The student-filled Academy City is at the forefront of scientific advancement and home to the esper development program. The seven "Level 5" espers are the most powerful in Academy City, and ranked third among them is middle schooler Mikoto Misaka, an electricity manipulator known as "The Railgun."
When strange incidents begin occurring throughout the city, she finds each crime to be connected to the elusive "Level Upper," a legendary device that allegedly increases the esper level of its user. As the situation escalates, it becomes apparent that there is more to the Level Upper than meets the eye, and that Academy City may be a far more twisted place than the glamorous utopia it appears to be.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun focuses on Mikoto and her friends—and the dangerous situations they find themselves in—as they get caught up in the matter of the Level Upper. As Mikoto says, "There's never a dull moment in this city."
If ever there was a word in visual media that the general public immediately distrusted, it's "spinoff". Experience has proven to many that a show, comic or novel that is derivative of a popular series is rarely as good as the original work, and the DVD bargain basement is littered with titles that were designed with one thing in mind - to cash in on the original work's popularity due to the lack of a valid sequel. Shows like Crusade (Babylon 5), Joey (Friends), Highlander: The TV series, Robocop: The TV series, the horrendous Baywatch titles, and a horde of others all attempted to milk
extra profits from a cow that had gone dry.
All is not lost though, as while it is rare that a spinoff can proclaim itself to be as good as, if not better than, the original work, there are some shows that do fit the bill. Frasier (Cheers), CSI: NY and Miami, Torchwood (Dr. Who), Mork & Mindy (Happy Days), and a small number of other titles are widely regarded as at least equal to the original works.
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun can also add its name to that list..
Unlike Toaru Majutsu no Index this series is not actually based on the light novels by Kamachi Kazuma, but is instead based on a spinoff manga by Fuyukawa Motoi. Unlike the Index series the spinoff focuses on Misaka Mikoto, the "Railgun" from the original series. Once more the action takes place in Academy City as Mikoto and her friends are beset by strange earthquakes, conspiracies, friendship issues, and all manner of hijinks.
Like the original series the format of Railgun uses an amalgamation of episodic and multi-chapter arcs however, much like Index, the series is also flawed in terms of its plot because of this. While the series has a reasonably enjoyable story, the tendency to jump from one focus to another like frog on a hot rock is detrimental to the flow of the plot. It's unfortunate as the format is similar to that adopted by GitS: SAC, however the big difference between the two shows is that where GitS: SAC provided food for thought, Railgun neglects this in favour of audience pleasing fillers (if the audience is juvenile that is).
That said, the plot has some interesting aspects to it, however the lack of a timeframe means that viewers may become a tad confused as to the ordering of events, especially if one tries to correlate the occurences in Index with those in Railgun.
The biggest downside to the format of Railgun though, is the fact that the more interesting aspects of the show are never fully explored due to the lack of focus, something which would have given this show the edge that it really needs.
While the plot may have its issues, the art and animation for Railgun is definitely a step up from Index. The characters follow the design of the manga and the original series, and while this may promote a certain sense of continuity, it's also a downside as well, as the character design becomes a little stale over the course of the show (i.e. too much of the same).
Backgrounds and settings are generally bright and colourful, and the scenery is very much in keeping with the style of the original series. The animation is generally smooth, however there are moments when the characters move in a truly ludicrous manner, something which can ruin a good action scene.
The one thing I do question is the fanservice, as it's clearly surplus to requirements. Granted the series is nowhere near the same level as some I could mention, however this is a showthat didn't really need to go that extra mile just to please the fans, and the story would have been more enjoyable without all the pandering.
Railgun is generally well served in the acting department. Satou Rina and Arai Satomi reprise their roles from Index as Mikoto and Kuroko, and they are joined by Itou Kanae and Toyosaki Aki (Saten Ruiko and Uiharu Kazari respectively), to form the main core of characters. However, while the actresses are all experienced, there are occasions when the roles are really "hammed up", particularly when it comes to relationship issues.
As for the music, the show has a decent variety of thematic tracks which are generally well used when required, however there are also occasions where the music is clearly at odds with the on screen action. The generally upbeat style of music is reflected in the two OPs and two of the EDs used in the series. The ED for episode 12 is more melodic and has a slightly bittersweet sentiment to it which serves as a nice counterpoint to the ending of that particular arc.
