A Certain Scientific Railgun: Astral Buddy, Vol. 1

By Kazuma Kamachi and Yasuhito Nogi. Released in Japan as “Toaru Kagaku no Railgun: Astral Buddy” 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.

Let’s face it, spinoffs from A Certain Magical Index are obvious. Leaving aside the fact that both Mikoto and Accelerator, owners of the two other manga spinoffs, are far more popular than either Touma OR Index, the series is simply littered with people you want to have their own series. Even if you put that aside and regard this as purely in the “Railgunverse”, which it is, there’s still an awful lot that you could focus on besides the adventures of the main four girls in the cast. The most obvious, of course, being Misaki, but she’s already gotten a sizeable role in the Railgun franchise already. So who do you turn to? Who’s the next breakout star? If you answered “that princess curl girl with no name that Misaki mentally abuses”, then you’ve cheated and read ahead. Let’s face it, no one expected this girl to lead a series.

See, even the cover artist agrees with me. Front and center are Kuroko and Misaki, posing as if they know why readers are REALLY buying this book. Way in the background is princess curl girl, who finally gets a name, Junko, and the “astral buddy” (awful pun there, btw) who is haunting/stalking her and drives the main plot. Someone is theoretically assaulting people around Misaki… only it turns out they’re assaulting people around Junko, who is a bright and shiny pile of naivete (as we’ve seen in the main Railgun series when she’s made brief appearances). Once that plot point is resolved, and Junko is assured that girls can in fact like other girls (a constant thread in this volume, no surprise given Kuroko’s all over it), we move on to Junko’s new ghost friend, who may or may not be a ghost. And Misaki’s still around, of course, but for once she’s the damsel in distress.

This takes place right around the Indian Poker arc in Railgun, for timeline fanatics. Mikoto is not in it, probably as she’d match up too well with Junko – Junko is bright and shiny where Mikoto runs on frustration and grumpiness, but they’re essentially very similar people. The rest of the Railgun core all have significant appearances, though. As for Junko herself, the narrative is a bit kinder to her now that she’s the focus of a series. We see she’s a Level 4, and her powers do indeed look pretty damn handy – it’s almost like a “quirk” from My Hero Academia. (Arguably, all of Academy City is.) Even the annoying mind control gag from Railgun, where Junko is always dieting but Misaki, when annoyed, makes her overeat to offset it, gets an “amusing” spin – Junko is gaining weight, but it’s all in her chest. The actual plotline has barely started, but that’s certainly an impressive cliffhanger.

So in the end, I was prepared for this to be the most cynical franchise cash-in yet, given it’s a spinoff starring “who?”, but it proved surprisingly entertaining, and I have new respect for Junko, who’s a bit of an airhead but sweet. Aside from the usual “Kuroko is a predatory lesbian” warnings, this should be an excellent pickup for Railgun fans.

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