A Certain Scientific Railgun is an anime series set in the same universe as A Certain Magical Index. The show takes place in the technologically advanced Academy City, which is predominately populated by students. It’s a bit like Cambridge then, with the only difference being that Academy City’s undergraduates are blessed with supernatural powers whilst Cambridgeshire is packed with bicycle riding tax dodgers. Protagonist Mikoto Misaka is a mighty esper who can turn loose change into a deadly weapon, courtesy of her ability to manipulate electrical currents. Despite being a pupil at Tokiwadai Middle School, Mikoto sometimes assists law enforcement with their criminal investigations.
One thing that shocked me (and I am not commenting on Mikoto’s aptitude for controlling electricity) about this series is the lack of action featured in season one’s twenty-four episodes. The storylines are more skewed towards slice of life comedy rather than Mikoto zapping evildoers, which is a little disappointing. Scientific Railgun excels when the heroine is allowed to unleash her might upon a worthy adversary – pity then that viewers have to wade through a lot of goofy filler to reach those moments. The adolescent antics of the cast can be amusing at times, but for the most part they pale in comparison to other funnier animes.
Perhaps the humour failed to make an impression on me, as I found the show’s characters to be a little bland. Writer Kazuma Kamachi’s idea of injecting personality into his creations is limited to giving each person one distinctive quirk. Mikoto for example is a generic tomboy who has an embarrassing admiration for anything cute (be it floral PJs or amphibian mascots.) The same applies to the likes of Ruiko Saten and Kuroko Shirai. Ruiko is little more than a plain schoolgirl. How can we spice her up? I know! Make her tease classmate Kazari Uiharu by lifting up her skirt at inopportune times! The sexual harassment doesn’t stop there however. Kuroko, the pigtailed teleporter, has an unhealthy infatuation on Mikoto. She gropes Mikoto’s breasts on several occasions and even tries drugging her with an aphrodisiac in one episode!
My rating for A Certain Scientific Railgun is three stars. It’s a mildly entertaining show that never manages to live up to its potential. The highlight of the series, for me, was the story arc that runs between episodes six to twelve. The tale revolves around an MP3 tune that can augment the power of any esper that listens to it. The catch? Prolonged use can put listeners into a coma (much like what happens to me when I hear Justin Bieber sing) The story did a good job of developing Ruiko’s character and concluded with an exhilarating showdown. When the scheme’s mastermind is eventually revealed I couldn’t help but sympathize with their motivations… so much so that I wanted them to triumph over Mikoto’s banal band of do-gooders.
It’s a shame that the series didn’t have more moments of brilliance like that. The best we get is a finale that recycles many ideas from the story arc I previously praised (they even copy the twist of Mikoto getting betrayed by an attractive female ally.) The highway-based battle we are treated to in episode twenty-four is visually impressive so kudos to JC Staff for their quality animation. What a pity then that the show’s high production values are mostly wasted on story light episodes that only register mild chortles. Humour is a subjective thing, but you know something is amiss when a lesbian turns me off. Seriously, Kuroko’s yuri desires get really tiresome. Her actions would earn most people jail time, yet we are expected to believe that she is an officer of the law. Mikoto probably wears shorts under her skirt to protect her nether regions from Kuroko’s amorous advances.
Supposedly A Certain Scientific Railgun is superior to the series it spawned from. Based on this mediocre showing, if anyone asks me to watch Railgun’s predecessor I will simply respond by waving my “index” finger at them.