Project Haruhi
17Apr/1012

Series Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun

Okay, confession time. How many of you clicked on this review just because it had "Railgun" in the title?

If you did, you're in good company; that's the very reason I started watching A Certain Scientific Railgun in the first place. It was only later that I learned it was a spinoff of another anime called A Certain Magical Index, which itself was adapted from a series of light novels by Kazuma Kamachi. Ever heard of him? Yeah, me neither. However, you don't need to have seen Index to understand Railgun; the latter stands on its own as a highly enjoyable mix of action, scientific intrigue, comedy and slice-of-life. Yup, this show has something for everybody... including Bleach fans, since its second half contains an inordinate amount of soul-crushingly boring filler. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the major flaw that drags down an otherwise awesome show.

Find out more after the break!

Railgun first came out in the Fall '09 season, which was a bit of an anime dry spell. Aside from blatant fanservice (I'm looking at you, Sora no Otoshimono), the only shows of note were either saccharine romance (Kimi ni Todoke) or action-fantasy (Kampfer, The Sacred Blacksmith). Since I can't stand most romance anime, I decided to stick with the fantasy shows; unfortunately, they wound up sucking worse than the black hole I have for a heart. I was trapped on all sides by painfully bad anime, hoping against hope that there was at least ONE good show to be found among the dregs of mediocrity.

That is when Railgun descended from the heavens, like an angel sent by the big guy himself.

Did you notice the girl with the short brown hair and electric powers? Her name is Mikoto Misaka. In the universe of Railgun, a certain class of people known as espers have psychic abilities, ranked from level one to level five. Mikoto's powerful electric abilities make her a level five, one of the most powerful psychics in existence. Her most famous technique uses magnetism to fire metallic projectiles at insane speeds, making her the titular Railgun. A few of her friends also possess superpowers: for example, Kuroko Shirai is a twintailed redhead with the hots for Mikoto and the ability to instantaneously teleport, like a cute schoolgirl version of Nightcrawler. Needless to say, a teleporting lesbian pervert trying to win the affections of a tsundere electric girl leads to some... interesting shenanigans.

Yup, there are shenanigans aplenty. See, Railgun is as much slice-of-life as it is action. Fortunately, it manages to balance these elements nicely, leading to a story that's equal parts awesome, funny, heartwarming and endearing.... at least, until we get to episode 13. At that point, right after the midseason finale, Railgun abandons the plotline of the manga it's based on and starts dishing a heaping helping of filler, shonen style. Is this filler bad? Well, not exactly. It's still quite watchable and often funny. However, it certainly doesn't live up to the high standards Railgun set for itself during its first half. It's kinda like watching the Star Wars prequels: sure, there are lightsabers whirring and Jedi kicking ass, but somehow that special spark is gone.

Happily, Railgun manages to pull itself out of the muck and get back into form twice; first during the two-episode Big Spider arc, and again during the last three episodes of the Poltergeist arc. The show ends on an overall high note, with a suitably awesome finale that ties up almost all the loose ends. This results in Railgun leaving a good impression, even if it faltered a bit in the middle.

So, should YOU watch this series? Well, that depends. Despite having superpowered girls as part of it's premise, this is not a superhero show. It does deliver plenty of great action, but also contains a fair amount of comedic slice-of-life. Whether or not you enjoy the slower bits will depend on if you like the characters. Most of them are harmless enough, but Kuroko seems to have earned herself some animosity from fans. I suggest watching the first two episodes as a litmus test; if you don't hate Kuroko by the end of the second, you may safely continue watching. Otherwise, you might want to skip this show. Of course, I personally love the little lesbian rascal... but, unfortunately, my tastes are not universal.

In any case, if this series sounds like it might give you a jolt, check it out! I think you'll find it an enjoyable enough diversion, despite it's shortcomings.

About Jon

Jon is a Japanese culture enthusiast, professional pervert and roleplaying fanatic who appreciates flexible gender identities. He enjoys science fiction, Gunpla, classical music and Red Stripe.

  • Densha Otoko

    The First episodes of Railgun is pretty decent , The Slice of Life stories , The Yuri Comedies and also The Action . My Fave being Mikoto Misaka the Tsundere Biribiri .

    I view Railgun as K-ON! with Super Powers . The Adventure of $ girls being cught up with lots of cases and adventures . It has a good balance of action and slice of life which is perfect for people who want to chill and at the same time watch an action anime .

    • Yeah, I can see K-ON! being compared to Railgun. However, I think the characters in the latter (especially Mikoto) aren’t exactly pure moe since they tend to do more than sit around, look cute and eat cake. It’s actually Mikoto’s depth and character development in the later episodes that made her one of my favorite characters ever.

