Rail Wars Review

This is review number three hundred and eighty two. This anime is part of the Summer 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Rail Wars. It’s a twelve episode anime about trains. Wait, is it really about trains? Really? Are you sure? Ok then, let’s read on.

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The anime is about a group of JNR PSF OJT students working on the field. Their day to day routine isn’t really something you’d call normal. These students get to experience terrorist attacks, death threats, kidnapping and explosions. Their OJT is certainly something else.

Taking the Pants Off

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I was initially fooled by this anime. It was supposed to be about trains, right? I don’t understand why the show had so many pretenses, but it’s actually just a harem anime. It’s even a very formulaic harem anime with the same tired tropes done over and over. I both hate and admire this anime for a number of reasons, and I’d list them down below. First of all, I’d just like to take time to point out that the title initially had me smiling because it reminded me of a friend I once had when I was starting out as TPAB. Back in 2012, I met this dude that loves trains and he had a blog about them. He is a legit train otaku, and I was reminded of his weird train posts when I came across this anime. I knew Rail Wars would be about trains, and it’s a shame he deleted his blog because I wanted to link it in this review.

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Wait. I’m actually glad I can’t link it though, because this anime is not about trains. Freaking “Rail Wars” isn’t about trains. Oh sure, there are trains here but it’s nothing more than a backdrop for something more important. I’m talking about girls, boobs, assess and the undying accidental harem. This anime is SO light novel that it’s both fascinating and frustrating. It heralds the same clichés you’d expect in an LN anime. It’s fan service heavy and the wish fulfillment is just off the charts. LN recycles a lot of themes, so they’re not really that exciting. If you’ve seen one show about an ordinary guy being put into extraordinary situations with a bunch of girls at his arm, then you’ve seen them all. LN anime really only differ on the initial premise, but the spirit of catering to a frustrated reader still persists. I’d say that LN tropes are really bad, but I can’t help but like this particular anime. It goes back to the very basic idea of “effort”, and this show puts a lot of it here. It’s really fascinating, or it’s that to me, and now let me convince you as well.

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The anime is problematic at the very start though. It follows a bunch of people attending their OJT, and that’s basically the gist of it. The show mentions JNR and PSF, but it never really explains them. That’s OK though, because we seem to have a show focused on OJTs who’ll info dump stuff later on. This is reminiscent of Servant X Service where the story revolves around boring government jobs turned slightly interesting. There’s no hurry in explaining mundane jobs like that, except the first episode seems rushed though. Characters aren’t introduced. They appear, and the show just lumps them together. It then weirdly fast forwarded on the entire OJT course, and the first episode ends with the group shoveling coal on a train. It’s apparently their final exam on the course, and I was a bit bewildered. What is JNR? What is PSF? Who are these characters? Wait, they’re left to drive a train on their own? Why? What the hell is going on?

The anime never explains it.

JNR apparently stands for Japanese National Railway, and the show does revolve around government work. So it’ll feature a bunch of enthusiastic students experiencing their future job as train people, right? It’ll focus on the mundane life of someone working on the train stations full of scenes where people ask directions, children getting lost and a bunch of drunken salarymen unable to go home on their own, right? I mean, I personally want to watch a show like that. It features the thankless jobs of government employees, and it does resemble Servant X Service a bit. It’s a “mundanely interesting” show, and I am a sucker for slice of life shows like this. But wait, what’s a PSF? I can’t google it, for some reason. It’s apparently the “Public Safety Force”, and this is where the students do their OJT. For passing the coal shoveling thing, the four characters are now granted a chance to do their OJT on the field. The journey to mundane government work now begins, right?

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I’ll give the show a pass for the messy first episode, because there is a chance to fix the story later on. After all, the show is supposed to be mundane. It’s about boring government work on the train. The most exciting thing that can happen is one of the girls getting molested like in so many Hentai anime, right? Right? RIGHT? Please, gawd, tell me this is just a slow paced-

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The second episode features the OJT students diffusing a bomb. What the f*ck? These are on-the-job trainees, right? The first thing they encounter on their “mandatory activity in order to graduate” is stopping a terrorist group from blowing up the train station? What the hell?! So, it’s not about mundane routine stuff. So, the rest of the episodes will be about-

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The third episode is about a kidnapping. It’s followed by body guard work for a pop star being threatened by a maniac, and that’s followed by protecting an actual prince. This isn’t right at all. What the hell is going on here?

