I really enjoyed the first season of A Certain Scientific Railgun and subsequently was looking forward to the sequel. Somehow, though, I started to wonder whether A Certain Scientific Railgun S was more a reboot than a sequel. It’s not, but it does weave into the story arc of A Certain Magical Index. That’s the original show from which this is a spinoff.
Once my brain fully engaged and I sorted out the overlapping plots I was able to settle down and really enjoy S. This feels like a more mature story than the first. There’s less tea parties and cake. There’s more damned if you do and damned if you don’t dramas for the girls of Academy City to face.
Throughout it all we have it all we have Mikoto Misaka who keeps our interest. She holds it firmly in sparking hands. It would be all too easy for her to become a moaner. She doesn’t. I think it also be dangerously easy for Misaka just to become a clone of ‘I’ll succeed because I’ll try hard’ character trope we know from Naruto and Black Clover. She expertly avoids that too. What we get is a lead character who feels human, who struggles with pressure and yet personifies bravery and guts.
Another strength to the show are Misaka’s friends and the people she encounters. It’s a wide collection of enemies, allies and powerful people who may become either an enemy or an ally. The art of storytelling here is that each of these characters quickly become living, breathing, detailed people. Even in the extended combat scenes. This means as our heroes battle against psionic foes you can’t but help wonder at the backstory to both sides. What’s their mission? Are they being manipulated? Are they the real enemy? I suspect this is exactly the intended effect as the political manoeuvrings behind the scenes in the artificial city relentlessly grind on.
This is the plotline when Misaka not only becomes aware that there are clones of herself out in the city, that they are fighting and dying in a cruel experiment, but the one when she steps up to deal with the situation. If you’ve seen this encounter before from another point of view then you might think Railgun S has very little to offer. It doesn’t feel that way, though. It feels complete. That said the season doesn’t linger on this key development any longer than it needs to.
It’s the aftermath of the showdown where A Certain Scientific Railgun S excels. Originally there were plenty of loose ends worthy of attention and in this season we get to follow some of the most interesting ones.
I think the ending was a gamble. As I’ve noted this season feels more grown up, darker and more sophisticated but the end is a hybrid between tension release and feel good camaraderie. It works.
Fans should stick with the series and buy this addition. Everyone else should leap on board at the beginning of the show.
Disclaimer: My copy of A Certain Scientific Railgun S was provided for review.