A Certain Scientific Railgun Vol. 02 Manga Review

とある科学の超電磁砲(レールガン)/Toaru Kagaku no Railgun
A Certain Scientific Railgun Vol. 02 (manga) 

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SPOILER Summary/Synopsis:  

A Certain Scientific Railgun Vol. 02Mikoto and Kuroko meet with the eccentric Kiyama-sensei as the investigation of Level Upper continues. Saten finds the music file Level Upper, but ends up not saying anything to Urihara or the others. Saten encounters some thugs beating on a guy who didn’t have enough money to buy a copy of Level Upper and ends up trying to help despite her fear. Kuroko arrives as a Judgement representative and takes out the thug leader’s followers, but the thug leader cannot be hit for some reason. Kuroko retreats to an abandoned building scheduled for demolition after taking a beating and ends up destroying the building by teleporting panes of glass into the support pillars, thus defeating the juiced up thug leader and taking him into custody.

Saten encounters some of her other friends from school, all of whom are talking of Level Upper. As such, Saten decides to share her discovery and sure enough, all experience a higher level of power, including the Level 0 Saten.  Days later, Uihara treats the injured Kuroko, who’s been dealing with the rise in Level Upper events. Mikoto drops by to see what’s going on with the investigation and leads Kuroko to the conclusion Mikoto had come to — Level Upper works by stimulating multiple senses as once, otherwise known as synesthesia.

Saten calls Uihara, confessing that she has used Level Upper and that one of their friends is now unconscious. She knows that she’ll soon fall asleep as well. Uihara races to Saten’s place and does her best to comfort Saten. By the time she gets to Saten’s home, Saten is unconscious. Mikoto and Kuroko visit another doctor, who has some answers on why people using Level Upper are going unconscious while Uihara goes to visit Kiyama-sensei regarding the possibility of synesthesia.  While at Kiyama-sensei’s office, Uihara notices papers showing Kiyama-sensei has been working on a synesthesia project while Kuroko and Mikoto are shown documents that Kiyama-sensei’s brainwaves are what the unconscious people’s brain waves are being changed to.

After getting an explanation on how Level Upper would mentally network people’s brains together, thus allowing them a temporary increase in powers, the results end up with their brain waves matching Kiyama-sensei.  Kuroko and Mikoto realize that Uihara is in danger and go after her, summoning Anti-skill forces as well. Kiyama-sensei takes Uihara hostage and drives away, but is soon trapped. However, when she gets out of her car, she shows how she has access to the powers of everyone in her mental network, thus she easily dispatches the Anti-skills squad sent to stop her. Mikoto arrives and challenges Kiyama-sensei. While Mikoto being a Level 5 helps her greatly, the sheer number of powers at Kiyama-sensei’s disposal ends up overwhelming Mikoto.

Thoughts/Review:

I have to say that A Certain Scientific Railgun has pleasantly surprised me in terms of being both fun, but also in terms of having a story that I find interesting.  Volume 2 shifts things away from the more fun aspects as Mikoto and Touma only have one, comedic encounter. I did notice a reference to magic during their encounter, which I’m assuming is a nod to the Index story.  Maybe we’ll get a chance to officially look at that as well.

Now that the secret of Level Upper is revealed, suddenly the bomber guy always wearing headphones takes on a whole new meaning. I figured he was just channeling Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion.  Now I know better. ^_~

I liked how Saten ended up doing the right thing by trying to help the guy taking a beating by the thugs. Of course, it also worked to help her take the plunge into Level Upper, but it does take a great deal of courage to stand up and do the right thing even when it means you could get hurt.  While I’ve no doubt that Saten will be OK in the end, I would like it if she managed to keep some sort of ability after the Level Upper story is over.

Kuroko continues to be a much better character than I would have expected based on what little I’d seen of her in the anime imagery (clips and pictures).  While she still has moments of wanting to “scissor” her “oneesama,” she doesn’t come off as all obsessed about Mikoto to the detriment of all else. The story of Kuroko battling the thug who could alter perceptions allowed Kuroko to shine, even as she took a beating in the process. Should Kuroko ever become a Level 5, she would truly be a fearsome force with her teleporting abilities.

Despite everything, Kiyama-sensei isn’t the archetype “evil” character that one might expect. She is someone who puts her research above all else and I actually believe her when she says she would release everyone unharmed once her experiment is over. Of course, that doesn’t make what she’s doing no less evil, IMO.  There’s also the unintended consequences that may emerge after the experiment is over. The folks in her human network might be scarred for life, but since Kiyama-sensei believes the ends justifies the means, nothing else matters.

Still, she does make an interesting point about how this Academy City and the push to have psychics with growing powers may in fact have a dark side to it as well.  I hadn’t even thought about that, but it would make for something interesting to delve into after the Level Upper storyline is done.

As an aside, I did get a chuckle at the 4-koma strips at the end of the volume which featured Kiyama-sensei.

On the Seven Seas side, Japanese honorifics are all here, which is good. No translator notes are provided, which is a bummer.  I already mentioned that the two, 4-koma strips are included as are notes from original author Kamachi-sensei and Kogino-sensei, whom I think is the artist for the manga adaptation of A Certain Magical Index.  A preview of Amazing Agent Jennifer is also included.

After two volumes, I find myself really interested in the story of Railgun and look forward to picking up the next volume at the end of February.

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