The biggest surprise of this series is the characters. In a strange irony, they are both the best aspect of Railgun, but also its worst. The lack of plot focus is, in part, made up for by the development of the main cast, especially Ruiko who, in terms of actual character growth, is developed more than the other three girls. Now many fans may argue with that perspective, however I will point out that of the four main girls, it's Ruiko who not only changes the most, but also endures the most.
Now, I did mention that the characters were also the worst part of Railgun didn't I? Well, the reason for this is that while the characters do receive a degree of development, it simply isn't enough to justify their actions. The lack of plot focus only exacerbates the problem, and the show is littered with semi developed characters. In addition to this, the usage of comic relief based fanservice (e.g. Kuroko's behaviour towards Mikoto), washes away what little development had gone before. While the characters are engaging enough in their own way, the show could have done with putting more effort into the plot and characters, and less into making money from the hormone crazed masses.
With all of the problems I've mentioned, many might think that I didin't enjoy Railgun, when in actuality, I did. The show is entertaining as a no brain action romp, and had the potential, along with Index, to be something truly great. While I may regard Railgun as a wasted opportunity, it isn't actually a bad show at all, and many people may find something to keep them insterested.
In all honesty though, Railgun, like Index, had a great deal more potential than it actually delivers. The concept of both series is inventive and imaginative, however the execution, especially in Railgun, falls flat due to the desire to make money.The biggest example of how this impacts the show is the level of fanservice throughout the series (one whole episode, for example, is nothing more than a swimsuit buffet). It rapidly becomes obvious that the one of the main purposes of this series is to pander to hordes who love Mikoto, and while giving the public what they want isn't a bad thing, sometimes a show is better off not doing so.
On the plus side though, at least Toaru Kagaku no Railgun is one of the few spinoffs that's as good as the original story.
Are the burdens of being special greater or lesser than the burdens of being ordinary?
Academy City is a city that thrives on those who are espers -- who are special -- whether they already have powers or are trying to attain them. Everyone is reaching towards their ideal self, but some people don’t care what methods get used. The pursuit of the “next level” is absolute. If our limitations only exist so we can surpass them, should there be a limit to how far we can go to get there?
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun, or A Certain Scientific Railgun, follows the events around Misaka Mikoto
and her core group of friends and their exploits within the City. They are students, aiming to better their powers as espers. But in a city with a concentrated amount of people with special abilities, it’s only natural for the criminally-minded to try to carve out their own bit of power at the expense of others. To combat such an element and maintain civil order, the organization Judgment exists. Having a free-willed, ace-in-the-hole player like Misaka who keeps people in line all by herself doesn’t hurt either.
Misaka (affectionately dubbed “Biribiri”) is one of the most powerful espers in Academy City. Her ability to generate and manipulate electricity makes her a force that most overconfident thugs learn too late shouldn’t have been reckoned with. Kuroko is her best friend, a crazy and hyperactive girl whose yuri-obsession with her beloved “Onee-sama” is hilarious despite constant rejection. Teleportation of objects (herself included) is her esper proficiency, making her one of the more menacing opponents to come up against, despite the diminutive and cute appearance. Uiharu is the demure techie: easily embarrassed, but a wizard at hacking or culling information from any network. As a member of Judgment, she is often the “eye-in-the-sky” for Kuroko when they take action.
In a place brimming with espers, Saten is the most fascinating of the four. Her official designation is Level 0. She has no powers at all. Nevertheless, she attends classes and learns all there is to learn about being an esper. The teachers explain to the Level 0s like her that it’s possible to reach Level 1… but Saten always has a wistful look when the topic comes up. It’s clear she doesn’t have that kind of optimism. What does it mean to be that kind of outsider looking in? And how much worse is it to be in the middle of this incredible city, surrounded by so many exceptional people she’d love to be?
Academy City is almost a character in itself. It’s hard not to fall in love with it. Clean, stylish, dotted with wind generators, a near-futuristic center of learning and advanced scientific research, all the while supersaturated with technology. The juxtaposition of seemingly sentient trash-collector robots and soda machines that only work if you kick them appears to point out that we’ll always have some low-tech around.
