Consider this a review of all 4 Toaru seasons that are out so far. I’m not willing to make different reviews around the same setting.
The Toaru trilogy is a typical shonen adventure with a nice presentation. It doesn’t fair much next to the higher ups such as One Piece or Full Metal Alchemist but at least has a nice way to show everything… half of the time.
The story feels great on paper but plays out quite average on screen, to the point it doesn’t really stand out in any special way. There is a world where magic and science are at war and there is a lot of technobabbling offered in an attempt to make all that seem plausible, but by the end of the day it is nothing more than some teenagers fighting with superpowers. Despite the variety in themes and special abilities but, seriously, the scriptwriter hardly tried to offer anything more than the basics. Some love how the author put a lot of work in order to explain the various magical and scientific powers that many characters possess, but it’s not like that makes the actual story any more creditable. It is still to the most part improbable physics canceled with a broken power. As in all shonen, they are talking a lot during battles and the context of whatever they say is not deep philosophy or the fringe science of superpowers. It is just typical speeches around superficial morality, and macho one-liners.
Here is a breakdown of what is out so far.
- Toaru 1 had little to no overall plot amongst its story arcs. Some excuse it as the introduction to the setting and the cast but story-wise it is still pretty much a disjoined series of almost stand-alone missions.
- Railgun 1 was just a storyless spin-off just for kicks, done to please the Misaka fans / Index haters. It is considered far more enjoyable that Toaru 1 but still has zero story to tell.
- Toaru 2 does a much better job at having a better overall plot but then again the transition from one segment to another happens in a rushed and poor way that confuses anyone not aware of the novels. Plus, it leaves most of the older characters as background decoration and ends openly at a point that is almost a major cliffhanger. There is a lot more to show in a, supposed, upcoming Toaru 3 series.
- Railgun 2 is too improving in terms of plot and characterization and it’s currently considered to be the best season yet. It still spends a lot of time in cute girls doing cute things though.
In a similar fashion, the characters is a colorful bunch of stereotypes that take their sweet time to develop and even then it is not done in any significant way. Most are in fact only given some attention when they are introduced before being thrown in the background.
- The most prominent example of this is the lead girl Index, whose name is even in the title of the anime. Although she is supposed to be the key character in the war because of her hidden knowledge, she is offered some immersion and drama before she becomes nothing but a platonic lover to the lead character. Not only that, but as the girls who like the lead male keep increasing, her role becomes even less and less important to the show in general. Some say this is good because she is very annoying and the less air-time she gets, the better the show is. If that is the case, she was a very bad choice for a lead character to begin with.
- The lead male Touma, ain’t exactly any better. He is the stereotypical shonen protagonist, predictably owning a broken power with which he uses it to protect his loved ones and save chicks. Make a check on the list of clichés at how he also keeps shouting morality speeches all the time. He always does the exact same thing; cancels the powers of his opponent, lash out a monologue about how wrong he or she is, do a punch to the face and then goes to heal in the hospital.
- The support characters seem to have even less importance in the plot. Each arc usually ends with Touma saving one girl and adding it to his personal harem, which gets more and more nudity as the episodes go on. Most girls are treated as nothing but harem material, existing in the show just to play it tsundere to Touma and cook stuff just for the heck of it. They otherwise hardly develop or matter. Hell, the show goes as far as to clone them in order for more mass produced zero- depth girls to frown over Touma.
- The only villain most care about is this psychotic guy named Accelerator, but even he seems like a crazy dude and nothing more. Big deal.
- Mikasa is the favorite character for most to the point she got her own side story. She is an ok character whose charisma could not be shown while she was overshadowed by that boring Touma’s hax skills.
Rather high budget with various ups and downs throughout the anime. The animation is rather fluent animation, there is a nice color palette, and catchy BMG. All that still can’t change the feeling of watching completely generic looking characters and eventually forgettable songs.
Action scenes are very good if all you want is fancy lights and big explosions but they are otherwise following a very standard and repetitive formula that makes them uninteresting in the long run. You know the drill, they macho talk, the lead gets trashed, they macho talk, the lead gets up full of resolve to protect his friends, they macho talk, the lead wins. Thank you very much; I am watching this since Hokuto no Ken came out. And I ensure you Hokuto has far more exciting action, despite being downright clichéd as heck.
Sadly, one of the biggest hooks ends up being the fan service. It was low-toned on Toaru 1 but gets rather overboard on Toaru 2. The Railgun seasons opt for more moe appeal but they follow the same principle of degrading the females into mostly eye candy than respectful characters. That is plain distasteful; instead of developing the characters, they turned them to softporn material. But then again that is the only way to maintain the intrest of the audience around people you don’t plan to develop.
I sure wasn’t amused much with it. Most who like it out there is because of its fan service and interesting concepts that are not really looked into; meaning they like it for the most superficial reasons. There are definitely far better shonen than this one, with far better handling of their stories and characters. A good time waster if you are still new and a shonen fan but nothing great in the longrun. Generic characters doing generic things with poor reasoning and cheap plot twists may indeed be entertaining for many but you will eventually get tired of seeing the exact same stuff repeating all the time.
If you expect a lemon twist to your average soda, Toaru is just tab water in a fancy glass.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 8/10
General Artwork 2/2 (very good for its caliber)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (nice blend of magic with science)
Animation 1/2 (too many ups and downs)
Visual Effects 2/2 (flashy)
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (good but not great because of shonen BS)
Music Themes 2/4 (average pop stuff)
Sound Effects 2/3 (flashy but not great)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
General Scenario 1/2 (all over the place)
Pacing 1/2 (too many ups and downs)
Complexity 1/2 (most character side stories are neglected)
Plausibility 0/2 (the author did his work but it is still very superficial)
Conclusion 0/2 (none; the story is incomplete)
CHARACTER SECTION: 4/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (mostly defined by quirks and ecchi)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic)
Development 1/2 (some, but too basic)
Catharsis 0/2 (none; the story is incomplete)
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Historical Value 1/3 (not much; it is pop corn material)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low; not much interesting cast or plot)
Memorability 2/4 (standard shonen with a nice presentation)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Art 0/1 (looks generic)
Sound 0/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (barely looked into)
Characters 2/4 (typical shonen fare)