Focal point of the series is Misaka, whom we already met in the series 'A Certain Magical Index'. The setting is the same as that series, and there are cameo appearances by the cast of 'Index' -- but the focal point is squarely on the 'scientific' side of life in Academic City.
Misaka has a roommate, Kuroko, who is a teleporter who is part of 'Judgement', the student-run sort-of police force that patrols the city. (But when they get into trouble, they're supposed to call in support from Anti-Skill, the sort-of riot police.) Uiharu, who doesn't have a high level of power like Misaka and Kuroko, is Kuroko's partner in Judgement. Her classmate Ruiko, who doesn't have any power at all, rounds out the quartet.
With two of the four girls in Judgement, obviously they get in all sorts of situations. And Misaka's sense of justice makes that she gets in on the fun as well (though Kuroko tries half-heartedly to prevent that). Ruiko is sort-of dragged along in it all.
The plotting is pretty tight. The series starts off with a few loose episodes that establish the characters and their relationships. But before you know it, the seeds for the first story-arc have been sown. Seemingly unrelated incidents (with a 'bad-power-user-of-the-week' feel to them) connect to make a large, epic story-arc. During this, we get to take a peek behind the scenes of Academic City, and how some scientists sacrifice everything (including human lives) to get that all-important research data that will reveal how to create the seemingly unattainable ability-level 6. And the bad guy in the first story arc is someone who would likewise stop at nothing to set the aftermath of a particularly gruesome experiment right again. This goes horribly wrong, and it takes quite a few shots from the Railgun to set things right again...
The second arc is a follow-up to the first one, and has pretty much the same premise. But now the bad guy from the first arc is the good guy in the second one -- a very interesting reversal. And everything is connected: there are no loose ends, which appeals to me.
One thing that I was concerned with, is how violent Academic City is, just below the surface. There's plenty of scenes where people with lesser abilities are beaten up by people with higher scores, and Judgement isn't everywhere. The amount of property damage that is casually perpetrated (sometimes by Misaka) is staggering -- but it all never has any consequences. Yes, it's serious as it happens, but there's no-one who thinks that maybe there should be some sort of system to counter-balance the 'might makes right' attitude that some of the punks seem to have. And just how many bank robberies can you perpetrate in a city? And how stupid do you have to be to try it again, where all the others (including ability users!) have failed!?
Visually, the series is pretty pleasing. The backgrounds are lush, the animation is smooth, and the digital effects are unobtrusive. The music is OK, and the voice acting is very good -- though Kuroko's affected voice takes some getting used to. And her obsession with getting into Misaka's pants is... well, maybe it's a bit overplayed.
- Nice visuals;
- Very interesting background;
- Tight plotting in the main story arcs.
- Sometimes there's a bit of a crutch to keep things moving (either Kuroko going beserk at Misaka, or another bank robbery);
- Logically, the city would be destroyed by casual voilence within a week, but that just doesn't happen.
All in all, a very enjoyable view. I'll give it an 8 -- and if there's more series in this setting in the future, I'll be sure to check 'em out.