Index and Railgun: A Certain Whimsical Ahoge
I’m often drawn to the more absurd Animes out there, be the absurdity come in the form of over-the-top situations that are nevertheless possible in this day and age, or in the form of unrealistic settings. Toaru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index) and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun (A Certain Scientific Railgun) are two parts of a larger story that fit into the former category.
These two series are set in a place called Academy City. It is a massive place, home to 2.3 million people, 80% of which are students; it’s a giant city of schools. Supposedly, the area is 20-30 years ahead of the outside world in terms of technology, and is the main gathering place of Espers, wielders of unique scientifically granted powers which make up the majority of the population.
Of course, not all Espers are equal; the city has a detailed ranking system which helps gauge the relative level of power an Esper has in their skill. A level 0 Esper might have a slight inkling of power, but they are otherwise normal humans; meanwhile, each of the seven level 5’s in the city wield incredible power, in some cases beyond the ability of science to reproduce.
A Certain Magical Index
Index is the first of the two series, and focuses on Touma, a (mostly) powerless human living in a city of Espers; and Index, a young woman who is almost literally a walking library.
Touma, in his own words, is cursed with a life of “such misfortune.” Even in the opening scene, we see him being chased by a gang, then confronted with one of the level 5’s, Misaka (who he nicknames Shocker later on). Despite being incredibly weak, Touma has one trump card: his right hand has the ability to negate any supernatural ability, which is later nicknamed Imagine Breaker. It is thanks to this that Misaka is not able to harm him; he simply negates her attacks.
The following day, before having to attend remedial classes, he encounters a girl hanging over his railing. Her first words to him are “I’m Hungry.”
It is from this encounter that Touma learns about the existence of magic, which in this world has roots in the divine. The young woman, Index, manages to get Touma involved in her own struggles, and his misfortune only grows from there.
Touma is, as mentioned above, a powerless Esper, a level 0. Beyond his ability, he’s actually a pretty underwhelming character. He’s the typical “I don’t want to be a hero, no wait I do” character, which is paired with an incredibly apathetic attitude toward certain issues and characters. His ability is incredibly useful, but limited. During some of the fights he finds himself in, Imagine Breaker wins him the battle; though in others, against powers whose effects are not directly supernatural, he is very useless (eg. he cannot negate the effect of gravity on a falling chunk of stone, no matter if it was teleported into the air or not).
Index is a human library. The branch of the church she belongs to, Necessarius, has implanted 103,000 books into her brain. This is possible because she has perfect memory, a detail that is revealed later in the series. She is a seemingly bottomless pit as far as food is concerned as well. She is very affectionate toward Touma, often showing it by leaving him covered in bite marks.
Her story is darker than presented here, but as to not ruin the story, I won’t reveal too much. Overall, she’s a presentable character. It makes an interesting pairing having her with Touma (not “with” or with Touma, just as… non-sexual partners), because she also possesses no traditional powers within the realm of magic except for her encyclopedic knowledge of the art.
Komoe is one of the more interesting characters, in my opinion, mostly because of her appearance. She’s one of those characters who looks loli, but is actually fairly old (and mature, as she shows a few times during the anime). By far, one of her best moments is when we see her driving her car… Or well, when we don’t see her driving it because she’s so tiny, despite the fact that her car is about the size of a Smart Car.
Stiyl Magnus (Fortis931) & Kaori Kanzaki (Salvere000)
These are the two villains of the first arc of the story. Stiyl is a fire mage, and Kanzaki is a swordswoman whose magic reinforces her body and attacks. I will not reveal anything further than the fact that they are actively hunting down Index, which is largely the reason she showed up on Touma’s balcony.
Misaka plays a substantial part in this series, primarily in one of its arcs, but I’ll discuss her in my blurb about Railgun. I should note though that she’s substantially more ballsy in this series as compared to Railgun.
Thoughts on the Series
Overall, this series was well done. It can, at times, be a little repetitive, but then again, what doesn’t fall into that trap at least once? It is, at times, hard to relate to or get fully behind characters in this series, however. Perhaps this is because of its largely monster of the week format (though in this case it’s monster of the arc), though its final arc provided a touching conclusion to the series. Although it won’t be with bated breath, I will be waiting to see if another season is produced of this anime.