Railgun fixes most every glaring problem that tripped up Toaru Majutsu no Index. Gone are Index’s occasional -- albeit entirely useless -- scenes where those involved in the higher echelons of running Academy City were up to some sinister, boring machinations. Fortunately, Railgun is much more down-to-earth. It also wisely limits the amount of talking that occurs during fight sequences. The action is left to unfold naturally, instead of cramming in reams of idealistic soliloquies that the Index villains probably weren’t even listening to. Finally, it does away with Index’s tendency to tell one mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc, followed by another mini-arc… ad nauseam that tended to make the show’s overall narrative out of focus and its pace too breakneck.
The structure of this show, however, is a bit of an odd thing and does deserve to be mulled over. It begins largely episodic with only a scattering of episodes focused entirely on the more serious arc that concludes at the halfway point. The second half is much the same. I say ‘odd’ because it’s a unique structure I’ve rarely come across. Most non-episodic anime tend to follow the same format as any other narrative medium: an identifiable conflict or targeted goal at the outset; gradual complications along the way; an ending with the inevitable climax and resolution.
Railgun mostly ignores that age-old wisdom. Twice.
The four or five episodes that precede each climax are strong, focused, and exciting. So if the creators were so capable, why not follow the arcs in every episode? Simply put, it seems to be a stylistic choice -- and one that is as refreshing as it is surprisingly effective. It frees up the story, allows our perspective of Academy City to expand by degrees and the characters a chance to breathe. The importance of the latter cannot be stressed enough. After all, our heroines are living here primarily to learn. It’s a given that attending classes and socializing are going to make up no small portion of their day-to-day lives.
That said, Kuroko and Uiharu’s work at Judgment comprises the larger portion. Most of the fun is watching them work on cases and hunt down perpetrators. Even though Misaka isn’t a part of Judgment, she often forces herself into the role of unofficial member. That she has this proclivity for beating up criminals isn’t so much that she’s a do-gooder, but rather that’s how she finds it easiest to protect her friends. She has an active investment in their well-being and specific meaningful relationships to lose if something goes wrong. This is, of course, all to say that it’s vastly more engaging to watch her and her cohorts, as opposed to a certain bed-headed, misfortunate guy with a chronic Helper Monkey Complex.
I usually don’t mention voice acting, but the consistent excellence is such that I can’t avoid it. Toyosaki Aki easily hits her highest note yet here and in one pivotal moment gives an amazing, touching performance. Even the always-talented Tanaka Atsuko creates a character that is very special. So to avoid a laundry list of names, let me simply say that if some of your favorite seiyuu are involved, it probably wouldn’t be an exaggeration to urge you to check it out for that reason alone.
The OPs are as highly-charged as Misaka’s railgun and the EDs are catchy outros after all the excitement. In fact, the songs that bookend the show’s second half are as good as -- if not better than -- the first half’s. And here I thought it was some sort of sadistic tradition in anime for second-half OPs and EDs to be lacklustre.
The overall soundtrack is just as fantastic. Not only the music itself, but also its skillful use. At one point, a solitary piano begins playing, making us realize that since the episode started there hasn’t been any music. Instead of merely reinforcing the mood, it becomes the subtext that the characters can’t say. Later on when they connect to each other, a similar piano begins. As they are finally able to talk, more and more instruments are woven into the song as they become more and more desperate to express everything they wanted to say earlier.
Sound effects are another design element that truly shine. There is something so perfect in the execution of Biribiri’s electricity and Kuroko’s teleportation. It isn’t that Index’s sound effects for these abilities were bad at all, but rather that in Railgun they have been refined enough to be a little addicting to listen to. Likewise, the action of the fight scenes is as much aural as it is visual. Impact is visceral, whether against concrete or someone’s face.
The art is crisp and beautiful. The visual design is such that your eyes get drawn in, from a particularly huge parfait to some spellbinding fight choreography. Some close-up expressions of the characters are priceless. Unfortunately, certain distance shots of them can dip in quality. It’s a pity given the polished look of everything else around them, but comparatively speaking it’s easy to forgive as it doesn’t occur often.
