Book Review: A Certain Scientific Railgun: Astral Buddy Volume 1

Astral Buddy Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, even if it is
taken up by the daily grind.

Things are going fairly well here, as I can still do what I
like.

This month, I have been waiting for the latest installment one
of the series I have been following to become available to purchase, since my
desired format is not currently available for preorder, and I recently found
out that another series I was interested in finally got an official release, so
I decided to check out the two volumes currently available.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those two books, which is
call A Certain Scientific Railgun:
Astral Buddy Volume 1
by Kazuma Kamachi.

Academy City is a seemingly normal, with people living their
lives peacefully, and with a few exceptions, like 2 or 3 of the top five espers,
it certainly seems that way.

However, when strange things start occurring around Hokaze
Junko, a girl who has stayed out of the spotlight, she becomes center stage as
she gets entangled with an entity that wants her help.

While the last Raildex spin off that I tried, which was
called A
Certain Scientific Accelerator
, was disappointing enough that I was
done with it after two volumes, I know that not all spin offs are bad,
especially because A
Certain Scientific Railgun
, which I thoroughly enjoy, was a spin off of
A
Certain Magical Index
, so I thought I would check it out.

And after reading this, I must say that I really enjoyed it.

From the moment that I opened up this book and started reading
it, I found myself so engrossed that I did not want to stop reading for any
reason.

Now, some of you guys, mostly the Index fans who only seem
to be familiar with the Railgun anime, might be saying that this is because I
am a fan of Railgun, which might have some truth to it, but that is not the
biggest reason for me.

If I had to why, it was because of how things began, just
like most of the other work I have read recently.

As I have said many times here already, one of the most
important things in work of fiction is how things begin, because the beginning
of a story is supposed to take people to another world, thereby giving them the
temporary escape that they desire.

While this necessary hook can be accomplished in many
different ways, depending on the genre and medium used to present the work, this
volume is the first installment of the Astral Buddy spin off and is also
published in a serial publication, which means that the important thing to do,
other than trying to pull the viewer into the world by slowing introducing it, though
it is not necessary in this case, since most people reading this series know
what Academy City is like, is to get the audience interested and invested in
the characters, in addition to what is going on.

One of the things that I really hate about the kinds of book
that my family would prefer me to reading instead of manga is how nothing
really interests me beyond the plot and then decides to have an epilogue, even
when it is not needed.

The reason for feelings like this is because there is
nothing interesting about the characters, as they seemingly have no
personality, or even an interesting personality or dynamic.

However, like in many of the different manga series that I
enjoy, I do not really get that feeling, though there are moments where this is
not the case, such as the stereotypical harem protagonist or, more recently,
wish fulfillment protagonist.

Likewise, in this volume, the characters all seem to have
something that makes them interesting and have some personality, including the
protagonist, who has appeared in Railgun but has not really had the spotlight.

Not only did the characters have something about them that
was interesting, but the way things flowed seemed interesting and really kept
me immersed, unlike the Accelerator series.

If things did not start off like this, I would have been
really disappointed, because I was expecting things to be handled very well,
especially considering that Seven Seas is marketing this as a Railgun Spin off
and Railgun is part of the series name.

Fortunately, Kazuma Kamachi and the rest of the people
involved in bringing this series to the masses started things off on the right
foot, which makes me feel like giving them a good round of applause.

I also liked how the protagonist was relatively unknown in
the Raildex universe.

For as long as I have been acquainted with the Raildex universe,
which is definitely not been as long or as much as I have been with Detective
Conan
, I have noticed that many of the works seem to put characters with
high popularity in the spotlight, such as Mikoto Misaka, whom I consider a
better protagonist than Touma, and Accelerator, and while there was some need
for one of those series, considering how the bridge scene in the beginning of
Index and Misaka’s distress during the Sisters arc did not really make that
much sense, though the latter made a little more sense in the third
Index book
, the overall feeling I got was that those works were only made
to capitalize upon the popularity of a character, particularly in the case of A
Certain Scientific Accelerator
.

