From Sunrise comes a new Railgun-esque sci-fi action show centered around a group of young, elite psionic soldiers pooling their various abilities to defeat the invading Others, who are straight out of Madoka. Yuito is our young rich boy rookie with something to prove, Nagi is his designated horny best mate, Hanabi is his cute childhood friend, while Kasane and Naomi Randall are two sisters who are a lot better at their jobs out of the gate than the guys.
Character designs are crisp, clean, consistent, and pleasant to look at. A true strength of the series is an easy chemistry among the various introduced characters, a slick wardrobe in which everyone wears something different but they’re united in their black, gray an red palette, and the brain-eating CGI Others are the right kind of unsettlingly uncanny. The OP and ED whip.
Demerits include generic personalities and nothing much in the way of originality in its premise or execution. It’s a very solidly by-the-numbers. affair. After going the whole episode without, the ending resorts to narration by Yuito, portending some kind of grand conspiracy on the horizon. My guess is that the Others are being made or drawn to Earth by bad guys.
With Tokyo ESP it looks like we have a rare case of me agreeing with a lot of Franklin’s assessment: this wasn’t the worst-looking show (though it did seem like they were proud of their floating Diet building), but the visuals weren’t what I’d call stand-to-attention impressive.
ESP’s more irksome flaws were in its simple good-vs.-evil milieu and overabundance of characters. It didn’t help that I’ve recently seen X-Men: Days of Future Past, which also featured bands of mutants on a rampage and city landmarks floating around. Call ’em espers, call ’em mutants; it’s much the same thing, and feels a bit stale.
As Franklin also said, the Good Guys are really just generic good guys, and even say “not all espers are bad” to a surprisingly receptive crowd. They may be good, but the espers who are bad are having a field day with the city. You’d think there’d be a lot more panic among the masses than we see here.
I also wasn’t at all pleased with the random insertion of the Little Girl+Speeding Truck™ trope, drawn out to a torturous, molasses-slow pace. For a loud enormous truck that looks like its moving at 120mph, it sure takes its time getting to that girl, who’d you’d think was deaf and blind, judging from her reaction to it.
For an episode that mostly eschewed plot and character in order to serve up some chaotic “in the thick of it” action, some odd choices were made, and there was so much going on around the city it seemed the episode itself had trouble deciding who and what to show us.
Finally, the person who’s hyped as the savior of the city, who only shows up in the final moments, is the umpteenth Special White-Haired Girl™ (well, sandy blonde). Will she mosh across the masses as they chant “Mhysa”? I think I’ll leave it to Franklin to find out.
After some wrangling, Therestina Kihara Lifeline gives Mikoto a lead: whomever created Febri, a “chemicaloid”, want the world to know they exist, perhaps during the upcoming assembly. Uiharu searches through past participants and Kongou recognizes Aritomi Haruki on a file, and ties him to Study Corporation, which owns a suspicious old factory. Mikoto goes there to find ITEM destroying its security robots. When they leave she breaks in and finds Nunotaba Shinobu, who hands her the recipe for Febri’s candy. Airtomi arrives, saying it’s a fake, and offers the real stuff in exchange for Mikoto accepting a paralyzing shot. She does, but he destroys the vial anyway, calling Febri an expendable spare for their greatest invention: “Janie.”
Tokiwadai’s Level 5 Railgun has gotten a harsh education in the realities of Academy City. She may claim to “love” it , but not all of it loves her. As she lives her happy top-flight esper high school life with her regal title, it’s not surprising that she’d lose sight of the very real unsavory elements in the city, including a group of non-espers toiling in obscurity, seething in envy and resentment as the espers of the city get all the attention, utterly unable to do anything about it. In this episode Therestina and Aritomi both pay her sarcastic deference to her title, as if to pat her on the head and say “oh, you silly!”
