by Jacob Chapman,
After 12 episodes, Rail Wars! has finally come screeching to a halt. This finale is not the show's finest moment, in fact it's easily one of the weakest vignettes, as the supporting cast is sidelined for Takayama to have a pick-me-up episode with his mentor Nana. Together they board a "Bulldog train," nicknamed for its odd bulky-nosed shape, and traverse Japan from the north end to the south, allowing Takayama to do some soul-searching after the...100% successful day-saving he executed only one episode ago.
Wait, what? Yes, after being appointed leader of the squad by Nana, endlessly praised by all who encounter him, and respected by teammates and acquaintances alike, Takayama is apparently having a mild crisis of identity for reasons that are never adequately explained. If it was a major crisis of identity, that might at least be something. Surely someone who's come as close to death so freakishly often while working what should be a benign security-guard-in-training detail would have some real need for soul-searching or therapy, but that's not the conflict Takayama is facing. No, his woes seem to start and end with "Yes, I handled the kidnapping/bomb threats/miscellaneous ballyhoo perfectly in the past and everyone trusts me, but what if something goes wrong some other day?"
The real reason for this meandering angst is to give a platform to the normally sidelined Nana and her "maternal and nurturing" fetish focus. She smushes him into her ample bosom, winks and giggles at his mild worries, and encourages him in all the right ways to get him fully back to his status quo blandness by show's end, in lieu of giving us an ending with any catharsis or resolution. Wasn't Takayama originally conflicted about pursuing either a security position or train engineer job as the time to choose drew closer and closer? I felt sure at first that the show would end with a more conclusive "I choose security" decision, given his growing relationship with Sakurai, but instead we're given an out-of-nowhere vacation for Takayama to sort through feelings of doubt we've never been told he was harboring.
Anyway, something inevitably goes wrong "under the hood" of the Bulldog train, and with the help of Nana and all his squad-mates (over the phone,) Takayama is able to get his groove back after the crippling bout of self-doubt he suffered from saving the day flawlessly last time. It's mostly train trivia and all-too-brief cameos from the supporting cast until the introduction of a new (cute blonde!) girl in the episode's last few moments, a party at Takayama's house where all the girls talk about how great he is, and a closing shot of his old model train, The End. There's hardly any indication that this is the last episode at all. It definitely would have worked better as an episode 4 or 5, something that brought all the early cast together while helping at a not-very-exciting distance and focusing on Takayama's early cold feet toward working in security.
Unfortunately, this is the end for Rail Wars!, with nothing but a quiet little hiss at the end of the line. It wasn't a very good show, but it deserved a little more climax than this. If you're a train and fanservice aficionado and have missed the ride so far, you might as well check it out now before it's completely (and deservedly) forgotten by the world. At least it had some mildly exciting moments before petering out into this ghostly non-ending.
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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