A Certain Scientific Railgun, Vol. 13

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.

I’ve talked before about how the Railgun manga is far more tied into its parent than most other spinoffs I’ve seen. For one thing, it actually feels like it’s written by Kamachi. Most spinoffs tend to have the original writer simply give approval to stories that the artist has come up with themselves (the Nagato Yuki spinoff is a good example), but events in this book and the previous one are interconnected with Index’s 15th novel. Not only that, they enhance the novel itself – the last book saw Frenda get the character development she never got in Index for obvious reasons, and allowed someone to actually grieve for her. And the use of Scavenger, the spinoff Dark Side group that’s appeared in both Railgun and the Accelerator spinoff, allows us to expand on the purpose of these dark Side groups: they’re broken kids who’ve been screwed over by authority, but not necessarily evil.

Touma wasn’t in Index 15, and readers of Railgun who always dread his spotlight-stealing appearances will be grateful to know he’s not in this volume either. This puts the focus on Mikoto, who is in heroic good guy mode here, even though she’s missing the rest of her core team. (I assume that Kuroko and Saten are helping Uiharu recover from her broken collarbone.) Misaki steps in admirably, though, and the two are almost getting along, though that thought may make Mikoto ill. (It’s notable that the only time Mikoto really gets (offscreen) pissed off is when Seike mistakes her for a guy. Femininity is always a touch point for her.) One of the best things in this volume is seeing Leader, the cold-mask-wearing Scavenger girl, constantly trying to outthink Mikoto as she assumes that she’ll die going against a SECOND Level Five, only to finally be won over by Mikoto’s innate niceness.

As for the main plotline involving Kuriba, it continues to get into the nature of existence in the Indexverse, and how that’s a fluid, individual and personal thing. Her doppelganger is rampaging as she knows that she does not, in fact, have a soul. This doesn’t seem to bother Mikoto, but once it’s clarified that living with that knowledge is agony and torture, she’s willing to help end her pain. And, as with almost every Railgun plotline since the beginning that hasn’t involved Touma, this all turns out to be the result of scientific experimentation gone amoral. I’m not sure how I feel about Misaki solving the problem by memory erasure, but then she’s always been a morally ambiguous girl herself – she’s never going to be the innocent sweetie pie Mikoto has at her core.

So we wrap up the Indian Poker arc here, and I assume the next volume will start a new one. 14 isn’t out in Japan yet, so expect another long wait. In the meantime, for Index fans who always liked Railgun better, this is a perfect volume for you – Mikoto really shines!

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