• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

Train to the End of the World
Episode 7

by Steve Jones,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Train to the End of the World ?
Community score: 4.3


Train to the End of the World continues to boldly ask how smart and dumb a single anime can be simultaneously. I'm at a loss for words. Who could have guessed that the most potent weapon in a zombie apocalypse would be the lewd prose of D.H. Lawrence? This episode is filled with screwball shenanigans that most comedy series can't even dream of. However you saw this arc going, I don't think it involved zombies getting so horny that they explode.

This is a great opportunity to talk about something I don't mention nearly enough: sound design. It's a part of the anime sausage that's easy to take for granted, but good sound goes a long way toward making a good cartoon. For a show like Shuumatsu Train, the audio component grounds us in the real side of its surreal environment and enhances its alienness. It also makes the anime way funnier. The exaggerated monotone of the zombies' vocal direction offsets the horror angle in favor of the farce. Similarly, I love the cute popping noise that accompanies each zombie decapitation. These subversions make these scenes more hilarious and memorable, and the series is full of this stuff. Pochi, for instance, yips at a register several octaves too high for his size, and that's why it's funny. The clang of the gang's morse code communications with Zenjiro has also become an iconic weekly ritual. These smart and askew foley decisions add up. They're paramount to the show's identity.

Obviously, the main story this week is zombie death by boner. Much can be said and/or interpreted about this rich and turgid topic. In that regard, Akira is definitely my kindred spirit, muttering to herself about the dichotomy between Eros and Thanatos and whatnot. Shuumatsu Train isn't as brazenly allegorical as Kino's Journey or Sonny Boy, but beneath the goofiness, it begs for thoughtful—perhaps even overwrought—analysis. Zombie movies are traditionally political texts, too, in which the shuffling corpses can stand in for groupthink, consumerism, ostracization, fatalism, or any number of concepts or communities—including idols! Please see Zombie Land Saga for further details.

In this specific situation, the migratory zombies seem to have eked out a modest sense of purpose, in which following their queen provides sufficient direction to keep them corralled and content. You could see this as good or bad; I think it's an interesting mixture of both. They're more docile than the traditional brain-slurping monstrosities, and perhaps this is just how they've chosen to adapt to the chaos of 7G, a world that forces everyone to compromise their humanity in one way or another. Is it better to be a zombie, or is it better to host a parasitic mushroom for a year or two? I can't answer that for you. Clearly, though, the zombie situation isn't ideal. In that regard, perhaps their eroticism-instigated explosions are acts of liberation, trading in the safety of idolizing their false queen for the flesh, blood, and bone of real human sexuality. La petite mort, the little death, is the antidote for true death. Maybe it's better to go out in a puff of orgasmic bliss than to shuffle mindlessly through the countless and colorless days.

Akira's first choice of quotation is what really prompts me to shift into English Major mode. To begin with, it fits her character perfectly to whip out a flawless recitation of a bawdy D.H. Lawrence passage in front of a zombie horde. That's why she's my favorite. But the source of that passage, Lady Chatterley's Lover, is especially interesting. That was Lawrence's final novel, and it only just entered the public domain in the US at the start of this year, so it's possible that this timing might be the cause of its inclusion. The novel, however, is also noteworthy as the nexus of multiple mid-century obscenity trials. It was notorious for blowing people's minds (and other parts of their bodies, too), and the acquittal of its publisher in the UK market was a landmark legal and literary moment. By referencing it, Shuumatsu Train acknowledges its importance in the history of pornography, erotica, and artistic freedom. It's a rallying cry for a breadth of human expression that need not constrict itself to Puritan repressions or small-minded notions of sexuality. We have nothing to lose but our chains unless you're into that kind of thing.

It's also simply hilarious to watch the girls trip over themselves trying to devise phrases naughty enough to titillate the zombies to climax. The out-of-context screenshot accounts would be having a field day if Elon hadn't torpedoed Twitter's API, but this ridiculousness is enjoyable on its own merits, too. As much as I love to wax prosaic about theme and allegory, it's worth praising Shuumatsu Train for being so dang fun to watch each week. The banter is always on point. Learning that Nadeshiko is a gamer (and backseater) is enlightening. Kuroki's story has just enough pathos mixed into the otherwise silly charade. And I like that the episode manages to be raunchy without being creepy. That close-up of Kuroki's panties is maybe the one shot that toes the line, but it's quick, and all of the other sex jokes are in concert with the series' bizarre tone. Week after week, Shuumatsu Train's production exhibits incredible adroitness and poise in service of one of the strangest anime I've ever had to review.


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.

discuss this in the forum (41 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

back to Train to the End of the World
Episode Review homepage / archives