While the second installment of the Railgun series picks up almost directly after the conclusion of the first series, A Certain Scientific Railgun S goes for a different kind of approach thematically and in terms of emotional appeal. Overall, there is a larger focus on the troubles of Misaka Mikoto herself. S1 gave a pretty even amount of screen time to all four of our main characters, so she was not put entirely into the spotlight before, but now she leads this show head on following the events that take place during the sisters arc.
The first episode is what one would expect from watching the pilot episode of a returning show. We're given a broad overview of the events that took place before, and a warm up to the characters that were previously introduced. An interesting event that took place was the introduction of the psychic level 5 Misaki, called the Queen of Tokiwadai. She seems like quite the interesting character with enough power to control an entire library full of students. She leaves Misaka with an open-ended threat, hinting at a possibility of a later confrontation. Just from this one episode, we are able to immediately note the positive change in production values. The sky fall scene in the later part of the episode was a pleasure to see given how good the visuals were.
Compared to S1, the art and animation has gotten even more captivating. The shots, angles, and overall direction were things worth marveling at. At times, especially during the sisters arc, the quality of the episodes resembled that of a well directed movie. The background art is always intricate and detailed. The great ost choices also amps up the general intensity and mood of the show.
"What would you do if you suddenly met your clone?" The question is thrown at Misaka, but it is something that is hard to answer truthfully until you actually come face to face with the situation.
The Atmosphere in the sister's arc feels completely different from any of the previous arcs. There is less of the day to day scenario type of feel you get from the first series. There is a lot more buildup and momentum, and the episodes follow in more logical, developed arcs. The transition from episode to episode flows more smoothly and the series is divided primary into two arcs.
Misaka's power is shown to be even more powerful than it appeared to be in the first series. She is able to hack into and control anything electronic which is a pretty op power given the different possibilities you can achieve with that level of utility. In the sister's arc, Misaka distances herself from the other girls and tries to become self-reliant. Now that the background is all set, we are introduced to some of the deeper, more pressing issues of Academy city. The fifth episode of the show deserves my utmost praise because of how well it was adapted. It was one of the most gripping episodes I've seen in the series, and the end sent a chill straight up my spine. I was not entirely expecting the drastic change in tone but it was a pretty pleasant surprise. Accelerator is as intriguing of a character as ever and his voice acting is superb. The entire episode felt like a standalone movie complete with its own unique ending theme. It honestly made me feel an urge to tip my hat to the producers for their excellent work.
Naturally, while a very mentally stressed Misaka is out running around and trying to save the sisters, her friends become very concerned. The ost does bring out some tingling emotions at times. Kuroko's feelings do eventually reach Misaka, but she is still unwilling to drag anyone else into "her mess".
The action scenes throughout the show are seriously well played with smooth, eye opening animation. I rather liked the appearance of tomboy/ponytail Misaka during her raids on the different labs. This is the first time we get to see more of a full out battle between two level 5's of similar skill level, and overall, the battle ended up feeling really solid in production. While the meltdowner does not have some of the utilities that Misaka's power has, her beams are powerful enough to disintegrate most objects on contact. From the battle we can see that esper powers do in fact, have a limit. After using her powers and getting beat around so much, Misaka feels weak in the knees as an aftereffect and is extremely exhausted. I've always wondered why Kuroko didn't teleport around all the time for everything(she complained about running around all day for judgment work), but it makes sense if an overuse of her powers would result in a physical toll. While most espers seem to be lacking in terms of hand-to-hand combat, they do seem to have good reflexes and manage to dodge most things that come their way. ITEM seems like an interesting group of characters to keep around, and I hope to see more of them in the future.
The meeting between Misaka and a memory-less Touma works as a nice change of pace. Misaka's clone has such a cute personality and creates some comedic scenes. As more time passes though, Misaka gets more and more emotional as she accumulates pent up anger. Her breaking down in front of Touma is done with even stronger feelings than in Index given all the buildup. The final battle's action sequences were great as usual and accelerator's personality is as refreshing as ever(those epic screams are pretty nostalgic). Touma's ability feels more mysterious here given the lack of explanation. Just imagine them adapting Index with the same great quality.
While most of the show focuses on the sisters arc, the last 8 episodes focuses on the "silent party" arc. Immediately, there is a return to a more "cute" feel, but it was nice to see the four of them all together again. I don't particularly dislike Haruue, but I was glad to hear that she was moving out because she always felt a little extra in my opinion. There is a 4's a group, 5's a crowd feeling. Kuroko's personality is as strange as ever, and Ruiko's personality is also as interesting as ever. It was pretty amusing when she tried to inquire about the recipient of Misaka's cookies. Academy city seems like such a great place to live. There seems to be just the right amount of danger, security, and excitement.
With the new arc, Misaka finally decides to consult with her friends about the new issues. It is a bit sudden, but it's tied in with the plot I guess, especially since it was impossible for her to do so during the sisters arc. In a nutshell, this arc is about the group trying to save Febri, a tiny artifical loli girl who sustains her life off lollipops. Apparently esper compatibility is mostly determined from birth(the case with little Misaka proves this), and they are able to tell very early on whether or not you can be a powerful esper. There seem to be a lot of bonker scientists in academy city who are affiliated with the "underground of academy city". As usual, they are portrayed as skill-outs who crave power. The issue here is pretty coincidental but understandable given that it is an anime original arc. I had mixed thoughts watching this arc but it wasn't too bad of a watch.
While it was interesting to see so much of academy city united(people and resources) for the final arc, the fight is dragged out for a pretty long time. The mass fight wasn't bad but it had substantially less intensity compared to previous fights. Similar to S1, it seems that the producers have a habit of continuously playing the opening themes throughout the final battles. My final thought on this arc would be that it was not nearly as "dark" as they had tried to make it sound with phrases like "I ask you once again, are you sure you want to face the darkness of this city?"
The show ends with some pretty nice closing scenes complete with all of the characters introduced throughout. Overall, the show is fairly action-packed complete with stunning visuals. There's never a dull moment in this city after all.
My score: very good 8/10