A review of the A Certain Scientific Railgun S anime
First released: April 2013 Version reviewed: TV
For a series set in a near-future, science-driven city, the second season of A Certain Scientific Railgun (now with the “S” suffix) certainly paints a dim view of science and scientists. All of them barring the “good” one are shown as bespectacled loons with no regard for human life and a casual relationship with morals.
Academy City is lovingly rendered and plays host to the ongoing adventures of Mikasa Mikoto - the titular “railgun” - and her cohorts. Split roughly into two interlocking stories, the plot follows an experiment to advance a top level esper - those with varying X-Men like super powers - beyond anything seen before, and a spurned scientist’s attempts to demonstrate that even with their powers, espers are just as powerless as those without.
We’re done with the portmanteaus, no more Bakemono or Nisemono, just Monogatari Second Season. It’s a bit of a misnomer really considering we’re thirty episodes deep already with ONAs scattered about like confetti and a series chronology that’s increasingly difficult to cohere into a straightforward story. Straightforwardness is not what you get with the Monogatari franchise though, which is both in its favour and to its detriment; however more than any of the previous series - the watershed Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari then Nekomonogatari - this is what everything has been building up to.
this isn’t just fan-service, this is Shinbo x SHAFT fanservice
Not in terms of story mind you, it’s still the dialogue-heavy, supernatural-affliction scaffolding that has driven the plot from the outset. Certainly not in terms of characters either with the return of just about every female lead barring Suruga and barely a handful of new additions, some of which are difficult to tell apart from already established cast members. No, the build up has been there to tear down and put back together, to lay bare the characters and tropes that, to a certain extent, the franchise has built around itself.
The very last scene of Galilei Donna’s eleventh episode is the Earth with the word “Fine” hovering in view. Sure it’s Italian for “end”, but I can’t help feel like it was an exclamation from the production team along the lines of “Fine! Whatever! See if we care!” That’s certainly how the series comes across after such an unsatisfying ending and what feels like ten episodes of build-up - about the same sort of rate that a full twenty-four episode series would take - and a single episode of utter ridiculousness.
a pants-on-head stupid conclusion that ties off none of the ongoing storylines
The setup is nuts and bolts basic: little genius girl builds a futuristic aircraft and goes off on adventures with her sisters while being chased by a sinister energy conglomerate and sky pirates. Oh and they’re all descendants of Galileo Galilei which is only important because they’re hunting for MacGuffins that used to belong to him. Ostensibly because he created an energy source and that’s the thing that can break the evil energy corporations grip on the world except this is more or less forgotten about as soon as it’s introduced.
One of the odder bits of history for me is that the original series of Infinite Stratos broke me out of a slump with anime that had, until then, lasted for several months. It was brain-dead entertainment with few, if any, redeeming features and I was happy to assign watching it as aberrant behaviour. After all the story just ends without conclusion or explanation which isn’t surprising when it is the epitome of the harem setup; but whatever the first anime series did half-heartedly, the second (with the oh-so confusing title, Infinite Stratos 2) does with ferociously awful gusto.
just a hostage situation in a maid cafe and invites to fun-times at an amusement park
Not content with five girls all chasing the sole male, Ichika, two more are added (sisters, natch) and join the queue for wooing the dunderheaded lead. After all, this isn’t the story of a boy being able to pilot a heavily armed mechanical exoskeleton when only girls have been able to do it before. This isn’t even the story of a secret shadowy organisation trying to do… something nefarious. It’s about five, then seven, sexually frustrated girls trying to impose their own vision of lusty romance onto a boy whose obliviousness to their overtures borders on the mentally deficient. All the pesky and sporadically engaging CG combat just gets in the way of cooking for him! Or celebrating his birthday! Or going on play dates with him! Or just outright chasing him!
Screenshots aren’t going to sell you on the latest Yozakura Quartet anime: Hana no Uta (Song of Flowers). The borderline lazy and haphazard line work and wildly varying character styles between episodes will be enough to turn anyone with a jaded artistic eye away. If you actually watch it though, well the animation still errs on the side of janky, but aesthetic issues tend to ebb away when it becomes clear how refreshingly playful the thirteen episode series is.
a teenage ogre at odds with her power? Hey wait is that a witch in a pink mini-skirt?
This starts with a cast that is comprised of nothing less than a cat-eared telepath, a pair of terrifyingly strong ogre siblings, a half-demon who can summon objects with just a word and a nurse descended from Dr Frankenstein. Eclectic to say the least and the kind of barely restrained bedlam that constitutes interplay within the core group can range from dancing to a Wii fitness game during a town meeting to mock battles overseen by a lackadaisical town spirit.