A Certain Scientific Railgun

“Every scientific truth goes through three stages. First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had been discovered before. Lastly they say they always believed in it.” – Louis Agassiz 

Having reviewed A Certain Magical Index a few weeks ago, I realize that it has only been a short amount of time for its spin-off series to also be released by Animatsu. This is a series that differs in certain respects to most spin-offs, in that it is as good as the original, and, some would argue, is even better.

A Certain Scientific Railgun focuses on the character Mikoto Misaka, one of the most powerful espers in Academy City. She is one of just seven espers to be ranked at the top “Level 5”, and has the power to control electricity. Her signature move is to flick coins which then act as super-fast bullets, hence her nickname “Railgun”.

As well as the series primarily being about Misaka, it also follows her friends. Besides Misaka there is also her flatmate Shirai Kuroko, a member of Judgement – the organisation that helps to control the peace of Academy City. Kuroko’s esper ability allows her to teleport. However, Kuroko’s main passion is for Misaka, to the point of complete and utter lusting for her, as well as being jealous of anyone getting close to her.

Elsewhere there is Uiharu Kazari, a minor level esper who is usually always seen wearing a flower crown in her hair, and also works for Judgement, mainly using her skill with computers. There is also Uiharu’s best friend Saten Ruiko, a Level 0 esper with no skill at all, who is seemingly desperate to find a way of boosting her skills.

While most of the stories appear to be stand-alone tales, eventually longer-running stories appear. Saten comes across some urban legends, learning about a device called “Level Upper” which allows anyone to boost their esper abilities quickly, and, not surprisingly, Saten is keen to find it, even after she learns that it is illegal to do so. She also comes across another legend about a woman who seems to suddenly strip in public. Misaka encounters this woman, Kiyama Harumi, and as the story rolls along, we discover that she is connected to the mysterious Level Upper, which begins to spread and have a horrifying effect on the users, but perhaps not as horrifying as earlier experiments that Harumi was forced to carry out. 

Between Magical Index and Scientific Railgun, I think that I prefer this series, the spin-off, out of the two. The main reason for this is that Railgun is a funnier show. It should be pointed out however that a fair bit of the humour comes from fan-service, so this may put off some viewers. However, the creative team seem to get the balance right. The funniest moments come from Kuroko and her many attempts to woo Misaka. There are sequences in which Uihara and Saten go through Kuroko’s kinky underwear including some all-body fishnets, while Misaka is embarrassed by her own rather cute underwear.

Misaka’s fondness for cuteness, especially for a particular frog mascot, is a particular recurring gag in the show. There are also some more highbrow gags. There are scenes that reference the films Casablanca and 2001: A Space Odyssey. As well as this, there are also enjoyable side stories involving the shows minor characters. 

In terms of down points, the music is not that exciting, and some of the plots seem a bit badly written. For example, one features a monster that threatens to attacks a rather conveniently located nuclear reactor. Also the character who is revealed to be the central villain comes across as stereotypically evil rather than anything more subtle. Extras are also somewhat limited, consisting of some episode commentaries, textless opening and closing sequences, and trailers.

A Certain Scientific Railgun shows that a good idea can also lead to some better ideas. Compared to Magical Index‘s more serious tone, this is an entertaining series.

8 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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