April 26, 2011

Pete enters the abyss

He's begun watching Railgun.

I hope he'll stick it out at least past episode 3. Episode 2 is my least favorite ep of the entire series, and when I rewatch I always skip it. But I like ep 3 a great deal.

UPDATE:

L0 is no power. What is she doing in Ac.City, then?

(Referring to Saten.) Anyone who can afford it can go to school there. Many people who have no power attend in hopes of finding one. Some of them succeed. Many don't. Among those who don't, a lot become bitter. A few become violent.

Saten is more complex and interesting than she first seems -- but that applies to all four of the major characters. In too many series, a given character is defined by a single characteristic, but that's not the case here. Saten isn't defined by her tendency to flip Uiharu's skirt. (Which happens twice in the first two episodes, and I think only about twice more in the entire series.) Kuroko isn't defined by lesbian hots for Mikoto.

Uiharu in turn isn't defined by being a fangrrl of the rich and powerful. Initially she wants to meet Mikoto because Mikoto is the legendary "Railgun", but it doesn't take her long to get past the legend and to become friends with Mikoto, the rather ordinary girl. That transition pretty much happens in ep 3. Up to that point, getting the four of them together is a matter of chance or rare action, but after ep 3 all four of them come to think of each other as friends, and it becomes routine for them all to hang out together. Part of the reason that works is because Mikoto isn't pretentious, even though her parents are rich and she attends a ritzy school, and of course is the third strongest ability user in the entire city. Indeed, part of why Mikoto likes hanging out with Saten and Uiharu is because they don't idolize her. They call her Misaka-san, not Misaka-sama, and that's their attitude towards her. For someone immersed in notoriety, it's nice to be with people who don't put her on a pedestal.

There's more to Saten's harassment of Uiharu than meets the eye. Uiharu is a nerd, and initially she was withdrawn, shy, and lacking in self confidence. Saten is something of a sosh, but she felt sorry for Uiharu. The real reason she flips Uiharu's skirt is to get a rise out of Uiharu -- as part of a process of getting Uiharu to come out of her shell. It's hazing, but hazing as a form of social acceptance. Saten isn't doing it to be cruel.

Some of that doesn't really get explicated until ep 20, in flashbacks. Saten isn't the only one who's been hazing Uiharu, though she's done a lot more of it than anyone else. (And the others are not trying to be cruel, either.)

A different point: Saten is, to some extent, the audience-viewpoint character. We're all level 0, right? None of us are espers. (I assume. I sure am not.) So part of the story is to show what it's like for a level 0 to hang around with people like Kuroko and Mikoto who have truly extraordinary abilities and are very adept at using them. How would you react to being around such people, becoming friends with them? Would you be afraid? Could you think of them as just people? Would you be resentful?

Saten goes through a lot of that over the course of the series; it's one of the major plot lines the series presents. Even with Uiharu. Uiharu's power (once it's revealed) is really not very useful, and Uiharu is only level 1. But she has a power, nonetheless. She's in the club, even if only as a very junior member. Uiharu's power is utterly useless for police work, but it still qualifies her to become a member of Judgement, where she's done very well.

Saten doesn't seem to really want to join, but it doesn't matter. She can't; they won't accept a level 0. She's on the outside, looking in.

There's also a feeling of helplessness to being a level 0 in a place like Academy City. There are so many powerful people around, and some of them are rather ruthless and are willing to use their powers to victimize others. Saten herself does become a victim of such a power user at one point. It's more humilitating than damaging, but it may have left her with a residual fear: what if someone like that had really wanted to harm me? What could I have done? Nothing! I'd have been completely helpless.

In some ways, Saten's story is the most important in the series. And she eventually finds out a lot about herself, and becomes strong in ways which are important, and gets a moment of glory because of what she is, rather than what she might dream of herself becoming. (Actually, she gets two.)

There are a lot of happy endings in this series, but I think hers is the best.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 06:01 AM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 853 words, total size 5 kb.

1 Saten is something of a sosh...

A what?  I mean, from context I can sorta figure out what you're saying, but I've never heard the word "sosh" before.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 26, 2011 03:18 PM (wSjAL)

2

I don't quite know how to spell it, and maybe the term is obsolete now. When I was in high school, a "sosh" was someone who was very adept socially, who easily made friends and who everyone knew and liked. It's pronounced with a long o. It's the first syllable of "social", I think.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2011 03:30 PM (+rSRq)

3 It's in the Urban Dictionary, though I didn't intend the "snooty" implication.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 26, 2011 03:33 PM (+rSRq)

4 Urm... that makes more sense than how I was mentally pronouncing it, like "SAH-shh." 

You mean she's not a fan of Sam Horn?

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 26, 2011 09:40 PM (wSjAL)

5 I'm glad you linked to a somewhat belated review of this series a couple weeks back (at Seaslugs, I think?), because it quickly got me hooked.  I went ahead and watched Index first so I wouldn't miss anything, but Railgun really could stand on its own if you had a little bit of the back story in hand.