Railgun is an anime that starts with a cast of memorable characters, tells a very entertaining story, and has the privilege of doing so with laudable production values. The questions it raises are thought-provoking and relevant. Even when the story meanders into a stand-alone episode that has no real bearing on the plot, it is always with a sense of how it fits into the overarching frame. Like its characters, the story breathes. At times it runs; at times it walks. And yes, also like its characters, sometimes it takes that random detour and ends up discovering something wholly unexpected. While science plays a large role in the show, all its elements end up filled with quite a bit of magic.
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun is a show that I was pretty hyped to start watching after ending Majutsu no Index, as I thought it would be cool to get some insight on Misaka's life as a Level 5 and get to know better the world the esper's live in. What I got was nothing like that, at all.
The story is nothing new. At all. There are people who can use powers and this time a whole city is there to develop these. Even though everyone's already full of that premise, doesn't mean you don't have to explain the world build, writers. We only got
a glance at what its like living in Academy City. The world was never explained. Why the magic users don't appear was never explained. The "Level" system was never fully explained. We saw everything but knew nothing.
This show uses a specific formula to get its story arcs going, usually introducing a new character that has nothing to do with the conflict at the start, and then starts slowly revealing why this one character in fact has everything to do with the conflict. The wrong in the execution of the show is its constant failures to try to hide it. The episode itself tries to be too unpredictable and almost becomes too predictable, you see. It’s funny how this show tries to pretend it’s not based on arcs by constantly remembering you of what happened in the past. These ‘flashbacks’ are unneeded and they only serve to take more screentime.
The story contains many trivial episodes (which is also a screentime problem, like the festival, the visit to the girls dorm, the Judgement investigation episodes of things we already know about etc.) and recycles alot of jokes (like Shirai worshipping Misaka). Not only that, but the filler episodes and the jokes are misplaced, which completely ruins the dramatic mood it tries to develop (just like it happened in the end of episode 22).
The story ends up having too many mishaps and too little reconnaissances. There are twists and turns on the story but it is never truly developed since the end of every conflict has little impact on the characters themselves (like it was all 'just another adventure'). There was never a climax. There was never a point where I was worried any of the characters would get hurt. There was never an experience that involved the viewers worrying or even caring for the characters. I just accepted eveything that happened and moved on, knowing that in the end everything would go well. And it did. That's why I didn't enjoy watching this series.
We got more development to the side characters than to the main cast of girls, while Uiharu was the most developed and by far the worst character of the show. We still know nothing about Misaka's past, which is a shame since she has the most screentime of the entire series, and it feels dull to watch her kicking ass without knowing the conflicts she had to pass to obtain such power. The villains are are absolutely horrible. This is another anime that explains the bad guy's actions by the insanity of their minds, like a human can only be mean if they are out of it. It's cringe-worthy, I'm telling ya.
The art is nothing special. I've seen this style many times, and I don't like the side faces. This is not a judging point, though, I'm just pointing it out, alright?
Animation is okay. Nothing much to complain about.
The sound work is bad. While the fights are going the same singing tune keeps on repeating undefinitely until it's over. The episodes always start with the same calm soundtrack. Each part always has its own music. This show is so preditable that you can even predict which soundtrack is going to play for each scene, and It's not like they are good at all. The music should help the show by adding another feel to the scenes, and not help you to know what's coming up next, lmao.
There are shows with no story that can be enjoyable with good characters. There are shows with bad characters that can be enjoyable with a good story.
But there are no shows with bad stories and bad characters that can be enjoyable. See you in the sequel, Kagaku no Railgun. I hope you learn.
You know, I'm always down for an average anime series. Yes, I admit I have high standards, very few anime even reach an 8 out of 10 for me, but I have absolutely no problem sitting down and watching a show I have every inclination will be just "kind of alright". It makes me feel like I get a bigger scope of things in the anime world when I watch these shows, so that includes watching those anime that have made it onto my Plan to Watch list for the sole purpose that for some reason, they have been able to
remain relatively in the public's eye even years after they have aired. And yeah, for shows I have watched this way, anime like Guilty Crown, Mirai Nikki and Shakugan no Shana, I get exactly what I expect, from mediocre, to trying-too-hard-to-be-dark, to crap. However, every once and awhile, an anime is able to transcend the image the consensus of the anime community and myself have painted for it, and it always makes for a nice surprise. Now let me stress this, the anime I will be reviewing today, A Certain Scientific Railgun(which will just be called "Railgun" from now on for convenience's sake) is absolutely not like that. In this review, I'll tell you exactly how this anime fulfilled every average expectation I had for it, but somewhere along the way, planted the roots for something greater than itself.
