma should not be praised because it is hard work to make more than one book good enough to make people want to continue reading.

I also liked how things started up relatively quickly, without too much slow down.

As nice as it is to sometimes have things start off slowly, in order to get to know characters and allow them to develop, which is definitely important to the beginning of a series, it can feel like things are moving too slowly and become tedious, thus making the work feel like a chore to read, much like my experience with the first book.

Due to that fact, it becomes really important to pay attention to the flow of a story, no matter whether you are proofreading it, editing it, or just starting to write it, because you can actually tell what is missing and what is not, though it is pretty much impossible for human beings to make anything perfection because of our own imperfections.

In the case of this book, I feel like it started at just the right point it needed to, whereas the anime adaptation started off with a clichéd happy beach scene that made me think that Touma was going to have a peaceful vacation. I knew right from the start that something was up when things were happening that made no sense to either me or Touma.

This makes me even more proud of Kazuma, because even though the previous book was quite decent, compared to the first two, in many aspects, there were still some moments where it had felt tedious, especially because it took quite a while to finally get to the moment where Touma was finally involved in stopping the Level 6 Shift project.

Again, it really looks like he became a much better writer over the course of this series, which I would expect, though it sure did take a while for the series to finally catch my interest, even if I discard for the moment the amount of hype I saw for this series when I followed just the anime adaptations, which was part of the reason I ended up hating the first two books, though certainly not all of it, otherwise the eye for detail that many people noticed in me, which most likely helped in getting a 98% overall in one of my college classes, would diminish.

Hopefully, the quality will only improve from here on, though I really wish these were being released as ebooks without DRM, so I would not have to worry about shelf space, or even worrying about space for more bookshelves.

The thing that I liked the most though was that for the first time ever in this series, I could actually feel what Touma was going through.

For example, when Touma confronted his father at the point where he was suspected of initiating Angel Fall, Touma said that he was happy, even though his father was in despair over the troubles his son was experiencing due to Imagine Breaker.

While the conversation did take place in the anime, I could not really feel anything here.

If I had to say why, It is because something felt like it was missing. In this book, before the conversation took place, Touya and Touma had an argument that showed how deeply Touya cared about his son, which is something that every decent father would experience when his son only goes off without telling them and get involved in things that are dangerous, thus allowing me to see what kind of bond they had.

Unfortunately, the anime adaptation did not have this scene, which made everything feel weak, but seeing it here just made things have that much more impactful.

Not only does this additional scene make the confrontation with Touma's father have much more impact, but it also makes Touma's fight with Tsuchimikado much more emotionally charged and believable.

The Index series would definitely be much better than I first thought had I gotten this kind of experience, but, sadly, only A Certain Scientific Railgun has been able to give me the emotional impacts that I wanted in both its manga and its anime adaptations.

Now, if only the people behind the anime could give me these kind of feelings, I could at least acknowledge that this series is just as good, if not better than Railgun.

Unfortunately, with how much the novels fans of the Index portion of the Raildex universe dislike the Magical Index anime adaptations, since their main reason for wanting a season 3 is because of content that will not come to where I live in book form for a few years is said to be the best of the series, I kind of doubt that they can do it without putting together a new team.

Other than those things, I cannot really think of anything else that I particularly liked.

The fact that the author seems to be improving, because of the fact that I actually felt the emotional impact and things did not really seem to be tedious or boring, really made this book enjoyable.

Although there were things that I liked about this book, there are some issues. However, aside from some very minor problems that do not hurt the book too much, I cannot really think of anything that really bugged me, which is a godsend, considering how awful the series of novels started out.

As a result, I will have to say that there was nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit that I liked about this book, which told me that the author had improved quite a bit, and that I did not really having to complain about, unlike the previous three, this was definitely worth reading. I recommend this book to everyone, even the fans of A Certain Scientific Railgun, because it finally delivered something that I expect from the parent series of a series I like, but the ones that will most likely enjoy this the most are going to be fans of the Index portion of the Raildex universe, since knowledge of the previous book is pretty much required to enjoy this one.

What are your thoughts on A Certain Magical Index Volume 4? Did you like it or hate it? If you liked it, was it because it delivered something that you did not expect, like it did for me? Were there things you liked or hated that went unmentioned? Feel free to comment.

Use an app on your phone (e.g. Scan for Android) to capture the image above. If successful, you should be taken to the web version of this article.

Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.