Of course Therestina is safely behind bars, and can only gloat about having put Mikoto in a bad mood (which subsides when Kuroko assures her that – Level 5 or not – she loves her onee-sama). Aritomi wants to experiment on Railgun, and by episode’s end, he has her right where he wants her: isolated and defenseless, with the clock on Febri running out. Nunotaba is caught in the middle; her compassion for Febri mirrors her compassion for the MISAKA clones. But Aritomi doesn’t care about any of that. Very soon, that tank labeled “JANIE” will open, and if his plans succeed, the world will know he and STUDY Corporation exist.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- Therestina’s cell is pretty…sparse. Where’s the bed? The toilet? Why isn’t that heavy metal chair bolted to the ground?
- But hey, at least they let her have M&M’s (or the Japanese equivalent). We liked how she offered one to Mikoto believing she’d assume it was poison, only to eat it without fuss, which led to Therestina giving her info.
- Mikoto puts her trust in Aritomi as well, holding her arm out to receive that injection…but that didn’t work out so well.
- If there was any doubt that the show seems unsure what else to do with ITEM, this week they get a brief pool scene and are then used to distract security for Nunotaba. But work is work, right?
- Loved how Mikoto and Kuroko’s lovely little moment was cut short when Mikoto realized her roommate was trying to cop a feel.
- While on the train, Mikoto spots that bridge remembers one of our favorite scenes of the franchise. Of course, Imagine Breaker is kinda useless against non-espers…
- Can’t someone buy normal, modern clothes for Febri? What’s with the wedding cakes?
The robots that attacked Febli had no batteries, leaving Antiskill scratching their heads. Mikoto, Saten, UIhau and Shirai take Febri out to eat and to a bathhouse. While on their way home, they keep running into detour signs, corralling them into a dead end where they’re attacked by a giant robot deployed by Aritomi and his fellow researchers. Mikoto’s electricity has no effect on it, but Kongou swoops in to save them. Febri develops a fever and is hospitalized. Mikoto & Co. spend the night there, and in the morning Heaven Canceler tells Mikoto Febri is man-made.
“Those who rely on their powers are powerless,” says one of the researchers now targeting Mikoto. They’re bold words, infused with a degree of bitterness and jealousy, spoken by someone who is tired of the espers getting all the attention. But they also ring a bit hollow in light of what’s happened so far. It may be more accurate to say “those who rely on their powers will be bailed out by their friends’ powers.” Kongou is proving to be the X-factor of this arc, foiling the brainiacs’ plans at every turn in her usual arrogant-but-elegant style.
It’s also hard to take these guys seriously though, considering how slowly this episode went. There’s absolutely no hurry to reveal who they are or how they plan to defeat the espers. We hang out with the girls as they entertain Febri, and the battle is almost an afterthought, thanks to Kongou just happening to be in the right place at the right time. Still, Febri being present for both instances of machines working without internal power and the revelation she’s an android got us a little more invested. If she’s the source of the machines’ power, then Kongou’s attack harmed her too.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Ruiko and the others befriend Febri, but she’s apprehensive of Mikoto. They can’t find a record of her anywhere, so they list her as a child error and arrange for her to stay at the Cypress Children’s Home. It isn’t ready to take her in yet, so for the next five days Ruiko and the others will have to take care of her. At the grounds of the Academic Assembly, Ruiko leaves Febri with Mikoto, but they get separated. When they find her, Aritomi has sent robots after her, but Mikoto dispatches them, surprising Aritomi, who along with his science team votes to experiment on the third-strongest esper, the Railgun.
This was another one of those “interacting with little kids” episodes that Railgun/Index does sometimes (in fact, probably every episode with Index can count as one of those). It’s not that we don’t like kids (nor is it like Mikoto, where they don’t like her), it’s just that these episodes tend to be quite slow and plodding, in a series that is always best when the pace is, forgive the expression, more electric. As for Febri (or Febli), she’s cute as a button, but otherwise was basically your run-of-the-mill lost kid: shy and weary, but eventually opening up to everyone but Mikoto, whose name she inexplicably knows (Ruiko and Uiharu also make a good ‘mom-and-dad’ pair).