Hello people of "The Wired", my name is Quan, I've been mentally preparing myself for my return to school tomorrow, and after over a month of waiting, it's time for a new anime review. Sorry about that, but these things take awhile to write, and I've sort of spent all my time recently catching up on a lot of things, both with anime and academically. Anyway, it's time to get started, so let's start already.
Before that though, let's get some potential confusion out of the way first, and talk some technical shenanigan stuff. Now, A Certain Scientific Railgun acts as a spin-off to another anime: A Certain Magical Index and its sequel: A Certain Magical Index II, so for those of you who have seen both shows, keep that in mind that I have yet to see Index or its sequel, so that might be why I don't mention certain things about the franchise or its laws. And if you think that in any way impairs my ability to review Railgun, let me remind you that even if a show is a spin-off, it should still be able to stand up on its own and establish the rules of its universe without any prior knowledge of the sister/father/first series. Additionally, A Certain Scientific Railgun also has a sequel, A Certain Scientific Railgun S, and while I have seen that series(and think it is in every way better), the review today will be exclusively on the first season, though I may reference Railgun S occasionally, probably in the context of saying what it does better than the first season. OK, everyone clear? Good.
A Certain Scientific Railgun was brought to us by those folks over at J.C Staff, the animation studio that has brought us, as well as the entirety of the Index franchise, Toradora, Golden Time, Shakugan no Shana, and Zero no Tsukaima. It was directed by the one and only Tatsuyuki Nagai, who you probably recognize from his directorial work on both Anohana and Ano Natsu de Matteru, though I personally like him best for directing Toradora, which is still probably one of the strongest slice-of-life/romance I have seen yet. Part of the script was handled Michiko Itou, who had done work on No. 6 and a Toradora OVA, but the script was primarily handled by Miya Asakawa... who hasn't really done anything of note besides a couple episodes of Noein, which I'll be shocked if you've even heard of that(though on a side note, go watch Noein, it's pretty cool). And finally, A Certain Scientific Railgun is 24 episodes long, and aired in the season of Fall 2009, a season which also gave us Kimi ni Todoke and Aoi Bungaku, if that means anything to you. Ok, let's get started with the plot.
Academy City is a scientifically advanced hub of technology and the arts, apparently about 20 to 30 years ahead of the rest of the world. 80% of the population are actually students, which sounds like someone screwed up somewhere, but in addition to being pretty much the Metropolis of this world, Academy City serves a second purpose. In this world, part of humanity has awakened to a greater psychic power, which is not nearly as exciting as it sounds because the anime doesn't really go for something like Shinsekai yori in which these powers would kind of destroy the world because everyone simultaneously decided they were God now, but more something like a "what if?" scenario, as life is basically normal in Academy City besides from the fact that certain people could potentially fire kinetic beams from their hands. These psychic powers are different for each person and could range from teleportation, to being able to see through walls, to just having cats slightly more prone to chase you. These powers are ranged from levels 1-5 based on their power, with a level 0 simply being a normal person without any abilities. Academy City seeks to train the thousands of students to properly develop their powers(people with psychic powers have been deemed: "espers") and understand them, thus why Academy City's population is so unbalanced.
Our main heroine is Mikoto Misaka, a student of Tokiwadai Middle School, and one of only seven Level 5 espers in the entire city, her esper power being an "Electromaster", or in simple terms, being able to manipulate or produce vast amounts of electricity. She has earned the nickname "Railgun", probably because of her tendency to flick a coin into the air, and launch it with a controlled beam of electricity that is usually capable of settling whatever problem she may have.
