For my latest review, I delve into another popular show: A Certain Scientific Rail Gun. My hope with this was that it lived up to the hype better than Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan did.
Background: Produced by JC Staff Co Ltd (Slayers), this anime is based on Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa’s Dengeki Daioh serialised manga and is a spin-off from their earlier series, ‘A Certain Magical Index’.
The story is set in Academy City, a futuristic place where 80% of the citizens are students, most of whom are physic power wielding espers. The lead is Mikoto Misaka, a young girl who uses electricity based powers, and is the third strongest of the seven espers to have reached level five in power. Joining her in this tale are her friend Kuroko Shirai, Kazari Uiharu and Ruiko Saten.
The Good: I’m going to start off by heaping some praise of the main characters here. Three of the main quartet are actually very good for a variety of reasons. When I read about her high power levels, I honestly expected Mikoto Misaka to be a bit of a Mary Sue. Instead, what I got was a well-rounded character that, while extremely powerful, was full of realistic faults and worries. In particular, I found her self conscious streak about her love of childish things to be a wonderfully human touch.
Kazari Uiharu is perhaps of less interest, but has a very sweet nature that comes across well throughout the 24 episodes and ends up firmly in the ‘likeable’ column. Finally, we have Ruiko Saten. Having no visible power, she is the least powerful of the main four and as a result suffers from envy of the others (this in itself becomes an important plot point later on in the series). She has by far the cheekiest personality of the leads and in many ways I thought the she came across as the glue holding the group together.
The action in the show can perhaps be over a little quickly if you’re used to the multiple episode spanning battles of most Shōnen series, but that doesn’t stop it being of a high standard. By combining some high quality animation with some flashy visuals, Railgun manages to create really dynamic feeling battles, which gives a nice big tick in the plus column for me.
Story-wise, the overarching storyline seeps in nicely and builds up to taking centre stage part way through the series, leading up to a decent finale. I was also happy to note that not having seen or read ‘A Certain Magical Index’ did not affect my ability to follow or enjoy the show. A spin-off it may be, but Railgun is clearly its own beast.
The Bad: While of a good quality, neither the story nor the animation is perfect. The faults are nothing to get too upset about though, and so they don’t really fit as definite negatives. There is one major thing that prevents from giving this series a higher score though. You may have noted up above that I did not mention the positives of Kuroko Shirai. This is because she was, in all honesty, a blight on the series for me.
So why is she such a major negative for me? Is it her teleportation power? Nope, that’s all good. In fact, she uses said power in quite a cool way. Could it be her character design? Nope, while nothing special it’s not overly bad. My issue is more to do with her conduct. She has a major crush on her roommate (Mikoto Misaka no less). This is obviously not an issue in itself. I am myself Bisexual or Pansexual (depending on your definition). I also include many same sex relationships in my own fiction, most recently taking great care to portray the relationship between Fahrn and her partner Maria in my novels WICK and CARNIVAL. No, my issue is not that she has a lesbian crush, but how she goes about expressing this. I’m talking a variety of stalking, plotting, jealousy, random groping, jumping her target and so on … all the while ignoring that Mikoto has made it quite clear that she is not interested. This is no doubt meant to be funny, but in all honesty all it does is propagate negative lesbian stereotypes.
To add to that, Kuroko’s perve assaults often lead to one of my least parts of anime: focal fan service. Right down to a scene where she sneaks in Mikoto’s shower. While this reduces considerably by about half way through the series, it absolutely plagues the early episodes. Had the rest of the show not been so strong, I would have given up by episode four on that basis alone.
Subbed or Dubbed: I caught the dubbed version of the show, not the subbed, so I can’t offer a comparison. All four leads are treated well by their VA’s but if I had to pick, I’d say that Mikoto and Ruiko stand out above Kuroko and Kazari.
Final View: This was an enjoyable series that was dragged down by negative stereotyping and unnecessary fan service. If you can look past that however, there’s plenty of fun to be had here, and it’s definitely worth a recommendation for that.
Final Score: 3.75 / 5