“Most men who have really lived have had, in some share, their great adventure. This railway is mine.” —James J. Hill
Having reached the end of the line in Rail Wars!, I’m left with the impression that this anime was more about trying to set Naoto up for as many compromising situations as possible with Aoi, Haruka and Nana, rather than the original premise of protecting the JNR from an extremist group who seeks to privatise the railways. With this said, the total lack of cohesion from a story-telling perspective allows Rail Wars! to send viewers on diverse adventures, ranging from acting as the security detail for an idol’s performance, to delivering organs to a recipient via an old rail line when a rockfall slows down transport lines, and in the final arc, providing security for a prince touring the rail lines. While each of the arcs are quite disparate, they all share one commonality: moments are bombastic, over-the-top, and as such, though implausible, nonetheless manages to entertain viewers. Naturally, this is the sort of entertainment that one would need to simply sit back and suspend disbelief to enjoy, but with the right mindset, Rail Wars! can be quite amusing in its own right.
- After three episodes, Rail Wars! presents itself as an anime that will not be following the direction taken by its light novel predecessor, instead, following a much more run-of-the-mill approach that deals implied romance. Details about the trains and the JNR surface with a satisfactory frequency and are used to advance the storyline of individual episodes; particulars about different train models give the protagonists an edge in all of their endeavours.
- From left to right, we have Aoi, Haruka, Naoto, Nana and Shou. Many discussions elsewhere refer to each character by their last names primarily because the anime refers to everyone by last name. However, in keeping with convention here, I’ll refer to everyone by first name for simplicity’s sake.
- I’ve kept to the ordering I had for the summer anime: Locodol, followed by Rail Wars! and lastly, Sabagebu!. Despite having limited screen time, Nana wound up being my favourite character for providing help to the security team from behind the frontlines and for being the easiest on the eyes. Her kind personality belies a mischievous side.
- From what little I’ve heard of the matter, it appears that Rail Wars!‘s original author did not approve of the direction the anime was going, and was dismissed shortly after. This accounts for why Rail Wars! would not provide more in the way of story as its original premise, where the security team is tasked with thwarting efforts from extremists who wish to privatise the railways.
- Despite having below-average animation and events that defy logic, viewers in general find that Rail Wars! is entertaining to watch owing to the female cast, whose interactions with Naoto add a bit of flair to things. Moments such as those of the above screenshot are affectionately referred to as “Sakurai-service”.
- Much of the events in the sixth episode defy convention, after Haruka becomes convinced that Naoto is being targetted and takes him on a wild adventure across the city to shake off their “pursuers” but wind up getting trapped in a transportation museum. This episode reveals that Haruka and Naoto have known each other since their childhood, a classic story-telling mechanic in anime.
- Things such as weapons handling and general safety are casually discarded in Rail Wars!; as far as realism goes, Rail Wars! dispenses with this in favour of over-the-top action in each episode, while simutaneously tries to keep things grounded with information pertaining to train operation and rail regulations. Ultimately, though, the anime probably won’t have a significant impact as far as raising the audience’s interest in rail transport.
- Episode eight’s focus is the delivery of organs to a patient after heavy rain triggers a mudslide that renders a section of the main rails impassable. While the animation in Rail Wars! sometimes lead to some unusual things happening (such as ventriloquism and the random disappearance/reappearance of world objects), the artwork of the trains and landscapes are rendered in excellent detail.
- Haruka displays an uncharacteristically stubborn side after hearing about the situation, and insists on helping with the delivery of organs to the patient. The security team eventually finds a way, making use of a single cart train with an unusual propulsion mechanism.
- Their journey is one fraught with challenges; even though there are no hostile forces filling the air with hot lead, the tracks the train traverses is particularly difficult, with tight curves in the tunnels. The situation is compounded by the fact that the brakes are not particularly effective. The sudden accelerations and decelerations lead Naoto to find himself face-first in Haruka’s chest, much to Aoi’s irritation.
