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
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.