Still, we learn next to nothing about her, except that Aritomi and his colleagues are aware of her existence. We assumed she was an escaped scientific subject on the order of the MISAKAs or Last Order, or possibly even some kind of android built by Aritomi’s team. But the truth of her origin has yet to reveal itself, so for now she seems to be the piece that led Aritomi to Mikoto, starting another story of espers vs. the knowledge- and power-greedy scientists, only on a smaller scale, and with students (not adults) as the antagonists.
Rating: 6 (Good)
The Level 5/4 duo of Mugino Shizuri and Takisubo Rikou relieve Frenda. Mikoto flees, but Takisubo uses AIM Stalker to locate her as Mugino sends Meltdowner beam attacks her way. The chase gradually wears Mikoto down. Meanwhile, Nunotaba aims to install emotions into the clones, so they might fight for their lives. She is thwarted by Kinuhata Saiai who was guarding the other lab in case Mikoto was only a diversion. When Mikoto deflects Mugino’s Meltdowner, Mugino realizes that her target could only be Tokiwadai’s Railgun.
This has been a rough couple of weeks for poor Miss “Clean Up My Own Messes Made Inadvertently When I Was A Toddler.” Just when she had Frenda where she wanted her, Frenda’s stronger, more tenacious, esper comrades arrive and make life a living hell for Mikoto. She seriously can’t stop to catch her breath, lest she get blasted into dust by Mugino. And just when we thought all of the Railgun’s suffering wouldn’t be in vain because Shinobu is at the other facility, making her move, Shinobu is also thwarted. Her plans to give all of the Sisters emotions apparently fails…but maybe not all the way.
Aside from that one glimmer of hope, the bad guys run this episode. Which is okay; the entire franchise has always had a problem with idiotic, over-boasting adult villains, and it’s good that this ITEM group is not only extremely confident, but also relatively likable. They’re all so different, they won’t be easily caught off guard at the same time, and what’s more, even if Mikoto is a stronger esper than all of them, it’s still four-against-one…at least until the end, when Mugino perhaps makes her first mistake: deciding to go one-on-one against a winded Mikoto.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
- Shinobu knows her limitations and is aware of the possibility the Level 6 program will never be totally defeated…but she still decides to do what she can for the clones, as she couldn’t ignore the glimmer of emotion she felt from one.
- Esper breakdown: Mugino has a lightning-esque Meltdowner ability; Takisubo has the AIM Stalker tracking ability, but only when she takes a drug that sends her into overload; and Kinuhata has super-strong bulletproof esper armor (and tries to say super in every sentence).
- Mikoto’s goal is to destroy the facility…isn’t that exactly what’s been happening the last two weeks? Place looks pretty destroyed already to us…maybe there’s still some vital part she hasn’t gotten to yet; but as Shinobu points out, even destroying all the facilities won’t end the experiment.
Mikoto starts her secret night attacks on all of the Sisters labs in the city, causing significant damage to the experiment. Unable to oppose who he suspects is the culprit, the lab administrator considers a third-party “remedy.” With Onee-sama always out and not telling her what she’s up to, Kuroko grows concerned with the distance between them, and her inability to help her.
Kuroko helps out a young girl, Minori, who is moving away and wants to find a parting gift for her friends. Because Judgment can’t allow her to keep a lost cash card, they help her search for four-leaf clovers instead. When Mikoto is on her way out again, Kuroko tells her to take care; Mikoto thanks her. By the end of the night, only two labs remain operational.
We’re always a little tentative whenever Shirai Kuroko is the focus of a Railgun episode, because she’s usually used more for comic relief in the form of expressing sexual desire for her “Onee-sama” Mikoto never has any interest in reciprocating. It can get tedious. Kuroko is best when her character is being treated seriously, as it is this week. She’s dealing not only with increased distance from her best friend, but also concern about what she may be up to. Not knowing for sure makes her feel that much more useless; how can she help Onee-sama if she’s kept in the dark?
