Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 20 – Den Perfekte Soldaten

Well, what do you know, not only can Kuroko carry an episode, Ruiko can carry a pair, along with Frenda Seivelun. Most of the episode is one big shopping mall chase scene and showdown between Frenda and Yumiya Rakko, two sadistic hunters with poor Level 0 Ruiko in the middle. And yet the episode manages to infuse some humanity in both killers.

Having gone this far to save Ruiko, Frenda never quite feels right abandoning her to Yumiya, even when it seems the best shot at surviving. After all, Ruiko shared the last of her mackeral with her. As for Yumiya, she’s in full Assassin Mode until she spots some classmates from her school, and for a moment she’s reverted to her shy and lonely persona.

Yet just as Frenda gradually figures out Yumiya’s tactics as she survives one bullet wound after another, Yumiya draws on her experience with being an extreme loner to aid her assassin’s skills. When Frenda finally decides splitting up is necessary, she tries to find the right way to break it to Ruiko—who proceeds to suggest splitting up before her.

Frenda can’t help but be impressed with Ruiko’s attempt to be “a perfect soldier” despite knowing it could mean her death. Ruiko serves as a decoy with stuffed animal bombs that among everyone in the mall only one person reacts to as bombs: Yumiya. This allows Frenda to finally spot her, and when she launches herself at her with a devastating kick she doesn’t miss her face.

A thrilling two-sided beatdown ensues, with Frenda hitting the deck indicating to Yumiya that she’s won. However, Frenda is merely getting low because it’s the safest position to be in for when she detonates bombs all over the mall, sucking the oxygen out of the air and with it Yumiya’s ability to smell or breathe. It’s a very demolition expert-y way of getting the upper hand in a fight.

Yumiya tries to counter the thermobarics by rushing to the nearest broken window to take in air, but that’s just when Frenda pounces out of the smoke, stuffs mini-bombs in Yumiya’s gob, kicks her out of the building, and sets off the detonator with a particular sense of self-satisfaction followed by a huge bang. Throughout their battle, Ruiko managed to blend in with the bystanders and calmly escape the mall.

With the extent of the threats to her life still not fully known, Ruiko takes up temporary residence at an Antiskill facility, and is restless and anxious until she finally receives a message from Frenda, who asks her to have dinner ready when she stops by, a reply to Ruiko’s invitation before they split up.

As for Yumiya, she’s alive but down an eye and most of her face due to the blast, and her SCHOOL boss Kakine Teitoku isn’t in the mood to indulge her in seeking revenge. Getting ahold of the Tweezers takes precedence, and her role in the op is going to a backup.

Back home, Ruiko tries to reach back out to Frenda but doesn’t get any replies, yet still prepares dinner for two. When the doorbell rings, she’s so excited she stubs her toe on her desk (as beautifully animated as the earlier battle), and just as dejected when it turns out to be Uiharu.

The good news? Ruiko learns no one died in the mall explosions. The bad news? She’ll probably never see Frenda again. That hurts, and you can sense Ruiko’s pain. Frenda, so much more powerful an esper than her and heartless a killer to boot, and yet someone with whom Ruiko could share a can of mackerel. Ruiko may have acted like the perfect soldier that day in the mall, but at the same time, Frenda was the perfect friend.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 19 – New Friends, Good Fish, and Foul Play

While Kuroko and Uiharu are busy using the pre-cog app to prevent accidents, Ruiko ends up making an unexpected friend at the supermarket. Due to a fad going around claiming the fish helps increase good looks, Ruiko buys the last two cans, and Frenda Seivelun hounds her until she gives her one. When she accidentally blows it up trying to open it on the spot, she worms her way into dinner.

Ruiko is initially bemused by this odd, haughty foreigner, but the two end up becoming fast friends and message each other regularly. It’s strange having Frenda show up in a mostly comedic role considering we know she died a grisly death in the Index show, but to enjoy this episode you have to put her impending doom out of your head.

Things actually take a dark turn as Ruiko’s purchasing of a Dream Poker card that makes you an expert at “picking things up with chopsticks”, raises a flag with a member of SCHOOL, who believes it relates to the “Tweezers” their underground group is trying to acquire. The hacker kid has Ruiko abducted, not knowing she has absolutely nothing to do with the Tweezers. This franchise certainly asks its audience to remember a lot of parallel storylines.

Thankfully, Frenda spotted the toughs approaching Ruiko’s position, and tossed a tracking device on their clothes. Hamazura picks her up in his Mini and they catch up to the vans. Then Frenda uses explosives to block the vans and takes out the goons, thus rescuing Ruiko. SCHOOL hacker guy then contacts sniper Yumiya Rakko, who was about to hang out with her school friends when she was called away.

Yumiya’s persona changes drastically from shy and stuttering at school to a focused, sadistic killer in hunter mode. And make no mistake, she’s going to hunt Frenda to blow off the steam from missing out on her crucial social gathering.

If you ask me, Academy City has way too many crazed teenagers working for what amount to criminal gangs, whether ITEM or SCHOOL. It’s why poor civilians like Ruiko always end up in the middle of trouble not of their making.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 18 – The Legend of Bust Upper

When Ruiko proudly, flamboyantly shows Mikoto how much her kendama skills have improved (showing off like nunchaku) through Dream Poker, its to encourage her friend not to give up on the fad just because she had a bad first experience. Meanwhile, Kinuhata Saiai of ITEM (this arc takes place before the group was destroyed) has discovered that of the four female members she has the smallest bust, and is not okay with that.

Saiai and Mikoto, two young women overly self-conscious about their size, end up crossing paths at a street poker card street dealer. The one S-Class card in his stock happens to be the dream of a “long-lost but brilliant scientist” researching a certain matter near and dear to them. When the two learn it is called Bust Upper, they’re both on the cusp of starting an esper brawl when the dealer breaks them up and all the cards scatter.

Rather than fight, Mikoto and Saiai decide to each buy up half the cards and try them all out until they find the Bust Upper, which got lost in the pile. Yet neither end up dreaming with that card, only finding themselves in scenarios in which society and the world persecutes them due to their modest natural bust sizes. Both get so frustrated they end up waking up loudly ranting in the napping center, and are politely kicked out.

They continue searching the cards poolside (though not in swimsuits), and aside from an extremely cryptic, abstract dream involving a mysterious black-and-white-haired woman (of whom we certainly haven’t seen the last), they come up empty again. They part ways “ultra”-disappointed, but the Railgun and ITEM having enjoyed a truce over a shared lack of a burden (on their shoulders), and believing the dealer was simply telling tall tales.

However, the real Bust Upper card ended up snatched up by a crow while both were napping. When a cat startles the crow, it drops the card near the hand of a girl in the park with a modest bust of her own. The next day, as Rikou is showing Uiharu her new master pen-spinning skills (love her trend of only mastering useless skills), they unwittingly witness the results of Bust Upper, tying the episode up with a neat bow.

As far as Railgun filler goes, it rarely gets as filler-y as this, and takes the patently silly bust complex comedy about as far as it can go. But it’s nevertheless a fun time because it’s bursting (busting?) with Railgun charm straight out of the gate. It’s great to Mikoto enjoying some ordinary days before the next threat shows up, and especially nice to see ITEM during better days.

P.S. Considering how hard she worked the past two weeks, it’s understandable that Kuroko just wants to get some shut-eye when Mikoto, who is overly rested from all the napping, talks about her day. Kuroko doesn’t even react to the mention of Missy in a revealing outfit!