A Certain Scientific Railgun Review

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After seeing the Index series, I suppose that it was only a matter of time until the spinoff would come up. Without Touma leading the charge and the whole magic side of the equation, could the show still manage to be exciting? Misaka may have been a good character in the main series, but some characters just don’t do well when it comes to their own series. (Rock Lee) I halfheartedly wondered about these things as the show began. Time to see if the series could hold its own!

Misaka Mikoto is the main character of this series and she’s completely different from Touma. Touma barely got by and he had to scramble to get enough money to buy his daily groceries. He’s also a little in the dark as far as the plots go and he just punches whoever gets in his way. Misaka is pretty wealthy and she lives at the most prestigious school in the city. Guards can be found just about everywhere and she experiences the light part of the city. (In this series anyway) Misaka was a cool supporting character in the original series, but I can safely say that she’s become a much better character through this one. Similar to how I became a big Hunter X Hunter fan after watching the anime for the first time as opposed to reading the manga; I dare say that watching this series has helped me gain respect for the Index franchise as a whole. In some ways it’s more fun than the main series, but we also get a lot of filler, which is never an amazing sign.

For those of you who haven’t watched the main series, I’ll just give some background. A Certain Scientific Railgun takes place in Academy City, where they believe that science can solve just about anything. Many of the students are Espers and they are ranked from Level 1 to Level 5. (There are only 5 Level 5s) They go to school and work at using their powers and it’s really fun to live in the city…so long as you have powers. There is also a magical side, but they are not allowed to enter the city and if they did…trouble would ensue. All right, time for the plot. (not that many episodes really contribute to the main plots)

Before the main plot starts, we get some stand alone episodes to introduce us to the characters and also to buy time. (AKA filler) Misaka and her “sister” Kuroko (Not related and are just friends, but Kuroko refers to Misaka as her sister) take down some bad guys and we realize that Misaka is a nice person. We also get introduced to Saten and Uiharu, who stay as main characters for the series. That’s basically episode 1 and then episode 2 is just about cleaning. The plot begins in the next episode (albeit, only in the final seconds) and there is a device that has been mass produced. It is known as the Level Upper and it can increase a person’s natural abilities, but to a dangerous extent. A level 1 can become a level 2, but after a few minutes or a few hours; the person is liable to go into an a coma and possibly not wake up again. Making things worse is the fact that one of Misaka’s friends, Saten, becomes tempted by this device. She’s a Level 0 so this device could finally help her out. The devices start popping up all around the city so it appears that there may be a coordinated group behind these actions. Misaka will have to go against Kuroko’s orders and join this case…but will she be able to win?

The first arc was mostly a lot of stand alone episodes that were joined together by the Level Upper device. It felt less like a full arc and more like episodes that were vaguely related. The plot thickened once the villain appeared and Saten got involved, but the beginning was pretty slow. The climax is pretty good because Misaka finally gets a big fight against Harumi. Harumi obtained many abilities so it was nice to see Misaka get a challenge. The actual final fight involved a giant monster like being so it wasn’t nearly as exciting. Misaka is a long range fighter so giant creatures that can barely move aren’t a great match for her.
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The second arc starts after some filler episodes. We get a two episode mini arc that involves a gang. Those episodes actually weren’t that bad, but the plot hax was immense. We saw the debut of a power dampener device that allowed Misaka to be on the verge of losing to ordinary humans. I had to wince at this because there’s no way that this device could pull off such a feat. Kurozuma was one of the gang fighters and he was pretty cool. In some ways, he was like Yusuke, but not quite that cool. It was nice to see some hand to hand action for once.

The second arc really begins during the final episodes of the series. There have been poltergeist reports and it causes damage to large areas. Kuroko suspects that Uiharu’s new friend Haruue may be behind this, which causes a rift to form between them. Meanwhile, Misaka finds Harumi and realizes that a group of kids are still in a coma from experiments that were done a long time ago. That’s when a new character by the name of Therestina shows up in command of a large squadron of men and robots. They seem to be pretty sketchy. Could they have something to do with these poltergeist attacks? Misaka realizes this and it’s time to take Therestina down once and for all. Looks like it’s fighting time!

This arc wasn’t nearly as interesting as the first and everyone felt a lot weaker. It’s to be expected since the second half of an anime is usually not as good as the first half. The Capacity Down device was a big plot device since it could make Misaka powerless as any given time. Also, the city looked evil as per usual and Misaka should have done something about it. (She’ll get more involved in the next season) Uiharu got way too upset as Kuroko for suspecting her new friend and that was disappointing. It’s Kuroko’s job so it’s not like the suspicion was personal. The final episode still had some flashy fights and a good insert song to make the show end on a decently high note.

