Japan’s Two Favourite T’s: Trains & Tits – anime Critique: Rail Wars!

Rail_Wars!_light_novel_volume_1_coverTitle: Rail Wars! (Rail Wars! Nihon Kokuyu- Tetsudo- Koantai, Rail Wars! Japanese National Railways Security Force)
Format: TV anime
Genre: action, alt universe, harem
Series Creator: Takumi Toyoda, Vania 600
Series Director: Yoshifumi Matsuda
Studio:  Passione
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: July 3 – September 18, 2014
Reviewed format: high def with fan subs


Synopsis:

“The series takes place in an alternate version of Japan where the nationalized railway system was never privatized. Naoto Takayama is an ordinary high school student who aspires to a comfortable life working at Japanese National Railways. He ends up working as a security force trainee, where he unwillingly has to deal with his strange colleagues and all the mayhem that they cause.”


Review:

Once again, off the bat, this series is for people who are obsessed with one or both of two things: trains & large bouncing breasts.

They can’t be escape in the series.

Always taking up the centre of the screen whenever they are show.

The only difference is that there are longer, more porno graphic linger shots of the trains.

That is not to say that breasts are also the entire central focus of series. It also shows arses, legs & hips every chance they get. Putting women in awkward, insipid, impossible poses -yet doesn’t go for any panty shots for some reason. Like after showing so much strange jiggle physics suddenly panty shots are beneath them.

It's like looking at a Lava Lamp.
It’s like looking at a Lava Lamp.

The whole excessive boobage/female body thing aside, Rail Wars! truly fetishises trains. With characters pouring out extensive details of their models, uses, origins, running dates & tones of other surplus information. It’s basically stuff that only s true train otaku could get &/or appreciate. I lived with a guy who really liked machines, engines & vehicles, so I learnt a bit about railways & trains from him but even the level of info that Rail Wars! pours out would be too much for someone of his incredible understanding of machines. More so that they are all Japanese trains & engines, going into the minute details of running -often making them vital plot points or easily seen twists. The creator obviously loves trains, as does the producer(s) & director of the anime.

Yet the series isn’t about anthropomorphic trains, like Thomas the Tank Engine with tits (although that may be an awesomely fucked up so to make!), there has to be actual human characters involved. & that is where my biggest gripe begins; this also being a harem series & all.

The thing to be said is: SATAN SAVE US FROM FECKLESS, IGNORANT, NICE GUY PROTAGONISTS!

They are so criminally the staple of harem (& most male centric) anime these days. I’ve already bitched & moaned about it in my Strike The Blood & Dragonar reviews but this time I’ll go a step further.

It is the Nice Guy Gets All The Poon Because He Is a Nice Guy trope that is pretty much creating generation of self entitled fucktards who think that they if pretend to be nice & do all the right things, women will sleep with them. It’s series such as this that has a hand in fuelling their pathetic delusions, causing them to turn into whinging little maggots online & then go attack anything with a vagina online to reinforce their fragile dissonant belief that the universe owes them sex due to some force, affected behaviour. Anyone who does this is scum! Anyone who uses it as an excuse to attack, threaten & belittle women -online or in real life- are worse then scum. & THEY’RE FUCKING TRILBYS YOU’RE WEARING NOT FEDORAS! LEARN THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE!!!

pant pant

Am OK. . . Am OK. . .

I’ll write more about that at a later date, so will continue on with the review now.

The feckless wonder at the centre of this story is Takayama Naoto, who has no less than 5 women eventually competing for his affection. With a possible 6th but she shows a more big sister approach to him & a lesbian-like relationship with the head of Railway Security.

the 3 other feckless wonders of the team: Haruka, Aoi & sho.
the 3 other feckless wonders of the team: Haruka, Aoi & sho.

The first 2 are his co-workers in 4th Guard Squad. Both polar opposites of each other & what they want from Takayama.

The first is the calm, quiet, highly intelligent Komi Haruka, who has supposedly carried a crush on Takayama since a chance meeting in childhood. She’s physically in the weakest on the team but makes it up for her exceptional knowledge of the technical aspects & designs of trains -especially the safety features of little known or older models. She also has the largest breasts of the main female casts, which seem to bounce free from gravity’s constrants.

Aoi doing what she does best: fucking up & hurting people.
Aoi doing what she does best: fucking up & hurting people.

Her eventual rival is the amazonic tsundere Sakurai Aoi. Her violent, impatient & overbearing nature often gets Takayama into trouble. She constantly berates him for not being a better guard because he wants to be a train driver but it is his unwavering nature to protect the passengers that eventually makes her turn her affections towards our inept hero.