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The anime never explained anything, and the characters are just thrust into obscene situations that come out of nowhere. The coal shoveling exam seems to be the most normal thing the characters ever did, because it just escalates from there. Here’s what the anime never explains, and they really should have, at the start of the anime. This is set in an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE where OJT students are, indeed, tasked to hunt down a ticking bomb stuffed in coin lockers. It doesn’t really make sense, but I’ll just go along with it. The real JNR also doesn’t have a PSF, and that makes sense. The things the characters do are more along the lines of police work than anything else. It begs the question, why bother putting these characters in a train employee uniform? Why not have them be police? I can only suspend my disbelief for so long, but seeing students disarming a bomb is where I draw the line. At the back of my mind, I keep saying “where are the actual employees?” I ask this, because I have been an OJT student once, and it was on office job. Someone pulled a knife once at my office, and the OJT students were immediately taken off site. Yes, one of us wanted to tackle the maniac (not me) but our superior didn’t want anything to happen of us. That makes sense, because they are liable for our safety. This apparently doesn’t apply in this alternate universe. In one episode, three train employees actually agreed to have inexperienced children go down the mountains on an old train to deliver an organ to someone. Three licensed professionals all agreed to put the students in danger, just because. I mean, what the hell is this?

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If you’re like me that overly analyzed the setup, then we all missed the point of the anime. This is a light novel anime, first and foremost, and it’ll behave like one above all else. The main point of disarming a bomb serves just one purpose: make the main character look good. This is in favor of LN’s wonderful staple: wish fulfillment. Everything should cater to the main character’s whim, and he should always come out on top. Need an example? MAHOUKA. There you go. Almost every main character is setup to succeed though. Date A Live, Strike the Blood, Tokyo Ravens and even High School DxD have stories rigged to make the main character look good. LN has “ordinary heroes”, and the readers wish they were like the heroes. That’s basically the function of wish fulfillment in LN and LN anime. It’s a short sighted goal, but it works. This also means that the whole OJT thing is just pointless. Swap out “OJT students on a train” to something more generic like “knight trainees” or “aspiring adventurers seeking gold and women”, and it wouldn’t matter. As long as the main character comes out on top, then it’s all good. Whether it’s fighting an overly powerful bad guy or disarming a bomb for no reason, then the main purpose of the light novel is fulfilled. Wonder-f*cking-ful.

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Wish fulfillment and fan service goes hand in hand in light novels as well. If a light novel has fan service though, then it can only mean one thing. My absolute hated LN cliché, the accidental harem, is present in this anime. This one hurts, because this particular cliché is just annoying to me. I’ve been subjected to this for so long that I just hate it by default. What is it? It’s where the anime has one main male character, and he only interacts with nothing but female characters. From his classmates to the random train conductor to the f*cking person he is body-guarding, they’re all females. It’s not a subtle cliché, and it’s the main reason why I hate it. There is a reason the main character is only interacting with females though, and it’s a very basic one. Go on, you miserable bastards, I want you to guess! What does female with breasts have to do with a fan service heavy anime featuring a guy designed to always be winning at everything he does?

Yes, I’m talking about your favorite genre. It’s Ecchi.

Lewd.

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Wish fulfilling.

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Improbably lucky.

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Featuring submissive girls.

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Mother-f*cking-it-all-to-hell-I-want-to-quit ECCHI!!!!!!!!!!

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On a train.

Isn’t this a special anime? I hate it to death, and the Ecchi in this anime is actually one of the stupidest. The story is already stupid, so everything else just follows. This anime features the guy walking in on naked girls, getting to wipe down one of them naked, and he also falls on top of them A LOT. It’s the classic Ecchi setup where the guy trips and he lands on the girls. He’ll either land face first on their breast, or he’ll be fondling them. Often times, he’ll land close to their face, a long pause where they stare at each other, and then they’ll panic afterwards. This novelty is done on every episode though. Yes, the guy falls on top of a lot of girls for no reason. It became a bit of a joke for the most part, because the anime seems to just give up trying. Why force these characters on a situation where the guy can get lucky? Just have him fall down on each and every one of them. It’s very stupid.

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Of course, the girls like being crushed by his weight though. It’s not wish fulfillment if the girls don’t slowly fall in love with the main character. It also happens randomly too. In one instance, the show features nothing but improbable dangers for our OJT but then the girls would suddenly come onto our main character afterwards. There is no build up, no transition and no reason for anything. Disarm a bomb, then just hug. Afterwards, the girl is instantly in love with the main character. In fact, the story is abandoned half-way through the show, and it just established an actual harem to replace the accidental harem. Accidental harems involve a guy interacting with nothing but girls. The show would never acknowledge that a harem does exist. The characters, and the readers, are the only one clued in. The best example of this is in KonoSuba. That is a great use of accidental harem, and it’s different from an actual harem. In Harem, the girls fight over the main guy for his precious attention. Two of them would often quarrel over the fact that they both love the main character, and this happened in this anime. I still don’t know what the actual story is about, but the anime seems to have gone far enough for the accidental harem to blossom into full harem. It happened in a church as well, because why the hell not?

