To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 08

Misaka Mikoto

A group of cleaners called ITEM is hired to protect the two remaining labs running the Sisters experiments. Three of the four members stake out one lab, while the fourth, Frenda, covers the second lab on her own, hoping for a bonus. Mikoto attacks this lab, and Frenda has placed explosive booby traps everywhere. Mikoto barrels through them all and corners Frenda in a small room, and Frenda tries to stay a step ahead, but ends up on the wrong end of Mikoto’s electricity. Before she can get any info out of her, the rest of ITEM bursts through the wall to bail Frenda out.

Hopefully this goes down without a hitch.

Well, thankfully, it didn’t, or we wouldn’t have had a very eventful episode! Mikoto would have destroyed the last two labs, completed her mission, and, I dunno, gone underwear shopping with Kuroko or something. Instead, she has to deal with one tough customer in Frenda Seivelun, a tiny, blonde ball of energy who may not be an esper, but is a magician with both explosives, traps, hand-to-hand combat, and nearly inexhaustible supply of counterattacks, feints, and bluffs. She and Mikoto fight for most of the episode, and it’s incredibly fun to watch the more direct Mikoto constantly run into a trap, only to overcome because she’s Level 5. You get the idea that if ITEM knew that little nugget of information, they never would have split their forces. But even so, Mikoto takes a beating before getting the upper hand.

ITEM is kind of a parallel to Mikoto’s group of four friends: imagine that instead of solving crime and protecting the weak and innocent from baddies, they start their own cleaning business. Lord knows there are plenty of labs out there doing awful shit that need protection. And Frenda makes it clear to Mikoto she doesn’t care what the client is up to (technically her client is a middleman) or whose cause is just or right. That’s not how things work for ITEM. They were paid to do a job, Mikoto’s the target, they eliminate the target and get paid. That’s it. Their casual, “another day at the office” repartee (the hallmark of Jormungand, for better or worse) in the cold open is proof they’ve been doing this a long time and they’re good at it. Which means Mikoto is in serious trouble, and in need of an ally or two of her own…

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • ITEM breakdown: the leader is Mugino Shizuri, voiced by Koshimizu Ami (AKA Holo/Maou), who is an esper. Her three underlings are Frenda (a very florid Uchida Maaya), Kinuhata Saiai (Akasaki Chinatsu), and Takitsubo Rikou (Suzaki Aya). It’s a nice mix of voices we know well, and they’re all good additions to the cast.
  • Great battle action this week, something Railgun does better than random slice-of-life, IMO (not to say they’re bad at SoL; Mikoto’s day with MISAKA was wonderful).
  • While Maaya’s voice is a bit grating at times, she gets a few deliciously dark and evil things to say to Mikoto as they duel.
  • About that ally: the next-ep preview makes it plain, but Nunotaba Shinobu is tired of sitting on the sidelines. She pays a visit to the other lab, and while Mikoto distracts ITEM and the lab admins, she’ll be doing her part to stop the experiments and help Mikoto.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 07

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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.

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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.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • 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!

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 06

Misaka Mikoto, Accelerator

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.

Nunotaba Shinobu, MISAKA Clone

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.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 05

MISAKA 9982, Misaka Mikoto

Misaka meets her clone MISAKA 9982 and helps her rescue a cat from a tree. MISAKA won’t tell her classified info, so Misaka decides to tail her. On the way they have ice cream and fight over the frog badge. MISAKA then tells her she’s “going to the experiment” and bids farewell. Misaka hacks the net and finds out that 20,000 of her clones are being sacrificed in hopes of causing a Level 6 Shift. The Level 5 boy chosen for the shift meets MISAKA in an alley and they fight, ending up in a train yard where he thwarts her trap, rips off her leg, and drops a rail car on her. Misaka arrives too late to save MISAKA, and attacks the boy.

MISAKA 9982’s good deed (saving a baby in a car from heat stroke) has an unintended consequence – a kitten stuck in a tree. Like that kitten, MISAKA’s in new territory and in need of a helping hand, and this incident shows her that her “onee-sama” is a decent, compassionate sort who helps the weak. It’s also a great introduction to MISAKA, who has a totally different personality from the original, but then few sisters are alike, and sometimes they resent each other for it. MISAKA is a lost puppy, not a terminator. She throws Misaka off her rhythm, but also forms a strong bond.

