|Good action, two solid story arcs, big moments from supporting characters||Sidelined the main character too much, questionable handling of certain antagonists|
Following up on a truly great season after many years is hard. That is the challenge that To Aru Kagaku no Railgun T had to take on. The positive thing however is that it still managed to be good. We got to see an adventure that allowed the characters tied to Tokiwadai to shine more. In a sense the season doesn’t change the Railgun status quo in terms of shocking reveals. But it did provide a very solid season that was enjoyable overall. The action didn’t drop at all in terms of quality even if it wasn’t nearly as emotional a season. This season had to take a rather significant break after the first arc, but that did allow the two arcs to feel fairly distinct.
This is the third season so there probably isn’t much need to go over the background. Unlike Index which (especially in season 3) goes very global and very religious/magical focused, Railgun remains firmly locked into the science side of that universe. The antagonists are on that science side of things and for different reasons are set to cause a great deal of trouble for the main character Misaka Mikoto.
One thing that gets a bit weird this season is how the story handled characters. That will mostly be covered in the character section. But the main character really only shined in the story near the very end. And there was never quite a proper conclusion to the conflict between Mikoto and the first antagonistic force she was up against. It was that handling of the main character that dragged down the story at times. Putting the story into the hands of others which sometimes worked and sometimes it really didn’t. This season also had one of the worst episodes in the Railgun franchise mixed in there. Comedy is subjective, but I don’t think a one-note joke stretched out over an entire episode works that well.
A strength of the season’s story is that it does have two legitimate arcs. The previous Railgun seasons have focused on one main arc and one original arc. Now those haven’t necessarily been bad moves. The original arcs have had their moments and often did tie into the lessons Mikoto learned through the main arc. It was of course nice to see the second arc of this season focusing on something different. The downside to that second arc was a lot of episodes that didn’t feel like they tied into the plot. As if the secondary arc was super short and they needed to pad it out a bit with episodes that were sometimes very loosely connected to what was going on. But those episodes on their own were often still quite good even if they didn’t always have Mikoto appearing in them.
While this season doesn’t change up the setting dramatically, it does give a few examples of how messed up Academy City is as a setting. You end up going through this season really appreciating how much ugly stuff is going on just under the surface. The world doesn’t need bigger threats when so much already is going on within that city itself. Whether it is Mikoto herself or those around her, they can’t help but get drawn into dangerous events. And while it didn’t always quite pay off, the season did have quite a few tense moments in the early going.
Overall the story while a step down from the previous season, was still pretty good. It allowed other characters to shine even if it sometimes came at the cost of the protagonist. It fleshed out the Railgun side of the Index universe and was honestly a much needed bounce back for the franchise after a bad Index Season 3 and following a decent Season 1 for Accelerator.
No shock that Mikoto is the main character again. She does have an up and down ride this time around. She does absolutely get some fantastic moments to shine, but they are honestly few and far between. She is often rather cornered and sometimes just is left unable to influence major events going on around her. Now that isn’t always a terrible thing since everyone needs help sometimes. But it felt more than ever that the story didn’t know how to make the best use of her character. Thankfully the season wasn’t just out to get her. When she was at her best, she was absolutely at her best.
The character who stands out the most in terms of taking over the season was certainly Shokuhou Misaki. Love her or hate her, she is the character that dominates this season the most. Sadly I was more on the hating her side of things which made the season much less enjoyable for me than it could have been if I felt the other way. I just never felt like the show did enough to make her likable while also never making her pay for her flaws. But she did get moments to shine in this season and definitely was a powerful force that moved the story along. If nothing else she was impactful and you rarely forgot she was hanging around.
I’d say the series did a really nice job focusing on the Railgun focused characters. There’s little secret of the fate of certain ITEM members from that dark side team. But Railgun continues to let those characters shine so much that you wish they had more to do in series outside of just Railgun. Frenda especially was a force in her limited time in the sun. The episodes she was around for were some of the best of the season. But other teams like Scavenger were rather likable despite…not exactly being on the right side of the law. They were one example of a team introduced in another series (Accelerator) and then getting a chance to really stand out within Railgun. Railgun is a good place for certain groups to shine and that remains the same in this third season.
Arguably the character that stepped up the most for me this season was Kongou Mitsuko. That girl legitimately impressed me this season with how she behaved in a crisis. It’s been interesting across the seasons seeing her grow from someone who just seemed to be there to have a rivalry with Kuroko to really standing on her own two feet. Even when things didn’t go well for her, it showed her growth in how others responded to that. There were legitimately times this season that I thought she was the MVP of the third season.
An honorable mention in this season would go to Kuroko. She can really vary between being totally awesome and…a total stalker. When she is at her best though she is great and this season gave her a few moments to really shine. I appreciate getting reminders of how cool she is in a pinch and how heroic she can be when not distracted by her obsession towards Mikoto.
This season remained very consistent with what came before visually. There were some massive battles that did require some good work visually to make pay off and I think they succeeded there. Nothing stood out in a bad way. Mikoto’s electricity always looked good and action often felt rather fast. The character designs remained very consistent and really I never had a moment where I thought the show was visually falling flat.
Voice work was the same as always which is a good thing in this case. I can’t say the songs packed the same punch as the previous season, but they were still good. The OP/ED combinations for this series worked nicely, although there wasn’t one that I really fell in love with.
It is hard to surpass something as outstanding as Railgun S was for me. That series was great and will always be one that I enjoy going back to even if the ride is an emotional one. Still, Railgun T did a fine job following up and continuing the story. Even if I didn’t enjoy every aspect or didn’t care for certain characters, it still rose to the level of being really good. The action for this series didn’t fall short and there were moments near the end that were legitimately impressive. It leaves me really hopeful for where the story can go from here. It may be another long wait before we see another season of Railgun since they don’t happen very often. But, I’ll definitely miss this one. Giving it a very solid B+.
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