Ah, so you have returned I see. Well, welcome once again to the archive. This week I, the curator, have quite a good series for you to consider taking a look at. The series name is To aru Kagaku no Railgun and what a fun, bombastic series this is.
To aru Kagaku no Railgun, A Certain Scientific Railgun, is a spin off manga and anime series from the series To aru Majutsu no Index, A Certain Magical Index. To aru Kagaku no Railgun was produced by J.C.Staff and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai, a man who has worked on such series as both seasons of Honey and Clover, Chobits, Witch Hunter Robin, Ninja Scroll, and the relatively recent hit series, and one of my favorites, Toradora! Returning to To aru Kagaku no Railgun, the series originally aired in Japan from January to August of 2010 with an OVA, original video animation, coming out in October of the same year. Funimation has just announced it has obtained the license for both Index and Railgun, which I am ecstatic about. I will be sure to come back and talk about Index sometime in the future… depending on how long it actually takes for me to sit down and watch the series.
The setting of To aru Kagaku no Railgun is a pretty fun one. We find ourselves in Academy City, an entire metropolis dedicated to the study and training of super human individuals and their powers. These super humans are often referred to as Espers or Power Users and are ranked according to their abilities. Level zeros are people with no power; level one has people with power but nothing too impressive, and so on so forth. As you rise through the ranks, you eventually reach rank five where, currently, only seven people stand.
With several hundred power users in one location, a few are undoubtedly going to stir up some trouble. This is where Judgment comes into play, a student run organization which works with local police forces to take down and nullify disruptive power users. However, recently Judgment’s job has become tougher and much more deadly as renegade powers users have some how gotten stronger. With rumors of a mysterious thing known as a “Level Upper” going around, could our heroines be getting in too deep?
And when I say heroines, I mean heroines. The four main characters of this series are girls, which gives this series a unique twist that I will discuss in just a bit. Our central character is Misaka Mikoto, one of seven level five power users in Academy City. Her electric powers usually take the form of a railgun when she flicks coins at her enemies… yes, this girl can kill you with a penny. Next is Kuroko Shirai, a level four, teleportation power user who is a member of Judgment. Her partner, Kazari Uihara, is a low-level power user who typically acts as support, giving Kuroko directions and tactical information. Lastly is Ruiko Saten, a level zero with a kind heart and a great amount of courage. I really have to say, I like all of these characters. Each of them is multifaceted and handles situations presented to them as a normal girl would. Misaka tends to act tsundere, feeling she has to hide her love of cute, girly things because of the expectations people have of a level five. However, this is used just enough to be funny, but not enough to where you are beaten over the head with it, as is often the case. My only really problem I have with these main characters is with Kuroko. This character is fun to watch when she is in combat, warping all around, throwing needles, you get a real sense for why she is in Judgment. Yet, outside of Judgment her character often descends into the perverted friend stereotype. In the first episode, she and Misaka are taking showers in the girls’ locker room and suddenly, Kuroko warps into Misaka’s shower and starts feeling her up. This and other tactics Kuroko uses tend to just drag the story down and really take away from what would be an insightful, cool character. One could make the argument that this makes her human because she has perverted desires like normal humans, yet I challenge you to find someone who, if they had teleportation powers, would go around warping off their best friend’s underwear… considering the audience I am writing to, that might be easier than I first imagined.
This problem with the characters aside, To aru Kagaku no Railgun is a beautiful anime. The coloring is bright and warm, yet goes dark and shadowy when situations call for it. The music also plays to the atmosphere of the show. A really catchy theme brings viewers in, while fight scenes have bombastic techno fun. Serious scenes get a range of songs, and you have that typical fun music for the slice of life aspects of the show. Overall the music does what it needs to do to make the series exceptional.
Before I move into the negatives of the series, which I do have a one, I want to talk about one thing To aru Kagaku no Railgun gives anime fans. One of the things that really divides most anime is the division of Shonen and Shojo, essentially boy and girl anime. Shonen is your Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Naruto, Gundam etc. Shojo is your girly, slice of life, cute series such as Fruits Basket and Cardcaptor Sakura. To aru Kagaku no Railgun is one of the few series I have seen that bridges the gap between these two ideas. With awesome visuals, characters going into battle with other power users, and general awesome things occurring on a regular basis, boys can easily find something they can latch onto. However, with the series dominated by female characters several episodes do occur where the characters have deep conversations, girly moments, and adorable fun times. Yet it does not end there. To aru Kagaku no Railgun gives us noticeably one if not arguably several strong, female role models, something that both sexes can study and appreciate.
As much as I have praised To aru Kagaku no Railgun, everything in life must face the grindstone and though what I am about to point out is minor in probably every aspect, it is still something I feel must be pointed out. I have to say, the thing that really bugs me about To aru Kagaku no Railgun is how it sometimes crowbars in To aru Majutsu no Index. Yes this is petty, but it disrupts the flow of the narrative and therefore hurts the story. For example, during one of the episodes, the girls talk about urban legends and the subject of a boy with the power to cancel out power user abilities. Misaka eventually stumbles across Touma, the main character of Index and the boy with the power to cancel out abilities. After some conversation, Misaka and Touma fight and eventually end with Misaka chasing Touma after he tried to fake losing. Now, along with the narrative, this was used to introduce the main characters to the rumor of the “Level Upper” however, I feel this connection could have been made without having Misaka and Touma fight for no real reason. This time could have been better spent on discussion, or character development, or something more important than a meaningless fight which just served to plant a giant neon sigh which reads, “HEY FANS, THESE SERIES ARE CONNECTED. LOOK, LOOK, DO YOU SEE!?!” The connection could have easily been made by just referencing the rumor of the man with power nullification and maybe flashing to Touma sneezing or something. Simple, easy, and does not disrupt the series individuality. However, this is a minor thing so it does not matter too terribly much.
To aru Kagaku no Railgun is a very good series with memorable characters, good music and artwork, and a plot with some serious intrigue and funny moments. As I said above, both To aru Majutsu no Index and To aru Kagaku no Railgun have been licensed by Funimation so do expect to see them in America sometime in 2011. Be on the look out for this wonderful series. Well I think that is all the time we have today. Thank you for stopping by the Archive and do come again.