Nao the idol, looking decent so you know she's going to be a bit of a bitch.
Nao the idol, looking decent so you know she’s going to be a bit of a bitch.

The other 3 include: a tsundere idol, Nao, who comes to love Takayama because he risks his life to protect her from a crazed fan; school friend & fellow train otaku Mari, who loves Takayama because of his passion for trains & his general niceness; & a female crossdresser whose name I forget right now, who falls in love with Takayama because of a mixture of why the other two aforementioned girls love him.

Naturally, Takayama is totally oblivious to how all these ladies feel about him, despite them being very very veeeeeeeeeeeeery obvious & open about it at times (especially Haruka, who’s always shoving her tits in is face). Of course, Takayama is always awkward & embarrassed whenever he is left alone with any of these ladies for more than a few minutes; blushing red like a baboon’s arse.

There is also a 4th member of the 4th Guard Squad: Iwaizumi Sho & he is, to put it lightly, a fucking idiot.

He’s also pretty much a non-entity during the majority of the series. He tends to stay in the background, say something stupid that’s related to food or being macho & then go off to eat or do something man related -or something macho that involves food. He only really plays part of the plots towards the end of the series, where he helps run a small proto-train with the rest of the team but nothing much beyond that.

The series as a whole doesn’t go much on character or plot development. The basic plots revolve around some criminal activity around the trains & in areas easily reached by trains. It reeked a bit too much of the old Simpsons gag Knightboat (can’t find a video for it unfortunately). Yet it is logically, because a lot of it are terrorist or ransom demanded related to the rail system, which in this alt world was never privatised & stripped down. Making it carry an old sense of nostalgia for the railway & the type of crime that should go along with it. The only thing they didn’t have was a damsel tied to the rails but they did the rope would lift up her tits & she’d spout facts about the train that’s about to hit her.

As harsh as I’ve been in this critique, I honestly found it hard to hate this series -although that might’ve been the hypnotic nature of the jiggling breasts. Aside from the usual fan service sexualisation, there wasn’t anything really terrible about it all. It entertained well enough, didn’t drag along or make me want to throw something at the TV (too much, aside from the feckless wonder Takayama). It’s not the best series but it’s far from terrible. The animation, especially the trains, is exceptionally well done. The action scenes are all brilliantly rendered, with lots of nice details that come from the blending of traditional & CGI animation without any obvious clumsy seams separating the two. There are the aforementioned annoyances with characters & plot but nothing terrible or offensive (or terribly offensive). There are some logic issues but it all breezes by at a good enough pace that you don’t really linger on them too much, nor do they jar or break the flow of the episodes.

If you like trains, you’ll love this. If you like tits, you’ll enjoy. If you love both, you’ll be in One Hand Heaven.

Pretty much how train fetishists will react to the series.
Pretty much how train fetishists will react to the series.

Rain & Love are also beautiful – Anime Critique: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

Soredemo_Sekai_wa_UtsukushiiTitle: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii (The World is Still Beautiful, the Still World is Beautiful)
Format: TV anime
Genre: fantasy, romance, comedy, supernatural
Series Creator: Dai Shiina
Series Director: Hajime Kamegaki
Studio: Pierrot
Series length: 12 episodes
Original Airing dates: April 6, 2014 – June 29, 2014
Reviewed format: high def download with fan subs


Synopsis:

Nike, the fourth princess of the Rain Dukedom and one who holds the power to call forth the rain, travels to the Sun Kingdom to marry Sun King Livius for her country, despite her own reluctance. She soon discovers that the King, who conquered the world in only three years after his ascendance to the throne, is still a child. Furthermore, for trivial reasons, he has demanded that Nike call forth the rain, and when she refuses, he has her thrown in jail. The story follows the two who, while at first are a married couple only in name, gradually begin to establish an emotional bond with one another.


Review:

Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii was a series that I came to without previous knowledge or the weight of expectations, so it was genuinely refreshing to watch because I didn’t have any preconceptions as to what it was going to be or what I may want from it.

soredemo_sekai_01_2

It’s also stands apart from the other recent anime series because it centres around a female protagonist with her own positive sense of Agency; who isn’t just there so we can stare at her tits & arse all the time (although that happens over the course of the series).

To avoid beating the usual drum at the beginning: the series is sexualised but it isn’t hypersexualised.

The difference being that sexualisation is pushing up character attractiveness & manipulating how we view them by embellishing sexual traits. Whereas hypersexualisation is focussing only on the sexual traits or putting characters in positions where they are only seen as sexual objects.

