Blu-ray Review: A Certain Magical Index II – The Complete Series

Toma and Index return for a second season within Manga Entertainment’s Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack release of A Certain Magical Index II – The Complete Series; but what can you expect to receive from their second outing and more importantly is it any good? Well read on to find out!

Synopsis:

When science and sorcery clash, the result is explosive in this sequel to A Certain Magical Index from the studio that brought you Shakugan no Shana! The Book of the Law—an encoded grimoire containing catastrophic magic—has been stolen, so naturally Kamijo, Index, and a few familiar faces join in the crusade to protect the one nun who can decipher the powerful text.

But as the group battles church sects and holy assassins, they realize that discovering who their true enemy is may be more difficult than saving the sister. Meanwhile, an organization known as the Science Society resurrects an esper-producing program, a school festival brings out the competition—and drama—in the student population, and a mysterious figure negotiates the purchase of a sacred relic that could threaten the future of Academy City.

After a rare stroke of good fortune, Kamijo and Index embark on what should be a fabulous free trip to Italy. Unfortunately, Kamjio’s rotten luck quickly returns, and they find themselves trapped in the middle of a clash between some very familiar battle nuns and a ruthless bishop hell-bent on inflicting punishment!

Things don t get any easier back home as Misaka demands that Kamijo fulfill a promise from a penalty game, and an all-out war between sorcery and science threatens to erupt. To protect his friends and save Academy City, Kamijo may even be forced to team up with the ruthless and uniquely deadly Accelerator in the hopes of defeating a clandestine sect of nefarious magicians who want him dead!

Our View:

Acting as a continuation to events within A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Magical Index II follows Academy City student Toma Kamijo as he [secretly] helps the English Puritan church in defending the city against discreet attacks from members of the Roman Catholic Church all the while trying to lead a normal high school life.  It’s a confusing, monotone approach to a story that just gets more disappointing the further you progress, and even breaks that cross-over to A Certain Scientific Railgun territory do nothing but highlight just how disappointing this series actually is; especially in its English Dubbed format.

Featuring twenty-four episodes spread across four Blu-ray discs the events of A Certain Magical Index II are separated into different story arcs with each offing a different story that – at the end at least – comes full circle to deliver an unexpected cliffhanger with no conclusion insight.  Let us begin at the start; the first story arc of A Certain Magical Index II sees Toma and Styil work alongside members of the Roman Catholic Church in order to recover a girl, known as Orsola Aquinas, who has supposedly been taken prisoner by the Amakusa due to her being able to decode the Book of the Law; a book able to cause massive amounts of destruction. In actuality though it is the Roman Catholic Church who intend to use The Book of the Law and as such the chasers soon become the hunted with once enemies becoming allies and former allies becoming enemies with war breaking out between the two churches. Despite the confusing terminology, mostly relating to church organisations and different groups involved, it’s not that bad of a story and it soon comes to a conclusive end; with Orsola being saved, the Amakusa members cleared of all wrong doing and the Roman Catholic Church punished for their sins… or so you would think.

Ironically instead of diving into the second story arc, which once again sees the Roman Catholic Church and English Puritan Church clashing within the city limits, we find ourselves witnessing a selection of cross-over episodes that focus primarily on Kuroko and Makoto. In this short story Kuroko tries to uncover the secrets that are plaguing Makoto, in this case the clones of her that were originally being used as experiments for a Level 6 Esper, but while doing so runs into another Esper who is trying to secure pieces of the Remnant Satellite that was destroyed in a previous series. Once again confusing dialogue with flashbacks to prior series and an unclear objective make this short story difficult to enjoy and those hoping to see the infamous Railgun in action will be disappointed – as it mostly focuses on Kuroko and her feelings for her sissy. On the positive if you were hoping for some fan-service then you’ll find it here.

Moving away from this side-story we return to Toma and his entry into the Daihasei Festival; a festival which pits different schools together in a bid to test their strength and teamwork. Unfortunately however Styil from the English Puritan Church has discovered that someone from the Roman Catholic Church is attempting an ‘exchange’ for another powerful magical item. As a result of this Toma, along with help from Styil, run around the city in an attempt to confront her; to which they do and a rather comical battle ensues with Styil and Toma attempting to work together. Once again it’s another uninspiring story that focuses more on church lingo – that saw me to zone out with boredom – and running around town than actual combat or magic. Additionally Index’s role within the series has now become nothing more than a support character that wants feeding and whines about Toma avoiding her.

That’s right; despite being called A Certain Magical Index II the main character ‘Index’ has become nothing more than a support character and she offers no real value to the events of the series. For example in the third story arc of the series, which sees the Roman Catholic Church once again attempting to locate and use a powerful magical item in the Waters of Italy, Index is left behind while Orosla and Toma sneaking aboard the magic boats of the Queens fleet in order to uncover the truth. The truth is that Bishop Biagio Busoni plans to use the Queens Fleet by sacrificing members of the Roman Catholic Church who failed in a previous mission; the mission which took place in the first story arc of this series, in order to cause destruction to Italy – and in turn the world.  It’s another story arc which leaves much to be desired and despite notable characters joining the battle it does nothing but extend the runtime of the series itself.

