Rail Wars! Episode 10
by Jacob Chapman,
Ten episodes into the world's most voluptuous choo-choo adventure, the consequences of Rail Wars!' high-stakes storytelling are beginning to catch up with it. Visually speaking, the poor show is beginning to collapse in on itself. Walk cycles look like student work, faces change shape within the same shot, and everyone gets to be wall-eyed at least once or twice. This episode in particular saves its action, danger, and excitement for the last two minutes, which look alright by Rail Wars! standards, but that only means the rest of the episode's visuals suffer even more. Oh well. At least the plot's alright as Rail Wars! plots go. There's a surprise visit from a mysterious foreign prince, spies with sunglasses on trains, and guns n' tasers in near-miss combat down narrow cabin hallways. It's a cool two minutes!
Before that, of course, there's the twenty minutes of train trivia, fanservice, and dumb jokes that make up most Rail Wars! episodes. None of those things are bad all on their own, but the train trivia is delivered dully, the fanservice forced, and the dumb jokes limp and lame rather than amusingly stupid. The plot itself is a thriller premise old as dirt and not well obscured. The instant the prince opens his mouth to belt out train factoids, his secret becomes painfully obvious, making the build to its reveal a little infuriating and the pay-off extremely dorky. For most of the episode, Takayama passes time entertaining the prince, and his trenchcoated hunters just wait in the wings patiently until the two are done boring everybody. The only things Aoi and Haruka are given to do is foreshadow what the audience has already easily guessed. There's nothing to keep us company until the big dumb reveal except sloppy animation, unfortunately. Even the T&A is toned down from previous episodes, and that's not a good thing when there's nothing remotely eye-catching to replace it.
The show's habit of combining potentially dry JNR information with wacky life-or-death scenarios is still welcome, and sometimes it reminds me that there is a good show to be found in Rail Wars!, but it's on a completely different track from the light-novel-y narrative we've been riding episode by episode. It's the execution, not the concept, that makes this anime a slog. Even in an episode built around international secrets and intrigue, it's hard to find much joy or tension anywhere until assassins are literally shoving hot, sparking tasers into people's stomachs while they scream. It's like the kettledrum pop in Rail Wars!' own little surprise symphony, but there's still no Haydn how sleep-inducing the leadup has been.
Rail Wars! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Hope has been an anime fan since childhood, and likes to chat about cartoons, pop culture, and visual novel dev on Twitter.
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