First Impressions Digest – Rail Wars!, Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen

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Here’s a couple of premieres from substantially farther down the expectations list.

Rail Wars! – 01

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It’s fair to say I didn’t come into Rail Wars! with huge expectations, but as someone who loves trains and generally dislikes privatization, the idea of a series where JR was still government-owned and the villains were the ones who want to privatize it appealed to me.  Unfortunately, that interesting conceit is about all Rail Wars has going for it.

The heart is in the right place here – a world where idealistic youngsters train for the wholly admirable career of railroad employee.  But in execution Rail Wars is pretty much all cliché – clumsy fanservice, stock characters and bad dialogue.  I admit it’s pretty cool to see a bunch of trainees trying to get an old steam locomotive up to 100 KMH, Doctor Yellow, and taking a trip through the bowels of Tokyo Station.  But apart from the train otaku appeal, the soup is pretty thin here.

Also, I just have to say – when the purse snatchers snuck on-board the train bound for Oomiya, it makes absolutely no sense for the trainees to first give up, and then figure out a way to race to Oomiya ahead of them.  Why not just call the conductor car and let them know what was going on?  Or let Oomiya Station security know so they can arrest the baddies as soon as the train stops?  I know we’re not after book realism here, but at least avoid blatant illogic.

Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen – 01

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Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen is very much old-school mecha anime from an old hand at that, Sato Tatsuo (Uchuu no Stellvia).  It comes from an old school studio too in Xebec, who aren’t going to blow anyone away with fluid animation or detailed backgrounds but do seem to have an affinity for these sorts of sci-fi shows, ones that look and play like anime from 10 or 15 years ago.

All in all I found this premiere very competent, if not especially noteworthy.  We’re dumped right into the middle of an ongoing war between two nations, Arandas – which is an old-world power somewhat reminiscent of China and seemingly run by corrupt old generals and politicians spewing Marxist ideology – and the aggressive Ingelmia.  So far the sympathetic eye is on the foot soldiers of Arandas, most specifically the still-green mecha pilot Susumu Tokimune (Ohsaka Ryouta, who’s clearly discovered the secret of human cloning).  Ingelmia has been advancing on Arandas territory for years only to be stopped by their Great Wall (very original) but as the series start they’ve finally breached it, utilizing what seems to be a big leap in mecha technology their enemy was unprepared for.

As to the merits of this conflict we know nothing, but that’s not unusual for a first episode.  The theme of the premiere seems mostly to be focused on the victimization of the combat troops by their leaders, which is an old standard of the mecha genre.  Tokimune is a pretty standard main character too, a hot-headed rookie who the veteran soldiers and support officers mercilessly have sport with.  Naturally he disobeys a direct order while on a scouting mission and jumps in to defend what seems to be a civilian transport under Ingelmia attack, but turns out to be carrying an experimental mecha and it’s corporate caretaker Jamie Hazaford (Oonishi Saori).  This seems to be some kind of for-profit contractor weapon, but Tokimune is drafted to pilot it by Jamie, and manages to destroy the two enemy “Kriegers” attacking the transport.

Competent.  Standard.  Pretty much all my adjectives fall in that vein – Argevollen is fine, respectably entertaining without being exceptional in any way.  I actually thought the premiere did a pretty good job of scene-setting with the larger conflict and the banter between the soldiers was fairly believable.   Sato-sensei is certainly capable of drafting an interesting premise, and I sense this could be this season’s Majestic Prince – a two-cour tortoise that barely gets noticed out of the gate but turns into quite a solid and engaging series.  With two cours to fill it will have to offer more than the stock content in the premiere, but there were enough seeds planted – and there’s enough of a track record with Sato and veteran director Ootsuki Atsushi – to believe there’s a reasonable chance it will.

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12 comments

  1. R

    Yup, gotta say that Argevollen's first ep is pretty much your standard, Gundam-ish start. ThoughI did like how they seem to be taking a cue from the classic Gundam 09th MS OVA series (you ought to watch that one Enzo) with their depiction of the ground troops.

    Argevollen being this season's Majestic Prince? I dunno, MJP did indeed have a standard start, but at least they had an interesting cast (and impeccable humor) right from the first ep. I really don't see that here (yet), though Tokimune and Jamie's initial interaction does offer some promise.

