Rating: 15 for peril and death
Academy City, located in west Tokyo, is a place where power-users of all sorts gather to learn about their abilities. Among the highest rated is Misaki Mikoto, an electricity user powerful enough to launch a penny from her fingers at supersonic speed. Among the lowest is Toma, whose unrecognised power is the ability to cancel any other supernatural effects. One day Toma finds a starving girl on his balcony, and discovers that she’s being chased by western magicians because she has thousands of magical books memorised. Toma’s bad luck has only just started.
Railgun is a prequel which fills in the setting of Academy City. It focuses on four girls including Misaka, and their exploits with the city’s student police force Judgement. Index is the real story, telling of an underground battle between espers – who the world knows about, treats as normal, and explains scientifically – and magicians, people who wield power not their own – whose existence is a secret. The magicians don’t feature in Railgun at all, as it shows what life is like in Academy City.
The first few episodes of both series make this look like a typical shounen show – and also annoyingly fanserviceful. I urge you to give them more chance than that, as they both develop into something more interesting. Both series end up exploring the vaguaries of morality from a seeming bad guy’s point of view, exploring their rationalisations, and the choices they face having already hurt other people. The second season of Index (currently in progress) seems to be exploring the abuse of power.
Together they explore a more detailed world and have more interesting characters and plots than most shounen shows. Well worth a go.