A Certain Scientific Railgun S Review

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The first Railgun show was pretty fun and one would likely expect the sequel to be even better. Luckily, this is the case with Railgun S and it amps up the stakes in every way. That can be a good thing for some and it may be too different for others. All I can say is that action fans will definitely approve! Time to see why Railgun S is so great!

The first Railgun show was very lighthearted and I’d call it a slice of life with some action. Railgun S has two arcs and the first one is complete action with some drama and emotional moments. It’s a lot darker than anything we saw in the first show and the violence is also heightened. The best part about this is the fact that most of the fanservice has been eliminated from the show, which is terrific! The second arc goes back to Railgun’s roots and the show becomes a lot happier once again. After the amazing first arc this may be a disappointment, but it’s still fun.

Before the first arc begins, we get a quick stand alone episode where Misaka gets to show off her abilities and she takes down some villains. After that, the arc quickly starts and it takes up most of the series. When Misaka was a little girl, some researchers took some of her DNA and they decided to illegally clone her. They want to create a Level 6 fighter that can surpass all others. They approach the world’s strongest Esper, Accelerator, who accepts their terms since he wants this power. He has to destroy 20000 clones of Misaka to unlock level 6. Accelerator isn’t fazed by this and the massacre begins. The clones are to fight him in one on one battles and they don’t mind the fact that they will be destroyed since it’s just what they do.

The real Misaka finds out about this and decides to stop Accelerator, but she has no chance in a physical fight. She will have to destroy all of the facilities in the city so that the researchers cannot continue their experiment. The problem is that these researchers have hired a group of powerful Espers to take Misaka down…and one of them is another Level 5! Misaka has never faced such a large scale fight before and (since her friends won’t help at all) she may need the help of Academy City’s strongest Level 0….Touma! This arc was awesome and I’ll continue to talk about it in the later parts of the review.

Arc 2 lowers the stakes so it’s more of a happy mystery, but things still get tense at times. Febri is a mysterious girl that the heroes find in the park one day. There’s something off about this occurrence and meanwhile, some scientists want to defeat the Espers. They’re mad because they are some of the smartest students around, but nobody wants to recognize their true greatness. To get back at them, these students are going to use their mecha army to wreck havok on the city and destroy everyone. Looks like a job for Misaka and pals!

It’s a little hard to try and make Arc 2 exciting because it really wasn’t. A lot of it didn’t make a whole lot of sense and it was hard to take the villains seriously after seeing someone as powerful as Accelerator. Arc 2 also didn’t contain as many fights as Arc 1 and none of them were quite as epic. Ah well…that’s why we have Arc 1!
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For example, my favorite part of the series was the gauntlet against ITEM. It even surpasses the Accelerator climax because it’s 2-4 episodes of nonstop action and battling. (Technically Accelerator vs Touma is just one fight after all) The ITEM group really gave Misaka a challenge and it was awesome. It helps that I love the new villain group trope and I had been wanting to see another Level 5 do battle. We got to see Misaka’s determination in that battle as she fought well past her energy limit and she had to think of inventive ways to use her abilities so that she could walk out of there alive.

Misaka is just as likable as in the first show, but we get to see more of her abilities in this show. As I mentioned in my previous review, there wasn’t really anyone that could be a challenge for Misaka. Her electric abilities were too much for her opponents and until we saw the only two Espers in the world who could defeat her; that didn’t seem like it was going to change. Luckily, we got some great fights in Arc 1 so we got to see what Misaka could really do. She’s easily one of the strongest Electric users out there and she’s proven that she can hold her own show as well as Touma…maybe even better.

Touma continues to prove that he’s the perfect side character. As a protagonist he ranged from cool to downright awful. As a side character in Misaka’s show, he’s always awesome. I didn’t really think that he could look better in this show than in the last one, but I quickly changed this view. Touma got a pretty cool cliffhanger where he clenches his fist for no real reason, but things get epic once he joins the fray. He’s decided that he’s going to take down Accelerator so that he can save the clones (One of which became his friend) as well as Misaka. To do this, Touma is going to have to enter the ultimate fight. The Strongest Level 5 vs the Weakest guy in the world. If all characters were as cool as Touma, then the world of media would be much different.

Railgun S continues to have great characters as Accelerator is introduced. Misaka is a perfect main character; Touma is the perfect side character, and Accelerator is the perfect villain. It’s impossible to sympathize with him and you really can’t wait until he’s defeated. I actually became a pretty huge fan of him in Index and he’s my favorite character in the franchise, but for now we’ll have to settle for liking him as a villain. If I were just counting this show, he would be under Touma and Misaka. He’s an incredible villain, but you really can’t root for him while he’s destroying everybody. Accelerator succeeds as a villain because his abilities are very hard to overcome and he’s also very confident. Unlike other villains, Accelerator can back up his tough talk.

Frenda is one of the members of ITEM and she’s the first one to challenge Misaka. She’s actually pretty good at hand to hand fighting, but she specializes in medium to long distance attacks. She can plant her dolls at key areas and then set them to explode once the opponent gets near and triggers the trap. She’s essentially like Batman in the fact that prep time greatly helps her fighting capabilities. She’s one of the better members of the group even if her abilities can’t really stack up in a one on one fight.

