The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Mari Sasshō

Rail Wars!- Final Reflection

“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.

Rail Wars!- Review and Impressions After Three

“Maybe you’d like to see some excessive force!” ―Arnold Flass, Batman Begins

The rail networks in Japan are privately owned, which stands in stark contrast to Via Rail, a Crown corporation owned by the Queen. Such Crown corporations are run and managed by the federal government, and typically deal with enterprises which would otherwise be difficult for private groups to start up. Crown corporations have gradually undergone privitisation since the 1980s (such as the Canadian National Railway), although Via Rail remains such a corporation, and at present, operates passenger service trains across Canada. Because of decisions by the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, my city does not have any passenger rail service, which doesn’t even make sense, considering we’re more populous than the provincial capital. Having access to the trans-continental rail line would make it easier to get around Canada, although given the political scene, one imagines that such a wish would remain a fantasy for the present; rather than continuing to bore readers further, we shall begin talking about Rail Wars!, which presents a hypothetical world where the Japanese National Railways (JNR) was never privatised. In reality, JNR was privatised in 1987 as the organisation fell further and further into debt, but in Rail Wars!, the JNR retains a somewhat similar status as Via Rail, hence its comparison. Of course, Rail Wars! is not about the corporate scene in rail transport, or the social implications of privatisation, but rather, Naoto Takayama’s entrance into JNR’s security team, and the subsequent adventures he experiences with them as the team works to foil a pro-privitisation extremist group.

  • There aren’t very many instructive talks on Rail Wars!, so I’ll step up to the plate and provide a talk on the series three episodes in. Typically, if an anime is worth watching, by the third episode, my interest will have been captured, and I will begin to watch it. If I were to summarise this post in one line, it is that Rail Wars! is worth watching for its over-the-top, absurd situations the security team find themselves entangled in.

  • Thanks to superior knowledge about how coal-fired locomotives work, Naoto, Shou, Aoi and Haruka are able to push their locomotive beyond 100 km/h by optimising their coal-stoking methods. These moments remind me of an episode from The Raccoons, where Bert and Cedric must prevent the Evergreen 504 from tumbling into the river. In the end, Cyril is forced to burn the cash hidden away on the train to provide the boiler with enough fire to save the train.

  • Rail Wars! probably sets the record for the anime to have the earliest graduation shown, with Naoto, Aoi, Haruka and  Shou being the only team to have passed their test. This is their last moment in a classroom, and from here on out, it’s off to Tokyo station, where real work begins. To Naoto’s disappointment, they’re assigned as security staff; he had aspired to be a train operator.

  • While the animation in Rail Wars! (as mentioned later) can be a little questionable at times, the landscapes are quite nice, as are the trains. Rail Wars! is animated by Passione Studios, who had also produced Wake Up, Girls! and even From Up On Poppy Hill: the former is known for its shortcomings in animation, but the latter, as a Studio Ghibli animation, is downright gorgeous. Given that they’ve been around since 2011 and have had such a title under their belt, I admit that it is somewhat surprising that they still succumb to poor animation.

  • This is the first image where all of the characters are together as the image’s focus, so I will take the time to introduce them here. From left to right, Aoi Sakurai, Naoto Takayama, Haruka Koumi and Shou Iwaizumi. The first day on the job, the four are assigned to investigate sounds from a puppy in one of the trains.

  • Rail Wars! may be about fanatics trying to frag the JNR to terrorise them into privatisation, but the free anatomy lessons are quite prevalent, as well: during the search for the previously mentioned puppy, Haruka seems quite okay with ascending the ladder to peer into the ceiling to ascertain the puppy’s location. In the process, her movements lead to this moment, and much comedy ensues.

  • From a statistical perspective, it is quite rare for someone to fall and wind up in this position by accident, although in anime, the laws of probability go out the window. This is perfectly okay, and one might be inclined to take a few moments to savour the moment. Haruka is my favourite character for her kind temperament; of the security team, she’s the weakest but has an unparalleled memory and is extremely well-versed on the technical details behind train operations.

  • Naoto holds Aoi back after the latter is unsuccessful at apprehending two purse-snatchers, but Aoi takes to this none too kindly and elbows Naoto. Ever-ready for combat, Aoi excels at unarmed combat and firearm usage, preferring to kill/maim/disable first and ask questions later.

  • After some quick thinking from Haruka and Naoto, the purse-snatchers are apprehended and taken down: during the confusion, Haruka manages to repel one of the suspects with an automated external defibrillator. While unrelated to Rail Wars!, I have now seen enough episodes of Sword Art Online II and Aldnoah.Zero to make proper assessments about them, but those will come out after an announcement I will be making in a few days’ time.

  • The security team is led by Nana Iida, and convenes in a small unused room that somehow evokes memories of every high school club room that has ever existed before Rail Wars!. Nana is quite open to allowing the security team proceed however they feel to be necessary in order to keep the trains safe for their passengers.

