To Aru Kagaku no Railgun – 01

October 6, 2009 at 2:00 AM | Posted in Anime, Episode, First Take | Leave a comment
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I haven’t seen To Aru Majutsu no Index (A Certain Magical Index), the show off of which To Aru Kagaku no Railgun (A Certain Scientific Rail Gun) is spun. In fact, I had never even heard of it. I was just interested by the title, because I’m a huge physics geek, and rail guns turn me on. The premise and setting were interesting, and the characters were likable enough, but some of the anime conventions the show followed held it back for me.

One is the whole level system to rank the students. I understand that this actually isn’t too far off from the Japanese school system, which posts public rankings of students’ test scores – Korea does this as well. So the target audience could easily relate to a ranking system like this. But like the power levels from Dragon Ball, it’s just a lazy way to convey the relative abilities of the characters. It makes it too much like a video game.

That said, that there are 6 other “level 5s” does drive anticipation for the rest of the show, so it’s not totally a bad thing. I just think there are better, more clever ways to achieve the same thing.

Another peeve is: does the show have to take place in an all-girl’s academy? Sure, I enjoy seeing schoolgirls as much as the next guy, but I appreciate balance, too. It’s like they took a harem show and took out the guy. It doesn’t help that one of the main characters, Shirai Kuroko, is an over-the-top perverted lesbian. And while some pandering is okay, having too much of it cheapens the overall experience.

Other than those two complaints, which could really be made about a lot of current anime series, I enjoyed this first episode quite a bit. The action wasn’t exceptional, but it was well animated, and the powers both Shirai and Misaka used were fun to watch. The eponymous rail gun was appropriately badass.

Even if it acts nothing like a rail gun – the reason a rail gun is called a rail gun is because it has a pair of rails along which the payload is accelerated using electricity; it doesn’t just push things really hard. A more accurate depiction would have been if the coin started at Misaka’s chest with both her arms aimed at the target, with the coin accelerating between her arms until it shoots off from the fingertips of both her hands at its highest speed. But that wouldn’t look as cool, and that’s just the physics geek speaking in me. I suppose the space between her thumb and index finger can make a very short rail gun, which emphasizes just how powerful Misaka’s electromagnetic abilities are.

I’m worried that the characters seem to fit into their archetypes a little too neatly, but it’s impossible to make a good judgment about that just one episode in.

The OP played at the end of the episode. The fast-paced beat of the music made me excited for the series, while the animations were okay. Too cliche, but also with some decent shots.

Oh, and another complaint: why put wind turbines right inside the city? Those things are terribly loud and dangerous to birds. Maybe working in the power/energy industry makes me a bit over-sensitive to such things, though. Suspense of disbelief and all that.

Anyway, promising premise, good enough action, and rail guns are awesome.

Notes:

  • There was a pretty accurate depiction of an iPhone, complete with an “Orange computer” sign at the top. The controls just need to be at the top and translucent. Actually, the UI displayed looks better than the real iPhone’s.
  • Here’s Random Curiosity’s take on the same episode.
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