A while back, I reviewed A Certain Magical Index and mentioned that I had not seen its successor. But to review it right after Index would’ve been out of place, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Today, it is time to look at A Certain Scientific Railgun.
The Story: A Certain Scientific Railgun is a spin-off show of A Certain Magical Index, but if you have not seen either show, allow me to explain.
This is Academy City, a city-state located west of Tokyo with a population of around 2.3 million, 80% of which are students. It’s extraordinarily advanced; technology is approximately 30 years ahead of its time, but that’s not what makes this city famous. Walking the streets are students who have, using the powers of science, unlocked supernatural abilities – Espers, they are called. Within Academy City, each Esper is ranked according to his or her power level, on a scale of one to five. But first and foremost, this city offers top-notch education and research that pushes the limits of the possible.But the city is not without its secrets.
Railgun follows the story of Mikoto Misaka, an Index side character, and her friends as they confront these secrets within their city. Like many animes, this show is divided into story arcs, some well-developed and concise, and others drawn out and boring. However, Railgun links its different stories together, making the overarching plot a more cohesive unit. Concepts from early in the show come back later and play an important role. In Index, I may have mentioned that you could easily skip some stories and it wouldn’t affect your understanding of the plot too much; you can’t in this show. There’s a lot to keep track of, from the different Espers to the different schools and this AIM diffusion field business. Fortunately, Railgun does a very good job explaining the various concepts. When they tried in Index, I was completely lost. Maybe the reason Railgun felt so clear was because I had been exposed to the earlier concepts, but regardless, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time understanding.
Railgun is a spinoff show to A Certain Magical Index, and it does a decent job honoring the original show. However, that’s not a bad thing. Railgun, due to its storytelling really can standalone as its own separate story. You could watch this and not Index and still not lose too much. There are a few characters who are overlooked if you do this, but the amount of plot you lose is minimal. At the same time, there is something for people who have seen Index. The main character in that show, Touma Kamijou, makes sporadic appearances. While I would’ve liked to see him more, this is Mikoto’s show, not Touma’s. However, Touma’s appearance was nice to see, as Railgun does honor Index.
The only problems lie in some of the different stories. As mentioned previously, some are really interesting and well-paced, and others are drawn out and boring. I can’t give you any examples without spoiling some of the plot, but you’ll see what I mean once you start the second season. However, what all of them did well was build hype. Once each arc got going, it was hard to stop watching. Each episode ended in some kind of cliffhanger or shocking plot twist, that kept me wanting to watch more. The only obstacle was waiting until the story turned thrilling.
Lastly, the show’s fanservice is minimal.
The Characters: The characters in Railgun are an interesting bunch. Overall, they are a solid set, but characters individually can be either excellent or bland. And the four mains illustrate this the best.
Mikoto Misaka: Mikoto, the “Railgun of Tokiwadai” as a character, is a mixed bag. She has her outstanding traits and her really annoying ones. Not only is she a complete badass, as the main character, she gets the most screen time and development. Watching her grow more and more disillusioned with Academy City was the best example of one of her outstanding traits. But she’s not perfect. The biggest turn-off for me was that she tried too hard to be funny. The writers tried to exploit her penchant for “childish things” for comedic effect. The result is tedious and not what the writers wanted at all. However, if you can overlook that, Mikoto is, overall, solid. But some of the other characters outperformed her.
Also, she can do this:
Uiharu Kazari (right): Poor Uiharu. Of the four characters describe here, she’s the most deprived. Any development she gets doesn’t feel meaningful and it doesn’t help her grow as a character. She stays constant as a bland supporting main character. Now, that might sound expected, but, as you’re about to see, she didn’t have to turn out the way she did.
Kuroko Shirai (Left): I admit, I didn’t like Kuroko at the beginning. I thought she was going to be another perverted side character who keeps making advances on the main character and gets beat up for it – comic relief, in other words. But, Kuroko completely surprised me and turned into a well-developed supporting character. While she continues to make perverted moves on Mikoto, there’s more to her than that, which was a relief to see.
Ruiko Saten (Right): Ruiko is easily my favorite character in the whole show, if you overlook her sexually harassing Uiharu. Ruiko is a level 0, which means she has no powers, while everyone else described above her does. The audience can understand Academy City from someone who is not special. My respect for Ruiko came in one of the first arcs, where you really see what it’s like to be someone who has no powers .
Final Verdict: A Certain Scientific Railgun is a show that remains popular long after it aired. I decided to watch it to see what the hype was all about. If you’ve seen A Certain Magical Index, watch this show. Even if you haven’t, it’s a very well done piece of work that can stand on its own, considering it’s a spinoff. Railgun delivers and it delivers well.
Final Grade: B+