Returning home from this adventure in Italy we once again return to another side-story focusing on characters from within A Certain Scientific Railgun. This relatively short story, which then bleeds into the final story of A Certain Magical Index II, starts off with Toma being forced to do Makoto’s bidding for losing the Daihasei Festival event and it offers a bit of emotion into the characters that don’t show much emotion.  This story starts with Index looking for Toma, who is out with Makoto, and Accelerator looking for Last Order (the smaller version of the Makoto Clones); that is until these characters begin to cross paths with enemies. It’s a story which focuses primarily on the clones of Makoto, Accelerator’s current status and last order as the scientist who did the experiment need to use them in order to proceed with another experiment; but at the same time an intruder from the Roman Catholic Church arrives to kill Toma.

It’s a final arc that sees both elements of Railgun and Index play out on screen; but unfortunately it’s not presented very well. The show quickly jumps between the different characters (and their stories) to a point where it becomes difficult to track what’s happening to who and why; even more so when the angel descends upon the city – but even this is wrapped up all to conveniently.  Ironically though that’s not the ending of this series – although it should have been; as the final two episodes, both of which focus entirely on accelerator, she him join the ‘group’ in order to protect Academy City from the shadows as well as, potentially, one day rise up to overthrow those in command.

These final two episodes are good, as it shows Accelators darker personality and possible human side, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like they have a place within the series and the ending itself does nothing but raise even more questions… so much so that it solidifies that A Certain Magical Index II is a thoroughly disappointing series that isn’t fun; just boring.

Extras:

This Blu-ray release of A Certain Magical Index II features a small selection of bonus materials, and a lot less from what you would usually expect from a FUNimation release. In this case we have a selection of textless songs and Episode Commentaries scattered throughout the four discs.

The textless opening and closing songs, in addition to the US trailer for this release, can be found on the second and fourth discs where as the Episode Commentaries, with commentary from the English voice actors, are on each of the discs that correspond to the episodes they are on. The Episode Commentaries themselves aren’t exactly ‘that’ great, especially the English Commentary for Episode 7, but some of them do provide some nice insights into the voice actors and the world of dubbing anime (such as lip flap movement and timings).

It’s worth noting that this Blu-ray release is based off FUNimation Entertainment’s US release of the series, which was available as two parts before being bundled together as a complete season release, which is why Part 1 and Part 2 can be seen on the main menu. Furthermore it seems Manga UK have opted to reauthor the discs for UK standards (so-to-speak) as opposed to simply reissuing the same disc assets – which is what most distributors tend to do. As a result of this we miss out on a selection of trailers for other US releases; but at the same time it feels like  (for once) we have discs created to FUNimation Standards for UK auidiences.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50 x2, BD 25 x2
Region: B
Running Time: 3:09:36 (Disc 1), 1:34:48 (Disc2),  3:11:06 (Disc 3), 1:36:12 (Disc 4)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English) & Dolby TrueHD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

For me A Certain Magical Index II was terrible from every aspect imaginable; ranging from its unimaginative storylines, lack of character development and monotone filled dialogue that does nothing but belittle the viewer to the simplistic animation styles. It does nothing to impress and gauge the viewers attention and despite claiming to be ‘Magic’ and ‘Index’ the series opts to use neither of them effectively; with Index herself often being left behind or acting as a support character that doesn’t do anything worthwhile.

The first season of A Certain Magical Index proved to be a similar disappointing experience, especially in regards to monotone dialogue; but what the first season provided that this second season does not is that ‘risk factor’ for Toma and Index. Index was always being chased by another church organisation or have her story told; but in this second season this is nowhere to be found and instead the story opts to focus on a different matter entirely; the fight between two different church factions and their ideals – something which I had no interest it and had struggle understanding (or getting to grips with) due to the dialogue being used. Even the Makoto clones soon become nothing but rambling in the later stages.

Luckily however those wishing to experience A Certain Magical Index II in all of its glory will be able to with this Blu-ray release via Manga Entertainment UK; a release which uses the American disc masters but tailored to a UK audience. Basically the content and presentation is exactly the same as the set released in America by FUNimation (which was done in two parts before being bundled into a complete season set); however the discs have been re-authored for UK release (most likely in Australia) as all FUNimation related trailers have been removed. This isn’t a bad thing, as it means we still receive the American bonus features such as Commentaries and Textless Songs, but we do miss out on some additional American promotional material.

Although the set is as you would expect the English Audio, which is encoded as a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound track, is relatively quiet and as such the volume of your speakers do need to be turned up. Additionally the surround sound effects are not as dominate as other 5.1 Audio tracks produced by FUNimation. The Japanese audio track, which is Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Stereo, is perfectly fine and offers, when compared to the English Dub track, a slightly more enjoyable experience when watching the show – even if the context of that said show is still disappointing.

A Certain Magical Index II isn’t the ‘magical’ experience I expected to receive and instead puts focus onto Toma and the English Puritan Church rather than Index and their magical ways. If you enjoyed the first season then you may be disappointed by whats on offer in this second season; it’s far from great – even if the production and presentation is.

Score: review-stars-2

A Certain Magical Index II – The Complete Series will be available as a Blu-ray and DVD Combo Pack from the 21st August 2017 within the UK.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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