Table of Contents
- Brief Overview
- Moral Rating
- Story Analysis
- Analysis with Spoilers
- Fan Art
If you’re just looking for links to watch, Funimation did the simulcast, free to watch.
J.C. Staff has released anime as a couple of seasons under the titles A Certain Scientific Railgun (とある科学の超電磁砲 “to aru kagaku no railgun”) and A Certain Scientific Railgun S. These are a pair of side stories to an anime known as A Certain Magical Index (though more literally translated “A Certain Library of Dark Magic”).
The stories revolve around a girl named Mikoto Misaka (in reverse order (as the Japanese do it): 御坂美琴 / みさかみこと). The events take place in “Academy City”, the same world as A Certain Library of Dark Magic.
It is not necessary to watch “A Certain Magical Index” in order to understand what’s going on in A Certain Scientific Railgun.
Interesting fact: the kanji used for “railgun” (超電磁砲) spell super+electromagnet+gun, but rather than pronouncing the word by the usual kanji readings, they use “railgun”. Normally when a word is taken from another language, katakana is used. I guess it was used to remove ambiguity for what is being talked about, but interestingly enough the consequence is that this word is unique to this anime, thus any query to Google for “超電磁砲” returns results for this anime.
It’s a pop-culture-oriented anime. In short, let’s give the usual cast (high-school-age kids) some magic powers, awkward moments, countless predicaments where they can express their naivety in an assertive manner (to triumph over evil and insanity), and a happy ending. Throw in a few of other cliche anime elements and some scientific-sounding verbiage, and you have this anime.
In short: Slice of life “with lasers on their heads”…
Each season contains two major plots/subplots (or “arcs” ??)… I guess it’d be subplots… hm. While the first two are purely science fiction, the latter two in some way address theoretical futuristic science.
Since the seasons are in chronological order, this could actually be considered one long story divided into four parts. Both seasons’ plot-lines fit the traditional formula, rising to a climax and finishing with a simple, short resolution, with the exception of the first plot of the second season (A Certain Scientific Railgun S), where the resolution was rather short due to the details exposed in the climax.
In short: Average
Both seasons of anime are distinct in story (the latter being better but requiring some knowledge from the first season), but everything else was generally consistent. Hence, I rate them together.
Animation – 5/10
Average. It wasn’t horrible, but it apparently was not the focus. At least it was consistent in appearance. Some obvious 3D elements.
Directing – 5/10
Average. Many times it was too difficult to see the action. They were going for more of the impression of force and will power than clarity.
This is a personal taste thing, although notably the first opening theme was a top hit in Japan.
Season 1 – Awesome first opening theme (jpop rock), “Only My Railgun”. Excellent ending theme, “Dear My Friend” by Elisa. Excellent middle theme, “Smile -You & Me-“, also by Elisa. Second opening theme was cruddy, though the second ending theme, “Real Force” by Elisa, was alright.
Season 2 – First opening theme and ending were awful mellow JPop. I realize transitioning to a new season is hard, but why those songs? Second opening theme took time to get used to, but I still don’t care for it. Same with the ending theme.
Season 1 – 5/10
Started awful but finally cleaned up its act by the time the first plot came to a close. The next plot was about the same in quality.
Plot 1 – 7/10
A bit dark, rough, and bloody, though its story was the most gripping.
Plot 2 – 4/10
Kind of a let down given the quality of the first plot of this season. It was more emotional for the characters and not me.
Character – 7/10
High points for consistency. The personalities were typical highschoolers, but more importantly, they were enjoyable. Realistic? Sure… except the adults, many of whom were as simple-minded as the children but with their own cockamamie set of unrealistic emotional responses. Honestly, given the setting, I think they could have replaced most of the adults with aliens and still made the show interesting.
In short: Do not watch
Intended Audience: Age 18+
Pornography/Nudity/Sexuality – There is a significant amount of very inappropriate sexual behavior from one of the main characters in the first 6-12 episodes as well as some mildly inappropriate behavior from a secondary character. While the situation is intended for humor and becomes an inside joke in future episodes (such that it doesn’t have to be shown again), the extent of it is enough for me to not recommend this show to anyone. There is also some inappropriate visual states of other characters at random, though it becomes only an occasional scene in the second season. Ironically, the cumulative average of visible nudity is kept to an average for anime.
Violence/Gore – The entire show contains some degree of violence, but there is more action than blood until the first plot of the second season, at which point the amount of visible blood reaches a high. Since the artistic quality isn’t great, their is a sort of ketchup appearance to it (to the trained eye), but I can’t see a young audience stomaching this.
Swearing – Significant amount, though this varied immensely in the anime since it was usually character-specific. Also, this is very translation-dependent, so if you’re watching the subtitled version from Funimation as I did, you’ll note the words are general cultural equivalents and not literal translations.
Prepare for a ton of rambling.
Normally, I quit an anime if I stop enjoying it after the first 6 episodes. Japanese Crap Staff, as I call them, also came out with a popular anime of similar quality known as Shakugan no Shana, also about a magical girl but in a completely different setting and situation. Even still, there are certain parallels. For one thing, there is too much nudity. It does matter that boys are watching – Sword Art Online got away without having nudity in the beginning. Why? There was action. There was some action in the beginning of A Certain Scientific Railgun, but it took some time for the plot to develop, and a little boost was needed in the opening to catch audience interest even though it was pointless as far as the plot was concerned.
Speaking of the start of the story – it’s interesting to note that the opening and the theme itself give the impression of a very different, much more action-intense anime. The anime turned out to be a slice of life, and that’s my cup of tea. It was more or less relaxing, even during most of the action. Of course, it was predictable – the good people always win. How they win is the guess, and this is what made the third plot so interesting an gripping.
