Review: Rail Wars – Episode 1

When I hear alternate time line my interest is instantly piqued no matter the story. With Rail Wars, I may have been piqued too soon. As the name implies the story revolves around trains and the alternate time line involves the national railway system never being privatized in Japan. What that does that mean? How is it different from now? I haven’t a fucking clue. Sorry but my understanding and knowledge of the history of Japan’s railways is limited to Wikipedia and that didn’t prove to be too informative either. Did it hurt the story? No, it’s anime and they get to carry guns on rail cars and chase down purse snatchers so who really cares. The story follows four characters as they enter a trade school of sorts to work on the rail cars. They take the shit very seriously and after about a month they form a tight bond and are constantly paired together in group work including their final exam which is a live field test.

The series is narrated by the character Naoto Takayama who is essentially the main character though he shares a lot of the story time with the other characters. On the first day he falls for Haruka Komi who is the bashful beauty that is well endowed. Frankly it goes a little harem comedy there as he’s easily distracted and borderline perverted about her boobs. Haruka is actually portrayed to be very smart which was a nice change of pace for her character type.

The other main character is Aoi Sakurai who constantly gives Naoto hell for being even a little pervy and seems to really hate perverts. In the opening they’re asked what the proper procedure for handling a pervert on the train and she says to shoot them on sight. The teacher doesn’t disagree with her, but it’s not the correct answer. She’s a bit of a mystery in this first episode. I get the impression that she’s the tsundere type of character and that she secretly likes Naoto. I could be wrong, but some of her actions lean more towards this way. The fourth character is just kind of there to round them out, but I’m sure he’ll have that one episode that explains his motivation and stops him from being completely useless.

The animation on the show is solid. With there being moving trains and several models of trains, there is actually a lot of detail put into them. Since they’re detailed and realistic the quality of the rest of the show has to match and it does. It looks good even if the character designs are pretty standard. One nuance I liked was the fact that all of the students wear their old high school uniforms during training. This made them all stand out, but also show how diverse they all could potentially be.

The story is okay. I would watch the second episode, but I don’t have a character I like above all the others. I think that Aoi is pushed too heavily to be that character and since she’s really just stock standard tsundere she doesn’t actually stand out. Tsundere characters are great, but they need to bring their own quirks to the role and Aoi has none. The main character wasn’t a guy I could back. There was just something about the way he interacted with Haruka that didn’t win me over. It’s not that I don’t think he’ll be the solid nice guy throughout the show, but I think the creator was going for a harem type guy and missed the mark completely. It makes him more socially stupid around women than awkward.

Rail Wars PosterOne thing that annoyed me about the first episode was that all of the characters commented on how it was strange that they were paired with each other over and over. I’ll give you one, but then after that just shut up about it. I’ve never seen an anime go out of its way to say “I’m not going to attempt a logical explanation here so let’s just address that it’s weird.” Listen it’s a story taking place on an alternate time line and about railways… I’m buying in enough as it is so when you say once “they’re stuck together” I’m already sold and really the audience has already assumed as much. It was honestly quite strange to me the amount of non-effort they were putting into it.

As I said I’ll check out the second episode, but I don’t know if it has the legs to hold my attention the entire season. From the premise it seems they’ll be fighting a group of extremists eventually which seems like the second episode will in a way also be a first episode as it establishes the norm.  It really boils down to the fact that it was average. Everything about it was stock standard and with so many new shows this summer I don’t know if it can get over the hump.

Score: 3/5

Director: Yoshifumi Matsuda Studio: Passione Distributor: Sentai Filmworks