April 01, 2010

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun -- engineer's disease

I decided to rewatch the whole last plot arc of Railgun tonight, and I think know I can make more sense of what's going on. Loads of spoilers below the fold.

Telestina is insane, but there's method to her madness.

Telestina was the first subject of the old man's experiment. She was an ability user, and a side effect of what was done to her was to make her lose her power. It's impossible to say, now, what her ability was but there are vague hints that she had a limited form of precognition.

As a result of that experiment, and of losing her power, she is now a psychopath, with a particular fixation on level 5's. She's also obsessed with finishing her grandfather's work, if for no other reason than to make it so that her own sacrifice won't go to waste.

She's been looking for ways of doing that, and finally concluded that her best chance was to find, and use Kiyama's kids, the ten who her grandfather experimented on without success. Problem is, she can't find them. The frog-faced doctor has spirited them all away to some secret facility and has managed to cover up the paperwork trail. (As he says to Mikoto, he's got considerable influence he can use when he needs to. He's a good guy but he's also a minor illuminati.)

Having studied that entire case in detail, she also studied Kiyama, and thus studied the Level Upper incident. Which, of course, was cracked by Konori, Uiharu, and Kuroko, the stars of Judgement branch 177, with able assistance from Mikoto, the railgun and one of the level 5's that Telestina despises with a passion.

Uiharu's friend (Saten) was in deep trouble and this motivated Uiharu to superhuman levels of research. (All of this is in the record.) Fact is, branch 177 operated at levels way beyond the norm, putting together all the pieces of an extremely esoteric plot and defeating a major danger at the end. Telestina decided to take advantage of them. Why? Because she believed that Branch 177 could find Kiyama's kids if properly motivated, which no one else seemed able to, and because she believed that if they were involved in the case, Mikoto would get involved, and Telestina would have a good chance eventually of fighting against Mikoto and killing her.

Telestina pulls her strings to get Haruue placed as Uiharu's roommate, while running a separate engineering project to build the mech with specs such that it should be able to defeat Mikoto. And other projects were in place, such as installing the ├╝ber-Capacity-Down in that building.

She based the design of that mech on the the power user database records for Mikoto, not being aware that Mikoto has been holding back during her evaluations, and is much stronger than the records indicate.

The first part went beautifully. Kuroko, Konori, Uiharu, and eventually Mikoto, found the kids. Telestina used the city's tracking system to follow Mikoto that evening, and got the kids away.

And she baited Kiyama and Mikoto afterwards because she was itching for a fight. The decoy was really intended as bait for Mikoto, but having Kiyama follow it was good enough, since that got Kuroko and Mikoto (and the others) involved, leading to the fight on the freeway.

And the first couple of attacks Mikoto used were ineffective because Telestina's mech was designed to handle them. Unfortunately, all that did was to make Mikoto angry, unleashing her true maximum power -- blowing a hole in Telestina's mech and converting it into a pile of junk.

Apparently the pilot's compartment wasn't centered in the body, so Telestina wasn't killed when her mech was destroyed. (Likely her powered suit, which she was wearing inside the mech, helped save her.) How she got out and got from there to the research facility and managed to sneak up on the girls in the basement is left as an exercise to the reader. (In other words, I don't think it can reasonably be explained.)

Telestina saw the chance in the facility to carry out her plan. The kids were there, and everything else she needed was there, and she had the Capacity Down running, immobilizing Kuroko and Mikoto. But she made the untoward assumption that Mikoto would never hang out with anyone who wasn't a power user. So it caught her by surprise that Saten wasn't immobilized, and was able to knock out the Capacity Down. That got Mikoto back into the game.

Saten turned out to be the secret weapon of the team, and I really like this concept. Telestina had turned that building into a death trap for power users, but it didn't affect Saten because Saten doesn't have a power.

The reason Telestina's powered suit had that weapon mounted on it was because it was her fallback plan for battle against Mikoto. From her point of view it was probably intended for an eventuality in which she wasn't able to use the mech to engage Mikoto, but using it after the mech was destroyed was the same difference.

It's something of a trope in fighting anime that for many combatants the goal isn't just to defeat the opponent. You must humiliate them, make them feel their defeat, make them acknowledge that they are defeated. You must taste their despair. That happens all the time in shows like DBZ, to the point where it's probably a trope. In reality it's idiocy, but it looks like Telestina subscribes to it. That's why all the taunting and gloating.

