Dengeki Hime

In episode 1 of the new J.C.Staff series A Certain Scientific Railgun, the term “Dengeki Hime” (Electric Princess) is used to describe the main character, Mikoto Misaka. Is this a reference to the magazine published by the same corporation that also publishes Dengeki Daioh, the anthology Railgun appears in?

If you are avoiding Railgun because of bad memories of Index and the general trend of spinoffs and sequels not being as good as the original, you should shake that off and watch anyway. Here’s why:

1. Better and more relevant main characters.
Railgun manga started running in May 2007, after 10 volumes of Index (which had started in April 2004). And the author of both series, Kazuma Kamachi, has learned from his mistakes and has implemented the proper fixes.

The first thing to fix is the main character. Touma and Index definitely had their appeal. But Touma’s power is the negation of other’s powers. And Index possesses a library of powerful magic, but never uses it. That limits the cool stuff they can do. Mikoto, with her electric powers, and Kuroko, with her teleportation, are much flashier and more exciting.

Index also suffered from failing to keep certain characters continuously relevant. Once Index’s story was resolved, she turned into a side character. This is a bad thing if you’re the title girl. While this was addressed in the later volumes of the novel (not seen in the first series) by giving Index more screen time and plot significance, the damage was already done. Index wasn’t the only victim of this; it was fairly common for characters in her series to disappear for a long time even if they were eventually important to the overall plot. Mikoto herself, who ended up with a role larger than Index’s, disappeared halfway through volume 1 and didn’t reappear until volume 3. Instead of having Touma being the only constant while the other characters fade in and out of relevance around him, Railgun sticks with Mikoto and her friends all the way.

2. Touma fixed.
Speaking of main characters, Touma appears in the Railgun manga, and his character is no longer the annoying righteous preacher we saw in the original series. He hasn’t had much screentime in the Railgun anime so far, but once he gets his, you owe it to yourself to watch, especially if his long exchange with Kaori in episode 4 of Index made you drop the series. Touma is now so cool, you’d think he needed his own series.

Seeing Touma from Mikoto’s point of view makes Touma seem even cooler. Touma from Touma’s point of view was a loser whose special power could only cancel stuff and came with the drawback of attracting misfortune (and lolis). But from Mikoto’s point of view, Mikoto has worked hard to become an elite esper, and can solve any problem with either her cool big-sister smarts or the overwhelming force of her Railgun power. And yet Touma can walk away from Mikoto’s strongest attacks unscathed, can save people when Mikoto is unable to, and humbly maintains that he’s a Level 0. He brings out the tsundere mix of frustration and fascination that we love about Mikoto, and makes it much more clear why she’s in love with him.

(Those who hate Kuroko’s flaming lesbianism will also be glad to see that as in Index, Touma is still the one Mikoto is in love with, and he’s far more worthy of her love here.)

3. Pacing fixed.
Index had complicated and interesting situations, but ended up either taking too long to explain those situations or not explaining enough and making it look like a logic break. Adding to this aggravation was the lack of resolution in individual episodes, such as the episode devoted only to Mikoto repeatedly shooting Touma while he intentionally didn’t use his power to cancel her attacks, or the episode that was spent on Touma making a series of phone calls before ending on the cliffhanger with the possessed Index. Railgun has none of that, as the central conflict of the episode is resolved within each episode, while still dropping enough clues and events to advance the overall plot. Railgun gets more done with less exposition.

4. Better adaptation.
You know how when Index hit its low points, it looked even worse because the tsundere anime that surpasses everything, Toradora, was running at the same time? Well guess who’s directing Railgun: Toradora director, Tatsuyuki Nagai.

Index director, Hiroshi Nishikiori, turned out to be only as good as the source material. While that was fine when his material was one of the best comics of all time (Azumanga Daioh), it was not fine with a wordy and exposition-filled novel series such as Index.

As shown with Toradora, Tatsuyuki Nagai and his writers aren’t afraid to reorder events or add completely new ones to keep the pace brisk and keep the characters relevant. Moving the pool-cleaning episode to before Touma’s first major battle with Mikoto makes Kuroko’s jealousy after seeing Mikoto’s obsession with Touma more clear. The episode with the big-eyebrows girl was an anime original, but managed to show us Kazari’s usefulness and also introduce the main plot: the mystery behind espers with powers greater than their documented values.

5. Everything good about Index is still there.
Railgun has inherited the cool superpowers of Index along with its high production quality spearheaded by Kiyotaka Haimura’s gorgeous character designs. The slice-of-life comedy was one of Index‘s consistent strong points, and in the hands of the Honey and Clover 2 and Toradora director, it continues to shine (if pandering a bit much.) And while Railgun also inherits some of the wall-of-text exposition and long stretches of nothing happening that Index was known for, the author has learned his lesson and it’s nowhere as bad as in Index.

6. It’s J.C.Staff.
Hayate the Combat Butler 2nd Season showed that J.C.Staff can make a sequel better than the first season. First Love Limited showed that J.C.Staff can make an adaptation that is better than the source. Combine the two and you have the best new series of the season.

5 Responses to “Dengeki Hime”

  1. Samukun says:

    I knew you would post a JC Staff blurb about Railgun.

    It’s definitely an improvement over the original though. And since Kyo-Ani and Sunrise aren’t working on anything big this season, it’s probably the best drawn too.

  2. renpytom says:

    One of the things about Railgun is, so far, the show has taken place at a human scale. I don’t know if this will continue, but the first three episodes have been about relatively minor, local incidents with human motivations, rather than the world-girdling events of Index.

    The result is a series that is fun in the same way that Firefly was fun, and Serenity wasn’t.

    So, I assume Samu will be blogging The Sacred Blacksmith?

  3. Samukun says:

    I could, since I’m liking it so far.

  4. Rocket says:

    I agree, Railgun is everything Index should have been….

    “Touma from Touma’s point of view was a loser whose special power could only cancel stuff and came with the drawback of attracting misfortune (and lolis).” – Those two skills balance each other out right?

    “The slice-of-life comedy was one of Index’s consistent strong points, and […] it continues to shine (if pandering a bit much.)” – Now now, let’s not go Azunyan denial mode on us again! Pandering is one of the main charm points of this universe!

    As for Sacred Blacksmith… who here didn’t immediately think of Sixten when they saw Lisa. Seriously now… are you moonlighting and not telling us?

  5. […] Aru Kagaku no Railgun. (A Certain Scientific Railgun) Sixten passionately argues that this is a great show, and much better than its predecessor (A Certain Magical Index). Much of […]

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