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A Certain Scientific Railgun S Part 1 Anime DVD Review

10 min read
A Certain Scientific Railgun Part 1
A Certain Scientific Railgun Part 1

Misaka’s life is getting more complicated as the clones begin to show up.

What They Say:
Something sinister is growing in Academy City. The shadows are filled with whispers of a project to clone one of the super-powered students known as espers. High-ranking master of electricity Mikoto Misaka laughs off these stories until she comes face to face with a copy of herself. The duplicates are real, and are being mass-produced from Misaka’s DNA, making each one of them a little piece of her.

These clones – her sisters – are being systematically murdered in a series of experiments designed to turn a sadistic killer into the strongest esper in history. Misaka vows to save her copies and destroy the project, but this might be one fight she can’t win alone. High-energy battles and intense action explode in this continuation of the Railgun series from the creator of A Certain Magical Index.

Contains episodes 1-12 of season 2.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is done with the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps while the English 5.1 mix is done up encoded at 448kbps. The show has a pretty good mix for the forward soundstage as there’s a fair bit of action throughout the run where there’s lots going on across the screen and a good bit of bass as well with the kind of impacts that happen within the action. The forward soundstage is well expressed here as the action moves about in the stereo mix but is ramped up a bit more with the 5.1 mix in the English side. That mix has a bit more impact in general but nothing that stands out in a huge way. Dialogue for the show is pretty straightforward and clean with no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set has twelve episodes and is spread across two discs for each with six episodes per disc. The series is similar to the first season in its design so we get a clean look here for the most part with only some noticeable noise in the backgrounds at times. There’s a lot of fluid animation at some key times throughout the show and those stand out well as the animation goes big and the transfer captures it pretty good for standard definition. Colors are generally solid, line detail is good and the few darker scenes are without serious problems, though you can see more noise in them. Across the twenty-four episodes, there’s a good look to the show but not one that leaps out with the full quality of the production.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized clear keepcase that has a slipcover over it that mirrors the artwork from the cover itself. The front cover is a kind of dark and murky piece that doesn’t do much for me as we get an unusual shot of Misaka in clothes other than her uniform surrounded by members of ITEM in action poses. With a kind of dark brown filter and a black background, the whole thing is just very murky. The back cover goes kind of basic bland solid color background wrapped around from the front and runs with a standard layout. THe left side has a number of shots from the show, dark themselves, while the right provides a look at the logo and a simple summary of the premise. The discs extras and design is laid out clearly and we get a small technical grid as well. The keepcase mirrors all of this but we also get artwork on the reverse side that provides some much brighter and more colorful set of character shots in the city that lets the main cast and supporting characters shine. No show related inserts are included.

The menu design for the series is simple throughout as it goes for a split screen style where the right side has the navigation along the lower portion while the background for it is full of hexagons in shades of purple that’s decent but mostly indistinct from a normal distance. The left side features the character artwork and changes for each volume, using pieces from the reverse side covers. Submenus are quick and easy to get to and the layout is fairly standard here with no surprises. Everything is easy to navigate and selections stick and the discs default to English with sign/song subtitles.

The extras for this release are pretty good and definitely favor the dub fans as there are two episode commentaries for this release that brings in the cast and crew for it. The show also brings in some extras in the form of the varied clean opening and closing sequences and also one of the US trailers that FUNimation created for the release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The path for this series has certainly been an interesting one. While I had liked the original work, A Certain Magical Index, I was more interested in the stories that focused on Misaka as we saw her in it and what she represented. Which a whole lot of other people did as well, hence the spinoff work that resulted in an anime adaptation as well. Now a second season has come for the show that runs for a total of twenty-four episodes, twelve of which is in this set, and it presents us with something interesting. With the first season taking place prior to A Certain Magical Index, this one does as well. For part of it. As this season progresses, we catch up to that series and the first meeting of Misaka there before going off on its own for the remainder. It’s a neat little moment that does leave you wondering what will be covered and what divergences we’ll see.