Things started to become clearer when the show reaches its halfway point though. The main premise, which should’ve been introduced on the first episode, is explained in episode six inside a bathroom for good measure. There is no exposition though. The main character just said this:

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And then everything just became clearer. His main motivation is to be a train driver, but the JNR program requires its students to undergo the PSF OJT course. So whether you’re actual course is on maintaining the trains, you’re still required to do the PSF OJT course. I just wish the anime explained this earlier, in the first episode, so things can be easily understood. Wait a minute. If the show would only bother to introduce the premise on the sixth episode, then what happened in the first to fifth episode? The short answer?

Nothing.

It’s just a slew of wish fulfillment, fan service, and establishing the harem. The anime actually prioritized that first, and I don’t know what to feel about that. As I said before, I both hate and admire this anime. I hate it, because the story comes fourth to boobs and naked girls. I admire this anime though, because it prioritizes the boobs and the naked girls above all else. The fan service is so cliché, but it’s actually in a good way. It’s not properly incorporated into the show, but the actual novelty of these tropes is something I really admire. The show captured the spirit of harem, fan service and wish fulfillment. It is supposed to be intrusive, a bit over the top and just down right absurd but that’s actually what makes these stupid things great. As I watch this anime, I am remembering how the wish fulfillment, fan service and harem worked on shows that preceded it. Shows like Love Hina, To Love Ru, Tenchi Muyo and Maburaho features the same intrusive elements this show has, and Rail Wars captured them to a tee. Yes, my memories of watching Love Hina are triggered by this stupid anime. It plays its elements strong, and I admire this show for being just upfront about it. It’s reminiscent of early 2000s anime, and I just love this one detail of Rail Wars.

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Episode six is also where the show just began to flow more smoothly. Everything seems to be established at this point, and the anime just paces the story like any LN anime. It features chapters featuring different stories. Actually, there are only two chapters after episode six but I think the anime had five chapters overall. I think the last two chapters are the most tolerable though, because the premise and the intention of the anime is clear at this point. At the beginning, I was having a hard time digesting the absurdity of the anime. I think the initial shock goes away at the sixth episode mark and, yes, the show does get good from here. Once you learn not to expect much from the show, embrace it’s intrusive elements and just accept that it’s a heavily clichéd light novel anime, then you can actually just sit back and enjoy. I can’t believe I just typed that. This anime is just so stupid.

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If there’s one thing I don’t like about the anime, then it’d be the use of trains. It features train jargon, and I know my 2012 train otaku friend would appreciate it. I just feel a bit insulted that the anime dumped train fanaticism, and then merged with wish fulfillment and fan service for no reason. I would’ve loved to see an actual passionate show talking about trains, and the ones featured in this anime actually look interesting. The topic of trains actually feels a bit inviting, and I honestly hope we get to see an actual mundane slowly paced show about train life. As I think about it, the idea has this wonderful Miyazaki-esque appeal to it and I feel this particular anime could’ve presented that. The way the trains cut through nature is really relaxing to look at, and I would’ve enjoyed it immensely if the show wasn’t prioritizing nipples over anything else. Yeah, for some reason, the anime exposes nipples beyond the sixth episode as well. It’s like a reward for people that stuck through the show up until that point.

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For those of you that are interested with shows about boring government jobs in a very slow paced manner, then I do have two shows to share with you. The first one I already mentioned. Servant X Service is made by the author of Wagnaria/Working, so it has the same familiar “will they, won’t they” routine that makes the latter show inviting. Servant X Service is a comedy show but the romance is actually a lot more interesting than Wagnaria. As for the best mundanely interesting show about boring government jobs, then I’d like to share my personal favorite. This one. It’s called You’re Under Arrest, and it’s a very boring show about traffic police officers. It’s not very exciting, but the show grows on you. It’s also very old, but the wonderful slow paced nature of the show is something I immensely respect. It features actual boring traffic cop escapades, but it also has some exciting episodes from time to time. I’m mostly sharing this anime, because I actually wanted Rail Wars to be as good. There is potential in this anime that I honestly wish would reach the bar YUA has set. You’re Under Arrest is such an underrated gem, and I do wish people check it out. Spread the word.

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Anyways, the characters all suck but they do grow on you. As I said, episode six and beyond are very good episodes, and it’s mainly because of the character interaction. I zoned out after the OJT students diffused a bomb, so I didn’t really care about the story anymore. The characters are the only ones making me finish the entire thing. The harem aspect is really well-done, especially with how the main character interacts with every girl in his herd. Every girl brings something different to the dynamic of the group, and they also feature a variety of fan service with how their personality seemingly represents the fan service. There is one episode where the girl slowly loses her clothes, and it ends with her absolutely naked in a closet. I admire it a lot, and now I’ll skip talking about the characters to spam this review with the fan service.

