Mikoto firing her railgun. Pretty picture, but... rails? What rails?
Categories: shounen, bishoujo, school life, magical girl, fighting, bots, shoujo-ai
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun is based on manga that was a spinoff from the light novel series, Toaru Majutsu no Index. (TMnI had its own anime, of which I only watched a few episodes. I found it dull, and was bothered by some borderline CP.)
The good news: production values are high. Cute character designs, detailed animation, imaginative and well-drawn backgrounds, convincing and immersive use of CG.
The bad news: not much else in this show works. The cast is almost entirely female, students in a contemporary but technologically advanced city, where many people have 'psychic powers' that can perform such feats as teleportation and electrical discharge. The title means 'A Certain Scientific Railgun'. It really should be 'A Certain Fantasy Railgun'. Sufficiently anime science is indistinguishable from magic, and that's the case here. The protagonist, Mikoto Misaka, can use her psychic powers to generate electricty, which allows her to shoot metallic objects at railgun speeds. What she uses for rails is unclear. How she gets by the first and second laws of thermodynamics is also unclear. Why her railgun effects can't shoot ofjects more than 50 yards is unclear. Etc.
Her roommate is Kuroko Shirai, who has a crush on Mikoto. This includes buying her sexy lingerie and slipping her aphrodisiacs. The first two episodes are weighted down with this kind of fan service, after which the writers almost forget about the relationship, because it has no depth and the only reason it existed in the first place was for fan service. For some reason, Kuruko's seiyuu voices her in a gravely snarl that sounds like an anime grandmother. What's up with that?
About half the episodes in Toaru Kagaku no Railgun are part of two long, connected story arcs. Other episodes are each a self-contained little story with a too-sweet-for-belief moral: be true to your friends, always do your best, learn from your mistakes, etc. Very odd to find this sort of grade school primer material in a bishoujo show with unapologetic shoujo-ai fan service. Who exactly is supposed to be this show's demographic?
I found none of the characters very interesting, compelling, or sympathetic. They all remained abstractions on a screen. Mikoto is too distant, Kuroko is too much a manipulative construction, Kazari and Ruiko are too bland and sweet and never come to life.
I watched this show in its entirety. It was far from the worst show I've watched, and far from the best. It was nicely executed. I wish it had a script more deserving of the treatment it got.