Rail Wars! does feature some detail about the different train models the security team find themselves operating, providing minor, subtle details into their design that only specialists in the field would understand. These details wind up serving as an assistance to the plot, helping the security team towards accomplishing whatever their objectives are. However, beyond this, trains do not figure quite as prominently in Rail Wars! as WWII-era armour did in Girls und Panzer, so expectations that Rail Wars! would somehow rouse public interest in the Japanese rail industry or public safety will not likely be satisfied. Similarly, the “wars” component in Rail Wars! falls short; the privatisation groups do not have a substantial presence besides several implied attempts at disrupting the JNR’s service, and the most viewers see is Aoi and Shou engaging the various unsavoury characters that present a threat to the JNR and its passengers. Instead, the core focus in Rail Wars! appears to be providing a variety of situations for Naoto to know each of the girls better. The light novel had Naoto and Aoi developing feelings for one another, although the anime leaves this ambiguous. As a result, Rail Wars! seems to be pushing for a harem-type set up, although in trying to simultaneously depict the security team’s adventures, romance never really gets anywhere, and the audience is left with numerous scenes of fanservice that winds up being amusing or pointless, depending on the viewer’s interests.
- While some may have expected Rail Wars! to play like a traditional harem anime and have Naoto end up with one girl, the anime seems to be following in Infinite Stratos‘ footsteps: both the male leads are relatively unaware of the feelings the girls around him have, and after the anime is done, no one winds up winning.
- Prince Berinina is a VIP the security team is assigned with protecting during the season’s latter parts. Despite being a prince by title, Berinina is actually female, bringing to mind Infinite Stratos‘ Charlotte Dunois, who was likewise introduced as a male character but is in fact female. In the real world, specialists would act as the security detail for a prince, but being fiction, Rail Wars! decides it’s sufficient to send a novice team out, and against all odds, there are intruders that cause quite a bit of trouble for the team.
- Despite numerous tactical faults that occur in this VIP mission, somehow, everything manages to work out, with Naoto and Aoi seemingly become closer to one another in the process. As mentioned elsewhere, the best way to approach Rail Wars! is to disengage one’s logic centres and simply take things in at face value.
- This post consists of more fanservice than usual because of the limited discussion I can offer pertaining to typical elements of character growth and dynamics, speculation of future events or drawing comparisons between the anime with something else. I also imagine that the inclusion of such images would, as one might say, add a bit more diversity to my posts, which are typically minimal on the fanservice.
- In the finale, Naoto and Nana spend the day together on a train as they return back to Tokyo. During the journey, the train experiences several malfunctions, and Naoto’s innate sense of duty lead him to try and help things out. At one point, the heating unit malfunctions, leading the train’s passengers to sweat profusely, and as is typical of Naoto, he offers to repair it. More fanservice from Nana results, which is quite welcomed.
- I note that, as of late, I am continuing to watch and discuss the sort of anime that are passed over by larger anime blogs. I do so because I have no inclination to watch only the anime that others consider good, and will typically pick up anything that looks interesting. If it is not apparent from the post’s main passage, I did enjoy Rail Wars for moments such as that of the image below.
- With due respect, I would not mind being Naoto at this point in time; while he’s attempting to repair the air conditioning unit, Nana decides to get a closer look and presses her assets up against him in the process (perhaps knowingly so).
- Breaking from tradition, I’ll do my end-of-season speculation here: as it stands, Rail Wars! is unlikely to get a second season, and from a personal perspective, a second season would not be needed if it were to be an extension of the first season. Whether or not a second season will occur is probably based on sales, and if a second season did occur, I may be inclined to check it out just to see what direction it takes.
- Naoto and Berinina meet again after the latter chooses to pursue a career in rail transportation. It should go without saying that working in the transportation industry is no Sunday drive, and if Rail Wars! was intended to elevate interest in the Japanese rail transport industry, I am inclined to believe that it was less successful. However, (especially where Nana is concerned), the anime does pique the viewer’s interest in other things.
- That’s pretty much it for this post; up next will be a talk on Sabagebu!, and subsequently, Glasslip. I am a little later to the “final reflections party” because my graduate program has picked up, and at present, between a thesis project, coursework and teaching, there’s precious little time to direct towards blogging, hence the reason why my posting volume’s gone down significantly. At the current rate of progression, I’ll probably stick to talks on Amagi Brilliant Park and Sora no Method for the fall season.
From a personal perspective, Rail Wars! was not particularly worth watching for the trains or JNR; the anime’s charm stems from the ridiculous situations Naoto finds himself in, particularly in terms of how his personality impacts the choices he makes in finishing his assignments, as well as the brazen amounts of fanservice (especially where Aoi, Haruka and Nana are concerned). As it stands, Rail Wars! is the kind of anime that is not suited for all audiences: anyone seeking a solid story or meaningful character development will do better to watch another show. However, as an anime intended to raise a smile at the sheer drollness of the different things that happen to the security team, Rail Wars! is not unwelcome, especially given the sort of comedy that can arise when characters such as Aoi, Haruka and Nana are around.