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This anime is presented by Studio Passione, a relatively new studio. This is their first work, and they really did a good job on it. As of 2017, they’ve only released three shows but I do think this studio has potential. As I said before, the effort is clearly seen in this anime. It’s a cliché heavy show but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very easy to mess a light novel adaptation, but it looks like there are talented people working in Studio Passione. I can’t wait to try their other shows. I’d also like to give points for the director. The light novel looks like trash, and he still made something good out of it. Yoshifumi Sueda has been doing a lot of episode directing, but this is his first full director show. I think he did a decent job here, because the LN itself looks problematic. He spun it into something decent though, and I admire his effort as well. I know LN like Rail Wars, and they often do suck hard. Rail Wars had the potential to fail, but it doesn’t look that bad to me.

Sight and Sound

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The original illustration is done by Vania 600, and I do love his designs. They’re typical LN cover style, but his style is pretty damn flashy. I love his use of vibrant colors, and his poses are pretty complex combined with the angles of his pictures. The clever use of highlights, the intricate details combined with the eye pleasing colors really makes his design standout. The character design is pretty plain though. After all, big breasted sexy girls aren’t really that special. It’s his color work that really sets his character illustrations apart. He also makes the characters shine through their uniforms. I love the small details in his uniforms, and the way he designs outfits in general. It supports the figure of the characters because it adds a gentle layer to them, but keep note that these characters are in complex poses so care is really given throughout. Unfortunately the color play isn’t translated into the anime, so only his generic characters are adapted into the show. It’s not that bad though, because Studio Passione made sure the Ecchi is done with justice. The overall quality of the visuals is top notch. The skin color, the use of CGI, and subtle details does come together to create a very pleasing anime to stare at. You’d be doing that a lot in this show, and I’m just personally glad the Ecchi is ye candy pleasing. Vania 600’s uniform design is in this show as well though, and they look pretty good in here. It’s not as complex as the illustrations, but the anime does give his uniform design justice.

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The animation is pretty impressive as well. The Ecchi is presented wonderfully, and it actually looks appealing. The “falling down on girls” animation is pretty great as well. This is really the best thing about the anime, because it’s able to make the stupid story and stupid Ecchi tolerable. As long as it jiggles right, then I’m all for it. In terms of visuals, I do think the anime is reminiscent of shows like Date A Live and Hataraku Maou-sama. It has a familiar aesthetic that makes it a lot more enjoyable to watch.  The movements are pretty on point, and the pacing of the show is decent. It’s able to make bomb diffusing really intense with its use of different camera angles and visual storytelling using close face ups and zoom outs. There are some fight scenes here, and they’re nicely presented as well. It’s out of place, for the most part, but they’re still nicely animated. The CGI trains are also visually pleasing despite some of them looking a bit stiff. I do think any train otaku will enjoy them. Of course, I can’t really say but it looks like fan service as well. It’s like a train fan service, and I applaud the anime for making sure it’s strength of good animation carries the rest of the show.

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The anime’s OP is “Mukai Kaze ni Utarenagara” by Minori Chihara. This is a pretty generic opening song, and it has generic lyrics as well. It’s so generic that it doesn’t really make much sense. It’s something about doing your best to the best of your abilities, or something like that. Minori has a great voice, but the song could’ve been sung by May’n and it wouldn’t really matter. The OP sequence is pretty great though. It has the great animation that makes the show tolerable, and it also features the wish fulfillment and the fan service. They are smartly veiled in the montage of the OP though. It’s a weird sequence though, because it’s like an action anime. This is further proof the trains element is really just a place holder than anything else. The anime’s ED is “OVERDRIVER” by ZAQ. I like this song, and it reminds me of the OP in the Persona 4 video game. I dunno, the techno beat just feels right. It doesn’t suit the anime, but the song itself is really good. The opening lines are great, but the chorus isn’t anything special. Once again, the animation makes the entire thing great with its nice blend of computer animation and stiff CGI.

Overall Score

5/10 “It’s very stupid, but it’s stupidly entertaining.”

I hate defending this anime, but it does work. The animation is able to present the Ecchi and the overused tropes in an entertaining way. The wish fulfillment is over the top, but it does become tolerable. The story, characters and general feel of the anime is a little bit off but it does get better later on. As I said, the anime hits its stride at the sixth episode and everything else flows like gravy afterwards. Don’t expect anything deep, because this is a stupid Ecchi anime and doesn’t really go beyond that. The anime is insulting, dumb and heavily clichéd but people that can tolerate its style will find the show pretty entertaining. This is the classic case of how much Ecchi can you tolerate in a show, and Rail Wars will test you.

Thoughts~

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