  • Yeah, I can see K-ON! being compared to Railgun. However, I think the characters in the latter (especially Mikoto) aren’t exactly pure moe since they tend to do more than sit around, look cute and eat cake. It’s actually Mikoto’s depth and character development in the later episodes that made her one of my favorite characters ever.

  • deaky

    Railgun’s pretty forgettable, it just happened to air at a time when basically nothing better was on. They did have a huge budget, and the mind-bogglingly stupid mid-series crisis and finale prove that, but the animation of those scenes is good enough to forgive the horrible writing somewhat. I did enjoy the better slice-of-life moments when the characters used their powers and paper-thin personalities to some effect in their everyday lives, and especially enjoyed some of Kuroko’s more interesting teleportation fights. I just wish they made better use of their characters where it counted most, instead of just phoning it in and turning it into a cheesy effects extravaganza.

    • I wouldn’t call it forgettable, since it will hold a special place in my heart for years to come. In fact, I would venture to say Railgun is one of the most memorable anime of the last few years. That said, the mid-season finale battle was a bit of a letdown. However, the finale battle was one of the most awesome anime fights I’ve ever seen… certainly indicative that J.C. Staff was doing much more than simply “phoning it in”. I can’t agree on the paper-thin personalities accusation either, since they spent so much time fleshing out their characters personalities and motivations (especially during the aforementioned filler).

      Cheesy effects extravaganza? I’m afraid I can’t agree with that either. Unlike a Michael Bay film, Railgun had the compelling story and lovable characters to back its effects up. Sure, it has its problems, and probably could have been a MUCH better show if it really tried, but it’s still pretty damn good.

  • deaky

    Railgun’s pretty forgettable, it just happened to air at a time when basically nothing better was on. They did have a huge budget, and the mind-bogglingly stupid mid-series crisis and finale prove that, but the animation of those scenes is good enough to forgive the horrible writing somewhat. I did enjoy the better slice-of-life moments when the characters used their powers and paper-thin personalities to some effect in their everyday lives, and especially enjoyed some of Kuroko’s more interesting teleportation fights. I just wish they made better use of their characters where it counted most, instead of just phoning it in and turning it into a cheesy effects extravaganza.

    • I wouldn’t call it forgettable, since it will hold a special place in my heart for years to come. In fact, I would venture to say Railgun is one of the most memorable anime of the last few years. That said, the mid-season finale battle was a bit of a letdown. However, the finale battle was one of the most awesome anime fights I’ve ever seen… certainly indicative that J.C. Staff was doing much more than simply “phoning it in”. I can’t agree on the paper-thin personalities accusation either, since they spent so much time fleshing out their characters personalities and motivations (especially during the aforementioned filler).

      Cheesy effects extravaganza? I’m afraid I can’t agree with that either. Unlike a Michael Bay film, Railgun had the compelling story and lovable characters to back its effects up. Sure, it has its problems, and probably could have been a MUCH better show if it really tried, but it’s still pretty damn good.

      • MMCRailgun

        Don’t care if I am 5 years too late, you are absolutely right. The characters are all very well done and they are given a greater depth then most anime bother to do, so I would like to hear that guys idea of proper development. I don’t mind when people have a genuine criticism of something, but to mislead annoys me. Like when I read an article in Otaku USA last week that accused Index of being an emotionless character. You right for a national magazine dude, at least bother to read what you are righting about.
        P.S. Toradora is a great show. I really liked the soundtrack for it too.

  • I’ve just checked this out today, put it this way, as soon as Mikoto fired that penny I had a new favourite anime to add to my list. Congratulations Ritsu; you have made a Railgun fan of me XD. Consequently, I shall be watching the OVA this autumn despite only planning to watch “My Little Sister…”. I knew this would happen XD

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  • MMCRailgun

    The best part about it is that you see very little of Touma. Dude’s not a bad guy, but he is both the main character of the original series, Index, and the most bland, copy and paste character from it. I could go on, but Railgun’s focus on more dynamic characters and the sweet science powers (there’s magic in Index, as the name “A Certain Magical Index” suggests) was what I really liked.

    EDIT: Railgun is my favorite anime and Mikoto is tied for my favorite charcter (she actually wins if you put in a gender bias, but let’s avoid reverse chauvinism) with another from the series, Accelerator. The MMC in my screen name stands for “Misaka Mikoto Class…” So yes, I am biased in favor of this series.

  • lilliuan

    I LOVE THIS ANIME and also i suggest to read the manga before or after watching though i suggest before if u like things to get straight to the point :3

  • lilliuan

    Also if u like this plz check out one of these animes
    1.No.6 (i highly suggest the manga since i don’t really like the anime)
    2.AKB0048
    3.FANTASIA DOLLS(MAYBE)
    4.Bamboo Blade
    5.Blue Exocrist or D grayMan Or k prject(K)
    Those are just if u like slice of life,comedy, some shounen(No.6), and action kk bye XD