There were two major subplots (or “arc”, if you’d rather) that had unpredictable endings: the first one of each season. In the first season, it was a purely, “Hey let’s mess around with the rules of this world and create a mess”… and then terminate it all in an unbelievable how-did-we-get-into-this-mess climax. It was slightly satisfying to say the least.
The second subplot/arc (the first subplot of the second season) was gripping. Here we have a long struggle where the hero must face an impossible-to-win battle… and the outcome is believable!! Needless to say it was my favorite as far as the story was concerned. It seems to have been the most thought-out, considering the details – the character gathering information about their situation, reasonable explanations for why the enemy was doing what they were, and the emotional-gripping nature that had me rooting for main characters in the end. The unfortunate thing is that it had a lot of blood. Furthermore, because it ended the way it did, I think the writer(s) felt the need to continue by adding another, almost completely unrelated plot. I felt the same way. *sigh* If only the second plot would have been as interesting…
As for the other two main subplots – the first season ended with a triumphant return to the principle core of the show (a good thing) and a very pleasing resolution, making me intrigued by the existence of the second. The second season ended on the note of, “That was nice, but I’m glad this is over…”
The humor of the story is primarily (though not exclusively) inside jokes established by the perversions shown early in the show. The nature of this humor allowed the writers to apply it even in moderately serious moments where the characters were in private discussion.
As an action show, I expected some serious action. There was quite abit, though I was disappointed when it came in some of the most meaningless ways. The story suffered at times from trying to introduce completely pointless violence and action to make the story interesting. It can grab you at first, but after awhile, you stop appreciating it.
Analysis with Spoilers
I liked the chief of Anti-skill. She was probably my favorite character of the show – mellow, supportive, and with an interesting, rough accent. Then I liked Mii, Uiharu’s friend in Judgment, who carried herself well. The former played an important role in the story, though being a side character, she was never in the way, stealing the spotlight… at least not until the end.
The first season was all about “the railgun”. The writers felt it necessary to remind you throughout the show just who you were following around. This gave the girl a reputation, which along acted as an excuse for every villain in the city to dislike her. In that sense, I consider it a suitable fact. It doesn’t disappear in the second season, either, though by the last subplot, it is finally NOT the center of attention. I can understand the jealousy factor, but aside from Saten and Uiharu being excited to meet her, Misaka has almost no outspoken fans. She has friends… and, despite her widely-known reputation, can wander the streets without a single person bothering her… Peculiar, don’t you think? But that’s not the point.
The point is that all her battles are kept in this tiny world of hers. After the first show, I felt somewhat dissatisfied for multiple reasons, one of which included the fact that her battle was mostly private until the whole city was suddenly involved right at the end. The problem with doing this is that there is still that mentality of isolation in the mind of the audience. It’s this isolation mentality that allows us to appreciate small moments like birthdays and weddings without the joy being lost in the fact that millions of people are dying each year from famine and disease. Story-wise, it makes sense (Doesn’t everyone’s personal problem affect the world?), but emotionally, the writer fails to induce the intended grandiose emotions of sympathy for the world because you haven’t been thinking about them for most of the show.
That being said, this is where the first subplot of the second season – with the infamous accelerator – excelled. It was a battle at the personal level and it stayed that way up to the very end, even though it involved hundreds of clones. The final battle scene was very tight and intimate with the majority of the action happening in that one trash dump and only three people really being involved in the end.
But speaking of that arc, the clone shpeel just wasn’t real. As a scientist, it’s intriguing, though there are certain reasons I could never see it happening. It makes for an interesting story plot, but the chance of success in such an endeavor as producing clones are so little that those with even the slightest bit of success would most likely have sought a huge monetary prize rather than having kept it a secret and used it as experimental targets.
Kamijou Touma (上条 当麻)… hm… Where do I start. He’s a mild kid. I liked the fact that he is opposed to senseless violence. I also liked the fact that he at least tries to be courteous (e.g. trying to help Misaka get away from irritating boys). He’s generally a nice guy, but another side character who we don’t see much. At first, I thought there might be some romance developing between him and Mikoto. I was right, but the fact that this never turned in to anything may have disappointed some fans. What I did find odd was that they kept saying he was a level 0. ?? What does that even mean if his power works? His power seems to be the ability to cancel out the power of someone else. It is never explained why this is, adding some element of slightly intriguing mystery to the show. Perhaps it is explained in A Certain Magical Index, where it appears he is one of the main characters, but I have no intention of watching that show.
I did like the fact that the story stays away from the magical side of things. There is no dark magic, no potions, no spells. Everything has some “scientific” explanation to it… well… no… Actually, you just get the impression that it’s scientific because there seems to be an observable, methodical way to become an esper. Even still, based on how it is presented in this story, I see little or no comparison with Full Metal Alchemist whose “science” is actually science of witchcraft.
My GOSH do I talk alot!
It was interesting, but now that I’ve seen it, I’m not coming back. Sword Art Online had enough of a draw to make me consider rewatching it, but this show doesn’t have that kind of appeal. In part, it is due to the main characters because their personalities make them people I would never be friends with (by choice) in real life. They are annoying, simple-minded, overly-emotional, and excited to get into a fight.
Of course, I can’t end this post without talking about the music. Several years ago, I had accidentally discovered “Dear My Friend” by Elisa, along with much of her other music. It’s an excellent song, but since I heard it before the anime, I can separate it, and think of it as just another song in sunny Tokyo, which is very nice.
*phew*! Finally found something. 刃天 from pixiv was gracious enough to allow me to share some of their art. I’m still waiting to hear back from other artists I contacted.
And if I translated the Japanese for that last picture’s title, it would be a spoiler. lol