This is something that I’ll write about in a future article but to summarise: sexualisation isn’t great but pretty much everyone (regardless of gender & sexuality) does it in their everyday lives, so we excuse it. Whilst hypersexualisation generates unrealistic expectations & images, degrades all involved & renders so many narratives utterly useless &/or annoying.

Although there is a level of sexualisation in the series that many may (mainly men) may be uncomfortable with & that’s the sexualisation of the male protagonist Livi -who is barely a teenager, despite being the king of a vast realm.

soredemo-sekai-wa-utsukushii-03-02

This is honestly something that I don’t really care about -especially after all the loli lusting series from this past season (which was near fucking sickening in my limited online opinion). It wasn’t degrading, focussed more through Nike’s romantic lense. So whilst Livi is occasionally half naked, the screen doesn’t ogle or degrade him in any way. Only the way Nike sees him changes; from cruel tyrant & a child with an adult’s eyes to a loving companion & partner.

Nike is the most important aspect of the series & a well constructed character (until the last episode at least, where she gets all mopey without being in Livi’s company). She comes off as a brash, naive tomboy who reacts before she thinks but she is backed up by formidable magical & physical ability -being able to beat up at least 4 of Livi’s guards when she first arrives in the Sun King. She also reacts badly to challenges & has a desperate need to prove herself as worthy of Livi (at least not in the form of a superiority complex at least), so she rushes head long into several traps & assassination attempts but she often gets herself out of them or Livi comes to assist (not entirely rescue) her in her efforts.

Sordemo Sekai - 02 -9

Nike also has a very tender side; which is seen when she uses her rain summoning magic -a song based upon the emotions she feels & her appreciation for the beauty of the world around her. The Sun Kingdom is in a desert, so they have need of lots of water for Livi’s plans for modernisation, so that is one reason he threatened Nike’s father to send him a bride from the Rain Kingdom. Although while their relationship starts out as hostile, Nike’s feeling grow for her underage husband, making her magic grow as well.

Soredemo-Sekai-wa-Utsukushii-01-f1-640x250

Unfortunately, in my view at least, the song she uses to summon the rain is a touch annoying & amusing in how poorly it attempts to blend in English words with the Japanese. The voice actress does have a lovely singing voice, her mastery of English isn’t there. Not her fault, not her language, but kind of does show the uselessness of putting English words in songs for the sheer sake of having them in there. Plus, I do laugh more when Westerners put random Asian words into their songs & get them utterly wrong (looking at you, Wu Tang Clan!).

The other strength of the series is the humour & the supporting cast. Who bring a lot of the humour.

Mainly Livi’s valet (not a butler! Look up the difference!), Neil, who often has to force Nike to become more like a princess or chase Nike & Livi whenever they escape to have some fun. The three old advisors, who back up Livi’s claim to the throne through wisdom & force, are also very funny -making dirty jokes & comments that parallel the episode’s plot. But are best used when told that they aren’t allowed to go to the Rain Kingdom after they planned to go there with Nike & Livi to get more sweets for themselves & not do any work.

There are the usual tropes within the series about the notions of self-worth, mainly Nike wondering if she is the right match for Livi, whom she is growing more & more in love with, as well as the usual romantic stuff but overall I found this series very good. It was funny when it needed to be, with patches of strong drama & emotional interactions.

I do recommend it, especially if you want something different from the past season’s hypersexualised loli-fest!

soredemo-sekai-wa-utsukushii-0605

Surprise of the Season – Anime Review: KILL la KILL

Title: KILL la KILL
Format: TV anime
Genre: sci-fi, parody, comedy, ecchi, action
Series Creator:  Hiroyuki Imaishi
Series Director:  Hiroyuki Imaishi
Studio: Trigger
Series length: 24 episodes
Original Airing dates: 3/10/2013-27/3/2014
Reviewed format: download with subs
Killlakillpromo

Synopsis:

“Set at Honnouji Academy a fictional high school in Tokyo Bay set in Japan that is dominated by its fearsome student council, led by Satsuki Kiryuin. The council members wear special uniforms called Goku Uniforms that grant them superhuman abilities, which they use to oppress the rest of the school’s students and staff. Ryuko Matoi, a student wielding half of a scissor-shaped longsword, transfers to Honnouji Academy in search of the owner of the other half of the scissor blade, the person who killed her father, Isshin Matoi. Defeated by the council after interrogating Satsuki over the killer’s identity and whereabouts, Ryuko comes across a sentient sailor uniform she names Senketsu, who puts himself on Ryuko. Using Senketsu’s special abilities, Ryuko stands up against Satsuki and her henchmen, the Elite Four, to liberate Honnouji Academy from their iron grip and solve the mystery of her father’s murder. She befriends fellow student Mako Mankanshoku and lives with her family in the slums surrounding the academy.”