But it turns out Misaka has bumped into her clone on the eve of her mission, the 9,982nd of 20,000 intended to turn one very sadistic kid into the first Level 6. After all the lighthearted comedy and sisterly exploits, Misaka is crushed upon learning these new facts, and takes it upon herself to save the kitten in the tree. Only she’s too late. The episode twists the knife here. Just when we thought MISAKA got the upper hand (when her bomb went off we pumped our fists) she’s viciously maimed and then killed; disposed of like nothing. That vibrant, clever, perceptive girl is gone in one crunch of a rail car. It spurs the original Railgun to rush headlong into danger once more, to avenge her sister.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We forgot how much we love how MISAKAs talk. So eccentric, yet so precise and easy to understand.
  • The whole ice cream interlude was kinda random, but still sweet.
  • Even Misaka’s clone questions her tastes. Ha!
  • We know the kid as Accelerator, of course. In this series, he doesn’t seem to need a crutch, though even if he did, he’s hardly a sympathetic character thus far. So far he’s just a snake, doing what comes naturally when a live mouse is dropped in his tank. (Argh, that’s another animal metaphor…sorry about that!)
  • After a second viewing, we’ve upped the rating to a 9.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 04

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Misaka’s friends find her in unusually high spirits while hanging out with her, unaware that she’s satisfied all of the cloning business is behind her. Alas, three months prior, two scientists extract MISAKA SN# 9982 from her maturation tube and begin to train her for outside life. After occupying an otherwise boring day by hanging out with some kids, Misaka send them on their way and senses her own power. She runs to its source and finds MISAKA 9982 standing before her.

Misaka’s dull summer day is juxtaposed with flashbacks to the lab where her doppelganger is being honed, but there really it’s a pretty tension-free day until nearly nineteen minutes into the episode, when Misaka finally senses her clone is out and about. The only stresses she had to deal with prior to that was not letting on too much to her friends about clones or why she’s suddenly so chipper, or the difficulty in acquiring a frog badge she can’t even proudly wear because she fear’s Kuroko’s pity.

Speaking of pity, perhaps we’re misguided in feeling compassion for compassion-less biological machines that just happen to look like Misaka – we’d probably be less outraged by what we saw if they were robots made of metal and circuitry rather than flesh and blood. But the Sisters are flesh and blood, and we’re sorry, and this shit’s all kinds of fucked up. If the scientists we follow in the flashbacks feel any reservations about the project, they certainly don’t show it, and abdicate any moral ground they might’ve stood on when they order #9982 to clean up a room full of dead, bloody sisters.

If you’re going to play god, the least you can do is clean up your own goddamn messes.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Kuroko thinks her onee-sama has already been replaced, until a remark about her panties gets her fried, and she’s convinced it’s the same old Misaka.
  • Considering all the punks and rapists in Academy City, why are those little kids running around unsupervised?
  • The sudden change in tone leading up to an awesome Big Reveal of Misaka finding MISAKA is quite powerful, and just about makes up for all the prior dawdling.
  • That closing shot of an emotionless 9982 saying “Understood” while her two tending scientists smile calmly at the sight of the carnage before them…a real chilling knife-turner.
  • Where the hell were Misaka’s frigging parents when criminal mad scientists where coercing her into surrendering her DNA map, the equivalent of blueprints for a WMD? Why was there no one around to say “No” on her behalf?*

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 03

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Mikoto confronts Nunotaba Shinobu about what’s going on, but Shinobu is tight-lipped, telling her there’s nothing to be done about it. Mikoto hacks Shinobu’s school database and learns of the location where she could find more answers. After changing out of her Tokiwadai uniform, she sneaks into the Higuchi pharmacy and gains access to a secret lab where she finds bio-pods and learns about the Railgun Mass Production, or Sisters Project. Right after she leaves in relief after learning the project’s been frozen, her clone arrives to delete all the data Mikoto just got done reading.

It’s only the third of twenty-four episodes, so we’re not surprised that in her aim to get to the bottom of all those railgun-cloning rumors, Mikoto only ends up scratching the surface of the mystery. When finally learning of what took place after she was swindled out of her DNA map as a youngster by a totally unethical doctor, her reactions are all normal and understandable – up until she learns the project was frozen. She stops digging and just nonchalantly peaces out; apparently convinced there’s nothing to worry about anymore, a notion she may have just invented to comfort herself. It’s denial to wrap herself in like Kuroko wraps herself in Mikoto’s giant teddy.

The fact of the matter is, even if there were no clones (and there are), Mikoto is still the victim of a severe violation. Even if the clones they produced were only Level 2s and 3s, they still produced frikking clones. We know this is the future, but we suspect it’s still not cool to play God in this fashion. Doesn’t Mikoto think for a minute about what became of the clones they did make? We’re of the view that even clones have human rights, and even if Mikoto was too young and stupid to realize what that doctor was asking for, as one of the few people with real knowledge of this Sisters Project, it now falls to her to follow through, learn the truth, and uncover those researchers’ crimes.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • This adds yet another level of intrinsic obligation to Mikoto’s character: as a Level 5 she’s charged with protecting the weak; as the original subject of a dangerous large-scale eugenics project, she’s charged with determining the truth and eliminating any resultant threats.
  • We liked Shinobu (a high school junior)’s insistence that Mikoto respect her elders. Frankly Mikoto’s been so burned by adults thus far in her life, she should be as rude as she likes!
  • Mikoto doesn’t often change out of her uniform, but when she does, it just feels special.
  • Hot strawberry udon? We gotta get us some of that…

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 02

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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)

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 01

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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)

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