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A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 15 (light novel) Paperback – May 22, 2018
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About the Author
Kazuma Kamachi is a Japanese light novel author and creator of the massively popular series, A Certain Magical Index, its sequel, A Certain Magical Index: New Testament, and a manga adaptation, as well as two spin-off manga series, A Certain Scientific Railgun and A Certain Scientific Accelerator.
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If you've read my other reviews of this series, specifically volume 14, I said that we were getting close to finally entering new territory. One more book after 14, and then we'd be in stuff that the anime never got to. Well, guess what. We're there. This is the first (technically second, since the last book wasn't in the anime but took place before the anime ended) story with all new stuff in it.
And holy cow, is it dark.
The little proxy war from volume 14 has kind of left Academy City without its usual security detail. Sure, it still has its robots and some Anti-Skill, but the heavy hitting Power Suits are out of town, cleaning up the mess from the last volume. As such, some people have decided that now is the perfect time to try execute some rather crazy plans in order to attempt to...do things. Look, it gets a little complicated, okay?
We have five groups of individuals on the field in this story, and keeping their goals and members straight can be trying. Thankfully, after each chapter, there is a picture with each group's name and who belongs to it. We have GROUP, which is made up of what we could call the 'good' guys in this story. Accelerator, who still insists he's a villain despite growing evidence that he's not. Tsuchimikado, Kami's friend and spy for all sides. Musujime, the teleporter who nearly killed Shirai a few volumes ago and ended up getting stomped by Accelerator. And finally Unabara, the sorcerer who can change his appearance using other people's skin and has a crush on Mikoto--and as a bonus, we finally learn his REAL name in this volume.
Next up is ITEM, who if you're familiar with the Railgun series, you should already know. They're the group that has the Level 5 girl with them that shoots laser beams. But if you don't know the Railgun series, then this is their first appearance, and because of that we run into a problem later on in the story.
Following them is BLOCK, a group that is new and is the antagonist for the majority of the book.
Next is SCHOOL. Did you read Railgun volume 12? Remember how the first half of that story introduced some new villains, and then they just disappeared halfway through? This is them.
And finally, we have MEMBER, who I still don't quite understand what they were all about and trying to do.
So we have GROUP, BLOCK, ITEM, SCHOOL, and MEMBER. All five are black op groups, and in their story all five end up crashing hard into each other. And when I say crash, I mean crash. This is not a Kami story, where he screams at his enemy, punches them in the face, and then everyone gets to go home alive. This is an Accelerator story, and if you remember the Sisters, you know what that means--death. These groups are all made up of people who have no problem killing other people, and they do that to brutal affect. Not everyone is walking out of this story (I could make a really bad joke about a certain character here, but I won't).
The short version of this story is that BLOCK and SCHOOL have decided to use the growing chaos to attempt to deal with Aleister. Both groups have different ideas of what that means, but that is what they're both after. Thus, GROUP, ITEM, and MEMBER are called in to deal with them with different results (hint, one group is utter ineffective to the point where you wonder why they were created). What follows is a constant game of misdirect, using other people, bloodshed, betrayals, and the introduction of this series' third main hero.
And that last part, along with really the NEED to be familiar with the other stuff in order to fully understand what the heck is going on and who these people are, that causes me to take off that star. SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!!
So, remember how the anime ended on that really weird story about Mikoto's mom being kidnapped and about to be assassinated, and Accelerator wiping out Skill-Out? This book takes place after all of that, but if you recall the previous book didn't tell any of that. Apparently, there is a side story book that has not been published in English, but this story assumes that you read all that. The reason being is because Hamazura is introduced in that book (he became the leader of Skill-Out after Accelerator "killed" the previous one) and in this one he plays a major role--like to the point where he takes Kami's place as the good guy for the story. But since we don't have that previous side story in print here, the only way you know who this guy is and where he came from is if you watched the anime.
Then there is the introduction of ITEM. Needless to say, something serious goes down in this group and one of the members doesn't make it. The problem is, if you've only read this book, this death isn't really that shocking because this member is in it for maybe five pages and this disappears for the REST OF THE BOOK. The death is tried to play off as shocking, but since the book doesn't bother to establish this character at all, we don't care.
However, if you're familiar with the Railgun series, this death is shocking because this character is introduced and fleshed out really well in that series, and after the events of the last Railgun book (volume 12), the ending to it is suddenly heartbreaking.
The whole book is, sadly, filled with moments like this. A member of SCHOOL is taken out off screen and I could have sworn I'd seen him before somewhere else, so I went digging and sure enough, he's introduced--and even named--in Railgun, but here he's nobody. These little pieces of afterthought are scattered through the book, to the point where it feels like Kazuma Kamachi almost expects you to read the other stuff in order to get all the info--which is crazy, since this was written first, and thus it just makes this kind of feel like bad writing in certain ways. I don't know, maybe if I hadn't been following Railgun and watched the anime, these strange details wouldn't bother me, but since I have, they do (seriously though, who introduces a new main character in a side story and then just drops them in to the main story?)
Bottom Line: This book is action packed to the point where you wonder why anyone lives in Academy City when monsters like this are running around. It's nice to finally see some people actually die--Accelerator literally beats a person to a bloody pulp--instead of just being knocked out or wounded, but this story doesn't seem to feel like it advanced the overall narrative beyond a final scene where GROUP learns of another secret group out there. This is basically a tournament arc story, where we get to see certain characters tested against each other, and at the end only the strongest--or smartest--are left standing. It's just kind of annoying that some of these characters don't get the time they need in this book, and you have to look elsewhere to really figure them all out.