The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide Rail Wars!
by The Anime News Network Editorial Team, Jul 6th 2014
You know who might really like this show? Banba from Princess Jellyfish. Or maybe not, since it can't seem to decide if it wants to be a flat-out train otaku show or if it would rather reach a broader audience by throwing in anime staples like
A) man-hating girl who loves guns
B) clumsy busty girl
C)guy who eats a lot and is kind of dumb
D) blank slate nice guy hero
The basic premise of this infomercial disguised as entertainment is that high school students looking to join Japan Railway (JR) for work after graduation are offered the opportunity to see if they're suited for it through a work-study program. This entails a month of classes followed by practical training. Naoto (D) is one such aspiring railway worker. On his way to the first class he bumps into (A) Sakurai, who immediately denounces him as a pervert for a situation beyond his control and (B) Haruka, who causes it and blushes a lot. In class the three of them are thrust together, along with Iwaizumi, and they become a de facto team. We as viewers get to thrill at them shoveling coal into a steam engine, learn what the letters in front of a train name mean, and memorize the train schedules out of Tokyo Station as they pursue purse snatchers.
It's not so much that Rail Wars is dull as it is such a blatant attempt to make a railway job appealing to the audience. It's like watching a recruitment video that someone tried to dress up, and while it does have its moments, they're so obviously trying to entice us that they fall a bit flat. There's also the issue of the fact that they are all calculated to appeal to specific viewers: random fanservice, thugs with knives who dribble in their evil glee, a girl who kicks butt, some attempts at humor...basically Rail Wars looks like it cobbled together tropes from different genres and tried to make a go of it. If you really like trains, the JR, or are just hurting for shots of busty girls running while their breasts defy physics, it may be worth checking this out, but otherwise, you may as well just go turn on the TV at 3 am and let someone try and sell you a carpet cleaner.
Rail Wars is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Review: Normally I reserve the bottom rating for things that are vile and/or offensive. Hardcore misogyny, say, or sexed-up grade-schoolers. Rail Wars is not vile. It earns its “1” with good old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill badness. That's an achievement of sorts. In order to do that, there can be nothing good about the show. Nothing. Not a working joke. Not a half-decent character. Not a lonely twinge of excitement, an ephemeral flash of intelligence, or a functional surprise. No lovely art. No handsome designs. No imagination, applied to even the smallest exchange or most meaningless situation. Nothing. And Rail Wars does it. Cudgel your memory. Lower your expectations until you have to dig a hole to find them. It doesn't matter. You won't find anything positive to say. Because there is nothing. It's twenty minutes that feel like two hours.
The warnings come early and strong. The over-explanatory voice-over is a clue, its chain-of-clichés language another. The train trivia is also a bad sign. The death knell, though, is the main cast's first meeting. Our nondescript hero sees a kid whose balloon is stuck in a tree. He can't reach, but a spunky girl runs out of nowhere, jumps off his back, does a triple flip in the air and grabs the balloon. As the hero looks on, he hears a squeal and turns to see a shy busty girl whose skirt is being blown up by the wind. And presto, we have needless fan-service and a torturously bad love triangle, all in a matter of seconds. This is a minute-thirty in. Everything after that is pain gravy: witlessly written, irritatingly antic, and scored like an employment ad. Boobs are accidentally grabbed, purse-snatchers punished, and the main character actually says “and thus my days of [fill in the blank] started.” Even as I write my lip still cramps up from all the sneering I did. Avoid like herpes.
Rail Wars is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)
Review: In actual history the Japan National Railways (hereafter JNR) privatized in 1987. This series either takes place before that or in an alternate world where that did not happen. It first episode focuses on an eclectic quartet who come together as an effective team at JNR Central Academy and then continuing to wind up getting training assignments together as they progress through their schooling and on-the-job training. The nominal leader is Naoto Takayama, the resident train otaku who uses his voluminous knowledge of trains to be a critical problem solver. Other male member Sho Iwaizumi is the resident gung-ho athletic type, while maroon-haired Aoi Sakurai is an acrobatic weapon and fighting specialist who is always ready to expect the worst of men. Rounding out the group is pink-haired Haruka, who is essentially a clone of Mizuki from Baka and Test. Together they get through training and track down and stop a purse snatcher, all while educating viewers quite a bit about trains. (A third female character who will also apparently be a regular team member is also shown very briefly at the end of the episode.)
And really, that's one of the two draws here so far: if you're a train geek, this series was made for you. If you have no interest in the particulars of trains at all then big chunks of the first episode may bore you. The other draw is the male-oriented fan service, as all of the female characters are distinctly busty and the scene framing, while not going out of its way for boob shots, does not hesitate to play them up when it can do so conveniently. This episode showed no evidence of an ongoing plot, so the temptation is to label this a “things happen on the job” procedural in the spirit of a You're Under Arrest. . . except that the series is based on a light novel series with eight published volumes so far, so likely this is just a stage-setting episode and the actual plot will come later on. Either way the artistic and technical merits are decent but unexceptional and the pacing feels hurried, though its one action scene towards the end is reasonably well-handled.
So far Rail Wars! is not a failure but it has yet to do anything all that impressive, either (except for a fairly sharp closing number).
Rail Wars! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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