A Certain Scientific Railgun
Railgun is a slice-of-life anime that has a tendency to get sidetracked by catastrophic occurrences. The lead positions of this story are given to Mikoto Misaka (The Railgun herself), Kuroko Shirai, Kazari Uiharu, and Ruiko Saten. Uiharu has always been a fan of Misaka’s, and thus manages to convince her workmate at Judgment, who also happens to be Misaka’s roommate, Shirai, to introduce her to the famous level 5 Esper. Despite awkward beginnings, the group quickly becomes inseparable. What follows is a parallel trip through the timeline of Academy City, though just where certain plot points intersect, I can’t be certain.
Judgment and Anti-Skill
Judgment and Anti-Skill are two police forces within Academy City. They are not prominently featured in Index, so I decided to write about them here rather than somewhere above.
Judgment mainly deals with the more “mundane” police activities; dealing with simple misdemeanours, enforcing curfews, helping retrieve items, and so on. Anti-Skill is more analogous to a SWAT team; they are called in during serious events like bank robberies or major crises in town (which occur far too often in the city, to be honest).
Shirai and Uiharu are partners within Judgment. Their office space is often a hang-out for the group.
The title character herself. She is one of the most powerful level 5 Espers in Academy City; she has electromaster powers, allowing her to manipulate electricity and electric fields around her. She has the ability to use her electronic affinity to shoot coins at up to three times the speed of sound, earning her the nickname of “railgun.” Despite her fearful power, she’s really a softie at heart, and is a huge fan of a frog mascot character. She is often rash, and will jump to help fight against wrongdoers, in spite of the pleas of Shirai.
Kuroko is…. insane. She has a fanatical love for Misaka, but thankfully that doesn’t totally dominate her presence in the anime. She is a driven and dedicated member of Judgment, and has the ability to really kick ass with her level 4 teleportation abilities. I’d almost rather encounter Misaka than Shirai in the first place, as Shirai can teleport stuff into your brain. That’s a pretty guaranteed death, right there. She has more than a few awesome moments (though no crowning moment of awesome, in my opinion).
Uiharu is a cute level 1 Esper. I really found her largely underwhelming in this series; the thing that stands out the most about her for me is the flowers in her hair. She often provides behind-the-scenes support for Shirai. Her power, while not given an explicit name in the anime, is to keep objects at consistent temperatures.
Saten is probably my favourite character in the anime, beyond Misaka in some points. She has no powers, though it is revealed that she would have levitation powers, should she be able to develop them properly. She is Uiharu’s best friend, and often greets her by flipping up her skirt and commenting on her panties. She has a large part in one of the main story arcs, providing an alternative perspective to the other three main characters. Saten is often incredibly outgoing, perhaps to help compensate for her lack of powers in a world dominated by them.
Thoughts on the Series
At first, I found it hard to get into Railgun, considering Index the better of the two. However, that position was reversed as the first major story arc came to fruition. The ability of the series to mix slice of life, drama, and action within the setting of Academy City made for an interesting product in the end. If you’re having a hard time watching the first few episodes, stick it out; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. One aspect of the series I adore is that of the struggle between self-image and artificial measurements of worth imposed by an outside entity; the level grading system is a cause for much grief in this anime, and is one of the reasons why Saten is so interesting. I find that the coherence of this anime trumps that of Index, because eventually it’s revealed that almost all of the events in Railgun have a specific purpose and all tie together in time for the final conclusion.
Overall, the… “Toaru” (I can’t think of a better common name for them) series is a pretty good package, even more so if the series are expanded more. I found the OP and ED music to be consistently impressive, especially the second pair of Railgun. (My friend Bluemage has uploaded some of the songs: Index OP 1 Railgun OP 1 Railgun ED 1) It does make more sense to watch these series in order, as things in Railgun make much more sense after having watched Index. I would suggest that you add these two series to your to-watch list.