Even though this series is trying to capitalize upon the popularity
of the Railgun series, by including it as part of the title, it does not feel
like it as much of an obvious cash grab because the protagonist is somebody
that does not seem to be as popular as Misaka or Accelerator, as the audience
only seems to recognize her by appearance and she does not stand out as much as
Misaki Shokuhou, helping it stand on its own, as opposed to giving the audience
certain expectations going in, and even giving a chance to flesh out a
character whose only traits the audience knows for certain is being as obsessed
with Gekota as Misaka and a loyal follower of Misaki.

If Misaki Shokuhou or some other more well known character
got a spin off instead of Hokaze, who officially got her name in this series,
things might have worked out just as well as it did, but I probably would not
have been as satisfied, as it would have been more likely that the series would
have been an obvious cash grab, which is something readers do not like.

Thankfully, a relatively unknown character was chosen to be the
protagonist, which helped to give the impression that it was a new work.

Another thing that I really liked was how well this volume
was formatted.

While I do not talking about how things are formatted and
such too much, unless it poses a big problem, it not does not mean that the
formatting is any less important, because a badly formatted book can be just as
bad as a poorly written book.

For the longest time, Seven Seas Entertainment has been
focused on releasing their work in print, which causes problems for me because
I have out of space to hold more manga, and when I found out that they were
finally releasing the two series I get from them digitally, I was ecstatic, seeing
as how only having them in print posed a huge inconvenience to me in the recent
past, in that I could only look through past volumes if I was where I housed
them.

However, when I tried out the digital version of The
Ancient Magus Bride Volume 10
, which was released a week after this
volume was originally released where I live, I was very disappointed because
Sea Seven tried to emulate the double page spread layout, by fusing two pages
together and sizing them so that it would show everything altogether.

Here, however, everything was split up, like it should have
been, making things a lot more readable.

Even though I cannot really call this an improvement because
it was released a week before the offending work, this is still what I expect
to see in official digital releases of manga, because not all comic reading
applications can really display double page spreads too well.

If Seven Seas had made the same formatting mistake here that
they made in something released a week later, I would have been very
disappointed with them, as I would not be able to support these releases in
good conscience, even if digital releases do not suffer from the same issues
that can crop up because of huge changes in life.

Fortunately, Seven Seas Entertainment did release something
with decent formatting, so I can give them some applause, though not as much as
if this was released after the aforementioned offender.

Hopefully, Seven Seas will have formatting as good as this
in the work they publish in the future, because that will show that they do
care about the series they publish, which will garner them some fans, but
because they already slipped up once, I would not be surprised if there are
more formatting mistakes.

I was also impressed by the humor.

While the humor was not exactly anything unique, since it
was mostly the same as what is found in Railgun, which should not be
surprising, seeing as this is considered a Railgun side story, according to a page
on Toaru
Majutsu no Index Wiki
, things were still executed well enough that I got
quite a few good laughs.

The thing that really had me laughing though was the humor
built off Kuroko’s infatuation for Misaka, or situations seemed to similar to
it.

Early in the volume, before Hokaze Junko takes center stage,
Kuroko is seen doing what she normally does and asks her Judgment trainee, but
she refuses and chastises Kuroko, going so far as calling her a pervert.

Later on, when Kuroko and this girl talk to Hokaze Junko,
who is related to a case that cropped up, they find out that somebody has being
leaving message, referring to Hokaze as oneesama, and the girl once again label
Kuroko a pervert, by saying the perpetrator is likely probably a pervert like
Kuroko, which sends Kuroko into a rage.

I am not sure about you guys, but seeing all this play out
is hilariously refreshing, compared to having to suffer through Kuroko’s
advances on Misaka, because it really shows how well known Kuroko’s infatuation
with Misaka is and makes fun of it, rather than going the typical route of
showing Kuroko’s antics.

If Kuroko’s antics took center stage, like it does in the Railgun
anime adaptation, specifically he first season, I probably would have found
myself irritated because they do not quite fit in with this spin off too well.

The second thing that really made this stand out was the
events that occurred at Tokiwadai.

Once they found out that the perpetrator had their eye on
Hokaze and something actually happened, Kuroko decides to lure the culprit out,
by making people think that she and Hokaze are an item, making the whole school
think that Kuroko decided to pursue Hokaze, giving up on Misaka.

