What They Say:
A sadistic program has been creating duplicates of the level-5 esper Misaka, then murdering her sister clones in the name of science. Now that the electromaster knows the truth about the organization, she’ll stop at nothing to bring it down – even if that means facing the power-hungry Accelerator in a fight that only one of them can walk away from.
Elsewhere in the city, an adorable young girl named Febrie is brought into Misaka’s circle of friends. As they begin to learn more about Febrie’s past, they discover that she, too, is a victim of scientific forces in the city – and that’s something Misaka and the girls of Judgment simply won’t stand for.
Contains episodes 13-24.
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 another kind of dark and murky piece but works better than the previous volume. What we get here is Misaka holding onto Febrie’s hand while Nunotaba is next to them under the light with an industrial feeling to the background. It almost looks like they’re outside in the rain but it’s a decent illusion for casting a certain kind of atmosphere. 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 a great outgoing and friend-oriented image on the left with most of the main girls while the right panel has a darker image of Kamijo taking a stand on the bridge against the Accelerator, which works really well. 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)
Watching A Certain Scientific Railgun and the sequel season S has been an interesting experience. I had liked the A Certain Magical Index series well enough and could see so much potential in Academy City with the kinds of stories it could tell. In a way, it was one of the more superhero-oriented types of titles out there, just sans the costumes in a way. It could easily go into that sprawling shared world aspect that would make a fun gaming world or interactive experience. What got me with these two particular seasons was that they realized that Misaka was a more likable character than Index and that there was a deeper resonance for the fans with her. In short, Misaka was a character you could empathize with a whole lot more.
The first season of this series took us back to a time before her appearance in Index and did the heavy lifting work of showing her and Kuroko together, her slowly being drawn into a group of friends that would become an important part of her life and a lot of simple explorations. It was enjoyable to be sure, but it also felt a little mundane in a way compared to what we had seen of Misaka before. But it was an important piece of establishing the larger narrative and Misaka’s story as we had to see who she was. That came into stronger focus with the first set of this second season as we caught up to the Accelerator storyline from Index and that began to unearth more of what’s going on with the clones that were being used and delved into the whole underworld of science that exists in Academy City. The dark side of science is a fascinating world to explore and while it follows a lot of anime tropes, it offered a welcome balance to the potential of the topside aspect, or at least the school aspect, of Academy City.
This half of the season has a lot to deal with and it manages to largely handle it well, though admittedly the second half feels a bit anticlimactic in a way. The first half is strong as we get Misaka making her decisions on how she must rescue her ten thousand or so sisters that are out there since it’s her fault they exist and are being tormented with these games to try and force a Level 6 into existence. When you remove the restraints of Academy City, taking things into a dark route to achieve results is what happens. It’s a cruel and brutal thing but there’s something to be said for it. What Misaka is trying to do though will end up in her own death, which will solve the problem in the method she’s doing it. What’s causing her a problem now though is that Kamijo has been keeping tabs on her since meeting her and now he’s pleading with her in his own way to not go that route because there has to be another way.
We’ve largely seen the results of this from the Index series, but there’s a lot to like with seeing it examined more from Misaka’s perspective and the way she agonizes over her sisters and their painful existence. Kamijo provides a good contrast for her to deal with, especially since she kept everyone out of the picture. But the real fun is in seeing her interactions with the other Misaka’s and the grasp of what it is that they’re dealing with, even if they do frustrate her with their style of speech. It’s a solid if familiar arc that’s brought to a great close here which is naturally followed up with some lighter material for a couple of episodes to reconnect her with all her friends. And that’s really what’s important in the series since Misaka has largely been a loner for much of this and having her connect with people more goes against her nature after all that she’s been through, which we got to see extensively in the two seasons as a whole. In the end, Misaka is a far more accessible and sympathetic character that you want to spend time with.
The season does provide for another short arc to be explored here, one that goes quite big, and it’s definitely fun but has a bit of a rush feeling to it. With this arc, Misaka and her friends stumble upon a cute girl sleeping in the middle of a flowerbed in the city. It turns out that the girl is named Febrie and Misaka eventually learns that she’s not human, but rather an artificial construct with a limited time to live. That gets to Misaka in a big way as it’s reminiscent of her sisters and she’s not going to let more people be manipulated like that. It’s also similar in that there’s a group of scientists from the underworld working on it that have their own grand plan that they’re going to use her for. It’s interesting enough on the surface and I like the further exploration of the underworld as it ties back to some previous things Misaka has dealt with, but it felt like too similar to the overall clone situation and too quickly. What makes it stand out though is that it pushes the main story of Misaka and her friends as unlike with the clone storyline, she asks for their help and they deliver in spades. And that makes it a shorter affair as her friends definitely have connections and pull.
I was wary of this series as a whole before it came out because it usually doesn’t work in taking a supporting character from one series and making them a main character elsewhere. I liked Misaka and her story, but I wasn’t sure it could manage its own series, never mind two seasons of two cour each. Taking us back to before her time in Index and then catching up and moving forward, we get a lot of good stories and a solid expansion on the character, her circle of friends and the changes she was going through as she discovered what her past has wrought in the present. The first half of this season is the stronger of the two in a way, but the season as a whole is a very good one and this second half works through her evolution in a very good way while making her an even more likable character that has you wanting another couple of seasons – if they can move her forward some more.
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: August 19th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.