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.
Last time I noted that Academy City was fostering an entire world of superheroes, and this new volume shows us how dark that world really is. Every time we’ve seen a science or research project in either Index (now licensed by Yen Press!) or Railgun, it’s been bad news for those being experimented on, those uncovering the conspiracy, and even random passersby. And now with this new volume we have two of the bigger ‘experiments’ meeting each other, as Misaka and Shokuhou reluctantly team up to try to save the sisters. Unfortunately, the sisters are not the endgame of our latest mad researcher villain, Misaka is – which means we once again get a really nasty cliffhanger.
It is not particularly a surprise that Shokuhou turns out to not be quite as evil as she seemed, but her similarities and differences with Misaka are fascinating nevertheless. They both grew up as lab rats and are now having to deal with the results of that, either a) through destruction (Misaka) or b) through manipulation (Shokuhou). Of course, growing up as a mind reader and manipulated the way she was, Shokuhou also ends up being VERY PARANOID INDEED, which is what drove most of her actions against Misaka in Vols. 7 and 8. She doesn’t want to deal with anyone whose mind she can’t get at. As for Misaka, once she finds out that there’s a different enemy behind all this she allies with Misaki, though there’s a halthy dose of mistrust on her end as well (leading to a wonderfully amusing scene where Misaka thinks she’s been betrayed only to find it’s just Shokuhou’s bad physical exertion.)
The rest of the cast get some nice things to do, bar Uiharu who is sadly just used as bait this time around. Kuroko gets to be badass with a wheelchair, one of the most dynamic shots of the entire volume. (I’m a little annoyed at her ‘I’m straight’ towards Misaka at one point (this is during her memory loss). Are we supposed to read this as her not being gay but just obsessed with Misaka? Either way it makes me grumpy, really, but then Kuroko’s character is problematic in general.) As for Saten, she gets to do some detective work and show off that being a Level 0 does not mean you are merely cannon fodder in this world. Oh yes, she also meets A Certain Protagonist for the first time…
I’m not sure how I feel about Touma showing up here, particularly as I suspect it will lead to Misaka being in peril and having to be saved by him (judging from the cliffhanger). Now admittedly the entire plot of Index can be summed up by “X in in peril, Touma saves them”, but this is Misaka’s series, and so far the only time she’s really had to rely on Touma bailing her out is during the Sisters arc, which was already canon in Index so couldn’t really be written around. We’ll see how well the manga carries it off, but I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of Touma’s right hand in Vol. 10.
Another excellent volume, overall, though, with a pleasingly smug villain who it will be lovely to see get his eventually. Sadly, given we’ve caught up, we’ll have to wait till January to see what happens next. In the meantime, enjoy everyone fighting against the conspiracy (which, this being the Indexverse, is almost all true).