A lot of this season early on is focused on just the little things as we get Misaka and her friends going about their lives and dealing with a few challenges here and there. The first season provided us a great foundation to see what kinds of friends that Misaka would allow in her life and they certainly started to shape her interactions more, though being a third ranked Level 5 esper has her in a different place altogether that is hard for them to understand. And she puts a lot of pressure on herself as well. And that’s part of where the focus is as she does continue to be a bit aloof, to take on a lot of things herself and deal with it without involving them. That has her running into a few difficult people here and there and the way she takes it on has her disappearing at times and that causes concern. I do like that the friends basically set up an intervention of sorts to talk to her and remind her that she’s not alone. And that’s a big plus.

Not that it helps.

What drives a lot of this set of episodes is something that fans are familiar with because it was covered in the original series. With Misaka out and about often and being kind of easy to connect with, especially with kids, she’s been hearing a lot of things recently about herself in that she’s basically everywhere. That’s unnerving to be sure since the idea of dopplegangers of yourself out there doing things that would be attributed to you would be a problem. But what Misaka does is explore her own past since they do live in this fantastical city of science and magic where anything is possible. Though cloning is illegal, there are obviously places that would ignore that and do their own thing. So thinking back to when she was younger to a time when she did offer up her genetic map in order to help someone gives her the first clue she needs. And with the way companies get bought out, consolidated and spun off, the idea of it being out there in different hands with different purposes isn’t a shock.

The reality of the clones themselves is a shock.

Having Misaka end up coming across one of them through some interconnected events is a surreal kind of moment for her, but one she’s smart enough to ask questions over. The clone Misaka’s, of which there are supposedly upwards of twenty thousand of them, have a really adorable speech pattern that I love. But they also have strict instructions to not interact with the original, which is hard to avoid for one of them. Through this clone and others, we get to see the bigger purpose that they’re being put through, but we also get to see how they’re grown, educated and set to their task. It’s done from the sidelines in a way as we don’t get a direct and lengthy story about it, but we get a lot of good material for it that helps to humanize the whole experience and make it understandable as it progresses.

And then the Accelerator shows up.

Having seen part of this from A Certain Magical Index, it was interesting to see this from an expanded point of view of how he was being used himself along with the clones to try and get him to be manipulated into becoming a Level 6 and figuring out what that next barrier is all about. With him out there killing all of these clones of a high ranked Level 5, albeit one that doesn’t have the personality and experience of Misaka herself, the big plan of having him deal with ten thousand of them is weird but something that makes sense in context. When the original Misaka comes across it though, it’s hugely different in terms of how she views it since it’s literally pieces of her being torn apart in front of her. And nothing motivates you like something of that nature, which is well handled. The bigger storyline is catched onto here as we see some of what the upper organizations are doing, it’s connection to the central governing board and more. But it’s just latching onto the actual event without getting the full in detail.

What’s welcome about Misaka is that unlike a lot of characters that get to deal with situations like this is that she doesn’t just wait for things to come to her and deal with it. She gets hugely on point with it and starts seeking out the various labs that could be involved in it and starts taking them down, taking the information and moving on to the next. That leads us to a really great fight sequence towards the end as one of the other mysterious groups out there with its own agenda, ITEM, comes into play and we see some good three on one fights that keeps both sides challenged as Misaka just wants to accomplish her bigger goal. There’s not a lot of depth here to ITEM at this point, but it offers some really interesting points that you want to start exploring more since they have a lot going on and tendrils in everything.

In Summary:
I’ve had a bit of an up and down relationship with this franchise as a whole as it has some really neat ideas to it and I enjoy the way it did the smaller stories in the first season and the original series. With this season, it works a few smaller things at the start but it’s all in service to this larger storyline of the clones, what they’re being used for and how Misaka is handling the whole situation. That it uses the bulk of the episodes here to get to it definitely works well and it makes for a more compelling season because it’s less about the fluff and more about the bigger concepts with a personal touch. It was a lot more enjoyable marathoning than I expected since it wasn’t about tracking the smaller stories and getting to know the characters. It’s about delving into the big picture storyline for Misaka and how she’s being used. It flows well and is engaging, fun and well animated. Definitely easily the best of the A Certain material that I’ve seen so far.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentary, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 1st, 2014
MSRP: $59.,98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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