If we have a complaint with this episode, then, it’s not in Kuroko’s portrayal of an concerned, antsy, loving friend. We weren’t even that miffed that Kuroko didn’t take it upon herself to insert herself into Mikoto’s business (not yet, anyway). She was distracted by Minori, the girl who stands in the middle of a busy street knowing full well that kids in anime who do that always get run over (fortunately for her, this anime has teleportation). Minori, longing to show her love for her fiends, becomes a parallel for Kuroko. For Mikoto, it’s enough that Kuroko is covering for her with the dorm supervisor. For now, at least.
Rating:7 (Very Good)
- Those clear jelly buns look weird (and “novel”) but we’d still try them. We bet they’re tasty…
- Don’t stare too long at Uiharu’s flower crown. It doesn’t make sense.
- We can only imagine Kuroko’s reaction if she ever saw her Onee-sama in her delivery girl disguise, complete with ponytail. Some drool would likely flow.
- The lab guy, not afraid to let somebody else do his dirty work, will likely recruit another Level 5 to deal with Mikoto. This is why we think Kuroko won’t stay on the sidelines for long.
- We don’t think he’ll sic Accelerator on her, since that would taint the experiment.
- That driver needs to have his license taken away. He seemed to have the reaction time of a ninety-year old in a coma.
- FWIW, we personally believe a four-leaf clover plucked from a verdant riverbank is a more tasteful gift for your friends than a cash card you found in a dirty street. Safer, too!
Mikoto attacks the boy who killed MISAKA 9982, but he is able to neutralize all of her esper powers. An army of MISAKA clones arrives and stops the fight, and the boy introduces himself as Accelerator. Mikoto spends the night on a bench, and Shinobu approaches her. She tells her that she’s come to see the MISAKA clones as human, but can’t do anything about stopping the Level 6 Shift project. Mikoto vows that she won’t let the scientists involved get away with it. She takes her friends to a cafe to apologize for worrying them, but doesn’t tell them what she was up to.
When she was a little girl, Mikoto was told her DNA map could help in the fight against muscular distropy. She was lied to, but was too young and too inexperienced with deception to realize it. Even if she shouldn’t blame herself for what followed…she does. And in her typical hard-headed Misaka way, she’s committed to cleaning up the mess she started, and doing so alone. Neither a swift ass-kicking by Accelerator nor the complete willingness of the MISAKA clones to sacrifice themselves for the experiment will deter her.
We liked Shinobu showing up again, telling her the story of when she stopped thinking of the clones as mere guinea pigs. You see, all of the MISAKAs are linked together in a vast network of shared memories and experiences, which would be passed on to all new MISAKA clones. In effect, this makes her immortal, but at the same time, the price is her being murdered over and over, thousands of times. As Shinobu says, “Life is life,” whether its guinea pigs, humans, or the clones of humans who have amassed lifetimes worth of knowledge.
That scene, in which MISAKA seemed to express an emotional response to seeing the sky for the first time, is as sad as it is beautiful, since we can be reasonably certain that individual MISAKA is long dead. But she, and all her sisters are still in the heads of those who survive. The last MISAKA there is will have the personalities of all who proceeded her. But despite these metaphysical considerations, Mikoto won’t accept their slaughter. Shinobu may not have the power to stop the project, but Mikoto just might.
Rating: 8 (Great)
- Apparently Shinobu’s a fan of randomly inserting English into her speech.
- The series so far has focused on Mikoto – a good thing – but also known exactly where and when to use Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu. They’ve been used sparingly but effectively.
- We loved Saten’s promise that they’ll be there for her, if she ever needs help with whatever she’s dealing with.
- This week they finally rolled out the “Misaka surrounded by naked bloody clones of herself” image, via her nightmare.
- We’ll see how long Mikoto will last going it alone before her friends start to get involved.
