As the curtain closed on the season of Winter 2019, the epidemic known as JC Staph Infection had claimed yet another victim from the masses of announced sequels to previously aired shows. This time, it’s the adaptation of a popular Dengeki Bunko light novel series known as A Certain Magical Index (which is alternatively called Toaru Majutsu No Index). It is practically inexcusable to have people wait out just over seven years for another season, and then come out with such a disappointing product. Having watched and enjoyed the previous two seasons, I was really looking forward to an announcement for a third one. So when it finally came, I was really looking forward to how they’ll handle the rest of the story, so I didn’t think too much about the possibility JC Staff mishandling everything. Instead, what was supposed to bring an epic finalization to the main story was just one hell of a tumbling mess.
To Aru Majutsu No Index III’s premises are practically the same as the two previous seasons, so regardless of whether or not you’ve read the LN source, this installment is only for those who’ve watched the two preceding installments and are curious to see how the continuation turned out. Watching the Railgun series is also a helpful option to familiarize yourselves with the majority of the characters.
It was after the first three episodes that the lack of craftsmanship became very obvious to me, despite me not wanting to initially admit it at the time. One of the biggest issues in the show, while common with most LN adaptations, grew prominent as one watches….PACING. Even though I don’t read light novel or manga sources myself, it was made clear very early on than the show’s content has been condensed and trimmed to accommodate for the listed twenty-six episodes. From what I was told, the season was trying to shove nine volumes worth of content, which contrasts the shared thirteen volumes by the previous two seasons.
Because of the forced condensation of the story, the six individual arcs within the plot, excluding the final climactic WWIII arc don’t last much more than three episodes. This consequently results in the sudden introduction or reintroduction of characters, and we are expected to care about them without enough, if any, background context to them. The lack of proper introduction of the cast members can leaves viewers quite lost and confused, as they try to figure out the characters’ individual motives within the story. Even worse…it can actually be hard to remember the names of the newcomers who are somehow supposed to be important to a particular arc. Because of the significant lack of character background, it’s also hard to feel for them when some of them die in action.
Let’s use a somewhat brief example with the Battle Royale Arc. Being the only arc to actually not feature the main protagonist Kamijou Touma, it was supposed to focus on Accelerator and reintroduce Hamazura Shiage in a major protagonist role, as well as reintroduce the group ITEM, whom we may know previously from watching the Railgun series. This was the most problematic arc for me, personally; for a segment that only lasted three episodes, it was clear that the studio probably wanted to have it over and done with quickly to set up room for the finale. Throughout the adapting of the Battle Royale, new characters and groups are just introduced from left to right without any sort of explanation of what they’re here for and why, making their actions feel so forced and idiotic. Many of the fights that take place during this arc and future ones often conclude off-screen for no apparent reason.
Not to mention, there’s FAR too much pointless standing around and talking during those bouts; it’s as if they’re not actually taking stuff in earnest or sincerity with their actions at all, considering how vaguely their intentions are portrayed. As if that’s not enough, a good number of these introduced or reintroduced characters are seemingly killed off suddenly without anything building up for them, sometimes biting the dust off-screen; in fact, some of them are simply introduced and then killed within the same damn episode; as a result, we feel absolutely nothing for them. I don’t see how it’s any possible as a viewer get emotional over such poorly introduced cast members.
Additionally, the plot omits helpful exposition or even inner dialogue that would explain what certain characters were thinking or how some were able to perform something particularly hard to explain. All we end up getting are mostly just poorly conducted fights and pointless, bland dialogue from the characters.
The show also fails to show any of the characters’ inner thoughts, which would’ve proven helpful in terms of giving more sense and logic to their actions. Whatever exposition that DOES come out, or what’s supposed to be exposition, quite often feel like very half-hearted attempts to sound witty due to the unfortunate lack of prior context. Lastly, the constant, nauseous shifting between POVs, without the proper siegeways or breaks, just makes it even harder to follow and keep track of what’s going on, especially with the kind of pacing this show has resorted to.
The only particular arc that I considered okay was the Acqua of the Back Arc. For this particular segment, despite being just three episodes as well, the story didn’t really seem to omit as much important events and details as the others. Kanazaki, one of my more favorite support characters of the show, returns to take a more upfront role as a combat participant against the likes of Acqua, who himself was a particular character of interest. Nonetheless, this arc felt rather pointless for the story, or at very least, not made clear.
