One of Japan's more popular light novel series finally makes it's English debut, A Certain Magical Index. Following the mega hit of Haruhi Suzumiya,Yen Press has been on a licensing spree picking up light novel titles left and right. Titles, such as, Sword Art Online, Accel World and soon to be released The Devil is a Part Timer!, have been licensed and are a more than welcomed addition to any manga fans' collection. But, is Index one worth reading out of all of these? Especially, if you've already been exposed to the anime.
A Certain Magical Index has already generated two anime seasons, a movie, a manga adaptation, two spin-off mangas (one around Misaki, the other around fan-favorite Accelerator), and two anime adaptations of Misaki's (AKA Railgun) manga spin-off. This may seem like a lot of product from one novel series, however, while here in the US we have just two volumes, in Japan there are over 20.
The first volume in the light novel series pretty much follows the anime. This means if you've seen the anime you'll be treading familiar ground. The first volume covers the first anime arc, where Touma meets the Walking Church, Index, and saves her from her fate. The novel, though, puts more focus on Touma than the anime which means Index is pushed more towards the back and is less fleshed out.
Touma's inner dialogue presented in the book does a good job of building the world around him. We get a good sense of how Academy City works and the general idea of how people are treated there. Each esper in the city is ranked based on their power. Touma is ranked zero. Due to this he is falling behind in his class which does seem to favor espers with a higher ranking. These points are a bit subtle, but can be noticed. I will say in the anime this is a bit more noticeable. Though, most likely this difference will be expanded upon in future volumes. In later volumes a war does in fact break out, but I won't get too much into that.
aAnother interesting thing about the novel is how it describes Stiyl. In the novel it describes him in a way that makes you picture him as a teenager. Yet, in the anime he comes across as a older man around his thirties. I kept picturing the anime version of Stiyl even after reading the novel's description of him. Little things like this appear throughout the novel. Having seen the anime first I kept thinking back to it while reading.
Overall, it was a good read. The anime might have spoiled some of it, though. For fans hoping there is a big enough difference from the anime to give reading it a shot, I can't really say there is. For those looking to read the book to get a good feel for the source material, then it definitely is something to recommend. For those just looking for a good read, it is also a fun story, which, having started the second volume, just gets better.
Recommended to fans of Index interested in where it all began and light novels in general.