While on her way to some shopping, Shirai shows Misaka a shortcut to the mall that turns out to be busier than she’d expected. They find an unmarked envelope with a cash card and turn it into Judgment, where Uiharu says its one of dozens found so far. After searching for more with Saten, Misaka overhears four Skill-outs who plan to ambush a girl they think is the source of the cards. When they arrive, the girl proceeds to “kill” them all one by one with her “esper ability” (a paper gun with anesthetic and a black light) Misaka arrives, and the girl calls her “the original.”
Now that we’ve been reintroduced, Misaka and the gang get drawn into a fresh mystery that ultimately leads Misaka to someone involved in the scientific experimentation she agreed to as a child, involving cloning her. Having watched Index II we’re already aware of Misaka’s clones, including the little one, but we’re guessing this series takes before that? We’re not entirely sure, so we’ll just treat this as an isolated timeline for now. The important point is that Misaka was a little kid being shown someone with muscular distropy. Would any sweet little kid refuse to help after seeing that?
Likely not, but we maintain she was too young to be given that choice. She wasn’t old enough to fully grasp the consequences, and even if the shifty-ish scientist told her exactly what he was going to do with her DNA mapping, she’d probably only understand a fraction of it. So not only has Misaka grown into someone who insists on going her own way to help and protect others, she made a choice at a very young age to allow herself to be cloned for medical and esper research. Quite a contrast in circumstances to Shirai, Uiharu and Saten.
Rating: 6 (Good)
Misaka, Saten, Shirai and Uihari visit the hospital with Haruue Erii to visit a recovering Banri. At the same hospital, Antiskill is holding a “radical wannabe” leader. His friends break him out and they get to the roof with Erii as their hostage, but Misaka rescues her and then deals with them with assists from Saten and Shirai.
So here we are, back in Academy City with the whole gang. Unlike Index, Misaka is the lead character, but there’s so many other characters from the other three series plus specials that the episode couldn’t possibly get to them all (much like Game of Thrones). And Misaka is still her ordinary self, using her awesome electrical powers and pluck to protect those weaker than her from baddies, despite not having any law-enforcing authority and much to Shirai’s chagrin. In any case, we’re nicely eased back into the world; it’s like reconnecting with an old friend.
One newbie is Tokiwadai’s “Queen”, Shoukuhou, who has a rather nasty ability to create an army of followers with a remote control and apparent powers of telepathy and hypnosis. But the balance of the show is the girls ending up in the same place as another baddie, one of the girls getting held hostage, and having to deal with it with lots of over-the-top action. Nothing too deep. This series is probably a guilty pleasure, but like Haruhi, if they keep making series, and keep making them well, we’ll keep coming back to watch them.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Saotome plans to change the future in which espers revolt by using a hypnotized Yuugiri to assassinate New York’s new pro-esper mayor, starting riots and causing anti-esper sentiment to spread. Hyoubu penetrate’s Saotome’s elaborate lattice of illusions to get through to Yuugiri and break her hypnosis. His use of Unlimited causes his power to go out of control, but Andy and Yuugiri won’t abandon him: Andy uses his eye to stop the power overload. Hyoubu tracks down Saotome and erases his memories. Andy sets off on his own, but is made an honorary member of PANDRA.
If this is the end, it isn’t such a bad one.
Whoa, there, Hyoubu: we’ll be the judge of that! The finale ends in New York City, pretty much the last place you want ESP bombs like Yuugiri or Hyoubu going off, unless it’s your intent to cause mayhem. Saotome has clung to life just as Hyoubu has so that he can change the future he saw. He thought the survival of humanity required the subjugation of espers. Not surprisingly, his ethos loses out, thanks to Hyoubu’s persistence and Andy’s magic eye. Everyone else sits this out, with only token scenes of farewell, but the focus on Hyoubu, Saotomne, Andy and Yuugiri was as good a place as any to end things.
