A Certain Scientific Railgun

A Certain Scientific Railgun Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Sci-Fi / Slice Of Life
Vintage: 2009

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 13 Jan 2014

Grade: A

A series which gathers many of the things I like most in my anime all into one place.

Plot Summary
Academy City, the education center for espers – young people who possess special abilities – has a population consisting mostly of students. Due to this, many functions which keep the city running are administered by its young residents, including law enforcement. An organization known as Judgment is one of these law enforcement agencies, and Tokiwadai Middle School student Kuroko Shirai is a part of Judgment. Kuroko’s roommate Mikoto Misaka is a celebrity of not only the school but also the entire city. Mikoto is one of the most powerful espers in the city, and her control of electromagnetism has earned her the nickname of “Railgun”. When a string of attacks threatens the city, Judgment begins to investigate, and much to Kuroko’s chagrin, Mikoto is insistent on taking matters into her own hands.

The Review
There are times I am good at discovering a new series I’ll enjoy with little to no prior knowledge of what it is about, and then there’s A Certain Scientific Railgun. I was initially drawn to this series by merely seeing the cover art for the first volume of the manga. I really liked the character design, and it had an intriguing title. At this writing, I still don’t have the manga, but if the anime is any indication, I need to remedy that as soon as possible.

As far as my tastes go, Railgun seems to hit nearly every single one of them. Cute (but not cloying) character designs, a good cast, a well-written science-fiction story, and a dash of yuri. The best part is that each of these elements is played just right, none overshadow any of the others, and they all blend together perfectly.

Railgun divides into roughly two parts. The first half of the series is a single well-constructed story arc which also functions to introduce the cast. At this point, it should be worth noting that A Certain Scientific Railgun is actually a spinoff series; its parent is A Certain Magical Index. I have not yet seen Index, but it is now on my to-do list after having seen Railgun. As someone who has not (yet) read either the Index or Railgun manga, nor seen the Index anime, I can say that this is not a disadvantage in the least for Railgun. At no point did I feel like I was missing anything; Railgun stands on its own just fine. The only things I was not able to fully appreciate (though I caught them) were the references made to Index in this series.

Getting back on track, the second half of A Certain Scientific Railgun changes gears, and the series becomes character-driven and more slice-0f-life in nature. As a result, it also becomes a bit more lighthearted. We learn much more about the main and supporting cast in the second half of the series before it concludes with another shorter story arc.

As far as the cast is concerned, Railgun’s lead, Mikoto Misaka (second from left in the picture above), grew on me in a hurry and quickly became one of my all-time favorite characters. One thing worth mentioning about Railgun’s cast is that while the main characters are junior high school students, there are also adults in the cast with real functions in the story and aren’t just token characters. So while the primary cast may be teenagers, the series never gets caught up in the stereotypical plot and character interactions that one might expect from such a series. It’s also worth noting that not much of the story takes place in school, which right away gives the series a different tone; Railgun is no light slice-of-life series. (That is not a criticism of those kinds of shows, as I am a fan of them as well.)

For me, A Certain Scientific Railgun is A Special Kind of Awesome. I like absolutely everything about this series, including the soundtrack which was produced by I’VE Sound – the music collective which also gave rise to such artists as KOTOKO. The characters are varied and engaging, the story is well-written, and the setting strikes a good balance between the real world and science fiction. The series received a sequel, and I very much look forward to seeing that someday as well. If my personal anime series Top 5 wasn’t so stacked already, Railgun may have made the cut. Still, I haven’t been so enamored with a series out of nowhere in quite a while. This is top-grade material.

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