When science and magic collide, season three will be delayed even more.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Check out Tarabisu’s Season 1 DVD review!
What do you do when you have a successful light novel series with a plethora of popular female characters all interested in the protagonist to some degree? Make a spin-off manga (and anime) dedicated to the most popular one of course! Broadcasted originally in 2009, how does Railgun compare? Moarpowah’s Inverseman says to let the experiments begin!
A Certain Scientific Railgun chronicles the adventures of resident tsundere Mikoto Misaka and her friends in the esper haven known as Academy City sometime before the main events of A Certain Magical Index really kick off. If you’re already familiar with the Index light novels and anime, you already know what to expect; you’re in for a smattering of lighthearted shenanigans and a deus ex machina plothole filled story papered over with waifus with generally decent characterization.
If you came for a deep story that will challenge you, you’re probably in the wrong place. The plotline is rather predictable, and without dipping into spoilers you’d think a simple database background check in a city of science would solve half the problems of the main story. However, it’s the likable characters that will keep you in, should you be invested, but you’ll have to look closely.
Whereas Kamijou from Index was bland and boring, it seems Misaka has channeled some of his generic persona, and being the most powerful character doesn’t help her either. Though Misaka shines much more during more of the aforementioned hilarious shenanigans, typically induced by the lustful Shirai, and whenever Kamijou makes a cameo appearance to unintentionally get on her nerves, which already makes her an upgrade of a protagonist. The real character showstoppers are the far less powerful but far more relatable Saten and Uiharu, who undergo far more deep character development over the course of the series. Seeing two near-powerless characters come to terms with their weakness and finding strength made their stories far more compelling than the tales of the Level 4 and 5 espers.
The plotline to Index was a general mess, and while Railgun doesn’t make it Academy Award winning, there is plenty of improvement to be had. The storyline is far more consistent, and while slice-of-life antics go on, there is an underlying plot stringing them together. Even characters you may write off as one-off will keep coming back, which is a fantastic touch. I’m probably more lenient with this story than our other reviewer Trabisu, perhaps because I’ve sat through the decidedly B-rating Index and that this looks better by comparison.
The first half of the season is excellent and ends in a satisfying bang that leaves a healthy foreshadowing for Index season 3 should it ever be adapted. After that first half though, the show takes a well-deserved break from the action, but this break ends up lasting from about episodes 13 all the way until the final four episodes, which makes the third-quarter of the show rather weak. While the final arc does weave in most of the plotlines from these six or seven episodes as well as from the first episodes, you’ll feel left in the dark until the payout happens instead of being led on a steady ride of excitement.
In addition to a weaker mid-season, Railgun has another more serious issue, the fact that it’s a spin-off. The most enthralling moments in the series came during the most plot-heavy arcs, which is great, but you won’t be as attached to them if you haven’t seen or at least have a coffee-table knowledge of Index and the world. Without spoiling, there were two critical plot moments in Railgun that had me on the edge of my seat, knowing how these moments would later impact Index and affect its cast. Yet if I had not seen Index prior, the story would have still been a more generic unanswered sci-fi with a curious world of jargon. The barrage of cameos from the Index cast is a nice treat, but ultimately, this is all for the fans but impenetrable for anyone who already can’t tolerate a certain Gary Stu’s invincible right hand. Just expect a certain bug zapper’s power to act similarly.
J.C Staff’s animation isn’t particularly bad but isn’t going to be winning awards either, and the soundtrack receives an “alright” from me. The dub is rather fitting as well, but more of the better casting is left to the main heroines. The DVDs also come with commentaries too. The production as a whole doesn’t push any barriers, if at all, so I don’t have too much to say.
In the end, my recommending of Railgun depends on your opinion of Index. If you disliked Index greatly, you’re not likely going to be convinced, but if you already like Index and wanted to see more of the female cast solve mysteries you’ll enjoy it. I’d treat Railgun more as an extra for fans in the end. It’s a particularly delightful chocolate-dipped cherry on top of a rather okay sundae, but you still have to eat the rest of it, and the cherry isn’t that great that you would eat it alone, just slightly better. I give Railgun an average score of 4.0, a “B” grade. Join me next time when I drink gallons of milk in one sitting.
– Stronger story than Index
– Overall better developed cast
– Hooks to Index make for real “ah-ha” moments
– Series relies on the viewer being invested in the Index series
– Weak mid-season
– Still has Index‘s faults of predictable story and plotholes
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