The plot revolves around the daily adventures of Misaka, her roommate Kuroko Shirai, and their friends Ruiko Saten, a level 0, and Kazari Uiharu who attend a different school. As they proceed with their daily lives, they will begin to uncover a conspiracy about the true purpose of Academy City, and at the same time, stop the ever growing numbers of enemies and factors that seemingly never rest from trying to destroy it. That's a plot I can get behind for the most part, as the story divides its time between several arcs that are usually about some trouble starting to brew in the city, from a gang of esper delinquents or mysterious cases of bombing around the city, and filler that mostly exists to get supporting characters slightly more involved in the narrative and get some breathing room in between the arcs. As I said, this is something I can definitely enjoy, especially when I want to see what crazy esper powers enemies have and how the world can be expanded from the premise, but Railgun, bless its heart, as it frequently switches from filler to plot, forgets to put anything really substantial in either.
The main problem is the show's own writing, in the fact that it just isn't very good. So, I watched dub admittedly, but even if maybe some dialouge is switched around, the story will still follow the same basic structure right? Yes, it will, and the stories Railgun provides for the most part aren't great. You can usually predict how most arcs will end, and usually the arcs themselves are very basic in the way they progress and are structured. It doesn't help there's always at least one piece of dialouge that's worthy of a groan every episode, and no really tension exists since Railgun is undoubtedly not trying to be an overly-dark or serious show. Sure, it has its moments, but for the most part, you can practically guarantee that everything will work out in the end, all the characters will get out unscathed, and even in the darkest hour, the power of friendship will prevail. It's a shame too, because considering the promising premise, some good writing really would've shined here, as seen in A Certain Scientific Railgun S. The filler is pretty bad too, there's really not a lot there, mostly cliches without much character development, and considering how much filler there is in the series, about half of the episodes, it begins to become a problem really fast. And I'm not saying that there is an inherit problem with filler per say, but what I do have problems with is filler that doesn't accomplish anything. Look, I know it is called "filler" after all, but I still think that down-time of a story should be dedicated the developing characters or parts of the world that the main plot doesn't have time for. I mean, consider an anime like Bakemonogatari, an anime that practically is 90% filler, but uses nearly all of that time to develop its amazing characters, so when something sort of resembling a plot does kick in, there's all the more reason to care.
It's not all bad however. I usually have a problem with anime with an arc format with filler in between, because as seen in the original Fate/stay night, the tonal identity of the anime suffers, as it switches too far often between light-hearted filler and plot. Railgun, on the other hand, is able to keep a consistent tone throughout, and whether the characters are having a beach episode, or the plot dips into something actually quite dark, it never feels unjustified. Also, the pacing and structure is actually quite exceptional. Yes, I'm still complaining about the basic structure of any given arc, but the structure of the entire shows fits together quite well. And if we were to continue this extended structure metaphor, the parts of the story all fit together to form a complete picture. There's definitely a sense of escalation in the plot, and every arc plays at least a little bit of a part in the bigger picture. This means by the time we reach the finale, and Misaka is fighting mech suits on a highway, it's easy to see how we got here from the beach episode, which is definitely a positive. However, if I were to pick the high point of the entire series, I still think the mid-season finale was kind of awesome, in both execution and the fact that a lot of things were going down and I thought it was cool.
It's still not great, the main plot that is, but I'd say it is passable but nothing special. Whatever plot-points or themes the plot does bring up for the most part have been done better in some other anime, and while that's not necessarily a deal-breaker, it's a problem. I do like the plot, and it's probably the best part of this otherwise average show, but I find it hard to give it too much credit.
We're moving onto characters now, and I will say I really like our main character Mikoto Misaka, because she is pretty awesome. The problem is, I can't tell you why. A Certain Scientific Railgun mostly just establishes her character while Railgun S develops her in all kind of awesome ways, so saying why I like her character might spoil some things I would prefer you weren't spoiled about. So, I'll just give you her surface personality. Misaka, despite being one of the strongest espers in Academy City, isn't arrogant about it, though that isn't too say she doesn't know just how powerful she is in comparison to other espers. She's a little hot-headed, which is good in the way that she will try to end a battle as quickly and effectively as possible by using her superior power to protect her friends. However, it's bad in the way that she's quick to anger, and usually tries to solve every problem by firing a electricity beam at it. It is in this way that her fights between enemies becomes a little more even, so she doesn't seem overpowered in the story compared to others, at least usually. She's also one who tries to accomplish everything herself, and even gets into dangerous situations when there's really no need to, though that might be just an excuse for the anime so it can get an arc initiated. As I said, most of her development is saved for Railgun S, but looking at her character from the first season exclusively, I'd say she stands out fairly on her own, and feels a little different from most main protagonists, which I'm grateful for.
