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Train to the End of the World
Episode 6

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Train to the End of the World ?
Community score: 4.1

20240507_150522

This was an unusually normal episode of Train to the End of the World until a flock of migratory zombies kidnapped Shizuru. I didn't mind that, either. After last week's madcap miniature misadventures, this character-focused cooldown episode creates a sorely appreciated pocket of breathable air. Our de facto leader's insecurities and insufficiencies take center stage, which grants Shuumatsu Train the space to further ground its surreal rail trip in realistic interpersonal drama. It's great. I'm not joking in the slightest when I call this series the smartest and most sophisticated anime of the season. I can't help it if its competition can't keep up with the metaphysical implications of butt mushrooms.

Shizuru is, to put it bluntly, a crappy leader. We see her shirk responsibility several times throughout this installment. The inciting incident is Pochi's apparent poor health, which understandably concerns the group, but Shizuru brushes it off. While this attitude could stem from her greater familiarity with the pooch and his quirks, her attitude, combined with the context provided by the rest of the episode, suggests plain old willful thinking on her part. She disengages from any negative speculation because otherwise, she might be forced to reckon with the truth of her role in this journey—that nobody, neither girl nor canine, would be on that train if not for her. It's an anxiety-inducing prospect, and I can relate to how she shuts down in response to it.

The most important scene in this episode is the flashback to her last conversation with Yoka. It's a tremendously revealing dialogue for both parties involved. Yoka's thoughts are big and interplanetary, and their cosmic scope provides further context for the weird 7G world addled by her brain. In fact, the spacetime expansion between Ikebukuro and Agano is probably a manifestation of the distance she subconsciously perceived between herself and Shizuru at that moment. And Shizuru is very obviously in the wrong here, but we're invited to sympathize with her as well. While we're not explicitly told why she becomes so dismissive—whether it's insecurity, jealousy, fear of Yoka moving away, or any combination thereof—her unease is visually and vocally apparent. She doesn't want to lose Yoka, yet she can't help but push her away.

This is not to say that Shizuru isn't aware of her shortcomings. If anything, her hyperawareness of them keeps her mired in that regressive attitude. Her chosen name for their train, Apogee, reflects this. Akira later muses that Perigee would have been a more appropriately optimistic name since that would have emphasized the shortest distance to Yoka. Apogee, on the other hand, suggests the remoteness of their reconciliation. Although she desperately wants to make up with Yoka, a part of Shizuru believes she doesn't deserve to do so. And if she really sits down and thinks about the danger her decisions have put Pochi and her friends in, that self-destructive side takes over.

Her zombie captors are nice symbolic accompaniments to Shizuru's lackadaisical façade and the disconnect between her brain and mouth. Zombies go with the flow. Zombies are creatures of instinct. Zombies also don't have arguments, and they don't push their friends away. If Shizuru truly wanted to avoid and ignore her problems, becoming a zombie would be the way to go. The irony here is that Shizuru's ideal role model in this situation is a zombie herself. Kuroki accepts her responsibility as the zombie queen. She tells her undead underling to rip off his arm, and he obeys. That's what you call a leader. Now, given that this is the first I've heard of a zombie queen, I'm inclined to assume she made this role up. However, the important part is that she has followed through on it.

I'm also a big fan of Nadeshiko's material this week, as she leans into the mom-friend role. Notably, she doesn't brook any of Shizuru's theatrics when she packs up and takes a hike down the tracks. That in itself isn't necessarily a mature response—in fact, it's quickly proven wrong when Shizuru gets lost—but I like that Nadeshiko thinks it's the mature response. After all, she's in the same cohort as the rest of the girls. She, too, is figuring out how best to adapt to the absurdities of young adulthood.

At its core, this episode delivers effective angst that still feels congruent with Shuumatsu Train's irreverent tone. This works because all of the girls are written like believable teenagers, flaws and all. The topsy-turviness of the world is nothing compared to the hotbed of hormones (and leftover mycelium) frying each of these girls' brains. They're not beholden to sense and logic. They screw up. They do dumb stuff. They have hilariously nonsensical arguments about what takes priority: being a zombie or being a friend? What matters is that they choose to be a friend in the end. As long as both sides choose that, any relationship can be repaired, and any distance, from perigee to apogee, can be connected.

Rating:

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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