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Certain Scientific Railgun: Season 1, A
In the middle of 2014, I was fortunate enough to review the collection sets for A Certain Scientific Railgun S, the third season of a franchise I wasn't too familiar with outside of it's immense popularity here in the states. Despite my first exposure to this franchise being the 3rd season, I was hooked and immediately sought out the first two seasons and immersed myself into the Raildex universe, falling in love with the well written characters, fun stories and doses of comedy injected in to keep things light. Now that I have the opportunity to review the series in its new upscale to Blu-ray, how does the first installment of the Railgun franchise fare?
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, A Certain Magical Index as a whole typically centers on the life of Toma Kamijo (voiced by Micah Solusod), a regular guy who doesn't seem all that special in a city full of magic users, and Index, the keeper of something mysterious called the 103000 grimoires, books containing powerful magical knowledge that many people seek out to use for their own devious plans. Spinning off from that series is A Certain Scientific Railgun, where the creator of Index took the overwhelming fan favorite character of the first season, Mikoto Misaka (voiced by Brittney Karbowski) and gave the character her own show.
With Railgun, rather than following the life and events occurring around Toma, the story of this season focuses almost exclusively on Misaka, her "sissy" Kuroko (voiced by Alison Viktorin) and their group of friends. As with any spinoff, knowledge of it's predecessor is the best way to enjoy the show, however with Railgun Knowledge of the Index series isn't necessarily required to understand the events happening, but those who have enjoyed Index will be able to recognize various characters popping up for brief cameos throughout the set including Toma and to a lesser extent, Index (voiced by Monica Rial.)
A big element in the series focuses on magic, where each magic user (usually called Espers) in Academy city are ranked according to their abilities by way of leveling system, between numbers 1 through 5. Mikoto is what's known as a Level 5 esper, one of only 7 to have achieved this status and because of this is typically regarded as "The Railgun" due to her control of electricity and ability to fire objects at such a high rate of speed that they turn into destructive projectiles.
The biggest difference between Index and Railgun is the way it presents its storytelling. In Index, the series is plot heavy with the timeline constantly jumping around so much that it's like you're watching a Tarantino film, with mini arcs ranging from 2 to 6 episode with the occasional filler or "break" episode in-between the main stories. With Railgun it's pretty much the opposite, we get multiple episodes of Misaka hanging out with her friends, various one off episodes revolving around bad guy of the week with the occasional story arc spliced in.
+ Excellent character development for Mikoto and her friends, something that sorely lacked in the first season.
+ Remains a fun, solid series.
+ Exciting action sequences.
- Too much anime fluff/filler.
- Doesn't live up to the rest of the franchise in terms of quality.
Video and Audio:
The first season of the Railgun franchise, A Certain Scientific Railgun, has finally been made available on Blu-ray here in the states, and much like the first season, it was worth the wait. The image is vibrant and clean, and the details are sharp. The hands down best thing about the animation are the action scenes, which are beautifully animated and are easily the highlight of the series, visually speaking. The character designs are solid, albeit a bit bland, although each character does stand out. The backgrounds are greatly detailed as well. The animation of the series remains fairly consistent throughout. A terrific production overall.
There are two audio options for the complete first season of Railgun. The first is a 5.1 TrueHD Dolby English track, and the second is the original TrueHD 2.0 Japanese track. I sampled a few episodes of the Japanese track and watched the rest in the Englih dub. The Japanese track was excellent for this series, and I'd honestly recommend it over the English dub, though the dub actors have certainly improved since the first season. The music never overtook the scenes that were taking place during the quieter moments while ramping up during the action scenes. The mixes were done well with no dropouts or distortions present. It's overall a solid mix.
- Episode 3 commentary with Brina Palencia and Cherami Leigh.
- Episode 6 commentary with Brittney Karbowski and Alison Viktorin.
- Episode 17 commentary with Jad Saxton, Kara Edwards and Martha Helms.
- Episode 24 commentary with Zach Bolton, Anastasia Munoz, and Colleen Clinkenbeard.
- US trailer for the dub.
- Textless opening and closing themes.
- Trailers for various FUNimation titles.
Personally, I found the first season of A Certain Scientific Railgun to be the weakest in terms of quality amongst all four of the seasons animated to date. While there was quite a bit of character development for Mikoto, the season felt padded with far too much filler for its own good. Despite that, it's still a ton of fun. Recommended.