As stated earlier, Misaka is a great main character. Some may argue that she’s a little too good since she’s a great person who always wants to help out and she also happens to be the third strongest Level 5 in the city,(As well as the world) but that’s part of the reason why she’s so cool. It’s tough for the villains to give her a challenge because her abilities are seemingly invincible. That’s likely why the writers of the show created the Capacity down. Misaka gets her share of fights in this arc and she’s basically untouchable. Even in the final fights of the first arc, where Misaka is fighting something with the energies of hundreds of Espers and then takes on a woman with dozens of abilities; Misaka doesn’t really break a sweat. The monster doesn’t really get any hits and while Harumi does deal some damage, we find out that Misaka was holding back. Naturally, I expect the sequel to bring in some tougher enemies because Misaka definitely needs a challenge. I want an excuse to see her go all out and bring us some DBZ fight scenes! As it stands, her super attacks are fun to watch and they’re definitely powerful.
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Touma is drastically improved from the main Index series and he is easily one of the best characters of the series. We get to see his heroics early on as he attempts a rescue even though there was a high risk of serious injury. The attempted rescue did not go as planned since he was dealing with the legendary Railgun, who did not need his help. Touma has several battles against Misaka and his abilities are definitely impressive. He always seems to have the upper hand despite being a Level 0. They never let the viewer know what his ability is, but you will understand part of it by the end. Could Touma be the strongest fighter in Academy City!? It is certainly possible when judging from this portion of the franchise. Its just hard not to root for Touma. He gets all of the best lines and he realizes that buying groceries can be a priority. Touma is also a nice guy and he doesn’t mind throwing a fight if it will make everyone happy. He always knows just when to appear and he even got a ticket to a very prestigious event at the end of the series. Touma is just an awesome character and he gets even cooler during the sequel show!

Kuroko is a character that never fails to disappoint me. She is one of the few level 4 fighters around and her teleportation ability is very lethal. Instead of becoming an awesome ally to root for, she ignores this and allows her obsession with Misaka to ruin her. Kuroko is a part of Judgment and her job is to keep the peace. Its a noble job in theory, but she rarely does anything of importance. She takes down some fighters, but she nearly messes up during her first big fight. If she would tone down her obsession with Misaka a few notches then maybe she could become cool. Unfortunately, that is likely never going to happen so I won’t be becoming a fan anytime soon.

Uiharu is one of Kuroko’s coworkers and she appears a lot. She is a decent character for the most part, but she lets her emotions cloud her judgment at times. When Haruue is introduced and the heroes begin to suspect her involvement in a string of incidents; Uiharu refuses to accept the idea and gets mad at them. That part of the series is really what wrecked her. Uiharu gets a lot of screen time and is really a part of the plot in the second half of the series. That being said, any development that may have been attained is quickly lost thanks to the way that her plotline goes. I cant say that I was ever a real fan of her character since she always let Saten tease and humiliate her, but it didn’t help her case when Uiharu chose her new friend over the old ones. I also don’t care for her personality shift that occurs when she is at Tokiwadai High as she becomes fierce and downright rude/mean in her excitement.

Saten is one of the main characters of the series and she is introduced to the rest of the gang by Uiharu. Saten is a level 0 esper and she is pretty sensitive about this fact. Unlike Touma, Saten never improves her fighting ability and we rarely see her trying to get better. That’s what makes it a little hard to sympathize with her plight. She also has a habit of embarrassing Uiharu from time to time. Despite Uiharu’s complaints, Saten continues to humiliate her in public and even in front of their friends. They are still best friends, but Saten should show some more consideration. Saten also lacks strength of character as she gets tempted by the Level Downer. The Level Downer isn’t half bad and I wouldn’t have minded if she used it to defend herself, but not if she’s just going to use it for fun even if it means going into a coma. It would appear that the supporting cast for this show is very weak aside from Touma.

Haruue joins the main cast towards the end of the show. The writers really try to make her fun and enjoyable, but it doesn’t work. This is what happens to many characters in anime and other forms of media. When a character like this is introduced at the end, the writers will try to make her as likable as they can so she is forced into just about every scene. She just doesn’t seem to have much of a point in this show. She is a large part of Arc 2, but it could have been everyone. It doesn’t help that she is the one who makes tension arise among the heroes.

Banri gets a pretty small role in the show because she’s out of it for the most part. She’ll get to appear more in the sequel show, but I was never a fan. She’s a nice kid and things just didn’t go well for her. I just don’t care for her because we hardly needed another character. She’s almost a clone of Haruue in terms of personality and she can’t really fight. Telepathy is good, but hers isn’t at a very high level.
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Harumi is the main villain of the first arc and she’s the first tough opponent for Misaka in the show show. Before that, Misaka fought some other Espers and even some that had their powers increased by the Level Upper, but they couldn’t really do anything against her. Well, Harumi has abilities from dozens of espers so it makes sense that she would be tough. Their fight was one of the best in the series and the stakes were definitely a lot higher than usual. Harumi is a decently likable villain and at least she has some sympathetic reasons behind what she’s doing. She can actually back up her tough talk, which is always a plus.

