A Certain Scientific Railgun S – Complete Season 2 (Cert 15)
4 Discs DVD/3 Discs Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 569 minutes approx.
Simultaneously joining the release of A Certain Magical Index II is the sequel to its “side story” A Certain Scientific Railgun. While both series suffered from the same issues, Railgun was the more favoured of the two on this site, but with Index II being an improvement on its predecessor, does Railgun S also supersede its first season?
The answer is an emphatic yes though some residual gripes from the first season haven’t been excised, otherwise the story telling is considerably superior and noticeably more emotive than before. The crossover with the Index cast shines a different light on them, a side-effect of this story again taking place in a different timeline.
The Level 5 Esper Mikoto Misaka is front and centre of this series, her ability being a master manipulator of electricity. Her creepily obsessive roommate Kuroko Shirai, meek Kazari Uiharu and Ruiko Saten are on hand to offer typical girly support – and comedy distractions – for when Misaka isn’t blowing stuff up whilst saving Academy City from nefarious organisations.
After another standalone opening episode to reacquaint the audience with things, the show kicks off in earnest with a multilayered arc that essentially covers the first 16 instalments of the 24 in this collection. It begins when Misaka has a strange dream of her as a child offering to share her DNA map with scientists to help heal incapacitated youngsters.
Her friends begin to wonder why Misaka is acting strange when they see her, before realising that they all saw her at the same time in different places, leading to rumours that she had been cloned. Misaka does some investigating and draws a blank, satisfied it was just gossip, unaware that she had actually been cloned after all. The problem was that each successive facsimile was unable to replicate Mikasa’s powers to their full extent, resulting in personality defects with each passing experiment.
To offload the 20,000 clones Project Level 6 Shift was created to give a level 5 Esper the chance to increase their power to a level 6, using the clones as punching bags. Mikasa is distraught and angry to learn of this and sets about bringing the project and its creators down. Unfortunately for Misaka, the Esper chosen for this project is none other than the ruthless and anti-social Accelerator.
It’s probably fair to suggest that you watch this series before watching Index II purely because it explains many of the backstories and crucial elements of some of the events that occur in Index II. Conversely though, watching this after watching Index II does have that curiosity factor about it that comes with prequels filling in the gaps; in Japan Railgun S arrived two years after Index II so the producers clearly felt the same.
While into bereft of the silly humour in which Kuroko is the nominal pervert fulfilling the unwanted love interest role for Mikasa, this saga known as the Sisters Arc is an emotionally fraught tale of identity and morality, in which Mikasa finds herself in an unlikely position akin to motherhood when learning her clones have accepted their suicidal existence.
Mikasa gets help from Index’s male protagonist Touma Kamijou (largely to fulfil the crossover remit), their relationship not yet established as it is in Index II. Touma’s sense of justice and strong moral compass, not to mention his Imagine Breaker ability, makes him a powerful ally for Miksasa against Accelerator, be it alone or working in tandem. But Mikasa faces other foes in her quest to save the clones, as this arc introduces us to the all female mercenary squad known as ITEM.
It must be stressed that the above discussion omits much of the occurrences of this arc, which ebbs and flows in utilising its episode allocation. There is no Dragonball Z-esque seven episode punch-ups here, the story keeps on moving, twisting and turning and is peppered with high octane action and boasting a blend of touching sentiment, comic relief laughs and extreme violence.
The second arc is a largely lighter affair but follows a similar route in corrupt scientific organisations conducting experiments on young girls, starting with the a discovery of a homeless loli named Febri, suffused with a poison that can only be tempered by special lollipops. A group of researchers called (wait for it) STUDY (!) are responsible but their plans are much more sinister than Mikasa’s previous foes.
Comparing this to the Sisters Arc is perhaps a tad spurious and if a little more thought has gone into it, it could have filled a single cour run on its own, then this story could have made up another single cour and not be so easily overshadowed. That said, it is by no means a bad follow up but the rushed “all hands on deck” finale hints at a missed opportunity depth of exploration via a longer episode count would have afforded.
But it contains mecha, violence, some light fan service and an explosive battle royale conclusion of epic bombastic proportions with enough affecting drama to add substance to the proceedings. Probably the best thing this series as whole does is to hold Mikasa up in a new light. For all of the tsundere irritation she brings to her Index appearances, in her own world she sets herself up as a worthy kick ass heroine girls can get behind.
JC Staff again have done a wonderfully job with the presentation that positively glows in HD for Blu-ray fans. The artwork is rich with meticulous detail whilst the CGI blends in very well with the 2D animation. Rina Satō, Mikasa voice artist, really gets to stretch herself here, reaching down deep for the requisite passion of the key emotional scenes.
There is a very good chance I might be over praising A Certain Scientific Railgun S but it is everything Index isn’t and all the better for it. Not a perfect show but it left this writer pleasantly surprised and very satisfied.
English Language 2.0 Dolby TrueHD
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby TrueHD
Disc 1 (Blu-ray):
Episode 5 Commentary
Episode 7 Commentary
Disc 2 (Blu-ray):
Episode 15 Commentary
Disc 3 (Blu-ray):
Episode 19 Commentary
Textless Opening Songs – “sister noise” / “eternal reality”
Textless Closing Songs – “Grow Slowly” / “LINKS”
Rating – ****
Man In Black