"A Certain Scientific Railgun" TV Anime Review

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun/とある科学の超電磁砲(レールガン)
A Certain Scientific Railgun Anime Review

*SPOILERS BELOW!*

A Certain Scientific RailgunI was trying to think back to when I first heard of A Certain Scientific Railgun, but I’m not quite sure when that was.  I first mentioned it in the blog during my Pizza Hut and anime article. (As an aside, Pizza Hut managed to get a big cameo moment in episode 18, which amused me for some reason.) When Seven Seas licensed the source manga, I found that after two volumes, I was highly intrigued by what I read.  Since the release timetable from Seven Seas is kind of slow, I figured I’d cheat and watch the anime adaptation.

A Certain Scientific RailgunFor those who don’t know, A Certain Scientific Railgun is a canon spinoff manga series of the A Certain Magical Index light novel series. Both are written by KAMACHI Kazuma-sensei, who also apparently played a large role in the construction of the Railgun anime adaptation.  During the process of doing a bit of research after completing the TV series, I was surprised to learn that there was never a Railgun light novel series (which I had thought there was), and that because Kamachi-sensei was involved in the writing of the anime series (and because an anime-only character makes it over to the manga), the anime is considered canon, though there are a few, minor adaptation issues with the Level Upper story arc.

A Certain Scientific RailgunThe story, in brief, centers around a group of four, junior high school girls who live in a large city known as Academy City, which houses numerous schools for people with supernatural powers.  The lead character, MISAKA Mikoto, is known as the “Ace of Tokiwadai” (a middle school) as she is the third most powerful Level 5 esper (Level 5 being the highest level so far and there aren’t many of them) with her power of electricity.

A Certain Scientific RailgunHer younger roommate and good friend, SHIRAI Kuroko, is a Level 4 teleporter who addresses Mikoto as “oneesama” out of great affection, as Kuroko desperately wants to play scissor-scissor with Mikoto. Kuroko is a member of Judgement, a student-filled security force with limited scopes of authority, along with Level 1 esper from Sakugawa Middle School, UIHARU Kazari.  Uiharu’s best friend and fellow schoolmate is the Level 0 SATEN Ruiko, who is soon introduced to Mikoto and Kuroko via Uiharu.

A Certain Scientific RailgunThe first half of the anime is adapted from the original manga series and covers the “Level Upper” story arc, whereby an increase in crime happens throughout the city, caused by some espers enhancing their abilities with what is known as Level Upper without realizing the horrible consequences that are inevitably the result. The second half of the anime are original stories, which were apparently written by Kamachi-sensei and considered canon.  The first of these anime-only arcs are Big Spider, which deals with espers being attacked by a thug gang, and the Poltergeist arc, which picks up certain story threads from the Level Upper arc and brings them to a conclusion.

A Certain Scientific RailgunAlthough the second story of the second half of the anime series allowed Kamachi-sensei to bring a satisfactory conclusion to one of the story threads in the first anime/manga arc, that story goes somewhat over the top. The villain of that story is so cliched, it isn’t even funny. The same can then be said about the battle that rages against the final villain, which screamed “CLICHE” the whole time.  Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t entertained.  I am a sucker for the kind of ending the anime provided where everything ends on a good note, and that helps overcome the cliched aspects. ^_^

A Certain Scientific RailgunThe anime doesn’t just do three, serious story arcs.  As I mentioned, the first story arc came from the manga and took took the scenic route. That scenery allows for the comedy of the series to take a front seat.  The majority of said comedy comes from the Japanese, cliched, homosexual character Kuroko.  It seems that homosexual characters in anime, whether male or female, go crazy in lust for the lead, same-sex, heterosexual character, whom the homosexual character happens to be best friends with.  The heterosexual character spends a great deal of time and effort trying to keep from being raped when their friend loses control.

A Certain Scientific RailgunSo, Kuroko does for the lesbian characters what characters Hanagata from Saber Marionette J and Aburatsubo from Magic User’s Club (to name a couple) did for gay characters.  Hanagata and Aburatsubo spent much of their free time trying to play jackhammer on their friend’s arse while Kuroko spends much of her time trying to play scissor-scissor on Mikoto.  I’ve never found this kind of humor funny, even though I’m guessing most people do.  Because of this, Kuroko loses points with me, though other aspects of her character are pretty good though.

A Certain Scientific RailgunThe other, major humor aspect comes from Mikoto’s rivalry and attraction to KAMIJOU Touma, who is a main character from the A Certain Magical Index series.  Since Touma has some sort of ability to nullify Mikoto’s (and other’s) attacks directed at him, Mikoto feels compelled to keep attacking Touma whenever she sees him in order to regain her pride as a powerful esper, especially since officially, he’s a Level 0.  Unfortunately, Touma mostly disappears from the second half of the anime, removing that comedic element.  It also means that all of the unanswered questions regarding Touma and his abilities remain unanswered.

A Certain Scientific RailgunSpeaking of the Index series, several of the characters from there make cameos in Railgun, including the character of Index, who has a couple of cameos but only one speaking cameo.

One thing that may confuse some viewers of Railgun who’ve not read the manga, read the Index novels, or watched the Index anime are unexplained things that the anime production team assumes viewers will get, such the various Index character cameos. For example, the two main Anti-Skill members have an episode where they are with this little girl, who’s actually an adult. Turns out, she’s a teacher in the Index series.

A Certain Scientific RailgunThe Japanese have been known to make canon stories crossover multiple media formats.  However, the Index/Railgun series may be one of the biggest canon crossover franchise ever created, seeing as how the Index light novels got the ball rolling, then the Railgun manga series took some characters from Index, and seriously expanded upon one story from the light novels.  Now, the Railgun anime expands on things from the manga.