Telestina didn't just want to kill Mikoto. She wanted to humiliate Mikoto. She wanted to prove to Mikoto (and herself) that her technology was superior to Mikoto's power. Her weapon was designed to be the same kind of beam as Mikoto's railgun, and Telestina taunted Mikoto to get her to engage in a beam-o-war which Telestina expected to win. Problem was, again, that Telestina designed to the level in Mikoto's records, and Mikoto is a lot stronger than that. Mikoto won without too much difficulty.

As to why none of the heroes (except Kiyama) are in jail afterwards? The whole situation is a terrible embarassment to the powers that be. They approved (at least tacitly) of the old man's experiments, and if Telestina had been successful, well, they would have approved of that, too. But since she was defeated, the whole situation left a huge stink in the air because Telestina had co-opted MAR and used it as a part of her plan.

MAR is one of the three branches of the police in the city, and Telestina had been using it to actively try to destroy members of the other two branches. And eventually elements of MAR engaged in a major firefight with elements of AntiSkill. That all had to be covered up.

There were probably several ways that could have been done, but for instance trying to take Mikoto and the others into custody and making them disappear was probably judged as being too risky, if for no other reason than because they couldn't be sure to keep them disappeared. Besides which, there are alternate lines of research going on into trying to create a level 6, and one  of those is just to stand back and watch the level 5's to see if any of them get there on their own. Mikoto can't be spared.

And too many people knew about what happened, when you include all the members of AntiSkill who were there that day.

So if they wanted to leave Mikoto free, then they had to go completely the other way. The folks from Branch 177 (plus volunteer ippanjintachi Mikoto and Saten) are heroes who helped save ten kids from a terrible fate at the hands of a rogue element of MAR, operating completely without permission of the powers that be in the city. The AntiSkill members who fought that day are virtuous and proper and true. MAR gets a purge. Everyone else gets handshakes and sent home, and then the powers that be try to pretend that none of it ever happened.

So, only one more thing: I don't buy that Telestina survived Mikoto's last shot. They show Telestina laying against a wall, unmoving, with a hole in her chest. There's an indirect hint near the very end implying that Telestina is still alive and is being questioned, but I don't buy it. Telestina is dead. Mikoto killed her -- in self defense, and for other good reasons, but she's definitely dead. Konori was talking about someone else who was being questioned.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Engineer's Disease at 08:45 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
Post contains 1442 words, total size 9 kb.

1 I believe, based on the last scene   (spoiler tag so it won't show in the sidebar)

Posted by: ubu at April 01, 2010 09:24 PM (cxiqH)

2 I saw it the same way as Ubu...

Couldn't've felt good, either way.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 01, 2010 09:35 PM (mfPs/)


That would be this picture:

I guess what you're saying is arguably true. If that had been a man, a dent that deep would have crushed the heart. But with boobs the size of Telestina's, there's probably more room inside that thing.

But I can't believe that armor could dent like that without breaking in the middle. Metal just doesn't act that way; metal hard enough to make decent armor isn't ductile.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 01, 2010 09:36 PM (+rSRq)


A different point:

If Mikoto was down watching Kiyama at the computer, it's because she was absolutely certain that Telestina wasn't getting back up again.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 01, 2010 10:13 PM (+rSRq)


This is what real armor does:

...when hit by a cannonball. The metal doesn't stretch and balloon, it breaks and folds out of the way.

This cannonball was a lot wider than MIkoto's shot, but the principle is the same.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 01, 2010 10:36 PM (+rSRq)


Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 01, 2010 10:57 PM (mRjOr)

7 You're over-thinking the armor.  I doubt the studio is going to model the physics and worry about metal properties, ductile or not.  And remember, we're theorizing that the actual shot may be plasma by the time it hits something, in which case, we're talking heat deformation instead of just impact damage (and why isn't Telestina getting her face cooked?)

As for guarding Telestina, well, they're junior high girls. They haven't got all the tactical acumen that we've amassed from watching years of movies where the bad guy just keeps refusing to die.

Posted by: ubu at April 01, 2010 11:08 PM (cxiqH)

8 This is an "Engineer's Disease" post. Overthinking is de rigueur.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 01, 2010 11:12 PM (+rSRq)


Anyway, what the studio is thinking is

It's hard to believe that Mikoto and Kuroko got through that day without filling a few graves. Between spear carriers whose grenade launchers exploded in their faces, and the other group of spear carriers that Mikoto levelled with a huge electric arc, at least some of those guys have to be dead. But they were all faceless, and we don't see any blood. With Telestina we saw her laying there, covered with blood and unmoving, so they felt they needed to make clear to us that she was just pining for the fjords.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 01, 2010 11:22 PM (+rSRq)

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