A Certain Scientific Railgun S | Series Review

Dear Sister…

When spring season came about six months ago, I decided to pick up A Certain Scientific Railgun S, the second season of A Certain Scientific Railgun which in itself is a spinoff from A Certain Magical Index. Here’s the thing, I have never seen either Index or Railgun prior to watching Railgun S and as of writing this, that remains true. That might sound weird seeing as this very blog is even named after the series, but hear me out.

While the show looked interesting, I didn’t really have time to watch it before the second season started, so instead I wanted to give it a try blindly. I think that worked out rather well, and either way, at least it might be interesting to read the the opinion of someone who has no prior exposure to the series.

vlc 2013-09-30 06-33-33-13The story of Railgun S is split into two somewhat linked but mostly separate stories. The first story, the Sisters arc, being adapted from the manga of the same name and the second story being a anime original. The Sisters arc is what the S in the title is from, that and “Second” to be precise, and I’ve been informed that its place in the parallel Index series it was very much a fan favorite.

Our main character is Mikoto Misaka, the “Railgun” of Academy City. She’s given that title as she’s a Level 5 electromaster. An esper with amazing electrical abilities. The show follows her as she discovers a secret project linked to her past called the Sisters Project.

Without going into what the project is or what comes out of it, it mostly remains a strong series of events for the first half of the arcs run. The problem arrives when the show wants to interact directly with the Index series and lose its focus. For a good number of episodes during the middle of the shows run it basically just becomes a remake of Index in that it stops following Mikoto’s perspective and character. Instead we follow Touma, the main character from Index and how he deals with the things going on.

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Now, I get it. It’s a spinoff running parallel with a previous series timeline and events so there will be important parts of the story that will not be focused on Mikoto. But the problem is how much time is spent on it and how minimized and stripped of a character and strength Mikoto ends up being during those episodes. Without going into spoilers or how it becomes a problem, let’s just say there’s a lot of set-up that is pushed aside and just ignored for the sake of following the events of Index.

This is a inherent problem with the fact that Railgun S is following a pre-existing narrative while still wanting to craft its own. It ends up becoming a schizophrenic mix where one part of the story wants to be a self-contained sequence of events following our heroine where as another part just wants to stay true to the source and remake what is already in canon.

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It should have either been trimmed down to fewer episodes or just be rewritten out of the show entirely with some sort of hint that watching Index would give you the events that would follow next, because the way it was handled massacred Mikoto’s status as a strong main character in the worst way possible.

There’s also the fact that other events seems rushed at a cost of this. Side-characters get pushed so far away from the spotlight they might as well have never existed and certain developments and sequences end far too fast. I hate to sound hard on the show for wanting to be accurate to the source, but I have to view it for what it is on its own just like every other show. There’s just no beating around the bush here, the middle section of Railgun S is outright terrible and I am honestly surprised I survived through it without dropping the show.

But then, as a ray of light, came the next arc. The anime original arc follows up where the lackluster ending of the Sisters arc ends and while I had a hard time getting into it at first, mostly due to just being disappointed and in a bad mood regarding the show as a whole because of the episodes before it, it ended up winning me over in spectacular fashion. Not only does the second arc manage to push the show back into greatness, it manages to reach the absolute highest point of the series towards the end. I still can’t forgive the middle section, especially as it could have been used to expand the second arc, but I can forgive the show as a whole because of it.

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One of the reasons I did manage to stay with the show when it was in the darkest of depths was because of my strong love for the cast of characters. Mikoto is one of my favorite heroines of anime in recent memory and would have easily been in the lead for a season award had it not been for how she was handled during the middle episodes. Mikoto’s friend and roommate Kuroko Shirai is hilarious and the most criminally underutilized character in anime this year. Most of the group of friends that Mikoto and Kuroko hang around are entertaining as well.

vlc 2013-09-30 06-33-49-10With that said, I will never understand the fascination with Accelerator, one of the antagonists in the series. Maybe it’ll be clear to me when I watch the original Index series, but the fact that this character has a fan-following on a really huge level is just weird to me. I get why villains are often enjoyed in fiction, but when it came to Accelerator I just had a strong sense of distaste for the man from the get-go. I mean that in a good way though, he’s a great villain because of it. But nothing came out of the show for him but hatred when it came to me. Or maybe that is why he has a fan following and I just can’t get into it.

Another character I really didn’t enjoy was Touma who basically becomes the show’s focus for the episodes at the end of the Sisters arc. I’ll chalk it up to it being the fact that he was so important during the terrible episodes rather than his character as a whole, but simply based on what I’ve seen here I have a bad feeling about what I’ll think of Index as a series.

Mixing action with drama and comedy can be tricky and I’m sure everyone knows of a handful number of shows that manages to fail at getting the blend right. This is where Railgun S shines beyond its competitors in many ways. Not only does Railgun S have some of the absolute best action sequences I’ve ever seen in anime, it does calm slice-of-life-esque moments stellar and always have enough humor to carry to tone the show wants to set. There’s some amazing talent at work here in terms of writing and direction, especially during the second arc where it all comes to shine.

Rina Satou as Mikoto does a great job at portraying a believable feeling of sadness when required, but she also manages to get Mikoto to come across as threatening when required as well as kind and loving. It’s a spotless performance that shows how secure she feels at the portrayal of Mikoto as a complete character.

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Satomi Arai, who has become one of my favorite voice acresses, also portrays Kuroko in a great way. Other worthy mentions include Ikumi Hayama as Shinobu Nunotaba and Minako Kotobuki as Mitsuko Kongo.

