And so the show about wars on rails has come to an end, and did it live up to its expectation of being the quintessential Japanese cartoon about trains? No, not really, but it was still alright.
The plot of Rail Wars! is nothing too profound or mature. I had fun watching it, but I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s anything great. At it’s best, it’s a fun show where some train defense force trainees diffuse bombs, uncover kidnappings, and stop terrorists. It’s entertaining for what it is, so to speak. Some episodes were more trashy than others, but more often than not it was a solid procedural show at its heart. Key word being “at its heart,” since it was unfortunately bogged down by a constant stream of fanservice and harem antics.
Now, I’ll admit that I know next to nothing about trains. So I’m aware that if there’s anything about Rail Wars! depiction of trains and how they work that is flat-out wrong, I wouldn’t notice, and if so than my ignorance would probably contribute to my positive opinion of the show. However, I’m neither interested in researching how trains work nor taking any of what Rail Wars! says about trains at face value, so I don’t think that’s much of a problem. I mean, even if everything in Rail Wars! is true, just imagine someone saying “Oh, I learned about trains from this one anime!” If I ever want to know more about trains, I’ll seek non-fictional sources to learn.
As I said, the biggest thing weighing down Rail Wars! from being a truly good show, was the sheer amount of fanservice cluttering the narrative. I love fanservice as much as the next anime fan, but in a procedural show like Rail Wars!, I’d prefer to just see the characters do their job and go on train adventure. And it’s not quite just any fanservice or harem hijinks. For example, there’s one episode which involves Takayama and Koumi running away from what they assume to be terrorists out to get them, and throughout the episode Koumi’s clothes gradually get stripped and ripped off. Her skirt gets ripped off while jumping a fence, and then later she takes off her suit to ward off a gang of cats. Eventually she bumps into a criminal, which causes her remaining clothes to just rip off entirely, leaving her naked. The episode overall I still liked, but that one aspect of it was just so incredibly dumb and groan-worthy.
Characters are okay. Takayama is enduring enough as a protagonist, though there’s not much about him that I’d call interesting. He’s a generic male anime lead, who’s nice, barely has any flaws to the point where his character isn’t all that dynamic, etc. Just about the only thing that stands out about him is his obsession with trains, which although amusing, doesn’t make him much less of a typical male lead. Generic male leads don’t really bother me too much though, unlike others. I’ll certainly enjoy a show less if it has one instead of an actually better written character, but I don’t exactly want to punch every Takayama-like protagonist I see. I’m just indifferent to them.
Initially Sakurai struck me as annoying with all her contempt towards men, though at some point that goes away, and we instead often see her swoon over Takayama. Which isn’t much better, but I’ll say the show was at least subtle about it, rather than having Sakurai exclaim something along the lines of “What are these emotions I’m feeling? C-could it be love! But I hate men!!!” Koumi was alright enough as the large-breasted genius with a kind heart. And Iwaizumi was just sort of there most of the time; it wasn’t often that his character was actually used for anything in the plot. Throughout the series he’s just “strong dude who likes to eat,” and of the four main characters he’s the most severely underdeveloped.
I quite like Makoto Uno’s character designs, although the actual production values of the show often aren’t up to par. The character art often looks wonky and rushed, so Uno’s designs aren’t done much justice. At least it’s pretty to look at some of the time… The trains are nice too I guess.
Rail Wars! had a lot of potential, and it was decent for what it was, but was unfortunately brought down by various issues. I can understand why others would dislike it, although I am a little surprised just how much people seem to hate it, but it was a fun show. Even if it’s far from my favorite show of the season, I would definitely like to see another season.