Afterwards, when they find the culprit, the girl accuses
Kuroko of taking advantage of Hokaze’s kindness because Misaka would not return
her feelings, noting that many people already know Misaka was annoyed with
Kuroko pouncing on her, which leads into an argument between the two.

Now, it is not weird for there to be girls that have strong
feelings for somebody of the same gender, especially considering that they are
in an all-girls school, where there is not going to be that initial encounter
that builds up to love and romance between a boy and girl, but I find an
argument between two girls that attracted to the same gender to be pretty
funny, especially because the girl Kuroko is arguing with treats things like
how straight women expectedly are expected to act, which is wait for somebody
to notice them.

If this scene had not played out, even if it was a little
predictable, things might have felt a little dull and unnecessary, especially
since Hokaze begins to take center stage not long after the incident.

The thing that really made it funny though was after the
spotlight was almost exclusively on Hokaze.

After the real start of Hokaze’s adventures begin, trying to
get away from her unwanted specter, things transition to a look into what
things are like in Misaki’s clique, and Hokaze notices Misaki does not have her
bag, which prompts the members of her clique to go look for it, having Hokaze stay
with her.

Later on, when the clique members get back, they notice
Misaki and Hokaze getting close, which causes jealousy, and gets embarrassed
when she later realizes what her cohorts thought, as well as how Kuroko told
her that love does not care about gender, when she did not realize the person
behind the oneesama notes was infatuated with her.

By having moments like this, it made things way more
enjoyable than just waiting to see what was going to happened, though the
things that happen around Kuroko do tend to be more interesting than what
happens around Touma Kamijou, and helped to make things feel like fun and have
a life of its own.

If moments like this were not included, I probably would
have been alright with it, but I would not really get why this series had to be
published outside of Railgun’s main story, which has devolved into the
adventures of Misaka and friends, after having the events fairly well connected
up through the Sisters arc.

The thing that I liked the most though was how this volume
ended.

Other than how things begin, the other thing that is really
important important in a work of fiction is how things end, as the ending is
supposed either leave the audience satisfied, if it is a standalone work or the
final installment of a series, or, in the case of an installment of a series,
especially the first volume, leave the audience wanting more and/or giving them
an incentive to continue on.

And the way this volume ends does that job quite well, by
moving away from Hokaze at the right moment, showing that Misaki is still
trying to deal with a situation from earlier, finding the animal that stole her
bag, and then getting ambushed.

Even though it might not sound like the most interesting
thing, the way it all plays out, right up until the very last panel, really had
me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen so badly that I
want to read the next volume as soon as possible.

If ASCII Media, or whoever they had put this volume
together, had chosen a different place to end this volume, I probably would
have been disappointed, as I cannot really think of any other place this could
end well, and the first volume is supposed to make people interested in a
series.

Thankfully, they chose a great place to end things, which
makes me want to give them a good round of applause.

Hopefully, future volumes will be able to end just as well
as this one did, as that will help to attract more eyes, but I am ready to
pounce if needed.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else
that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out as much as what I
talked about or could not be shoehorned in.

Because my interest was captured quickly and held right up
to the end, a character than does not really stand out on their own was a
protagonist, rather than a popular character, the book was formatted well
enough to be readable on digital devices, the humor was hilariously refreshing,
in that Kuroko’s advances on Misaka were not prominent, and the volume ended in
the best way it possibly could, this was one of the best reads I have
encountered so far.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, there are some
issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about,
such as typos, and things that could be inferred, nothing really bothered me
too much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth
mentioning.

Considering how there was quite a bit to like and nothing to
really hate, unless you cannot stand the Railgun series at all, this was
definitely worth reading.

I mainly recommend this to fans of A Certain Scientific
Railgun
, as they will be able to like this the most.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try,
since Astral Buddy is one of the better spin offs the Raildex universe
has seen in recent years, but I would strongly recommend trying out Railgun
first, since this series assumes that the reader is already familiar with
Academy City and Railgun does a better job fleshing things out than Index.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please
consider supporting me on either Patreon or SubscribeStar, or if you would
like to try out the reviewed title for yourself, buy
A Certain Scientific Railgun: Astral Buddy Volume 1
from Book
Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so
that I can try to find more worthwhile reads for you guys to check out.

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