Anime Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun S Season 2 Collection (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 02.09.2017

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A Certain Scientific Railgun S Season 2 Collection (UK Rating: 15)

Manga Entertainment is delivering a double whammy of anime goodness this month, with the second season of both Index and Railgun hitting on the same day. The Index franchise all started off as a series of light novels by Kazuma Kamachi, a particularly prolific writer who has turned a series of books into its own world, with side characters receiving their own spin-offs. This series is the second season of the anime adaptation of one of those spin-offs, following the story of Mikoto Misaka, the titular Railgun. This complete second season contains all 24 episodes and is out now.

This is not one of those anime that can be picked up without watching the first season. There's a vast world here with considerable back-story to the characters and established lore. Set in a world where super-powered Espers are commonplace, as well as powerful Mages, the two factions are constantly at odds, Science and Magic each vying for supremacy. Set in a town dedicated to science, known as Academy City, Espers grow and train in schools and are ranked based on their ability: zero to five. Protagonist Mikoto Misaka is a Level 5 Esper, one of the most powerful ever born and a girl that is at the heart of some horrific experiments, all in the name of science.

Misaka's powers are actually electrical; she is able to create and manipulate electricity, and she uses this ability to generate the power that earned her the moniker Railgun. Charging up a huge burst of electricity in her hand, Misaka is able to fire a piece of metal from her fingertips - usually with the flip of a coin. This second season covers the major parts of Misaka's history, which were originally covered in the first season of Index. The first season of Railgun was instead set before the original series of Index and instead focused on establishing Misaka's group of friends, the girls of Judgement, and an underlying story about an illegal drug that enhanced the powers of its users. The first season of Railgun was actually even better than the first season of Index and that is a trend that is kept up here.

Just like the first season, the story of Railgun S continues to take place before the first season of Index and before the initial meeting of Misaka and Touma. The main story that develops over the course of this season is the "Sisters" story, looking at Misaka's clones and her introduction to Accelerator. When Misaka was still in primary school, she spent some time visiting a hospital and, while there, she saw a boy suffering from muscular dystrophy. His struggles to fight against the inevitable touched her and it was easy to convince her to donate her electrically-charged DNA to a project that could potentially cure the horrible condition. The project had a darker reason, however; in truth the scientists were attempting to clone Misaka, in an attempt to create mindless powerful soldiers for the military. The clones created lacked the strength and ability of their progenitor and the project was altered to something even darker. Instead, they were used as sacrifices to try and create the first Level 6 Esper. Dragon Ball-style calculations were applied to establish if the strongest Level 5 fought and killed a Railgun over and over would he grow more powerful, eventually becoming the first ever Level 6 Esper.

This story makes up the bulk of the season, and is quite gripping - the truth of the experiment, the Sisters themselves, and Accelerator's past, it all adds together for some great storytelling, making it a strange decision to continue the series after this story is wrapped up. The entire final third is dedicated to a different story, a story about a special young girl called Febri. Febri's story is similar to the Sisters arc in that it is again based around a group of shadowy of scientists and their nefarious plans. Thankfully, this arc is almost on par with the Sisters, building on numerous story elements that developed during not just this season but also in the first season, where Misaka and her friends finally come to a confrontation against the scientific group of STUDY.

This complete collection combines Funimation's previous releases together, so it brings with it both the English and Japanese dubs along with a bunch of extras. There are the usual clean opening/closings, a few trailers, and a handful of episode commentaries from the English cast. The series is from studio J.C. Staff, and the quality is rather hit-and-miss. During the action scenes and the dramatic moments, the quality looks great, with some gorgeous effects, especially around Misaka's abilities. Similarly, the emotions of characters are well portrayed with truly expressive faces. The problems come in the slice-of-life moments where the animation was clearly farmed out to less skilled and considerably less expensive studios. Despite the low points, though, the series is now four years old and could stand beside most of last year's offerings easily enough.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
It's funny that while Index is the franchise, Railgun is the star. Anytime Misaka is involved, Index has been better than the Sisters arc was… Without a doubt the best part of the Index franchise thus far, so to see it in its full glory repackaged here is a real joy. A Certain Magical Index Season 2, also out now, carries on Misaka's story, showing a budding romance, the next wobbly steps for Accelerator, and a future for the Sisters. While it stumbles elsewhere, it's worth watching for these alone and, hopefully, one day a new Railgun series will get to retell those stories better.

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