Monday, October 12, 2009

Yuri Anime First Impressions: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun (A Certain Scientific Railgun)

I really like to see anime and manga that incorporate yuri, to a greater or lesser extent, into a non-romance driven plot (whether said plot is good or not is another matter entirely), especially if it features action, like the Mai series, the Bee Train girls-with-guns series, Utena, R.O.D., The Devil Lady, CANAAN, and (insofar as the first chapter indicates) Zettai Shoujo Seiiki Amnesian- as much as I enjoy my slice-of-life Marimite/Aoi Hana/Sasameki Koto/Girl Friends-type series. So with those predilections, but also with realistic expectations in mind for this series, how did I find it?

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun, To Aru Majutsu no Index's spin-off sister series, incorporates a lot of yuri into its unoriginal but stylishly realized "teen psychics" plot/setting, but the yuri is the least impressive thing about it...and what plot there is disintegrates like smoke in a hurricane during episode 2...and by the end of episode 2, I'm wishing that another thug would show up and rob a bank or something already so that Mikoto could hand his ass to him, Railgun-style.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The plot basically is: teen psychics inhabit a city mostly composed of other young psychics learning...psychic things. There are five levels of psychics (plus Level 0 for people with no special abilities), and the protagonist, Misaka Mikoto, is one of seven Level 5s in the city- she's nicknamed "the Railgun" because of her ability to create a railgun using only a coin. Shirai Kuroko, Mikoto's very ardent admirer and roommate, is a Level 4 who works as a member of Judgement, a city-wide law enforcement group, along with Kazari Uiharu, a moe-moe Level 1 who is close friends with Saten Ruiko, a Level 0 who has a decent personality, aside from her fanboy-pleasing habit of flipping up Uiharu's skirt. But that is nothing- nothing- next to Kuroko.

In episode 1, I rolled my eyes at Kuroko grabbing Mikoto's chest in the shower and thought that her "use-Uiharu-to-score-a-date-with-Oneesama!!" plan was simply dumb, but decided to give her another chance as a character after the badassery she displayed during the bank robbery incident.

In episode 2, Kuroko's anniversary seduction plan actually made me laugh, especially when she imagined herself and Misaka, respectively, as Ilsa and Rick from Casablanca.

But then that creepy album turned up...and Kuroko's suspicious "Love Potion" arrived in the mail...and it became apparent that the anniversary that she was so excited about was the one month anniversary since she barged into Misaka's room (Misaka doesn't bother to say what she tried to do after barging in) and became her roommate....and then she tried to slip her date rape love potion into a drink she offered to Misaka while they were cleaning the pool as punishment for the both of them using their powers in the dorm after Misaka attacked Kuroko for ordering the *cough*love potion... And I thought "Holy #%&@, Misaka's a saint (or simply confident in her Level 5 self-defense abilities) for putting up with this...this thing."

To Aru Majutsu no Index didn't especially impress me, but I liked the first episode of To Aru Kagaku no Railgun well enough based on the fact that the fight scenes were cool, and the characters overall were okay- especially Mikoto as a likeable, competent lead and Ruiko when she saved that boy from being kidnapped even though she didn't have any super-abilities. But I'll be blunt- I thought episode 2 sucked.

I'm holding out hope that the subsequent episodes will be more plot-driven and focused, and that some of the intriguing-looking characters from the OP, like the two other girls who seem to be members of Judgement

and the sexy scientist

can distract me from Kuroko's antics.

Story: C+ in episode 1, D in episode 2 
Art: B+
Overall: C-

So far, this season doesn't seem to be as strong as last season was for yuri fans. (Or for me, at least.) Speaking of good yuri- I'll post a review of the first 2 episodes of Sasameki Koto later on this week. I enjoyed the heck out of the first episode, but I want to see whether or not the series will continue to maintain the serious tone established in episode 1- and if so, how well it will maintain it, and if not, how smooth the transition to a lighter tone will be- before I write my first review of the series. (Making the title "First Impressions" a little inaccurate. lol)


Anonymous said...

it's obvious no one commented... no one liked your opinion? to yasashii sekai's blog people!

Katherine said...

@ Anon- Very mature. *slow clap* Bonus points for using an actual signature. :)

Anonymous said...

I mean this reply is only years later... but thanks for posting an overview for this series with some details of the yuri content. Its ever so hard to find a show with even implied yuri that still has a non romance based plot. I'm looking forward to checking it out. ^_^

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- Glad my reviewing this series is helpful for you! Also, for another show with yuri that has a non romance-centric plot, I highly recommend Psycho-Pass. It's a great cyberpunk crime thriller with an actual lesbian couple who I like quite a bit. Just be warned that since it's a dystopian crime thriller, it can be hard to watch at points. (The lesbian couple, Yayoi and Shion, are alive and together through season 1, and season 2 is currently airing, with another queer lady, who has a thing for Yayoi, added to the mix. The new queer lady Mika is admittedly an asshole, but for reasons that make sense and she might develop beyond that, since most of season 2 is still left. Setting her aside, fingers crossed for Shion x Yayoi to make it through the end again, and if they don't, season 2 has different writers, so I can pretend it's a bad fanfic or something. lol) Anyway, enough of my rambling about Psycho-Pass- just thought it was worth mentioning, given what you're interested in. Also, Bodacious Space Pirates (a.k.a. Mouretsu Pirates), which is a very good lighthearted space adventure show with another canon couple I like, Jenny and Lynn.