A Certain Scientific RailgunFor example, having read the first two volumes of the manga, I had most of the Level Upper story down.  However, I was still a bit surprised when the anime took that story and fleshed it out more by allowing Mikoto and company more time for the audience to get to know them. As such, Kamachi-sensei has the manga go full speed ahead into the plot, but then uses the anime provide more character development. So, while I certainly enjoyed the manga’s rapid plot advancement, I found myself enjoying the more leisurely stroll the anime provided.

A Certain Scientific RailgunIn the end, the anime is a mostly fun, action-comedy series with strong hints of darkness and a bit of over-the-top moments, both in action, and in comedy.  However, the four main characters are mostly fun to follow as friends and as comrades in adventures, thus making the anime as a whole fun.  As such, and because it contains canonical story parts in it not found anywhere else, I do recommend watching it for sure.

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10 Responses to “"A Certain Scientific Railgun" TV Anime Review”

  1. junior says:

    I’m not familiar with this series, but your mention of Kuroko reminded me of something. It’s not just the same sex “friend” that gets the “rape as comedy” meme. There’s a very definite “Rape is okay when the it’s female on male” trope that pervades a lot of stuff… to the point where it has it’s own page on TV Tropes. And I think that the TV Tropes topic can actually be broadened out to anytime when either one of the elements are present – i.e. the aggressor is female (as is the case here), or the victim is male. The only time it can never ever ever ever be treated as “okay” or “comedy” is when it’s male on female.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t times when the other three pairings are treated with the proper amount of disgust and revulsion. But as you note they also often show up as comedy elements, whereas in real life they’d probably lead to prison time.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    There’s a very definite “Rape is okay when the it’s female on male” trope that pervades a lot of stuff… to the point where it has it’s own page on TV Tropes.

    I don’t think I’ve watched an anime where this was predominate. The closes would probably be GXP, where the girls go above and beyond what happens in TM!R (or, some do at least).

    The only time it can never ever ever ever be treated as “okay” or “comedy” is when it’s male on female.

    Discrimination to be sure. ^_~

  3. arimareiji says:

    “I’ve never found this kind of humor [The heterosexual character spends a great deal of time and effort trying to keep from being raped when their friend loses control] funny, even though I’m guessing most people do. Because of this, Kuroko loses points with me, though other aspects of her character are pretty good though.”

    It’s definitely not just you. I’ve been watching Railgun in the hopes it would be about its title character, and I’m so tired of Kuroko’s nonstop pursuit of Mikoto that I’m about ready to chuck the series midway. As much time as they spend focusing on her antics, it almost seems like they should have named it “A Certain Horny Groper.” (>_< ) If perchance you see this any time in the near future, does it get ANY better? I don’t want to give up on the series just yet, but I really am half-sick of hearing “Oneeee-samaaaaa!” in a voice so forced it sounds like a chicken being strangled.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Almost missed this. ^_^;

      Despite Kuroko’s obsession with Mikoto, she does have redeemable qualities. She has her own powers, and she does care about Mikoto enough to actually be useful when needed. As such, I did like the series overall, but there are a lot more “oneesama” remarks coming since that’s the sole way Kuroko addresses Mikoto.

  4. arimareiji says:

    Thank you for the response… and FWIW, I also feel that she has redeeming qualities. It’s just that to me, the near-constant level of attempted groping so far makes it not worthwhile on balance. (I was hoping to hear it would get better, or at least less constant.)

    I’ll keep trying for another episode or two, but if they have more than a couple of the “Oneeee-samaaaa” mating calls that she lets off just before attacking, it’ll likely be the final straw. (^_^);

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Have you made it through the Level Upper arc? There’s a really good story sometime after, adapted from the manga, showing how Kuroko and Uihara became friends in elementary school and the lessons Kuroko learned during a dangerous situation.

    • arimareiji says:

      I did eventually watch all the way through, and would agree that it was definitely worthwhile. Kuroko’s unrequited… um, voraciousness towards Mikoto, which really was ruining it for me, wasn’t nearly as bad after the first episodes.

      It was cheesy at times, and sometimes verged too far into The Rule of Cool territory… but overall, it had an honest feel to it and did a nice job of tying everything together at the end. And it didn’t bathe in fanservice, as Index II did.

      If anything, probably the only serious fault of the series to me in the end was this: Their emphasis on continuity with Index painted the writers into the corner, so much so that sometimes the episodes felt like “filler” designed not to disrupt the Index universe. Or maybe I’m just grumpy because this meant that they had to rely more on the sidekick characters for story material, instead of Mikoto. (^_~)

      (FWIW, I don’t think I worded it well enough earlier – it wasn’t the honorific onee-sama that bothered me, at all. It was the over-the-top escapades of Kuroko, as exemplified by her screeching out “oneeeee-samaaaaa” just before literally jumping on poor Mikoto. Thus, my mocking it as her “mating call.”)

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      >Their emphasis on continuity with Index painted the writers into the corner, so much so that sometimes the episodes felt like “filler” designed not to disrupt the Index universe. Or maybe I’m just grumpy because this meant that they had to rely more on the sidekick characters for story material, instead of Mikoto. (^_~)

      Well, I can see where you are going. However, having read the manga, I liked how the anime fleshed out things based on Kamichi-sensei’s guidance. As such, the stories in the anime that weren’t in the manga are still considered canon.

      Anyway, glad you got to watch it all. ^_^

    • arimareiji says:

      Just in case you hadn’t heard… apparently they’re working on the second season. (^_^)

      http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2012/10/31-1/first-a-certain-scientific-railgun-s-visual-and-story-information

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Yeah, I’d heard. I’m looking forward to seeing the Sisters Arc animated.

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