Blu-ray Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun – The Complete Series
26/11/2015 Leave a comment
After the magical antics of A Certain Magical Index we take a look at it’s side-story A Certain Scientific Railgun; but just how does it compare and is the Blu-ray variation from Animatsu Entertainment any good? Well lets find out in our Blu-ray Review of A Certain Scientific Railgun – The Complete Series.
Misaka Mikoto, a middle-school girl with an amazing and highly-destructive ability to control electricity, is one of the top level espers in Academy City, a highly developed town populated by students with supernatural abilities.
Joined by her three very different girlfriends – her flirty roommate and skilled teleporting esper Kuroko, Kuroko’s innocent rookie partner at the local student-run law enforcing agency, Uiharu, and Uiharu’s best friend, Saten, who has no esper powers – Mikoto encounters various strange phenomena and eccentric people through her action-packed adventures in this exciting scientific town.
Fresh off the heels of the comically entertaining A Certain Magical Index comes the side-story styled spin-off show A Certain Scientific Railgun and despite my modest expectations it failed to win me over. A Certain Magical Index was the story which focused on the magical elements found within Academy City, whereby Index and Toma would unravel a string of magical conspiracies; in A Certain Scientific Railgun however the story focuses on Makoto Misaka and her friends in Judgment who join forces to protect the city from danger by using their unique esper powers.
It’s an exciting prospect; two shows set within the same city featuring similar cast of characters working together with friends to overcome two different types of enemies and yet despite this ‘cross-over’ taking place its very rarely used. Mikoto Misaka played a huge part in A Certain Magical Index, with a whole story arc based around her ‘sisters’ and the Level 6 Esper experiement but in A Certain Scientific Railgun Toma – and the other cast of Magical Index – hardly make any appearances apart from a few cameos. There is a valid reason for this; Railgun distinctively follows the events of Makoto and her activities and not those of others but more cross-overs between the two environments would’ve been nice.
So what exactly is A Certain Scientific Railgun about? Well as mentioned it follows the daily activities of Mikoto Misaka, otherwise known as Railgun and the ace of tokiwadai, as she teams up with her best friend – and roommate – Kuroko Shirai to overcome issues uncovered in Academy City. Also Along for the ride is Kuroko’s partner at Judgment Kazari Uiharu and her friend Ruiko Saten; all of which make their formal introductions throughout the first episode of the series. Ironically only Kuroko and Kazari are members of judgment while Mikoto and Ruiko just tag-along in an attempt to help in any way possible. So with the characters met what can we expect from the overall story? Well not a lot and nothing as progressive thats seen within A Certain Magical Index.
A Certain Magical Index took events from the original manga and translated them into multiple episode story arcs; with Scientific Railgun however each episode acts as an individual story or task. Some may be as random as taking part in a swimsuit modelling photoshoot, taking down a terrorist group or helping others in need. However this being said there are a selection of episodes with combine together to deliver a wider and more entertaining storyline and its here where we see the device known as the ‘Level Upper’ come in to play. This particular story arc adds significant value to the franchise as it shows the emotional trauma experienced by those who are low-leveled espers and the temptation of using it. No spoilers of course; but it is the more entertaining storyline of this entire series.
It’s not all doom and gloom however as where A Certain Scientific Railgun fails it excels elsewhere; the presentation and development of each character grows-and-grows upon each episode. Whether it be the shy timid nature of Kazari or Mikoto’s obsession with the Gekota frog – we see each character evolve and transcend into their own personality. But of course there’s also a few laughs to be had a long the way; majority of which revolve around Kuroko’s obsession over her big sissy Mikoto Misaki. Basically the overall story and its progression is pretty sparce; but the character development – and some of the fan-service styled jokes – are exceptionally entertaining.
When it comes to bonus content then there is the usual selection on offer for FUNimation produced titles; in this case a selection of Episode Commentaries and Textless Songs for the opening and closing sequences.
The episode commentaries, as you would expect, are separated across the numerous discs with each commentary seeing a selection of voice actors giving their impressions and experiences from the show. The final selection of bonus materials, all of which are located on the third blu-ray disc, are textless opening and closing animations as well as the US Trailer for this complete series collection of A Certain Scientific Railgun.
Media: BD 50 X3
Running Time: 3:11:06 (Disc 1), 3:33:18 (Disc 2), 2:47:24 (Disc 3)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 448Kbps (English) & Dolby TrueHD 2.0 224Kbps (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
A Certain Scientific Railgun is the side-story to A Certain Magical Index that follows the exploits of Mikoto Misaka and her friends Kuroko Shiari, Kazari Uiharu and Ruiko Saten as they take on assignments that creep-up as part of Judgment. Each episode, in my eyes at least, acts as an individual tale with a selection of episodes building up to deliver a mini-story arc with the best being the introduction of the Level Upper and the carnage it can cause to the citizens of Academy City. There is a more ‘deceptive’ reason for the Level Upper’s existence and its one that brings the true nature of the city to our protagonists. Alongside the tasks of Judgment are every-day-life-style episodes; be it hanging out at school or dwelling on personal issues – lots of ground is covered but ultimately it doesn’t feel like we are going anywhere with this series.
Unlike A Certain Magical Index this ‘Railgun Story’ doesn’t seem to move forward; sure enough character development takes a huge step from the first episode but in terms of events – or a goal to be reached – then there isn’t one. It also feels like the best story ideas, such as the Accelerator and Sisters Story Arc from Magical Index, were pinched from this season – even if they weren’t. The result is a show that offers a few laughs, and some interesting confrontations, but nothing memorable or engaging – which is a real shame as the characters are superb; but that is if you can stand the English Dub track.
FUNimation tend to do great voice-over work, a perfect example would be Dragon Ball Z, but with A Certain Scientific Railgun the English dub voiceover fails in comparison to the Japanese audio track. Of course it’s not as bad as Sentai Filmworks standard but you just can’t help but think that better voice over artists could’ve been used for their roles – especially when compared to the Japanese audio track. Speaking of audio qualities the series looks and sounds as you would expect it to; however unlike other ‘HD Native’ shows Railgun doesn’t stand out as well as you would expect it to. Sure enough the fast-paced fight scenes and the lighting attacks seem great but, just as Index was, it was nothing impressive compared to other Blu-ray releases of anime. In some aspects it looks more like an HD Upscale rather than a HD Native source; but complaints aside its still better to watch than the standard definition variation of the show but you may not much a huge difference.
Overall A Certain Scientific Railgun is a bit of disappointment; but fortunately this Blu-ray release makes the deal that little bit sweeter. Despite being classed as a side-story knowledge of A Certain Magical Index is not needed, although at some stages it does help, and A Certain Scientific Railgun works well as a stand-a-lone series; however due to its ‘unique’ direction it doesn’t feel like we move along with the story and instead its progression is done with character development rather than story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just i’d like to see form of storyline to go with it. This Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment on the other hand is everything you could possibly ask for; clear-cut picture, 5.1 Surround (for English Audio), and clear presentable subtitles for the Japanese audio are what await the viewer for those who wish to experience the ace of tokiwadai first hand. If you enjoyed Mikoto in Magical Index then you’ll love this; if not then you’ll be in for a bumpy ride with a few ‘perverted laughs’ along the way.
A Certain Scientific Railgun – The Complete Series is now available on DVD and Blu-ray within the UK.