To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 24 (Fin)

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The four small groups holding back Study’s AIMs are supplemented by the entirety of Judgment, stepping in after Anti-Skill’s hands were tied. With Febri’s help, Mikoto reaches Janie’s general position, but Aritomi sends hundreds of AIMs to surround her in an arena. When the first waves of AIMs are taken out, his colleagues sortie in heavier-duty robots armed with a facsimile of the Meltdowner’s beam weapon. On the front lines, they’re taken care of by a robot built by Kongou Airlines and piloted by Saten and Uiharu. In the arena, a furious Mugino and the rest of ITEM mop up the robots.

Fearing defeat is eminent, Aritomi enables Janie’s “Final Stage”, which will launch a missile from orbit that will turn Academy City to Ash. He tries to commit suicide, but Mikoto stops him, vehemently voices her commitment to protecting Febri and the city. As Shinobu and Saten coax Febri into forming a connection with Janie, Mikoto and Kuroko pilot the Kongou-bot up into orbit – with the Sister network assisting with calculations. Mikoto launches the robot at the missile before it fractures into warheads, averting disaster. Later, after Mikoto & Co. bid farewell to Shinobu, Febri, and Janie boarding an overseas flight, they agree to grab lunch before heading to their classes.

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We’re not going to sit here and tell you this episode didn’t have its share of plausibility issues. If you watched, you saw what we saw: a bunch of frail high schoolers holding back giant sophisticated robots with glorified shields and spears and low-level esper powers. We saw live ammunition being fired into large crowds of unprotected people and no one was shot. We saw Study Corp’s mission quickly evolving wanting to be recognized to wanting to turn the entire city to ash. And yes, we saw the a hastily-built off-screen mecha being used to even the odds on the ground, then used to launch into orbit, where Mikoto and Kuroko hold their breath while destroying a missile.

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None of this makes any damn sense, but Raildex has never been about plausibility or hard science. It’s been about cute slice-of-life interrupted by elaborate spectacle. And we’ll admit, watching everyone fighting together in one huge climactic battle was fun and exciting enough for us to forgive the many implausible jumps the episode takes as the stakes are raised. Of course, we were also a bit spoiled by watching the Index film, in which pretty much the same thing happens, only even more parties are involved. But as ridiculous as things got, the point is, many people together can do great things, things no one could ever do alone.

This season started with Sisters who thought they were expendable puppets. Mikoto and Touma helped them understand they were more. And those sisters were the first expression of that idea that there’s strength in numbers, a lesson Mikoto finally learned which led to all the great deeds that took place in this finale. Study was a group working together too, but they were megalomaniacal thugs threatening the city and the innocent. Once a larger group was mobilized against them, Aritomi never had a chance. In the last montage, we see that no one is alone and all’s right in the world…until the next baddie comes along.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 23

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After telling Mikoto he and his colleagues will start a “revolution” tomorrow, Aritomi locks her up with Nunotaba. Mikoto recognizes Nunotaba acting as she once did, and tells her she’ll be able to do more by depending on others and letting them depend on her. Mikoto uses her esper ability to move her body just as Kuroko arrives to rescue them. Nunotaba stays behind to learn the location of Study Corp.’s base and Janie.

Mikoto returns to Judgment, where both Uiharu and Kongou learn Study has deployed 20,000 AIM units around tomorrow’s Assembly, which they’ll control remotely using Janie. Everyone agrees to help Mikoto save Febri and her sister. At sunrise, Study Corp. activates Janie, at which point Febri can detect her location. Mikoto heads that way, while her friends form a perimeter around around the Assembly gates, ready to defend it from the swarming AIMs.

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“By depending on others, and letting them depend on you, people can exced what they can do as individuals.”

Damn straight. If it weren’t for leaning on her eager-to-assist friends, Mikoto would still be at square one, and Study Corp.’s revolution would have taken place by surprise. Instead, Mikoto infiltrates a lab and gets captured by Aritomi, who, annoyingly predictable antagonist as he is, helpfully provides hints as to his plan. And again Mikoto relies on her friends to fill in the blanks, and to know where to be and what to do when Study makes their move.

