A Certain Scientific Railgun Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon
Are spin-offs of anime shows a good idea? On one hand, they could expand the world established in the original series and bring some new concepts to the table. On the other hand, they could run the risk of repeating the same mistakes the original show made, or make even worse ones. Fortunately, A Certain Scientific Railgun fixes virtually every issue that plagued its parent series, A Certain Magical Index.
Railgun tells the events of Index from the perspective of Mikoto Misaka, one of Academy City’s most powerful Espers with the ability to control electricity. However, it isn’t just a case of Index being retold with a few new scenes. Misaka’s story is very much her own, with only a few instances where the plots of Index and Railgun intertwine. For the most part, Railgun focuses on Mikoto and her three friends – Kuroko Shirai, Uiharu Kazari and Ruiko Saten.
Unlike Index, which spent its time dealing with both the worlds of Science and Magic, Railgun focuses exclusively on the Science side of things, and the plot flows a lot better as a result. One of the main problems with Index was that there was too much to take in at the start, what with the Magic and Science sides being introduced at the same time. But since the Magic side isn’t even touched upon in Railgun, the story is a lot easier to follow. There are still one or two minor plot holes, but it’s nowhere near as bad as Index was.
|Plot vs 'plot'.|
However, some events that happen in the Railgun anime help to clarify some questions that I had regarding Index. For example, the roles of groups such as Judgement and Anti-Skill are made much clearer, and some other plot points throw new light onto revelations that happened in Index. It really helps to sell the idea that both Railgun and Index share the same world. Well, that, and the many cameos from characters such as Touma and Index.
|"Of course there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this!"|
One of Index’s best features was its characters, and Railgun is equally good in that regard. Mikoto was one of the best characters in the original series, and she’s lost none of her charm here. Whilst each of the other main cast members can be sorted into categories fairly easily, they still end up being well-rounded and believable. For example, Kuroko is mostly the comic relief, but she gets a number of scenes with Mikoto that really highlights just how much the two care about each other. Saten is the most normal character, as well as the most relatable, so her struggles and emotional moments carry more impact than you would expect.
When I reviewed Index, I said that the best moments in the series were when Touma and Mikoto interacted with each other, and every time Mikoto appeared I found myself enjoying the show even more. The same is true for Railgun – every time Touma shows up, it makes things that much more enjoyable. He doesn’t show up very often, but his interactions with Mikoto are just as good as ever.
One other advantage that Railgun has over Index is that it’s more emotional than its parent show. Whilst Index has its share of funny, sad and heartwarming moments, Railgun’s emotional moments pack a lot more impact. This is probably because it’s easier to empathise with the cast than it is in Index, mainly because they come across as a lot more human. They argue, make mistakes and act impulsively, and because of this, they’re a lot more believable. In fact, due to a combination of Touma’s presence and the emotional impact of certain moments, the Railgun version of the Sisters story arc is one of my favourite arcs ever.
Railgun’s plot is another highlight. When compared to Index, it helps to clear up some confusion and fleshes out the world in which the characters inhabit. On its own, it works just as well, as it doesn’t rely on any events that happen in Index, and still manages to hold your attention. Another bonus is that, compared to Index, it’s made very clear who the big bad of the series is, and whilst Mikoto doesn’t come into contact with him during the series, the possibility of a confrontation in the future is still very much on the table.
The audio-visual aspect holds up well too. All four openings are performed by the same group, fripSide, and all of them are very good. Special mention goes to the first and third openings, which suit the series perfectly, as well as being really catchy. The background music contains some tracks that were originally in Index, which I only found out after spending an embarrassing amount of time trying to find a specific piece of BGM on YouTube, only to get it immediately after accidently clicking a link to Index’s soundtrack. Mikoto’s theme music is definitely worth a mention too, and it’s so good that it was reused in the second season of Index. The animation is smooth and fluid, being much more sharp and colourful than in Index. And just like in the parent show, the shots of Academy City look as pretty as ever.
To be honest, there are very few bad things that I can say about Railgun. Sure, there are some minor plot holes, and the finale of the second season stretched my suspension of disbelief a little bit, but those are just minor issues. The main problem I have with it is that some scenes that were in Index have been changed slightly, and some changes lowered the quality of the scene. For example, at the end of the Sisters arc Touma is in hospital and is visited by one of Mikoto’s sisters. In the Index anime, this was a heartwarming and funny moment, but in Railgun the humour is removed and the scene is drastically shortened. I can understand why some of the changes were made but the two versions of events can clash sometimes.
The only other issue – if it can be called that – is that the last arc of each season is exclusive to the anime, and so the canonicity of events can be called into question. However, this is the rare variety of filler that is actually good, and I don’t have a problem with the stories told in each of the arcs. In fact, the anime goes to great lengths to tie the events from these arcs into the series as a whole, so they don’t seem random or out of place.
Like with A Certain Magical Index, I went out and purchased the first few manga volumes of A Certain Scientific Railgun. Whilst the manga is still very good (and I intend to keep following it), the anime is much better. It expands on events only hinted at in the source material in order to give a more complete picture of events, and gives characters like Saten and Uiharu a lot more screentime.
Overall, A Certain Scientific Railgun is definitely worth watching. However, I would highly recommend watching A Certain Magical Index first in order to get the context and background information needed to fully enjoy Railgun, even if you only watch Index’s first season. It fixes pretty much every problem that Index had and avoids suffering any serious issues itself. Railgun works very well, both as an Index spinoff and as a shown in its own right. Sadly, I can’t actually buy the anime, because for some reason the DVDs of both Index and Railgun haven’t been released in the UK, and I can’t import them due to those pesky region locks. However, if I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this series (and I very rarely go out of my way to buy anime DVDs).
|I'm not entirely sure I would trust her with a loaded gun...|
Good Things: Relatable, well-rounded characters.
A proper plot and main villain.
Excellent soundtrack and animation.
The interactions between the main characters (especially Mikoto and Touma).
A lot of emotional moments.
The Sisters arc.
Bad Things: The season 2 finale is a bit unbelievable.
Some scenes from Index were changed.
|Not quite a 10, but we'll see what the future holds...|
Do you have a suggestion for an anime I should review? Let me know in the comments, or submit it to ask.fm/ClayDragon! Thanks to Ranulf, who requested this review!
|I don't think I can put into words just how much I love the Sisters.|
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. "Will there be an anime adaptation of A Certain Scientific Accelerator?" asks ClayDragon as he searches the internet.