    And Jamie somehow reminds me of an older Mirai Kuriyama. At least she doesn't seem to be that much of a ditz.

  2. R

    I mean, the 08th MS OVA series. There is no 09th.

  3. m

    Yeah I thought MJP was funny from the get go, though this series doesn't seem like it's going to focus as much on humor, or if it is it's missing the mark. I know they have to set up the background and all of that, but this episode felt really slow until the last couple of minutes. Hopefully it picks up, and there's no real reason to think it won't, but so far I'm not expecting too much from it.

  4. But Majestic Prince was dismissed as a trifle by most, and ended up being pretty good. Maybe that was a show people pegged as a comedy that got serious, and this one will be a serious show that ends up being funnier than expected…

  5. R

    "and this one will be a serious show that ends up being funnier than expected…"

    I don't know if I should get excited or be scared with this remark. Kinda reminds me of what happened to both Valvrave and Buddy Complex, where I ended up laughing myself out for all the wrong reasons.

  6. Z

    Argevollen was giving off slight 08th MS Team vibes too (I agree probably better to watch that instead of this really) until the Kyoani characters appeared and broke that illusion.

    Rail Wars. The poster, combined with the format of the source material, made it obvious what this was about.

  7. M

    Argevollen – For a while there,I was getting hyped. I thought:

    "Hey look,all our cast is already in the military,which means there won't be any highschooler that get's caught into a war,bla,bla,bla; they'are already in it.Oh,the mech designs look pretty nice too with a lot of metal & less rainbow colors and they hardly seem overpowered or anything. This actually might be a mecha anime that will rely more on the tactics & strategy our protagonists will use to triumph over their foes instead of some all-powerful mech."

    From the moment I saw that large truck I began to worry. The moment the MC started being stupid and went ahead on his own was the 2nd alert. When the girl was entering the code I knew it was already too late. I knew(and probably most people too) that there's gonna be a some super-mecha there that will allow to MC to overcome his foes when he should've otherwise been dead – not because of his own skill & wit,but simply because of the much superior machine.

    Damn this incredibly overused theme!

  8. R

    Wasn't the routine already obvious from the trailers alone? The moment they showed those large, slow mechas in the trailer, then followed it with shots of the sleek, cool looking one, it was pretty obvious to me how the MC will get his hands on that thing.

    That's what actually set Majestic Prince apart (since we're throwing comparisons here). They did good by emphasizing the humor in the trailers and then proceeded to run away with it in the series proper.

    Like i already mentioned, the only thing I see that would go well for the series is if they manage to make Tokimune and Jamie's interaction into something more interesting than "shounen mecha pilot saving the tsundere damsel in distress//love interest" routine. Again, that's what managed to pull MJP through.

  9. M

    Look's like it was. I just didn't watch the trailer(nor MJP to compare). So,I got a bit hyped in the 1st half,before that nasty realization that it's most likely gonna be the same old gundam-ish plot that many(I know I am) are so tired of. The show also seems to take itself seriously enough that it'll be hard or impossible to enjoy it as something like Valvrave.

  10. H

    I felt the delivery of Argevollen was considerably dull and more depressingly so when you mentioned Tatsuo Satō's (I know him mostly for Nadesico) involvement. I feel it's faint praise to even call this a competent effort when it should be a walk in the park for Xebec and co. It seemed as if they didn't give a damn really. Perhaps they're confident in their mecha-loving audiences so complacently ran with the wind? If the episode had avoided falling into the pit falls of derivative mecha pilots I may have been more curious to continue.

    I agree with the rest that you might as well watch 08th MS team or War in the Pocket.

  11. S

    Argevollen just seemed to bore me for most of it. It wasn't necessarily bad, but I checked how much longer I had to watch multiple times during the episode, and not because I was afraid of it ending too soon. I think my main gripe with it was just that I really disliked Tokimune. Most of the other characters had some potential, but he just seemed incredibly out of place to me.

  12. S

    The moment I heard the generals say "the great wall has always protected us, and will do it again, we cannot lose", I could predict who the MC was going to be, what difficulties he'd be faced with and how the war would end, more or less.

    So I'm not really thrilled with Tokimune being a stupider version of Eijun Sawamura. I can't think of anyone in the group less suitable to be rewarded with a superior mecha that has a very blunt learning curve.

    Here's to hoping he gets executed for disobeying a direct order.

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