Three episodes in, Rail Wars! is slowly taking on a feeling not dissimilar to that of Upotte!, which was similar in the sense that while the show’s central theme (trains and guns, respectively) are present and presented with a sufficient amount of detail, both Rail Wars! and Upotte! are more focussed on the dynamics between the characters, as well as the adventures that prove to be more amusing than instructive about the rail system in Japan. Thus, the question becomes “how worthwhile is it to actually watch said interactions play out?”, and the corresponding answer to that is that Rail Wars! relishes sending out Naoto and company into a variety of unusual , outlandish security assignments that this fictional JNR experiences. While how these assignments actually play out steps outside the bounds of what one might consider to be plausible, the unusual situations turn out to be quite entertaining to watch for how over-the-top they are. Insofar, we’ve seen the security team stop some purse-snatchers, disarm a bomb and solve a kidnapping mystery, all of which were rectified via unconventional means.While Rail Wars! has a curious progression, there have also inconsistencies in the animation and aberrations in the human form, but dropping the anime because the animation is less-than-stellar is quite jejune.

  • Haruka serves as the yin to Aoi’s yang; the former excels at solving problems via social means, while the latter prefers beating things into pieces with her fists. Here, Haruka helps a lost child

  • Back during the Canadian Pacific Railway’s heyday, grand hotels were build along the line, including the Banff Springs Hotel, Palliser Hotel in Calgary, the Empress Hotel in Victoria and the Château Frontenac in Quebec City, amongst others. These hotels served as accommodations to those riding the rails, and even though the CPR no longer transports passengers, the hotels remain as stately, luxurious places to stay. The restuarant that Nana takes Aoi and Haruka to brings to mind these accommodations, serving cakes cooled by liquid nitrogen that Aoi finds quite delicious.

  • After a small explosive device goes off and a bomb threat is called in by an unknown perpetrator demanding one hundred million yen (roughly 1.06 million Canadian dollars). With only an hour to the deadline, the security team decides to do what they can in locating the bomb. This moment led to much complaining from some viewers, who felt that there was a bit of contradiction with ordering an evacuation, and that a bomb squad might have been better suited for the task.

  • Granted, deploying professionals to handle business makes the most sense in real life, but for a fictional environment such as Rail Wars!, allowing the main characters to take their shot at disarming the explosive device confers an excellent opportunity to appreciate the camera angles.

  • Most improvised explosive devices that rouge factions used are crudely wrought and are depicted in the media to make extensive use of colour-coded wires. Apparently, this is so that the wielder can identify the different wires and does not accidentally trigger the device themselves. However, for those disarming the device, the colouration of the wiring, though identifiable to the weapon’s builder, may not be universal, so Aoi’s reasoning falls short here. However, this moment does have Aoi draw Naoto close to for stablisation, so I will set aside any inconsistencies here and enjoy the moment.

  • While it’s probably a little early to be mentioning this, documentation notes that Naoto and Aoi have feelings for one another, and here, enjoy a more intimate moment after the bomb is successfully disarmed using liquid nitrogen to freeze the electronic timer and prevent detonation.

  • For proficient English-speakers, this scene will prove to be amusing, and although there is some degree of truth in such instances (recently, a colleague who had gone to Japan for a conference noted that Japanese citizens who were proficient in English were uncommon), I’ve been around anime long enough to feel the joke losing its magic. While Naoto, Aoi and Shou lack pro English skills, Haruka steps up to the plate and provides assistance to the foreign visitor.

  • Episode three sees Mari Sasshou’s introduction: after her friend is kidnapped by drug dealers, the security team sets out to find her. Speaking freely, Rail Wars! has its security team experience the most colourful of events, whereas in the real world, security is ideally a dull position.

  • Naoto’s team successfully manage to rescue Mari’s friend and defeat the drug dealers who had kidnapped her. The next day, everyone returns to work as if nothing had happened, suggesting that they overcame the dealers without much difficulty (think “Adam Jensen’s takedowns”). By this point in time, it’s apparent that Naoto’s team gets by on the virtue of luck, and while it’s improbable, it could be quite fun to see how their team works with foreign special forces on counterterrorism operations, although realistically, this would be equivalent to asking a bike to keep up with a jet.

  • Mari Sasshou is one of Naoto’s juniors, and has an affinity for identifying trains and stations based on sound alone. The two have known each other for a long time, and this post has taken a long time to write. I will close it off here, and mention once more that I have a special announcement for Wednesday. Regular programming will resume in August once my schedule settles down a little.

I see no reason not to continue watching Rail Wars!: even though the series is rapidly following the route that Upotte! took, favouring intemperate and frequent anatomy lessons over any content about trains. As such, despite being said to be designed to promote interest in the Japanese train system, the comedy-driven approach in Rail Wars! means that likely won’t captivate viewers and rouse their excitement towards trains and mass transit via rails the same way Girls und Panzer managed to enthrall viewers and get them interested in armoured warfare. While details surrounding the industry are mentioned, they appear to be secondary to the character interactions, rather similar to Upotte!, where characters and comedy take center stage. This results in an anime with an unusual setup, and paired with the absurd situations the fictional JNR faces, Rail Wars! is able to hold my interest, adding yet another anime I will follow to an already-packed season.