The two opening themes perfomed by fripSide, “sister’s noise” and “eternal reality” are both worthy on being on top five lists of best opening themes for both their respective seasons. The energetic beat and vocals are borderline impossible to not get into and I can’t wait to go back and hear their theme for the first season. The ending themes, “Grow Slowly” and “Links”, performed by Yuka Iguchi and Misawa Sachika respectively, are also great and memorable, While the first one is more memorable and performed by one of my favorite singers and actresses, the second one sticks out for how well it fits the tone of the second arc. I won’t pretend I wasn’t tearing up when I heard it playing one last time as the show was ending.

The show is gorgeous as well, mixing CG in with some amazing 2D animation without it becoming too much or having it getting in the way. The art-style manages to capture intense, creepy, heartwarming and goofy moments in a way few others do. The direction during the action-scenes blends in perfectly and makes it all feel more like a really highly budgeted feature film than simply a tv-series. I could not praise this aspect of Railgun S enough to do it justice, it’s that good looking.

vlc 2013-09-30 06-34-10-84Had it not been for the awful moments during the middle of the series, I could have easily seen A Certain Scientific Railgun S being my favorite show of the season. As it stands, it remains strong and high on the list, but not as high as I was hoping it to be. I can only hope a third season is greenlit and that it brings with it some strong writing either from the source material, or original as it’s been made clear that they can handle original content with great care.

As it stands, I recommend Railgun S as a show, but maybe it shouldn’t be the jumping-on point like it was for me as those middle episodes are hard to sit through. I really wanted to give it a full score, but as it stands I just can’t, no matter how much that last episode made me cry. Maybe next time.

Series Rating: 4/5 – Stunning.

Funimation have licensed the Full Series for US distribution.
Please support licensed anime!

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9 thoughts on “A Certain Scientific Railgun S | Series Review

  1. It’s actually thanks to the main Index series, particularly season 2, that I really just can’t fucking stand Touma and hearing about what unfolded in the few episodes after the Frenda and Meltdowner fights was enough for me to drop the show.

    As for Accelerator, the Index series humanizes him so that likely contributes to his fanbase, but it only worked for me because I forgot how horrible he was. I think the big reason he has such a fanbase is the same reason Batman and Joker both have such large followings: an unrestrained, “fuck the system” power fantasy of sorts.

    • I would recommed skipping to the post-Sisters arc and watch the anime original one. I think it starts at 17 if I’m not mistaken, can’t check since I’m on the phone. It is Touma free and really use the full Railgun cast to great effect.

    • Regarding accelerator, as someone who is currently reading the novels I would have to disagree with you here.

      Following the events of the Sisters Arc, I think Accelerator has undergone quite a lot of development as a character. Tobiichi, I’m not sure how much you know about this, since I didn’t watch the index anime and don’t know how much they covered. Contrary to what Hitokiri thinks, the main reason I (and many) find accelerator interesting is because his is probably the ultimate story of redemption…. Okay, maybe redemption is too strong a word. Rather, it is about how he learns to accepts that he is one of the biggest asshole around and a psychotic mass muderer. He knows he killed 10000 people, he know he is scum and refuse to make any excuse. He cannot forgive himself for what he did, nor does he seek forgiveness.

      Even so, he realize that just because you are a scum, doesn’t mean you cannot do good in the future. No matter how evil he was in the past, that is absolutely not an excuse to continue being evil in the future.

      From his own words (the texts were capitalized unfortunately)
      “.I know. It’s really stupid for scum like me to save others….. However,, the kid is innocent. Even if we’re the worst scum, trash that has no right to ask others for help….. But that’s still no reason not to save this brat, right? DOES IT MEAN THAT WE CAN TRAMPLE ON WHAT THIS BRAT HAS JUST BECAUSE WE’RE SCUM!?., ”

      “THAT’S RIGHT, I KILLED OVER 10,000 OF THE SISTERS, BUT THIS DOESN’T MEAN THAT I SHOULD JUST LEAVE THE REMAINING 10,000 TO DIE. I KNOW THAT THESE WORDS ARE HYPOCRITICAL, I KNOW THAT I HAVE NO RIGHT TO SAY SUCH WORDS, BUT NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF A SCUMBAG WE ARE, NO MATTER HOW MANY EXCUSES WE PUT FORWARD, THOSE CAN’T BE THE REASONS TO KILL THIS BRAT!!!

      • I’m sorry, I find that to be really shoddy writing to be perfectly honest and if anything just made me question the fandom of the character further. Of course, that’s just going based on your comment, I’ve not read it myself yet.

      • It is obvious in railgun that he would be portrayed as a one-dimensional villain. But like others, he has his motives and in fact, very good reasons why he acts the way he did (though he never uses it as an excuse).
        Sacrificing so many and still failing to pursue his goal, he has an extremely hard time coming to terms with what he did. . Without going through the story, it is quite inappropriate to call it shoddy writing. Its not like he woke up one day and decided to be a good guy. Fact is he is still an ass. That aside, his feeling towards the Sisters project has always been complicated. For example, in every experiment without fail, he taunts, humiliates and even tortures the Sisters which you would interpret as pure villainy, but that was actually his silent plea for the Sisters who do not value their life to save themselves (nobody said he was smart lol). Following his defeat, the many many events that followed later gives people a realistic and fascinating insight into the mind of the so-called ‘strongest’.

        Or if it was the dialogue you find disagreeable, well it was fan-translated from japanese. (actually one of the reasons why index series has been so popular is that the author’s writing prowess in japanese)

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