The quality of the animation is notably downgraded from the previous seasons. The 2D animation and designs from this season, while not exactly awful, per say, have considerably more inconsistencies compared to the second season and the Railgun series. The movements don’t feel as fluid or liberated, the characters can occasionally look “off” in terms of facial expressions and body gestures, the emotional acts feel far more overdramatic than emotionally powerful, and the special effects are just horrific. The CGI was not exactly very pleasing; while it was not anywhere near “Hand Shakers level” of awfulness, the notably increased usage of it resulted in poorly choreography of the 1-on-1 fights and the military conflict.
The soundtracks are actually very nice and at least try to fit with the tense or lighthearted mood, depending on the current point of the story. Maon Kurosaki, whom also did the two ending themes for the second season previously, sings the two opening themes for this one. Both songs are j-pop rock soundtracks, with “Gravitation” setting a moderate tempo to fit the inner urban activity and stuff going on behind the scenes, while “Roar” is more complementary to represent the frantic tension of international war and all-out conflict. The sound effects this season just don’t have the same kind of natural feel; for example, while I understand changing the noise of Touma’s Imagine Breaker was to make it sound more ominous and mysterious, due to the ambiguous and undisclosed nature of his power, it can feel quite out of place amidst the heavy conflict of him fighting it out with his adversaries. The previous sound, felt more fitting as it gives the clear indication of something being cancelled out and/or broken through, which is exactly the effect of Touma’s power. The voice acting was fine, in all honesty, but the vagueness of the story and plot can have you wondering why, for example, two high-leveled espers in Accelerator and Kakine are just excessively screaming for no particularly good reason or explanation; as a result, it just feels like overcooked displays of emotion. At least the show sort of lets us know when to cover our poor eardrums when a characters wails with absurdity.
There’s not much else I can really say about the new supporting characters, as I’ve mentioned the major issue with them in the previous section of this review. The more prominent recognizable main and support cast from the previous seasons are, in all honesty, unchanged for the most part.
Touma is still the usual “act first, talk later” selfless character we should all remember, regardless of whether we hate him or not. With the exception of the Battle Royale Arc, Touma has always taken at least a major role in all the arcs he’s involved in, especially the final arc, the WWIII Arc, where he fought the superiority complex jackass known as Fiamma, who was trying to accomplish the typical, regurgitated objective of world domination.
Index, as always, with the exception of the final arc, always took to the benches on the sideline and doesn’t really have a very major role. While I can understand her origins and her case of amnesia, I’ve never really liked Index as a character due to her rather annoying personality. Despite her high intelligence, she is overly naïve and easily irritated, which often leads to the gag where she bites poor Touma on the head, often for no good justifications. She does have a good side to her, though, as she is shown to kind, nice, and polite with other people. Despite the bright side of her, her role as the primary heroine just never felt right, as she barely get involved personally barring when she’s taken hostage. In the final arc of this season, she is only relevant as a puppet of destruction until she was eventually freed. Her mostly backseat role, despite being the main heroine, felt like a hindrance as she almost always ends up in the damsel-in-distress situation when she does get involved, and Touma is usually the one that has always had to be her savior.
Misaka Mikoto, another favorite character of mine and one that I personally felt that should’ve taken both roles as main heroine in both Index and Railgun (but is unfortunately a support cast member in the former), doesn’t show up as much as she used to in the previous seasons, though she does appear as a minor participant in the WWIII Arc to try to help her love interest in Touma. Her character from the previous installments is mostly unchanged for the most part. The majority of times Misaka is seen is almost always involving Touma, whether it’s the usual lighthearted gag of her getting flustered and/or angry due to her feelings for him, or it’s on a serious note where Misaka is trying to tell Touma to not push himself, with the latter saying otherwise. In the end, Touma and Misaka’s relationship stayed pretty much the same, so Misaka’s overall relevance to the season was not exactly as full-fledged as it could’ve been.