Saten is easily my favorite character out of the bunch.  She ends up expressing the widest emotional range of all the characters, and her frailty makes her the most accessible.  Without Railgun, I would have thought Misaka was a bit of a shallow, one dimensional character, which absolutely would have not done her justice.  She's smart, mostly humble (except when dealing with Touhma), brave, and self-sacrificing (even to a fault).

I've watched it twice through already in less than a month.  Great fun.

Posted by: wahsatchmo at April 27, 2011 04:05 PM (BINpU)

6

Index is based on a series of light novels. Railgun was an original work -- and you should pardon my saying so, but the Railgun writers were better than the original novelist at things like characterization.

A lot of that character depth you're talking about wasn't present in the light novels. The original author has adopted Railgun as part of canon, but it wasn't really his. (Though, of course, he was somewhat involved in the planning process.)

You presumably noticed how talky the battles in Index are. The original author wasn't very good at doing plot exposition and it tended to feel out of place.

The writers of Railgun did a much better job of it, and generally it doesn't feel wedged in.

Anyway, Railgun was so successful and so popular that Saten and Uiharu (who were invented for Railgun) got to appear in Index 2, and Kuroko was a pretty important character. (In Index 1 she was a bit part.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 27, 2011 04:49 PM (+rSRq)

7 Thanks for the explanation.  I was curious why Railgun seemed so much more developed and rich, where Index was decent but on the lighter side.

I've been through Index II now, and it is better than Index I.  Though Railgun outshines them both, in my eyes; which is too bad in a sense because I like the espers vs. magic angle.

Perhaps my only complaint about Railgun is that the final villain devolved a bit into a cliche in the final moments.  I still liked her and thought she was an appropriate foe for the group, but I liked her subtle maliciousness more so than her outright maniacal final phase.

Posted by: wahsatchmo at April 27, 2011 05:43 PM (Sc0Rz)

8

That really wasn't handled well. The Level Upper arc is a lot better, but obviously it couldn't be the series climax.

The Railgun series isn't perfect. There are four or five filler episodes in the high teens that could have been removed without us ever noticing they were gone. They mostly make small contributions to character development (e.g. the Big Spider arc was about Konori) but I still have no idea why they did ep 19 ("Open House"). It's fun, but it doesn't seem to me to really make any difference at all. I suppose it's because they wanted to show Uiharu in fangrrl mode again, but I would rather she'd grown out of that.

And Tessou really isn't a very important character. Why did she get a story? I guess it was because they wanted to show things from the point of view of a teacher, for a change. But I fear it's because they wanted to show them in the bathhouse.

On the other hand, what it does well, it does really well. Mikoto's battles are usually awesome, and the main four characters are complex and fascinating.

And I agree with you: Saten is my favorite.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 27, 2011 07:04 PM (+rSRq)

9

A lot of us have hopes that they'll do another Railgun series. Given how successful the whole franchise has been, and Railgun in particular, I think it's very likely it'll happen. But so far nothing has been announced.

By the way, you do know that there was a Railgun OVA, don't you? It's good, too. It fits into the continuity just after ep 14 of the Railgun series.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 27, 2011 07:09 PM (+rSRq)

10 I would pay good money for a Misaka plushie.

I'd pay a LOT of good money for a whole pile of Sisters plushies...

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at April 27, 2011 08:32 PM (pWQz4)

11 Steven - thanks for the heads up on the OVA.  When I get back to my main machine, I'll be searching for it.

I agree, there are certainly flaws, but what this series does, it does very well.  I like that the characters with developed powers use them in interesting ways (the OP shows Mikoto using her electromagnetism to slingshot herself via a metallic support to escape from an explosion. How cool is that?).  Plus, they seem to hint that Uihara and Saten may someday develop very imposing powers.  Imagine Uihara if her ability develops to the point where she could raise or lower any object to any temperature, instantaneously.  Or Saten if she could fully control the wind.

There're some hints at a greater story in Railgun, to be embodied by characters that the writers clearly hold dear.  It's fine if they don't get the opportunity to make more episodes, but they did a great job wrapping up this side story while leaving you expectant for more.

Posted by: wahsatchmo at April 27, 2011 10:00 PM (Sc0Rz)

12 Some of the powers are very versatile. Kuroko has spent a lot of time thinking about ways to use her power, for example, and practicing them. So her "blink just above you and kick you in the head" attack is pretty scary.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 27, 2011 10:10 PM (+rSRq)

13 What a timely post! I just obtained Railgun. I've watched some Index II (I read a lot about it, so I wasn't lost), but I don't like the main male characters. Railgun sounded a lot more my speed. I'll get to it once I'm done with Scrapped Princess (I just started that today, even though I bought it over three years ago). 

Posted by: TheRoyalFamily at April 28, 2011 05:45 PM (i6C2e)

14 I still think that L0 is not the same as having no powers. The potential is still there. It's like caterpillar and earworm, neither of whom fly... for now.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at May 09, 2011 08:32 PM (9KseV)

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