Best friends, crushes, middle school, and… super-scientific powers? A Certain Scientific Railgun starts out as a light-hearted friendship comedy, but as dark secrets in beautiful Academy City come to light, the friends must fight back against a series of increasingly dangerous enemies. There are four main characters in this series. Mikoto Misaka possesses the titular railgun powers, and her powerful roommate and Judgment officer, Kuroko Shirai, are both students at a famous girls’ school. Shirai’s fellow Judgment officer, Kazari Uihara, and her friend Ruiko Saten have little to no powers and attend a lesser-known school.
As the series begins, the two Judgment officers pursue a few minor criminals, get into squabbles with their respective friends, and make lots of jokes about panties and Shirai’s unrequited passion for Misaka. However, as rumors begin to circulate about a mysterious “Level-Upper” that can increase a person’s power levels, more serious issues are tackled. These issues include: Shirai’s impetuousness; Misaka’s tendency to tackle difficult problems alone, depending only on her powerful railgun; Saten’s low self-esteem due to her lack of power; and Uihara’s struggle to overcome her own low power levels. In an episode which focuses on urban legends, Misaka meets the “undresser,” Dr. Kiyama, who turns out to be a brain specialist with a strange penchant for stripping off her clothes in public. Their odd encounter quickly turns dangerous as the truth behind the Level-Upper comes out. The girls may think they’ve solved the case and saved the day, but it’s only a temporary fix. Everyone will have to work together to destroy the evil hidden in Academy City and ensure a happy ending for all.
I’m still new to the field of anime, so a lot of the minor conventions — especially the panty jokes and an entire episode in which all the girls dressed as maids — left me confused. However, once I got over the parts that seemed odd to me as a non-anime watcher, I enjoyed this series from its funny and light beginning to the dramatic and heart-rending happy ending. One of the best parts was the strong friendships between the girls. All of the main characters are female, aside from a few men and boys, who are mostly minor villains or mysterious characters from the earlier companion series, A Certain Magical Index. Watching the girls’ interactions and seeing how their friendships and characters developed was deeply satisfying and just plain fun to watch. There’s plenty of comedy, not all of it involving underwear jokes, as well as lots of explosions, dramatic fights, and even a few melancholy moments of unrequited love. The animation is light and clean with lots of color, and the scenes were beautifully laid out, both in the exquisitely tidy parts of Academy City and in its grittier urban areas.
Due to its level of innuendo, ethical conflicts regarding human experimentation, and some violent moments, I would definitely recommend this series for teens — and in my small, conservative town, only for older teens. A larger public library with a bigger anime collection would probably be able to place this in a general teen movie collection. Although this isn’t an epic or ground-breaking series, it’s a fun and engrossing story that will be enjoyed by teens and adults who are new to anime or want to relax with some light entertainment.
A Certain Scientific Railgun: Season 1
directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai
600 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD
Company Age Rating: TV-14
Related to: A Certain Scientific Railgun by Kazuma Kamachi