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Train to the End of the World
Episode 12

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Train to the End of the World ?
Community score: 4.5


After some last-minute scheduling issues (Amtrak, am I right?), we've reached the end of the line. Before we disembark, however, let's gather our belongings and take a minute to digest Train to the End of the World's excellent finale. I've been effusive in my enthusiasm for the series all season, and I'm happy to report that its last stop lives up to my expectations. It's silly, surreal, and surprisingly sweet.

The week delay makes sense given all of the (literal) moving parts in this episode. If you've seen his prior work, then you know that Mizushima rarely skimps on his finales. I half-expected the trains to harness the power of 7G and transform into titanic railcar mechs, but I think the pseudo-naval engagement is cleverer (and more feasible for a production already working down to the wire). While the history of film is rife with train-based action scenes, I can't remember one where the villain utilizes a Virtual Boy to bombard his pursuers across a rift in space, while the heroines throw their infinite supply of zombies at every problem.

Kuroki's zombies steal the show with the physical comedy of their increasingly wacky brute-force solutions. Using them as a substitute for a missing section of train tracks is one thing, but taking the time to animate their gymnastics routine as they swing themselves into place is another level of commitment to the cartoonishness. Nothing is too ridiculous for Shuumatsu Train. That freewheeling spirit has been at the core of the series' identity, and it has never once diminished. Even this episode, which probably contains the most seriousness and sincerity out of all of them, still finds time for gags. The finale feels congruent with the preceding eleven episodes. While it might not wrap up every loose end, that tonal consistency is far more important.

The emphasis on silliness is most potent when it comes to belittling the buffoonish Pontaro. He's quite deliberately an extremely shitty antagonist. Zenjiro straight-up says that he's a moron, and the narrative gives us no evidence to the contrary. When Pontaro bombards the train, he overheats his artillery. When he pulls a gun on the girls, they patronize him with zingers. When he takes Akira hostage, Man-Pochi betrays him. When he takes his last stand, the swan boat dude clobbers him out of nowhere. His final indignity comes from Yoka's previous act of egg-custardization. Pontaro stumbled into super-villainy, and he never had the moxie to back it up. I stand by my initial assessment, which is that he's a stand-in for blowhard tech CEOs who mistake their good fortune for divine coronation. Pontaro's character cuts to the quick of those types. He's not smart. He's not visionary. He's not cool. He's nothing but a small and selfish coward afraid of any accountability. The show doesn't spend any more runtime on him than it has to.

The true conflict is the one between Shizuru and Yoka. It's a squabble between friends that's been blown up to universe-ripping proportions because that's how these fights feel when you're that age. I'm glad the resolution isn't tidy either. Shizuru trips over her words again (that's what got her into his mess), and Yoka vents her frustration with some punches. The main difference is that Shizuru has grown up throughout this trip. She's learned to embrace uncertainty, and that, in turn, has given her the courage to confront Yoka honestly. She now knows the world is much bigger than the two, but that has only reified her feelings for Yoka. She wants her friend to be happy. She wants her friend to have fun again.

If Train to the End of the World has one main philosophical point buried between the gags, it's stagnation being the ultimate corrosive concept. Change is the natural state of the universe, and it's one that we should embrace, not fight against. We see this in the story's inciting incident, where Shizuru's fear of change causes her to hurt her best friend. Shuumatsu Train also argues that the topsy-turvy 7G world is, ironically, an agent of stagnation as well. It makes sense if we look at it as a manifestation of Yoka's arrested development. Hurt by Shizuru's words, she retreats into her mind, which in turn reshapes her world to her desires. This, however, is far from liberation. This is a barrier she puts up for protection, and it eats away at her, turning her into a shell of a person. She only returns to life by directly confronting Shizuru. It's uncomfortable, but it kickstarts her clock and lets both of them start moving forward again.

I won't lie, I got a little choked up, too! The planetarium motif really got to me, especially the transition from projections of their past memories to the vast and indeterminate sky full of stars. While the dialogue veers into some loftier platitudes, the direction and voice acting tether the scene to earth. As much as I've enjoyed the anime so far, I didn't expect the conclusion to tug at my heartstrings quite so vigorously. That was a nice surprise, and it's a testament to the expert tonal navigation of the Mizushima & Yokote combo.

Finally, the resolution of the 7G fiasco is perfect. The world doesn't go back to normal because it can't go back to normal. “Normal” is itself a misnomer. It's a concept we constantly redefine, and even simultaneous definitions are bound to be different depending on whom you ask. “Normal” has all the substance of a whisp of air locked behind a reset button that doesn't exist. This, however, doesn't faze our girls. They already know the trip back to Agano won't be the same as their trip from it. They aren't the same. They'll be different tomorrow, and they'll be different the day after that, and so on. It doesn't matter whether or not they eventually turn into animals or animal people. The mechanics of that change are secondary to the truth that they'll be facing these challenges together. If they love each other, then there's nothing worth being scared of. Constant change doesn't mean there aren't constants. Gravity exists. Friends exist. Every apogee has its perigee.


Train to the End of the World is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He's currently considering how even the apocalypse couldn't stop Japan from having a nicer rail system than the United States. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

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