Rail Wars is a twelve episode anime series based on the light novels penned by author Takumi Toyoda. The show, which finished airing back in September 2014, is set in a fictional Japan where the national railway service has avoided privatization. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not because Japan’s trains are supposedly more reliable than their UK counterparts (although that’s not saying much, as commuters of the Greater Anglia line will attest to.) Perhaps if the Fat Controller didn’t stuff his pie hole all day England’s rail links wouldn’t be plagued with so many delays. Come on Thomas sort it out!
The series follows the exploits of Naoto Takayama, an aspiring train driver who has recently completed his training at the Japanese National Railway academy. Instead of landing a dream job piloting locomotives, Naoto has been assigned to the Fourth Guard Squad who are responsible for station security. The position has him working with a trigger-happy redhead, an intelligent yet clumsy buxom babe and a dimwit blessed with the strength of the Hulk. Together, over the course of the show’s dozen episodes, the ragtag team take on purse-snatchers, foil terrorist attacks and protect various dignitaries who have opted to travel via public transport.
If I had to compare Rail Wars to another cartoon I would liken it to Burn Up Excess or Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. It’s essentially a fan service action show, that doesn’t treat itself too seriously, revolving around a team made up of members who specialize in a particular field. Aoi Sakurai is the crack shot tsundere who likes to use excessive force against lawbreakers. Haruka Komi looks like an airhead, but she is in fact an excellent student who excels at speed-reading. She has a knack for cutely tripping over things, possibly because maintaining your balance on a moving train is tricky (or because she is rather top heavy if you catch my drift.)
Moving onto the male members of the team, Naoto is the squad leader and your typical anime protagonist. He has a bland personality and no distinguishing features – aside from the ability to unintentionally attract every female character he meets. In the real world his colleague Sho Iwazumi would be more popular with the ladies (thanks to his bulging biceps) but alas his screen time is severely limited. Aside from a few quips poking fun at his ravenous appetite, he only seems to be part of the cast because the Fourth Guard Squad is surprisingly weedy for a group tasked with combating undesirables. For all intents and purposes Sho is the muscle that clobbers the bad guys.
Every anime season has a couple of shows that everyone raves about and a few flops that will contend for worst series of the year. Rail Wars is neither of those. I would best describe it as an adequate light novel adaptation that is mildly entertaining, but six months from now you’ll be hard pressed to remember anything about it. Aside from some locomotive trivia the only thing that stands out about the show would have to be its shameless fan service. Yes, this is one of those animes were the ladies suffer wardrobe malfunctions and fabrics turn translucent whenever a girl gets soaked. It should go without saying that one of the Fourth Squad’s missions takes place at the beach, where the dress code is strictly bikinis.
My rating for Rail Wars is a three out of five. I found it to be an enjoyable episodic show that delivers some chuckles and light action moments. Visually speaking, the character designs are decent although the CG used to render the trains could have been better. I have been informed that the show is peppered with animation mistakes, although the only thing I spotted was a substantial dip in artwork quality during episode eleven. I think the series would have been better had the latter episodes not been “derailed” by harem hijinks. I was okay with the predictable Naoto/Haruka/Sakurai love triangle, but things got out of hand when Naoto ends up being pursued by his boss, a chum from high school, a pop idol and even royalty. The light novel source material is still ongoing so the romance angle remains unresolved by the time episode twelve concludes. One could say that Rail Wars started out well, but by the end it runs out of steam.