Edit: fixed the title.
Steven has finally continued watching To Aru no Railgun, which has provided the impetus for me to put some thoughts of mine into words. Below the fold…
One of the major points I had trouble with at the beginning of this series was that junior high students were the police force. I found this beyond my suspension of disbelief. Sure, they had a heavily armed Anti-skill backing them up, but so what? Junior high girls as police? And they spend a lot of their time cleaning up streets and helping lost people? No wonder there’s so much crime! (Aside: Did you notice the lack of guys? Aside from mooks shooting the guns, and the occasional one-scene-wonders, there has been one male named Anti-skill. I think.)
But there aren’t two branches to the police force — there are three. Early in the final arc, we see a new force, MAR (?) which is obviously a heavy-weapons SWAT team, with mechs. That’s when it dawned on me….Judgement is not the police. It’s a police auxiliary, designed not so much to enforce the law, but to teach civic responsibility. The city seconds some experienced officers to run it and teach the kids properly, but it’s not meant to be a true police force. Kuroko’s aggressiveness has skewed our understanding of Judgment’s role. The real reason for its existence it to mold the thinking of a highly powerful sub-group of dangerous people. This is probably not original, I believe Steven posited it earlier. However, it marked the first time I thought of Judgement as real, because I re-assessed its role, vis-a-vis law enforcement duties.
Judgement is the city’s high-tech, esper-based version of the DARE program, only it’s integrated on some level with the police and has police powers. No, DARE isn’t quite right — it’s like a certain “national volunteerism” program, given police powers. That is potentially very frightening in a contemporary, political context, but I’m going to stick to the show, and not discuss the politics here.
So the three branches to the police force are:
- MAR: SWAT and super-heavy weapons — quasi-military equipment and specialized intel support to deal with high-level espers, and the damage they can cause.
- Anti-Skill: regular police, heavily armed — again, because of the espers, Anti-skill is probably equipped to the level of a normal city’s SWAT team.
- Judgement: police auxiliary — quick-reaction / patrol force handling mostly non-violent and petty crime; assists with crowd control and minor public assistance (“treed cats” and “lost kids”).
But why is there so much crime? Is it a case of skewed data, because we’re following aggressive Judgment members like Kuruko, and her friend Mikasa, who seems to be a trouble magnet? Or are there a lot of bad skill-users in University City? Notice that in Index, we see a very tight set of controls to enter or exit the city. It’s necessary to show ID, and all shipments into the city are searched/scanned. That’s a lot of security, to protect something. Just… is what’s being protected on the inside, or the outside?
Why are the petty (and not-so petty) adult criminals NOT evicted when they’re caught? None of that gang from District H looked like they were high-school students, or even college students. C’mon, that bunch of goons had no priors? (Curious, where did they come up with their high-tech gear?) It doesn’t look like just anyone can move to the city, either. Granted, there’s a few million people living there; so there’s some room around the edges for such types. But we see no evidence that there’s any attempt to remove the criminals (let’s not even discuss Kiyama running around loose), nor are there problems outside University City from esper criminals.
So here’s a thought… what if the real purpose of University City isn’t to house and educate espers? Is it really to imprison them in a gilded cage that’s ostensibly-not-a-prison? Is this a strategy of putting “all your eggs in one basket” for easier monitoring?
The problem I have with that assumption is that it assumes that the national government is really in charge, rather than a puppet having its strings pulled. The latter definitely appears to be the case in the world of Index/Railgun. I think one has to keep in mind the cold war between mages and espers, and the machinations of Alistar Crowley, not to mention the so-called “rogue” elements conducting experiments as with the Child Errors and Sisters, and that the City used to have it’s own satellite “Tree Diagram” (until Index blasted it out of orbit). Given that there’s obviously a lot that the author hasn’t revealed yet, I don’t think my question can be answered at this point, but I’m not taking things at face value here…