A particular support character I do want to focus on is Hamazura Shiage. Previously an antagonist in the Skill-Out Arc in the previous season, he is involved as one of the “good guys”, especially during the dreadfully adapted Battle Royale Arc. Because of the shift to him playing as a protagonist, character development for Shiage was absolutely necessary to give more meaning to his actions. However, to the aforementioned issues with the said arc, Shiage’s imagery in the adaptation seemed more like an idiot shifting between wishy-washiness and recklessness. He is neither as idealistic and compassionate as Touma, nor as bloodlusted and insane as Accelerator; in this way, he can be considered as a medium between the two. He has an obvious inferiority complex due to being branded as a powerless individual and not having esper skills himself, hence his previous involvement in the Skill-Out Arc. While he does get notable character development within this part of the series, it just seems so rushed and without enough context behind it to be considered properly managed. The show basically displayed his change as if it was propelled solely via the virtue of his growing feelings with a barely memorable support character (at least in the Index story), Takitsubo Rikou….and I’m not sure if that’s how a well-written character is supposed to experience progression.
All the other returning support cast members barely get much highlights unless they’re heavily involved within a particular arc. While the previous seasons, due to their better sense of pacing, gave them more reason to pay attention to and be attached to them, this sequel didn’t really do them much justice. They’re just there cause the story sorta “obligated” them to be present. Itsuwa, one of those particular support characters, started out her reintroduction with developing her feelings for Touma, and while she’s considerably much nicer to the latter and arguably a better female partner for him, she never truly got much shine outside the Constantine and Acqua Arcs.
On one "dual-colored" note, while Accelerator himself was a rather enjoyable character due to his nature and did get a significantly more prominent spotlight and better characterization during this season, his role is still mostly overshadowed by the chaos of the events going on around him.
In short, overall, a bunch of wasted products in the character department.
I’ll be quick to the point. I started out really enjoying it for the first few episodes. The first episode really had me optimistic, especially with one of my favorite gags where Misaka gets upset at Touma, fires her electrical powers, and Touma blocks it with his Imagine Breaker. It was always SO nice to see the two’s interactions and dynamics, as they were more common and meaningful in the previous seasons. Unfortunately, we don’t get much of that all with the third season. Sure, Itsuwa played as a nice substitute, and the return Kanazaki’s tsundere behavior due to her OWN feelings for Touma (from way back in season 1) was something to give credit to in terms of enjoyment value, especially for me, personally…but in the end, those were still simply flauntings of rather unnecessary fanservice made just for the fanboys.
As for the serious parts of the story itself, it was an absolute pain to watch. I’ve mentioned those issues already; rushed events, poorly animated fights, jarring CGI, characters being introduced left to right that it’s hard to catch up to or consider them as something important. It’s a mess that I tried my best to stick with and be optimistic about. However, with the handling of the British Royal Family Arc, where the main purpose of the segment and Touma’s intended involvement was severely downplayed, it became so clear that the show is literally going nowhere in the right direction. It was literally like watching your birthday or homecoming party getting crashed by a bunch of drunk idiots. Considering that J.C. Staff was also handling the third season of Date A Live at the time, and how horribly it turned out, it became all the more obvious that, regardless of what financial reasons or justifications, the studio just tainted its own brand by not being able to hire a proper team of staff members during the production of this show. I’m honestly disheartened because in the past, J.C. Staff produced plenty of other good shows in addition to the previous two seasons of Index as well as the two Railgun seasons. While I can’t say it was like a hated chore, it still felt laborious to watch.
Considering how we waited for years for the third season, and to receive a spoiled meal like this, Toaru Majutsu no Index III is the one of the more disappointing sequels in the recent years of anime. This season clearly needed more than just 26 episodes, and in the end, it was simply a rushed school project like Date A Live III and both TG:Re seasons were. To be honest, I wished this season was given more time to work with so that events, characters, and themes are played out and executed a lot more properly than what was showcased here. At this point, I’m highly considered to hit the light novel books for the first time and start from the very beginning, provided I find time for that.
Unfortunately, for this season, it was simply something unable to follow up on the series’ previous accomplishments. I now pray to God, Christ, Arceus, whomever is up there….that the new Accelerator anime and s3 of Railgun don’t fall victim to the dreaded plague of JC Staph Infection as well.