A Certain Scientific Railgun is an anime that does not readily fit into any specific category. It is a slice of life comedy with a supernatural, and futuristic, twist. The show, which is largely character driven, takes place in Academy City, a modern metropolis full of schools and students. The plot is relatively slow moving, but I always found it to be enjoyable. It's cute, it's funny, and it's light hearted--until it's not. The main villain and ultimate conflict in the show is not introduced until late in the first season. Had they introduced this person earlier on, the plot might have felt like it was moving towards a specific goal. Yet, if you're like me, you will enjoy the entire show despite its seeming lack of purpose. It is a show that does not need one. In true slice of life style, as the watcher, you are entertained by the characters and their friendship more than any plot progression.
Our main characters are students who live in Academy City. A place where students can attend many schools to strengthen their Esper powers. Esper powers can manifest as all kinds of supernatural abilities, and in this show we see how people live with a multitude of different abilities at different levels of aptitude. Our four main characters display this best.
Misaka is famous in Academy City for having an awesome electromagnetic power, which earns her the nickname: Railgun. She is also one of the few espers to reach level five in ability, the highest known level. Her biggest fan, roommate, and seemingly best friend Kuroko, has the esper ability to teleport at a level four. The characters in this anime are more than just their abilities. While Misaka is a seemingly unbeatable badass, she also has a weakness for anything super kawaii, and for righting the wrongs within the city. And while Kuroko appears to be an upstanding defender of law and order, she also has a super pervy obsession with Misaka, and absolutely no fear when engaging in battle with an enemy.
These two members in particular seem to take charge of situations that arise while working in Judgement, rather than calling the proper authorities (Antiskill) as one can guess they are supposed to do.
Uiharu has an ability which you can guess is both low level and not very useful since it is rarely mentioned and Saten has no esper ability at all. I feel like Saten is either a character you are going to love or hate. She is struggling to develop her ability, but her heart is in the right place. She wishes that she had one so that she can be there for her friends in dangerous situations.
However, she also is the voice of reason at times. She allows the plot to explore what it means to be a non-esper, and show how far students are willing to go to increase their own abilities.
There are some dark undertones to this story, similar to what you expect to see in a superhero story line. It is not immediately clear what purpose Academy City serves, so whenever a sinister plot is uncovered you get the feeling that there is something larger at work. At the very beginning of the show it is stated that Academy City is one big experiment, and lets face it, experiments are never a good thing for the people in them. As you watch these four girls interact and become friends in a slice of life sort of way, you begin to worry about them being inside this experimental city, and ultimately what is going to happen to them.
While some people might not see the point in watching this show and easily pass it by, I would urge you to give it a try. It is both enjoyable and fun to watch. Watch it when you can't figure out what you are in the mood for, or when you need something that is just a little different.
The soundtrack makes good use of electronic music and I find it getting stuck in my head--in a good way!
Kuroko's pervy crush on Misaka is such a strange excuse for fan-service. It took me a while to get used to it, but eventually I was able to find it to be funny. If you have no tolerance for fan service, this might not be the show for you. Luckily it does calm down as the show progresses.