Review: Toaru Kagaku No Railgun
A blue spark of electricity travels lazily through the air as we see a coin tumbling towards an outstretched hand, moments away from contact. A surge of electricity flows along the hand and in a flash the coin, now a charged weapon, hurtles at an unimaginable speed toward its target – a getaway car driven by the last conscious bank robber as he tries to run over our protagonist and electro-master, Misaka Mokoto in the anime Toaru kagaku no Railgun.
Set in Academy City, the most advanced city in the world where the technology in use is approximately twenty to thirty years ahead of the rest of the world, we follow Misaka Mokoto and her merry band of compatriots with supernatural (esper) powers as they tackle the growing crime in the city. Related to the series Toaru Majutsu no Index, this light novel turned manga turned anime can be considered its offshoot. The anime follows the manga closely for the first twelve episodes. After this there is a distinct deviation from the manga’s storyline.
Throughout the anime, a sense of continuity is attempted several times, but its execution leaves an episodic and time-slotted feel. This is not helped by the use of single-episode story arcs that could almost be called fillers. Originating in a series of successful light novels, this series with the protagonist as Misaka Mikoto was created as her appearance as a supporting character in another series Toaru majutsu no Index received extremely high praise.
At times during the story there appear to be deliberate attempts by the writers to keep the characters blissfully ignorant about potential disasters. For instance, despite being incapacitated by a sonic weapon in one episode, the protagonist is caught unawares by the same weapon several episodes later during a critical moment. As the protagonist is not depicted as slow-witted it is quite aggravating to see her and her compatriots reduced to quivering heaps by the same plot device. Stepping out of their fictional universe for a moment, maybe this was the best the writers could do to create drama for our beleaguered team?
Suspension of skepticism is often required to enjoy any form of science fiction. It is the writer’s ability to blend the science with the plot, blurring the line distinguishing the two, that allows the reader to step in and out of the fictional world without any qualms about humans shooting lightning bolts or teleporting across vast distances in the blink of an eye. There are several action sequences in this series however, where events take place that are only possible if we are to assume that for the duration of the event, the character, or characters involved spontaneously develop extra abilities – projectile accuracy on a millimetre scale – that allow them to execute actions with unbelievable precision. Although, it is hard to argue that fictional beings with superpowers are performing actions that require superhuman abilities.