Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S
A Certain Scientific Railgun S
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
When it comes to an anime adaptation of a manga, there are some things that I want. For starters, I want it to be as accurate as possible. Don’t go removing things or changing up things just because as an anime production team, you think you need to make your own mark on the franchise. Any additions to the anime version of the manga adaptation should be to enhance scenes (ie: make what transpired clearer to the viewer). Outside of that, I don’t want the anime version modified. Thankfully, for the most part, J.C. Staff does just this.
Episodes one through sixteen of the anime provide the adaptation of the Sisters arc from the A Certain Scientific Railgun manga (volumes 04 through the first part of 07), which covers Mikoto’s perspective. It also adapts light novel volume 3 of A Certain Magical Index, which tells the same story from Touma’s perspective, blending the two versions of the story to give the audience the complete version of the Sister’s arc. I applaud J.C. Staff’s decision to do this. I loved being able to see everything together rather than going to once source for one part and the other source for the rest of the story. So for me, this is a big plus in how J.C. Staff animated the story.
One of the things I had been worried about, based on the OP sequence of the anime, was that J.C. Staff would change things somewhat to give Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu more screen time. The Sister’s arc is a Mikoto story, and in both the Index and Railgun versions of that story, Mikoto’s friends are mostly absent. In order to give those girls more screen time, J.C. Staff doesn’t insert them into the story, thus changing it, but it does show the impact on the girls of Mikoto’s constant absence and signs of being very troubled. Since the manga couldn’t waste the pages to explore this, but the anime had the time, I had no problem with how J.C. Staff handled things here.
I really do wish all manga titles were adapted in this fashion. My only reason for wanting to see an anime version of a manga tale is to see that manga story not only come to life, but to do so in full color. For the various battles that Mikoto, the Sisters, or Touma got into in the manga, there’s only so much that a manga can do to bring that out. With the anime, the action sequences were just really nicely done, and there were things the anime made clear to me that the manga was more fuzzy on in said action scenes. So kudo’s to J.C. Staff for the adaptation portion of the anime series.
Where J.C. Staff falters is in their created Silent Party arc, which covers episodes seventeen through twenty four. In the first Railgun anime, J.C. Staff decided to explore some aftermath issues of the manga’s Level Upper arc, which I liked since the manga doesn’t take the time to explore these things, favoring skipping such ”trivial” things in order to go to the next big thing. With the Silent Party arc, J.C. Staff decided to answer the question of what happened to the supporting character of Shinobu from the Sister’s arc, whom the manga dropped once her role was completed in that story. I have no problem with J.C. Staff doing this, but their subsequent story build was just awful.
The main problem I had with the Silent Party arc is that the story wasn’t written with a specific purpose, but was written so that J.C. Staff could incorporate all of these other side characters back into the series. The Sister’s arc had purpose, howbeit a very dark one, and even though there were 20,000 clones of Mikoto here, I felt for them. There was a connection there. Unfortunately, with Febri in Silent Party, I never felt a connection with her, despite her being cute and loveable. She was clearly created as a character to evoke certain emotions in the viewer whereas the Sisters as characters were not created to evoke emotions in the viewer, but they do just the same. Artificial heart tugging vs. realistic heart tugging. For me, the real one will win every time.
In the Sister’s arc, the fact that clones were being used in unethical experiments pointed to a much darker, sinister element within Academy City that is not yet seen (at least, in the Railgun part of the Index franchise). As such, a group like ITEM comes off as competent mercenaries paid to do a job. They do their job well, especially considering they are going up against the number three esper in all of Academy City. They only back off once their leader Shizuri, the number four esper, discovers the Level Six Shift project and decides it will be more interesting to let Mikoto delve deeper into this darkness rather than block her from it.
In the Silent Party arc, we have this supposedly powerful group called STUDY, which is populated with mental geniuses of all types. They use their genius to gain financing, buy excellent “toys”, and even run businesses, such as one that legally supplies equipment to the paramilitary force known as Anti-Skill. They are tired of esper abilities being elevated above genius abilities. They want to show that mental giants are just as worthy of praise as the most powerful esper in Academy City. Thus they create an artificial human with esper abilities. So far, so good; I don’t have a problem with any of this.
Where STUDY falls apart as a group is that they are just a bunch of petulant teenagers who think they know everything. They say they want a revolution, but are so inept that Judgement members, without using their powers (save for Kuroko) were able to fairly easily hold off their however many “automated” power suits. Their bigger mecha were easily destroyed by Mikoto (and Shizuri with ITEM when they just appeared for the fun of it). Their decision to let Febri die since she was only their backup creation was stupid because anyone with half a brain knows that the whole purpose of the backup is to carry on in case the primary fails. But hey, this is the ever so smart STUDY!
As I said earlier, I didn’t mind that Shinobu was brought back in this episode to give her proper closure as a character. In order to accomplish this, one has to believe that somehow, STUDY knew of Shinobu, made some massive payment offer to ITEM to not have them turn Shinobu over to their client at the time, and then despite Shinobu’s attempt to sabotage the Sister’s project, STUDY had to believe that Shinobu would work for them. While one can squeeze in the pieces, it is still a bit of a stretch on the believability factor, even given STUDY’s arrogant stupidity. But, I give it a pass since I like Shinobu and wondered what became of her after she was captured in the Sister’s arc.
J.C. Staff does a couple of other weird things. Because they already introduced Mitsuko in the earlier anime series and did NOT follow the manga story in doing so, they had to take a moment to get Misaki’s introduction in since she will be such a major player in the next manga arc (the Daihasei Festival). They adapted the scene properly, but since it wasn’t part of Mitsuko’s introduction as it was in the manga, it loses context. It does establish Misaki as someone antagonistic with Mikoto though. Despite this, J.C. Staff decides to have Mikoto go to Misaki off camera and arrange for a massive favor. I’m thinking, “What’s in this for Misaki to grant Mikoto such a favor?” Since there’s nothing, and at this point, Mikoto’s knowledge of Misaki is limited, then it makes no sense that Misaki did anything for Mikoto.
Next up is the decision by J.C. Staff to bring back one of their created villains from the first anime series, Therestina Kihara Lifeline. Initially, I thought, “Oh, that’s cool.” But here too, Mikoto goes to see Therestina in prison with NOTHING to offer, yet she expects Therestina to cough up the information. Therestina initially does what one would expect — she has no interest in helping Mikoto and she event taunts her. Yet in the end, she inexplicably gives Mikoto clues. The only reason I could come up with for her to do this was to shut Mikoto up, as she’d become rather bloviating like Touma often is. So in the end, there was no reason to bring Therestina back except that J.C. Staff seemed determined to bring in as many characters as possible for the Silent Party arc.
I mentioned Mitsuko earlier. J.C. Staff had turned her into a character that she is not in the manga. Thus, in order for them to even remotely get the Daihasei Festival arc adapted properly, J.C. Staff had to scramble to redeem the character in the Silent Party arc. For the most part they succeed. The rivalry between Mikoto and Mitsuko is dropped in a reasonable way and Mitsuko starts shifting from being so haughty to someone who genuinely cares. Of course, J.C. Staff couldn’t totally rid themselves of their version of Mitsuko, but assuming they do adapt the Daihasei Festival arc, I want to see Mitsuko as she is in the manga — a valued ally who’s not haughty.
I’ve written a lot more than I’d planned, but in the end, J.C. Staff does an excellent adaptation of the Sister’s arc from the A Certain Scientific Railgun manga. They fail on their created Silent Party story. The good far outweighs the bad here, so this is a good addition to the anime portion of the franchise.