A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 5

By Kazuma Kamachi and Motoi Fuyukawa. Released in Japan as “Toaru Kagaku no Railgun” by ASCII Media Works, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dengeki Daioh. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

As we get into Vol. 5 of Railgun, it strikes me how many sociopathic killers are really in this series. It’s a whole lot. Misaka has found out about the experiment where 20,000 of her clones are killed off in order to force a Level 5 to get even higher, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Academy City and its dedication to science clearly continues to have a dark and sordid underbelly, and I doubt that the enemies this time will be as misguided but ultimately likeable as in the Level Upper arc.

First we have Accelerator, this arc’s “Big Bad”, who just finished brutally murdering Misaka 9982 at the end of last volume. The real Misaka is understandably upset by this, and does her best to try to make Accelerator see reason, or at least beat the shit out of him. This is especially true when she hears his motives are simply power, thus making the killings even more appalling. There’s a short battle, but a) it becomes clear that Misaka is severely outclassed by her enemy, and b) the clones stop things fairly quickly, pointing out that if he defeats the real Railgun now, that sort of ruins the experiment.

So now Misaka knows about the experiment, and has to stop it. The clones are of no help at all, as they don’t value their own lives so can only point out how easy it 9is to build new ones. She briefly has the help of Shinobu, a scientist who is trying to fix things after realizing that the clones are more than just lab rats. But for the most part it’s just Misaka straightforwardly trying to destroy the experiment by destroying every single site where it takes place – all 10 of them, supposedly used to combat muscular dystrophy. Yes, it’s Misaka the terrorist. Given that the hero of the main series, Touma, tends to solve problems by simply punching them very hard, it’s somehow fitting that our heroine is cut from the same cloth – if there are no more labs, there will be no more experiment.

Of course, things aren’t made that easy, as we also meet ITEM, the anti-terrorist group sent off to take Misaka out. These are basically child soldiers, with a slightly older leader, and are, like Accelerator, rather blase about all the people they have killed. The team is actually balanced nicely between two hotheads who glory in killing and torture, and two cool stoics who seem more blase about the whole thing. Naturally, it’s the hotheads who get most of the focus, and as we see a 10-year-old girl brag about the number of people she’s killed, we are reminded again what kind of environment this is.

And so in the end Misaka thinks she’s won, but somehow I doubt it. Blow up 10 labs, and 10 more will spring up. This is about defeating an entire scientific culture, and that will take far more than electroshock therapy. Luckily, we have an exciting cliffhanger, where… she sees Touma at a vending machine! Gasp! (This is actually more exciting to those who have read or seen A Certain Magical Index, as the two stories now join up, all of the past two volumes having been prelude.) Will she ask Touma for help? Or just be tsundere at him? It’s been a while since we’ve seen that side of her…

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