Spinoff of A Certain Magical Index
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Action, Comedy
Age-Appropriateness: 15+ (Violence, Frequent Suggestive Themes, mild language)
Platforms: Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation
Episodes: 24 (+2 OVA not on streaming platforms)
TheAwersome Rating: 7.3 /10 (Much better than Index, still has problems)
Premise: The student-filled Academy City is at the forefront of scientific advancement and home to the esper development program. The few “Level 5” espers are the most powerful in Academy City, and ranked third among them is middle schooler Mikoto Misaka, an electricity manipulator known as “The Railgun.” When strange incidents begin occurring throughout the city, she finds each crime to be connected to the elusive “Level Upper,” a legendary device that allegedly increases the esper level of its user. As the situation escalates, it becomes apparent that there is more to the Level Upper than meets the eye, and that Academy City may be a far more twisted place than the glamorous utopia it appears to be.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Railgun takes the world from Index and focuses on Mikoto and her friends, rather than Touma and his seven non-sequitur adventures. There’s still the smudged handprint of “blank personality so you can self-insert” on Mikoto, as the three other main characters have much more personality and fleshed out characters than she does, but it’s not as bad as it was for Touma. I also liked how the stories were actually related and contributed to an overarching plot, and that we got to see some legitimate character development and exploration.
Yet there was a good amount to not like about this too, primarily the “sexual harassment is a funny and okay aspect of friendships” undertone throughout. Kuroko is a shameless pervert obsessed with Mikoto and frequently makes moves to “seal their connection” despite multiple clear rejections. That doesn’t stop her from barging in on her in the shower, etc. Saten always greets Uiharu by flipping her skirt and commenting on her underwear, which she clearly doesn’t think is funny. But hey, since it’s GIRLS doing it, it’s okay right? It’s unfortunately a pretty constant thing, there were maybe four or five episodes that didn’t have something to that effect.
TLDR: A much better counterpart to Magical Index that feels like an intriguing cop show set in an X-Men like universe. It’s still got a lot of anime pervery sins though.
There is a second season: A Certain Scientific Railgun S.
As for chronology, Railgun is a Spinoff of Index that starts just a bit before it. You don’t need to watch one before the other.
Here’s another weird thing about this that I feel is a frequent anime sin: The age of the cast. It just seems super odd that such a huge part of the city’s crime investigation and law enforcement is done by the group “Judgement” which comprises a bunch of middle schoolers. I get that some of them have some incredible superpowers, but a lot of them don’t, yet it’s still a trusted organization that the larger law enforcement agencies work closely with. That, and when you remember that the main characters are all middle schoolers, all the sexual jokes and swimsuit episodes get a whole lot creepier, pushing into Monogatari territory.