I didn’t actually get very much into either of these, but I made it through one season of Railgun while only just a couple episodes of Index. Why?
Whatshisface from Magical Index is just some bland motherfucker. Yeah he’s supposed to be the Everyday Guy, but what the hell is his actual personality? He’s nice sometimes, in a vague way? A little stubborn? What’s his motivation? He’s nice sometimes, in a vague way? A little stubborn? He spends way too much damn time whining, then. And there’s something just off-putting about a harem building around this Nice-ish Guy.
What the hell is Index’s personality, anyway? She’s a generic moe character. Maybe she and other characters develop something resembling actual personality, but it was taking too damn long to find out.
On the other hand, Misaka has much more of a personality. She’s genuinely kind and actually shows it by being sensitive to others’ feelings (and doesn’t whine like a little bitch). She’s not just kinda stubborn in a way that mostly benefits the plot: she is a determined badass.
Yeah, an uncomfortable amount of Shirai’s personality is her obsession with Misaka, but we do see her in other contexts, where she’s a determined and confident Judgement officer and a talented esper in her own right.
Uiharu and Saten also develop characteristics that aren’t just moe or playfully perverted. Uiharu gains her own quiet kind of determination and badassery, and Saten has her deep-seated insecurity that informs her choices and makes her a tragic character at points in the story. Which brings us to plot.
Magical Index’s plot mostly struck me as Random Shit That Happens Around Some Guy (plus a tiresome harem). I could feel like continuing watching the arcs once they built up, but it often took awhile to get to that point.
Scientific Railgun took a little while to get going, but it got damn intriguing, with mystery and stakes that felt high and thematics and shit. It’s kinda weird when it feels like the plot is done at the halfway point, but the characters were enough to keep me going until the second half built up.
Yeah, they share a world, but Railgun makes better use of it.
Magical Index just starts out farting some exposition but then wants us to promptly overlook that and pay attention to this magic stuff that has suddenly appeared in this scientific world — except we haven’t grasped the depth and scope of what this sci-fi-type world is. It’s just jumbled and thematically a mess.
Railgun’s plot is directly impacted by its setting, and they spend time exploring how this esper society works. And they get damn creative about it, while Bland Motherfucker is kinda stuck as a one-trick pony. But a lot of Railgun is actually based around characters than just ‘splosions and shit (tho it does have a lot of nice explosions). Everybody’s motivation gets shown and not just told, and there’s a surprising amount of Heavy Shit in there.
(I quit Magical Index an episode or two after the Sister arc, ’cause nothing else grabbed me. I had to work to get to the Sister arc in the first place, and I felt that even that arc could have ended more poignantly, expect that would depend on Bland Motherfucker actually having a personality.)