As for Misika's roommate Kuroko(and the rest of the cast actually), she doesn't hold up as well. Besides from her personality trait of constantly perving after Misaka, there's not a whole lot to her. She's a member of Judgement, a sort of student run police force, which allows her to show off her more serious side. It is also through Judgement that allows Misaka and the rest of the cast to get involved in the plot, as they help Kuroko and Judgement stop whatever thing is terrorizing the city. The only thing I'll give Kuroko, besides that she is kind of annoying, is that she is undoubtedly the person who knows Misaka the best, and is usually the first to scold Misaka at her tendency to rush into situations without thinking.
The problem I have with Saten is that she is kind of useless. At first, I thought her role would be to be, despite not having any esper powers, the voice of reason and intelligence. But she's not really that either. She's just kind of... yeah useless. And as for her friend Uiharu, I don't really have much to say about her either. And that is a big flaw when nearly all of your main cast is sort of under-developed, and a big reason why you'll see the number you do at the end of this review.
Luckily, the rather large supporting cast pick up a bit of the slack. From the members of the actual police force Antiskill, to Misaka's classmates, to the various adversaries that our main characters meet along the way, everyone has something to bring to the show. Hell, even the main character from A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou will show up occasionally, and usually have very amusing interactions with Misaka, bringing up her well hidden tsundere trait for all to see. He's mostly just there as fan-service(the other kind) however, not really contributing to the main plot besides from one occasion, but rather distantly mention side-characters from Index and so on. The standout however, is Dr. Kiyama Harumi, who is probably the most well developed character in the show, at least in season 1. I can't tell you her exact role in the plot due to spoilers, but her motivation and personality are really well defined. I also like how she is just a little "out of it", sometimes asking off-topic questions or not reacting to situations in the way a normal person would.
.C Staff have always been consistently good with their animation, but if I had to say, A Certain Scientific Railgun is probably one of their best works. The futuristic aesthetic they've given Academy City looks crisp and clear, and there is plenty of nice backgrounds to go along with it. Speaking of backgrounds, occasionally you'll see these wide sweeping shots of the city sky-line, and you can tell the effort that the production company have put into them; you could take a snapshot and put it as your wallpaper they look so nice. Fight scenes between espers, especially fights with Misaka are always cool to watch, but even ones without her, J.C Staff usually find a way to make it interesting to look at, and all around, everything is awesome, except maybe the character designs, which while original, never really did much for me, but that's a nitpick. And it only gets better, as I think I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Railgun S has the best animation that I've seen J.C Staff produce.
I've been listening to the OST the entire time I've been writing this review, and I hardly even registered it. The music, done by Maiko Iuchi, sounds very bland and uninteresting, filled to the brim with all the slice-of-life jingles you've heard a million times before. And yes, there is music to compliment the more serious parts of the series, but it's nothing worth listening to twice. The only thing I'll give on the music side of things is that the both OP's, and the first ED of the anime are rather nice, and have good animation to boot. There's also two songs: "memory of snow" and "Late in autumn" done by the band "fripside", that are rather serene and calming, and at least beat out the counterparts by Iuchi on the OST that seek to achieve the same feelings. And even if some voices are annoying, I can speak well for the dub.
Despite all the flack I've had to say about this show(and I had a lot), I'm glad I was introduced to this franchise. There's a lot to like, and a lot to dislike, so ultimately it just settles around average, but it is enjoyable, with hints of actual quality spread thin throughout the series. If I had to give only one compliment to A Certain Scientific Railgun, or even the whole Index franchise as a whole, I'd say it is highly approachable. I think at least everyone can find something to like here, with the well balanced genres of comedy, action and scfi-fi. That's not something I can say for just any anime, so well done Railgun on being able to achieve at least that. At the end of the day however, I'd say go watch Railgun even if you can see yourself only moderately liking it. There is not a lot of franchises that get better as they go on, and while it's true that I can speak for both seasons of Index yet, I can for Railgun, and there's nothing much better than a steady rise of quality in a show. So yeah, both seasons, I ultimately recommend it. Go see them guys.
Final Verdict: 6/10
P.S: Never trust anyone with a lab-coat.
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