A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 12

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. Translated by Nan Rymer, Adapted by Maggie Danger.

Warning: the first paragraph of this review, above the picture, is spoiler-free for the most part. After that I will not only be spoiling the volume itself, but also A Certain Magical Index 15, which comes out in May 2018 from Yen On. Most Index fans know this spoiler well, but for the casual readers among you who have only read Railgun, stop after the first paragraph. This is a solid Railgun volume, with thankfully little to no fanservice (Kuroko is absent, which helps). It’s a book of two halves, the first of which features Saten and Frenda meeting by chance and bonding over canned fish, then getting caught up in a nasty situation because Saten has once again been mistaken for something more than she is. The second half sets up a new arc as Mikoto and Misaki investigate a girl who is yet another Secret Project of Academy City’s endless array of mad scientists. Railgun readers should enjoy this.

OK, spoiler-free time is over. THIS BOOK HAS SO MANY DEAD PEOPLE. A lot of what Kamachi has been doing with Railgun (and unlike most spinoffs of popular light novels, you can tell he has a major hand in this series) has been to fill in the blanks between Index volumes where Touma wasn’t around, not just from Mikoto’s perspective but also others. He’s also taken a lot of the cast and expanded their roles immensely to give them depth, and no one’s a more obvious example of that than Frenda. We’ve seen Frenda multiple times through Railgun, first as a villain in part of the Railgun-only Sisters arc, then again in the Railgun anime ending helping Mikoto take out a Big Bad, and then various spotty cameos. Now she gets a big focus story as she works to help save Saten – despite the fact that she wonders why the hell she’s doing this – from the machinations of SCHOOL, a dark organization which is using Indian Poker for its own nefarious ends. Frenda really is likeable here, and when she and Saten text each other at the end, you smile, hoping she’ll turn up again.

But to the reader of Index Novel 15, which came out 8 years before these Railgun chapters, this is tragedy. Because Frenda dies, ripped in half as revenge for being “a traitor”. The “One Week Later” at the end of the arc, showing Saten texting Frenda and getting no response, and seeing Uiharu at her door instead, is horrible, and meant to be incredibly depressing. Also, note that Uiharu’s shoulder and arm are in a sling – I suppose I should be grateful that Railgun isn’t going to cover that as well, as that’s also an Index 15 thing. Oh yes, and SCHOOL will, with one exception, also be entirely dead by the end of Book 15 (and in one case, good riddance – my lip curled when I saw Kakine on the page). As I said, this volume is crawling with people who, in the main series, die horribly. It CAN be read without knowledge of those events, and is still quite good. But for those who know what happens next, the first half of this volume is very different. I definitely recommend coming back to it later on after you read Index 15.

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