Spurred on by my acquisition of a Figma of my favorite teleporting lesbian Pepe lePew wannabe, Shirai Kuroko, I decided to actually give the anime she costars in, A Certain Scientific Railgun, a watch...and, after just finishing the last episode of Season 1, I can honestly say I haven’t been THIS glad to be so TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY WRONG about my expectations of a show in a long time. Going off of what I knew, I was expecting some kinda fanservice moe yuri-fest, but what I GOT was one of the best superhero dramas I’ve seen since the heyday of Uncanny X-Men.
Prime example, Kuroko herself: going off of what even the official artwork advertising the show focused on, I was expecting...well, exactly what I described, a psycho teen lesbian Pepe lePew, sexually harassing her roomie, the show’s namesake “Railgun” Mikoto Misaka, and getting a face full of lightning bolts and a Looney Tunes scorching for her troubles. What I GOT was a pint-sized badass who was the most effective and clever teleporter this side of Kurt Wagner, at one point using her sole power of teleportation to DROP A FUCKING PARKING GARAGE ONTO HER ATTACKER’S HEAD. Not only that, but she was a trained officer of the law, even as a high school student...which in anime USUALLY means slapstick incompetence typically involving frantic whistle blowing and misuse of handcuffs, but in the case of her and her co-officers in “Judgement” meant actual crimefighting and case solving. Hell, if anything, compared to how she was for most of the show, her “psycho stalker” bits actually seemed wildly out-of-character compared to the cool, competent badass she normally was.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, every so often, you could see elements of the fanservicey stuff trying to sneak in...Saten’s tendency to flip up her friend’s skirt to see what panties the poor girl was wearing, Professor Kiyama Harumi’s tendency to absentmindedly strip in public, a handful of instances involving Kuroko in the first few episodes...which just seemed even MORE out-of-place when compared to the solid writing and characterization of the rest of the series. Fortunately, these jarring moments were few and far between, and never got in the way of what we were really there for.
It isn’t to say that the show was wall-to-wall action, though. Even in the sci-fi setting of Academy City (which always reminded me of the “future Toronto” from the Pokemon movie, Destiny Deoxys), the main focus was the four main characters and their lives, with the threats being more of a slow burn type that would build to a two- or three-part climax. The drama and the action always felt earned, and I never felt like something in THAT department was thrown in just for the sake of throwing it in. If there was any complaint, it was that the second story arc’s villain felt a little too much like the FIRST story arc’s, with the show trying to pass both off as good guys until their last minute heel turn despite all but painting the word “VILLAIN” on the woman’s forehead during the second arc’s opening credits.
That actually reminds me of another odd thing about the show: perhaps in response to the seemingly more traditional shounen show this one spins off from, A Certain Magical Index, there are almost NO male characters AT ALL to be found here. Touma, the lead from Index, shows up in a couple of eps, and the second arc introduces a non-powered ganger with ties to the supporting cast for a little while, but otherwise almost every male character in the show with any speaking lines are inevitably bad guys...to be fair, even in such a female-heavy show, it never feels like man-bashing because there are just as many female villains (and they’re usually much, much worse).So, yeah...I’m hooked. This show is the kinda of anime I wish was the standard-bearer, full of well-written characters, tight drama and even tighter action, and a minimum of gratuitous fanservice. In fact, I was SO mistaken about my expectations for this show that I actually wanna go check out Index now...I avoided it because it struck me as a bog-standard shounen/borderline harem show, but if Railgun can throw me for such a loop, maybe it deserves a chance to surprise me as well.