The denizens of Academy City are espers, people capable of manifesting psychic abilities. These abilities range from heat to spacial to electron manipulation. Society in this city is organized through so-called "Levels." From 1 to 5, and kind of like grades, these "Level" designations are awarded to espers by officials based on how proficient they are in manifesting their abilities. According to the official line, 1 represents the most basic proficiency, and 5 represents the most advanced. People are accorded higher stipends and privileges based on how highly they are graded on this "Level" system. As is constantly and proudly touted by the system’s administrators, "Level" mobility can be achieved if people invest enough effort.
Mikoto "Railgun" Misaka has managed to ascend to Level 5 through what she believes was her own determination. Ruiko Saten, on the other hand, has remained stuck at Level 0, no matter how hard she’s believed she’s tried.
Outside the system, however, are those "Level 0" anomalies who are technically able, but effectivly unable to manifest their powers. From this, A Certain Magical Railgun explores the ego-bruising effects of socioeconomic inequality and stratification (disguised and, as such, justified as meritocracy) through the phenomenon of what I call "Class ‘Level’ Conflict."
A good article. Out of interest, how does the second season compare to the first? I liked S1 (despite a handful of issues) but wasn't sure how close S2 would be in quality. – mattdoylemedia7 years ago
I would say S2, as a whole, and the SisterS arc in particular, is an upgrade. It really demonstrates how exploitative the system happens to be, for Saten in the past as well as Misaka in this case. Misaka goes through the psychological grinder in this season. – ZeroReq0117 years ago
If Saten gets some focus then that's a good thing. I ahvea review for season one coming on my site in a few weeks and I state that I thought that Saten felt like a far more important character than I expected. Further growth for Misaka is no bad thing either.
– mattdoylemedia7 years ago
Saten gets a bit shortchanged, but Misaka's development more than makes up for it, in my opinion. – ZeroReq0117 years ago