Now armed with the wisdom of relying on others, Mikoto sees Nunotaba struggle as she did with the feeling she had to go it alone, and getting frustrated and feeling “useless” when going it alone came up short. But she’s not useless; she’s just ineffective when she insists on going it alone, as Mikoto was. So she too asks for help, and agrees to help out in return. Therestina mocked Princess Railgun for having so many friends, believing them to be fake. They aren’t, and those many friends (including the Sisters) will prove crucial in stopping Aritomi’s revolution and saving Febri and Janie.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • It is sad to see Aritomi in the cold open speaking to a mostly empty assembly hall; it makes us understand the frustration that much come from working so hard and getting no recognition for it. 
  • And he has a point: the flashier espers get all the attention in Academy City. But there are better ways of changing that status quo. Swallowing his pride, reaching out to espers like Mikoto, and starting a public dialogue would be one way. Launching a large-scale terrorist attack will only get him and Study recognized as terrorists.
  • The moment Mikoto uses electricity to get up off the bed was pretty damned badass.
  • “Let’s guard the Level 5 esper, the extent of whose powers we don’t fully understand, with weak little security bots we can find!” Study Corp: cutting corners where it counts.
  • Febri changes into the white dress Kongou got her. Turns out it was Nunotaba who got her the black dress, which will almost certainly be worn by Janie if/when they rescue her.
  • Also cool: seeing everyone taking their positions against the coming onslaugh…though we’re a little worried about Saten and Uiharu. Isn’t the former a Level 0 and the latter’s only power maintaining temperatures?

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 22

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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.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • 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?

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 21

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Heaven Canceler tells Mikoto Febri’s body creates a poison that must be neutralized with her lollipops. Finding her creators is the key to helping her, but they’re likely in the underground. Mikoto plans to look for them herself, but after Kongou tells her about her similar situation, she decides to tell Kuroko, Saten, and Uiharu, who immediately begin an investigation. After analyzing the candy, Canceler determines Febri has only 72 hours to live without more lollipops. When Mikoto tells him she’s resolved to save her, he arranges a meeting between her and the incarcerated Therestina.

Early in the episode, things were starting to feel all too familiar: Mikoto learns a dark truth about her charge; Mikoto decides to keep it all to herself and not get her friends involved; Mikoto conducts a sloppy, inefficient investigation, gets caught, and gets her ass kicked. Fortunately, she too realizes she’s on well-trodden ground. Last week Kongou saved her and the others; this week Kongou saves us by unwittingly convincing Mikoto that this time, she should tell her friends, since true friends share joys and dangers. Her encounter with an oblivious Kuroko before setting out is the catalyst that induces her to tell everyone about Febri’s nature, her suspicions, her past dealings with dangerous people.

After saying all this and voicing her uncertainty she’ll be able to protect them from the coming “darkness”, as Canceler puts it, the three girls react exactly how we thought: they don’t give it a second thought and thrust immediately into Investigation Mode. You can see it on Mikoto’s face as she beholds this: she may be good at kicking ass and making powerful enemies, but these girls may well be better than she is at this kind of stuff. It probably also occurs to her that things may have gone more smoothly had she also called upon them to help her in the Sisters arc. But the important thing is, she’s no longer doing things herself, which means those who must answer for their misdeeds will have more than just her to deal with.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice assist by MISAKA 10032, whose observations makes Mikoto suspect Nunotaba Shinobu is involved in some fashion (as the audience, we know this to be true, though we don’t know why).
  • We really wouldn’t mind a Railgun spinoff starring Kongou, Awatsuki and Wannai.
  • Febri is actually pretty good at drawing Gekota. Her drawing of Mii is less impressive.
  • We also love how the girls are all discussing the investigation as a restless Febri simply goofs off like a real kid does in such situations. Very accurate depiction there.
  • We’ve always seen Anti-Skill’s Yomikawa Aiho as a stickler for the rules, but when HQ nicks her evidence, she’s pissed enough to hand a crucial component they missed to Mikoto, which is definitely against the rules.
  • We were concerned about the lollipop supply before Canceler instituted the 72-hour ticking clock, but you mean to tell us this medical genius can’t make a serviceable facsimile in the interim? C’mon!
  • Ah yes, Therestina, the villain from the first series, and definitely knowledgeable about the underground scientific world. We see and intriguing if uneasy partnership ahead.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 09

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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.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • 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.

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 – 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.