Recap: Shinobu suggests Mikoto is at the center of the rumored Level 5 cloning project, but refuses to give her any other information. After a little bit of super hacking, Mikoto finds the research facility where Shinobu used to work and sneaks in to investigate.
Jel’s Thoughts: Stretching the bounds of plausibility, to put it nicely, is a staple of this series, and these first three episodes of Railgun S have certainly been doing their part. I’m usually good with the ridiculous super powers, like Mikoto adding super hacking to her ever growing repertoire of skills. I mean I’m being asked to believe she can magically generate electricity, so if they want me to also believe shooting said electricity into a computer will break a few passwords I’ll just roll with it. I even like when the logic gets so convoluted that it almost starts to make sense, like Shinobu placing the cash cards in dark alleys to generate witnesses and prevent the testing. Sounds like an airtight plan to me.
It’s when the implausibility starts to bleed into the storytelling that the eye rolling really begins. Both Zigg and I mentioned last week how clunky it was when Konori randomly mentions a rumor about the Level 5 project, but at least you could argue she’s a member of Judgement and has to stay up on those things. Having the rumor spread around the city to practically everyone (and somehow not Saten) was just plain dumb. I guess I never thought about it during the Sisters arc in Index, but why do they even let the clones walk around the city, dressed in the Tokiwadai uniform no less? It would be one thing if there was only one or two of them but if I recall there’s like 20,000 of them. How could people NOT notice that? Maybe walking around town in Mikoto’s uniform was meant to help them develop their minds? Maybe they only made a few at a time and kept replacing them as they were killed in the testing? It does not hold up to much scrutiny.
But I suppose after watching more that 70 episodes of Railgun and Index I should know better than to pick at the details and just enjoy the fun bits. The supporting cast has been a nice reprieve as the more serious part of the story is still in set up mode. Maybe it’s wrong, but I kind of find Kuroko’s creepy, undying devotion endearing. I probably wouldn’t touch that teddy bear though. Uiharu and Saten’s scene was a bit aimless, but I’m always amused by the “Saten sucks at everything” joke. Bonus points for the smooth segue from “I’d like to see Misaka in something other than her uniform” to Mikoto sneaking around in plain clothes. The break-in itself provided just enough tension to ease the info dumping, and I’ll admit I got a little excited when the episode ends on the Sisters’ trademark speaking in the third person.
I’m a little less excited about the preview for next week, which is screaming silly filler episode. That seems premature seeing as we’re only three episodes in, but with Mikoto’s mind temporarily at ease I think that’s where we’re headed. After that though it looks like most of our necessary set up is out of the way, and maybe we can get back to railgunning things.
Zigg’s Thoughts: As Jel says above, accepting implausibility is a basic part of telling any story but in this episode implausibility spills over into near impossibility and it damages the story severely. Is Academy City home to perhaps the most incompetent evil government organisations in the world? Their secrecy is shambolic, considering that every man and his dog seems to know that there’s some sort of secret Level 5 cloning program going on, and more amazingly, doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. I’m not an expert on the Index universe but my understanding is that human cloning remains a colossal no-no, yet apparently nobody cares enough to report anything concerning this.
In fact, the more you look into the whole cloning thing, the less and less sense it makes. As I pointed out last week, the researchers took DNA from Mikoto when she was in her early childhood (do children suddenly have the ability to consent to that now?) but she wasn’t a level 5 then and they had no way of knowing that she’d develop into one. If they had another objective for it (as they claimed to) and it’s just sheer luck she became a super awesome esper, well that’s terribly convenient isn’t it? Wouldn’t a team of crack scientist know that in this universe powers are as much the result of training as inherent genetic disposition, so it’s pointless to have a bunch of VR educated clones? The show is also kind of muddled on what the project actually entails – the dialogue and ‘flashbacks’ strongly imply that one or more clones were actually created, but then it’s also implied it might all have been a Tree Diagram simulation. If that’s the case, why didn’t you run the simulation before you invested in the secret facility and all the wacky cloning equipment? And why would you not liquidate it all immediately upon the project cancellation?
It’s not all implausible plot holes though – there’s also some straight up bad character writing here. Mikoto’s super crazy hacking powers are one of the dumbest ass-pulls I’ve seen in ages and the episode seems to go out of its way to paint her as some sort of super badass, which ultimately rings hollow. I appreciate it when authors are creative with the powers of characters, but now she’s invisible to cameras and sensors, can control computers with her mind and break into government grade IT systems? It just smacks of cooking up abilities for plot convenience and it doesn’t make the character look strong, it just makes her look like a writers pet. Also, what’s with the crazy wealth flaunting? I don’t think even the richest girl in the world would pay almost $400 for a t-shirt and shorts and then hire a hotel room for a 30 second change of clothes. She’s also shockingly casual at the end – even if she thinks the cloning project fell off the books, wouldn’t you at least be a little concerned and, you know, tell someone? As it is she breezes off without a care in the world.
There’s also poor pacing to consider – while Shinobu’s conversation with Mikoto is a cool scene with a bit of mystery, it goes on a little too long and the dumb physical comedy sort of detracts from it. The ending is basically a sustained infodump delivered by EVIL NARRATOR and is a pretty poor and longwinded way of conveying information that’s only partially necessary – less would have been more in this case. I do like the breaking and entry scene, which ludicrous power-based getouts aside is well shot, directed and scored, showing off some shine from JC Staff’s production team. On the other hand, Kuroko doesn’t need to be in this episode and still creeps me out, and Saten and Uiharu’s scene is just as redundant while also showing off some impressively terrible art on Saten.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m already considering hitting the big red DROPPED button on Railgun S. There’s an absolutely fascinating conceit to be looked to be looked at here and the world that’s been crafted remains as bonkers and interesting as ever. But I’m reminded of the weaknesses of character and plot that have dogged even the bast part of the franchise(s) so far, and as time goes by I become less and less tolerant of them. If Railgun S is to recapture me it has to concentrate on its strengths more and produce fewer episodes like this one.