Therestina is a big character from Arc 2 and she has her own mecha. She can fight in it, but she’s really not a match for any of the decent fighters so she makes sure to have a capacity down with her at all times. She’s really not likable because her motives don’t make a lot of sense and she seems petty. She has the generic “hardcore” scene where she steps on the only piece of data that could have helped some people. Therestina liked to hide behind her minions and she can’t really back up her tough talk. At least she gave us a decently fun fight towards the end of the series.

Jufuku is a pretty bad character. She feels bad about her eye brows so she knocks people out and then gives them ugly eyebrows that don’t come off for weeks. Her ability allows her to pass by unnoticed by others as long as you are not directly looking at her. It’s actually a decent ability, but it’s not great in a fight. Jufuku’s goal just seemed way too petty and I was just waiting for her to leave. In her future appearences, she’s still unlikable even though she underwent a big personality change. there’s just no winning for some characters.

Kongou is Kuroko’s rival and she’s also a Level 4. Her powers aren’t really explained in this show, but she has a fan so it should be easy to deduce what element her power revolves around. She doesn’t really get to do anything in this show so it’s really impossible to become a big fan. That being said, she’s an amusing character and I don’t mind her. She gets some good lines and she’s always very confident about her abilities. Her role in the sequel is much bigger so it’ll be easier to tell if you like her or not in that one.

Kurozuma is a man of mystery who disappeared for years along with his gang. The gang popped back up with a new man pretending to be Kurozuma and that made the real one come back. Kurozuma definitely knows his brand of milk and he’s always ready to beat up the villains. He’s great in hand to hand combat and he’s almost a likable character. What stops him from being one is the fact that he’s very rude to Misaka and Kuroko. The lines that he tells them are so awful that it immediately threw away any respect that I had for the guy. Once again, like Kuroko, Kurozuma could have been cool and then he wasted his potential. Naturally there are other side characters, but their roles are so small that they barely even need to be mentioned. (Even if some get a whole filler episode to themselves)

Railgun’s animation is very good. I admit that the sequel looks much better, which makes this one a little tougher to gauge after seeing. That being said, this one holds up very well and the Railgun blasts are always fun to watch. The fight scenes are also really good because the show can handle movement pretty well. When the characters are jumping around and using flashy attacks, it all flows together pretty well. The best fight in the series is probably the battle against Touma, but the fight against Harumi would definitely be close. I also liked the battle against the ground user and we had some other fun fights that were scattered around. I wouldn’t say that the animation is exceptional and it’s not quite as high budget as the regular Index show, but it’s good enough. It can hold its own against other shows from around this time and that’s what counts. As long as the animation doesn’t hurt the overall experience by looking like FLCL, it’s still a good thing and Railgun is definitely above average.

Railgun is a lot of fun and it seems like it would get a really high rating right? Unfortunately, fanservice brings down the overall score. Surprisingly, the fanservice seems to be very toned down from the regular Index series, but there’s still too much of it. I’m glad that it’s lowering (and the sequel has even less) but they’re got to pick up the pace. We get numerous hot spring scenes and other moments that are just there for no real reason. Almost every episode is liable to have something and we have a whole episode about swimsuits. Someone’s skirt is always being lifted as a practical joke, but that makes the scene even more unnecessary. All I wanted was a show with no fanservice, but this one couldn’t make it. It’s a good thing that the rest of the show is so good or things could have been dire. That being said, it makes it very hard to actually recommend this show to anyone.

The soundtrack for Railgun is pretty good. It’s not incredible, but the battle theme is fun and both of the openings were pretty well done. I would have liked some more rock music, but I suppose that there wasn’t much time for it since this series didn’t have a whole lot of action scenes. The theme song made for a good backdrop during the big fights anyway. At the very least, the battle theme is memorable and you won’t be forgetting the tunes anytime soon. (The cricket sound is practically a part of the soundtrack since it starts off every episode that takes place on a hot day!)
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Overall, Railgun was a fun spin off to Index. It’s really just lighthearted fun and I wouldn’t really have any problems with it if not for the fanservice. Aside from those scenes, the series is just fun to watch and you’ll always walk away feeling lighthearted. It’s one of the reasons why I like to watch such series because it’s basically a slice of life with some action and intrigue. If you liked Index, then maybe you’ll like this show a lot because it certainly helped me become a fan of the franchise again. That being said, just wait for the sequel. Railgun S is much better and it’s one of the best all around shows out there. (For the first arc anyway) If you can get around the fanservice, then a Scientific Railgun is a very enjoyable watch and fans of almost any genre can get into it. (We even have mysteries and horror/ghost stories!)

Overall 5/10

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