Mugino is basically the leader of ITEM when they’re in the field. She is a level 5 and her ability allows her to shoot powerful lasers that can go right through steel walls. She can also use them defensively to protect her from all incoming attacks like Gaara’s Ultimate Defense. She’s definitely a powerful opponent although I’m sure that Misaka would be more than a match for her if they fought on equal terms. Mugino is a decent character, but her abilities are great so I’m glad to have her on the show. Hopefully she gets another fight at some point.
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Kinuhata (Super strength) and Riko (Telepathy) don’t get to do a whole lot in the show so it’s harder to talk about them. Riko can sense where an opponent is by their AIM fields so she’s good to have in a group. Unfortunately, that also means that she wouldn’t do very well in a one on one fight. She’s a decent character, but her natural abilities just aren’t that great and she has to augment them artificially. I have a feeling that this won’t help her in the long run. Kinuhata is the most interesting member and she could present a challenge to some of the heroes. Her ability seems to make her body impervious to injury to the point where she can block bullets. It’s not absolute, but a stone wall defense like that is pretty great in a fight and she’s also very fast.

Shinobu is a researcher who was involved in the cloning operation that was taking place in Academy City. She didn’t mind them at first because she thought of the clones as inorganic. They weren’t really alive and they didn’t have emotions because they were linked through a network. Eventually, she realized that they were just as real as normal people and she made it her life’s goal to save them. Unfortunately, she is only a mere mortal and that’s not good in this show. She looks very bad in Arc 2 and her plans don’t really help in Arc 1 either. She has good intentions, but her methods are pretty ineffective and I really didn’t care for her. She just wasn’t that likable.

Kuroko doesn’t get a particularly large role in this show. She’s as unlikable as ever, but the show also gives her a subplot where she decides that she won’t try to find out what Misaka is up too. (Misaka is going around blowing up government facilities to stop the experiments) The show plays it off as a good thing and Kuroko gets to show Misaka that she trusts her judgment and everything. Misaka even indirectly asks Kuroko if she would try to stop her if Misaka did something to wreck the city. Kuroko said that she would and Misaka had to leave her out of her plans. (Although she already had been)

The problem is that Kuroko should have tried to find out what Misaka was up too. Misaka definitely could have used some backup in her fight against ITEM and having Kuroko along would have helped a lot. A true friend would have made sure that Misaka was okay. Especially after Misaka kept coming home with injuries and fatigue. This is just one of the many reasons as to why I don’t like Kuroko and it’ll be hard for her to bounce back from these moments.

Kongou gets a slightly larger role in this show than the last one. She still doesn’t get along with Kuroko that much, but she does get along with Misaka. Along the way, Kongou has pretty much joined the main characters as one of the mainstays for the battles. In Arc 2, she’s around for most of it and she joins in the help Febri. She also finally gets to use her abilities a lot and we see that she can make things launch. (If she hits a truck, then it will zoom forward with rocket power) She’s a decently likable character, but she would never become one of my favorites due to her personality. She’s a nice person, but she can’t show it since it would wreck her image. Ah well, at least she tries to help out.

Saten, Uiharu, Banri, and Harrue don’t really get to do much in this series. They’re around as supporting characters of course, but you likely won’t miss them as the episodes go by. If you liked them in the previous show, then you likely still will. If you didn’t like them before; I don’t see why you would change your mind here. Saten can still be inconsiderate of Uiharu and I can’t take her seriously. That’s part of why the climax in the second arc felt forced and there were a lot of moments that were cheesy. Things shouldn’t have turned out so well for the heroes once these 4 got involved. I’m not going to mention the villains from Arc 2 because they are barely characters. They’re just generic scientists who don’t realize that they are outclassed and they want to make other people as sad as them. (They also get an extremely cheesy moment in the last minutes of the final episode, which was pretty laughable)
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While I did mention that Railgun S is a lot more violent than the original Railgun, it’s mainly due to a few select scenes. They all take place in the first arc and the second one really has little to no violence. Accelerator is able to blow people up by making contact with them and he does this to one person, but a security camera shields the viewer from seeing this. Someone’s leg is also taken in another scene and those are really the two big violent moments. The leg yank is easily the most disturbing scene since it’s pretty unexpected. This isn’t anything to turn you off from the show though because aside from those two episodes, the violence is minimal. The whole first arc is dark, but not necessarily violent. There is a lot of action so the heroes/villains get injured, but nothing really graphic aside from those moments.

Luckily, this also meant that there was no time for fanservice. The anime still manages to sneak some in once in a while, but it’s a dramatic step down from the first series. I’m glad that they did this and it makes the rest of the anime easier to appreciate. Fanservice sucks the life out of all anime and it forces you to drop some of the all stars like Gurren Lagann and Bleach down a few pegs. Hopefully the next show in the Railgun franchise can continue with this.

