Advertising and the Distinct Tone of Index and Railgun

  • I feel like Funimation is wasting a huge opportunity with the way they market A Certain Scientific Railgun. Whenever they talk about Index or Railgun, they almost always group them together as "Raildex." Yes, they are both from the same franchise, they take place within the same universe, and there is a partially overlapping cast (I say partially because they're mostly glorified cameos from either side). However, there are some very distinct things about each series that I think limit the advertising appeal when you treat them as two equal parts of one whole.

    This has been bothering me for awhile, but I decided to finally post this after seeing some Amazon reviews that didn't like Railgun because they expected more Index and got something "girly." I also have a friend who watched both and came out blasting Railgun because it didn't have "nearly enough fights." On the other hand, there's me. After putting off Index for a long time, I finally watched through the entire thing and… just wasn't that fond of it. It's not really a quality judgment, it's just my preference.

    The reason for this is obvious to me. The two series have very different tones and themes. Index follows a lot of shonen archetypes. It's got the unlucky, loser main character with a special power, who gets into fights with increasingly more insanely powered villains who want to either take over or destroy the world. He also happens to be backed up by a magical little girl who might as well be alien for how she acts most of the time. The depth of the conspiracies he encounters include so much interconnection that the world feels small. On top of that, based on the timeline, Toma's adventures all take place within a few months, despite how many villains he fights and how many world ending scenarios he averts. All of these things put the world on the brink so often that it's hard to imagine that it's made it as far as it has. This also contributes to a much darker show. While the Sisters Arc in Railgun S is, in my opinion, the darkest part of both shows, it's an anomaly in Railgun. Index is showing blood, dismemberment, and flaying early on, while Railgun seems to go out of its way to avoid blood outside of the Sisters Arc.

    Railgun, on the other hand, is borderline slice-of-life, especially in the first season. While the show culminates in epic fights against powerful villains, it's much more about the world and the people who live in it. Index may have introduced Academy City, but it's rarely relevant outside of being an excuse for the conspiracies. Railgun gives you a glimpse of what it might be like to live there. Mikoto is powerful, but she's not at the top of the ranking, and her power isn't unique, leaving behind the chosen one elements of Index. Even when villains are revealed to be part of a larger conspiracy, they're still criminals primarily. Also, despite being acknowledged, the conspiracy has so far remained little more than a continuity nod, allowing Railgun to present a wider, less "everything is connected" world. Also, with the exception of the flashy season premiers and Toma during the Sisters Arc, the fights in Railgun have more realistic consequences. Toma often uses shonen willpower to get back up from things that would kill even the toughest people in real life, whereas in Railgun punches actually hurt the punching hand, and Mikoto getting choked out immediately gets her taken out of a fight. When the truck falls on the clone, you know that's the end, unlike the surprise that one villain had when Toma survived an avalanche of rubble.

    And that was all ignoring the main in-universe distinction: magic. I started with Railgun and watched all of it well before I saw Index, but I had known some things about Index. I was nevertheless quite surprised to learn just how saturated with magic Index is considering how it essentially didn't exist in Railgun. This ties into what I said about Railgun presenting the world more as it would appear to average people (since magic is generally kept secret from the average person). It doesn't just illustrate how different the shows are, but it makes it feel to me as if it's a major intention on the original creator's parts. Even in Index, they seem to go way out of their way to keep Mikoto away from the magic. Even when it's happening around her, it tends to be in ways that could be explained by espers or something more mundane. If you just watched Railgun without knowing anything about Index, you would have no idea magic even existed.

    On the other hand, Index is entirely built upon it. I said Academy City feels like little more than trivia about the setting in Index, but I felt the same way about espers. Toma doesn't seem to be an esper. Index is not an esper. There were what, two, three esper villains? And two of those were in arcs about Mikoto and her clones. Honestly, I feel like you could go through Index ignoring the espers, just as you can go through Railgun and never even know magic exists.

    There is still more I could say, but at this point it might be best to simply summarize. Index is an extremely fantastical series that's largely about the spectacle, and will appeal more to a shonen crowd. Railgun, despite the superpowers, manages to stay mostly grounded, focusing on characters and building verisimilitude, and would appeal more to a slice-of-life crowd (I don't know the best genre terms to use, but I hope these will get the idea across). Again, I know people who have pretty directly said they like the fights of Index and hate how tame Railgun is, while Index almost ruined Railgun for me by revealing that doomsday lurks behind every corner for these likeable characters.

    My point is, both series are going to have appeal for completely different demographics. While there is certainly going to be overlap, that's not innate to the series. Funimation could reach much broader audiences and make more money off of both of these series if they would target them separately, and they should have full, distinct advertising as well. I feel like part of the problem is that they treat Railgun too literally as a spin-off. In practice, it really is its own series that stands fully on its own. They can still try to use the franchise connection to cross-promote, and talking about "Raildex" when they both really are relevant is obviously fine, but their main marketing push should be separate for both shows. Right now you might be getting some Index fans to try Railgun who might otherwise have avoided it, but you're losing out on all of the people who will like Railgun's tone and not Index's.

  • ^ I have literally never, ever, EVER seen or heard FUNimation refer to the series as "Raildex". I might be wrong, but that seems to be more of a term used by fans, not a professional marketing ploy. :hmm:

  • I've only ever seen fans use the term, because it's just easier to call it that way to talk about the series in general. Maybe Raildex has shown up in a blog post or two, but I'd hardly call that marketing. I'd also be careful what you're calling "marketing" and "advertising"

    In my opinion, Index is better than Railgun because Railgun has a very poor supporting cast (which makes sense, because Misaka is a really strong support character in the Index series. When you upgrade her from support to main, it stands to reason that the new support are going to be weaker than the previous support). Index also generally holds more gravity in its arcs and stories, all of which feel more important than Railgun's general city investigations and small-scale policing. I also think Railgun makes Academy City out to be pretty weak and dysfunctional, as a society that seems to rely on its students as the main police force over actual adults

  • @SpacemanHardy:

    ^ I have literally never, ever, EVER seen or heard FUNimation refer to the series as "Raildex". I might be wrong, but that seems to be more of a term used by fans, not a professional marketing ploy. :hmm:
    the last sentence of the last paragraph

  • Okay, they've used it literally one time. That still doesn't add any real evidence towards the TC's argument. :hmm:

  • I sure hope we get A Certain Scientific Accelerator anime

  • @ayanami-chan:

    I sure hope we get A Certain Scientific Accelerator anime

    ^ This! This needs to happen

Log in to reply