To its credit, this series doesn’t go longer than the twelve promised episodes, and manages to bring everything to a satisfying close. Hyoubu is ready to finally give in to the grim reaper, but his family stops him. He lives on to realize a future of equal rights for espers. One could say the doomsday Saotome warned is still in the cards, but screw that old man; his alternative future that curbs the freedom of an entire people wasn’t a future worth saving. Maybe a revolt has to happen if equality is ever going to be a reality.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
- The BABEL chaps arrive right at the nick of time to save Andy from getting arrested. Good timing, right?
- If the Children want to be treated more like adults, maybe they should stop sleeping in the same bed, eh?
- We were surprised Kaoru didn’t really do anything here, but maybe they’ll make a spin-off show about the older her. Maybe!
Hyoubu and Andy locate Walsh, and make him show them the location of Yugiri. He leads them to the bowels of a USEI installation, but it’s a trap. Saotome tells them they have to “administer” espers in order to prevent Ihachigo’s prophecy of catastrophe led by Akashi Kaoru in the future. Hyoubu and Andy are able to escape as PANDRA members show up to help, but when they travel to New York, where they find a reprogramed Yugiri who defeats them one by one.
This week, Hyoubu reunites with PANDRA, Andy chooses a side, they learn that Saotome’s still alive (somehow), and the USEI’s plan for espers, manage to escape a maximum security military installation, and did we mention a pro-esper mayor is elected in New York? Yeah, that last one is kinda out of left field; apparently meant to be a hint that the foretold destruction of mankind will occur there. The idea is, that if given equal rights, espers will cause the apocalypse. Unfortunately, Hyoubu and Andy’s escape is downright ludicrous.
There’s a scene during their escape when all of their opponents helpfully stop firing for a very long time…for no reason. The mini-security drones are laughably inept, and the human commandos have abysmal aim. Combined with the routine twist of Yuugiri being re-programmed by USEI to attack espers and the convenient reappearance of PANDRA’s sub in the knick of time, this episode is a bit of a mess: more concerned with packing in as much plot and action as possible without regard to pace and plausibility. When the baddies are this stupid, it neutralizes the peril. Though we do like how Kaoru is prophesied to be the harbinger of doom.
Rating: 5 (Average)
Andy saves Hyoubu, and Fujiko saves the two of them. Andy is sent to BABEL, where a USEI tracking chip is removed from his skull. Hyoubu is brought to the Tsubomi Manor. The children gain Hyoubu’s location from a BABEl administrator, and Kaoru agrees to let Andy come along, and he confirms that Saotome Eiji hired him. Kaoru donates blood to Hyoubu, who escapes to find Eiji. Tsubomi and Kaoru let him go, and Andy joins him.
Hyoubu and Kaoru are both immensely powerful espers, who could accomplish a lot if they joined forces, just like if BABEL and PANDRA did the same. But that doesn’t ever seem likely, for one very important reason: while Kaoru is always looking towards a future, one in which espers and normals can coexist and thrive, Hyoubu is stuck in the past, devoted to making normals pay for their sins. And ne’r the twain shall meet, and all that. Kaoru faces endless possibilities; but Hyoubu claims to be trapped.
You can’t fault Kaoru for her wide-eyed dreamer optimism, but nor can we dismiss Hyoubu’s thirst for justice, let alone revenge. After all, the man he trusted most in the world shot him dead, and he only came back because he has unfinished business. As far as he’s concerned, he only lives to exact justice on Saotome Eiji and everyone else who wronged him. And yet, we can help but think part of him wants to correct the mistakes he himself has made, which got Yuugiri captured and put his PANDRA family in jeopardy.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
P.S. We enjoyed scenes with estranged siblings Fujiko and Hyoubu, even if the latter wasn’t interested in any kind of re-connection; we also dug the tense post-betrayal interactions between Hyoubu and Andy; as the episode is quite eager to point out, Hyoubu doesn’t take well to betrayal.