The soundtrack in Railgun S is excellent! I liked Railgun’s soundtrack, but Railgun S takes it to a whole new level. The ending theme when Misaka goes off to fight Accelerator in their first round was incredible and it felt like something that you would hear at the theater. The battle music was also a lot more intense and the overall soundtrack was phenomenal. The two openings were pretty fun, but opening 1 was definitely the best since it had a lot of action to go alongside the fun music. We even got some fake foreshadowing to trick the fans and I always like that because it gives us hypothetical battles. Railgun S definitely hit it out of the park with the music and the final episode gets some guest star music from the first show. That episode was filled with music that kept on playing right after that others.

Not to be outdone, the animation is also a few steps up from Railgun. I can now say that the animation looks pretty incredible. The character designs are effectively the same, but they’re more streamlined, which helps for the fights. Touma’s fight against Accelerator stands out as well as Misaka’s gauntlet against ITEM. Even scenes with less stakes like Misaka’s Railgun against the villains in the first episode looks really good with this animation. Great animation can definitely make a fun show even better.

One of the big questions that may be brought up is whether Railgun did better with the dark toned part of the franchise or if it should have stayed happy and chipper. I’ve never been a fan of everything being grim and that’s one of the enjoyable factors of the first Railgun. Every episode was pretty happy and there was really no dark moments in the show. We had some sad moments, but things tended to work out by the end. Still, that couldn’t last since part of the plot for this series was how Misaka would have to combat the darkness of Academy City. The first arc of Railgun S is dark, but it’s done in a pretty decent way. It’s not gritty for the sake of being gritty and there is still some hope for the heroes. (Although Misaka’s friends don’t help in this) This arc was the best in the franchise so Railgun S definitely succeeded with this huge tone shift. Now, if the whole show had been dark like that, it could have gotten a little dicey. It’s a lot harder to keep a show interesting and good with a dark tone. It’s easy to slip up at some point and just make things too dark with excessive violence or unnecessary sob stories as the series gets longer and longer. That’s why it’s best to just have an arc for it and then it can be a masterpiece like this one.

That’s why I’m glad that Railgun’s light moments stick around. Unfortunately, this also means that they try to play up the friendship angle and it doesn’t work in this case. Aside from Kuroko, Misaka’s main friends are all very weak and they shouldn’t be able to help out. Arc 2 tries to show how helpful they can be, but it was very cheesy. They decide to hold off thousands of robots along with the rest of the students, but they should have been mowed down. The robots were way too powerful for them and realistically there should have been heavy casualties. In that case, it was definitely all right for Misaka to proceed on her own. Every time she has to clue the rest of the characters in; Misaka has to slow down in her investigation. I’m not opposed to telling the other characters and I believe that Misaka should have told Kuroko back in arc 1. Of course, Kuroko may have told the police and that would have wrecked things so it was a gamble either way.

So far, it probably sounds like Arc 2 was downright awful, but it was still all right. There weren’t a whole lot of stakes, but that’s because it had a more personal feel. Mainly, one girl’s life was at stake, but that’s still enough to get Misaka and the gang involved. Eventually, the scope of the threat got larger, but the heroes were already set. I do like the concept of every Esper in the city joining forces to stop the villain, but it could have been executed in a cooler way. All of the insert songs give the scenes a sense of epicness, which helps to overshadow the inaccurate moments. I just don’t think that things would go so smoothly for the heroes. I also wasn’t a fan of the fact that Misaka needed some help against the army of robots since they didn’t seem so impressive.

The first Railgun show rekindled my interest in the franchise and this one rose it to new heights. Railgun S managed to surpass the two series from the main branch of Index and that’s pretty rare. Usually, spinoffs don’t end up beating the main thing. It’s a pretty good feat for Railgun S and it shows that spinoffs always have a shot. (Unlike the Rock Lee show) Railgun S defeats most of the anime that I’ve seen recently including Sword Art Online, Guilty Crown, Gurren Lagann, and Accel World among others, but it does get defeated by another anime that I’m currently watching. What is that anime? Well, you’re going to have to wait to find out. All I can say is that it’s one of the best anime of all time!
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Overall, Railgun S is an incredible show. I’d easily say that it’s one of the better anime that I’ve seen. (I would have said one of the best, but that’s stretching it just a little bit since it loses to DBZ, multiple Digimon shows, Naruto (multiple shows), etc) The animation is top notch as well as the soundtrack and we have some really great characters to root for and against. I still can’t get over how epic and awesome Touma was in the climax of Arc 1 and Misaka is a character that everyone can look up too. She had to make the tough call to fight the whole city and she did everything that she could to save the clones. With characters as heroic as this, it’s hard to go back and watch something like Avengers Assemble! The show also expands the universe a little more while throwing in some more plot points for the future. (Academy City is still evil and another one of the Level 5s seems to have some beef with Misaka) I highly recommend this anime to all readers because it appeals to many different crowds. If you want a dark tale revolving around conspiracies and a lone hero against all odds; it’s time for Arc 1. If you want heartwarming tale about friendship, and second chances with some fun action scenes; then it’s time for Arc 2. Either way, it’s a win/win situation! I definitely can’t wait for the sequel to come.

Overall 8/10

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