WARNING: A fair few spoilers to come!

To say that KILL la KILL was the surprise anime of the last two season is a massive understate.

Despite all of its flaws (which shall be addressed later) was an incredible stand out amongst many very good (& some very mediocre & beyond terrible) anime series from the past 24+ weeks. It was constantly engaging, witty, silly & appropriately dark when needed. Like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann before it, KILL la KILL parodied established genres & tropes exceptionally well but, unfortunately, does overstep the boundaries a bit -especially in regards to sexual tropes & imagery.

The plot is genitals out batshit insanity to the point that if you tried to describe it to someone who has no idea about anime, they’d walk away vowing never to watch any Japanese media.

The basis of it is: typical angry heroine Matoi Ryuko goes to the strange Honnouji Accademy to find who murdered her father, only to be confronted by the extreme weirdness of the students wearing Goku Uniforms, which grants them super human abilities. The academy is ruled over by the tyrannical Kiryuin Satsuki & her Four Devas (also translated at the Elite Four), who wish to use it as a staging ground to take over other school in Japan. After attempting to challenge Satsuki & being defeated, Ryuko returns to her ruined home & discovers the sentient God Robe Senketsu, who grants who super powers in exchange for drinking some of her blood. Now armed with a weapon to take on Satsuki, the Devas & the empowered students of Honnouji, Ryuko & her new best friend Mako seek to find the truth behind her father’s death as well as stomp as many heads in as she can. Only to find herself beaten & manipulated at every point along her journey.

That’s the start of it but it goes well twisted beyond that point.

The real & utter strength of this series is the fact that no matter how batshit insane the plot gets, it still keeps you utterly hooked through its humour, plot twists &, especially, its characters.
matoi-kill-la-kill
Ryuko is your typical action hero, angry at the world so she lashes out before thinking, but she goes through a lot of character development during her arc -coming to terms with who & what she is. Similarly, Satsuki begins like your typical arch-villain, found of posing & pronouncing but she has a lot of depth to both her character & motivation to het background. Because of how my brain works, I guessed one of the major plot twists very early but it still didn’t ruin any of the reveal. One reason for that is because even if the protangonist & antagonist do seem very stock, they are surrounded by crazy & interesting side characters.

Mako is Ryuko’s self appointed best friend (& possible love interest) who is always at her side. She is also utterly (intelligence wise) stupid & prone to spouting bizarre inspirational monologues along with equally bizarre physical gestures. Yet her utter stupidity, randomness & inability to be shaken by anything that she sees is what makes her so awesome to watch. She is the ultimate wild card whenever Ryoku finds herself on the ropes or despairing over another lose to Satsuki’s forces & plans. Reality has hold on Mako & that means that she can do almost anything to help support Ryuko in her battles.

The Four Devas also have a huge amount of depth to them, going beyond mere minion status to full characters.
KILL.la.KILL.full.1607773
They are each given time on screen to develop, especially Gamagoori Ira (Disciplinary Committee), by showing how they first came to serve under Satsuki (whom they all refer to as Satsuki-sama). They also seriously beat Ryuko over the course of the 1st half of the series, which subverts so much of the normalcy of anime narrative. They are never shown as true villains & stay true to their own personal goals whilst still loyally serving Satsuki. There are no usurpers in the wings or overly caricatured characters but there is a hell of a lot of parody on many conventions of character creations as well as very clever subversions of trope.

And then in the 2nd half of the series (eps 13-24) it truly goes insane as it is revealed that the true enemy of all humanity are living clothing called Life Fibres & that Senketsu was created for Ryuko (along with her special Life Fibre severing scissors) so she could successfully battle them. Also that the organisation known as Nudist Beach (they are all actually naked) was created by Ryuko’s father in order to help destroy the Life Fibres & save the world.

At that point, all attempts at logic & sanity are shattered -especially with the introduction of Satsuki’s mother, Ragyo, and her twisted pixie-like assistant, Nui. Who are the ones behind the Life Fibres & part of the reason that Ryuko is able to bond with Senketsu.

Unfortunately it is that bonding it is that bonding process that draws my ire & almost stopped me watching early on.

That is because the transformation is so hyper sexualised  (especially the Box Shot [won’t explain, watch the vid in the link]). The costume is intentionally revealing & plays into Ryoku’s character development but I still felt as though it was a huge step backwards for what could’ve been something more interesting &/or inventive. I know the how transformation is a parody of the old Magical Girl transformation but it still irks me for some reason.

At some point, pretty much every character is sexualised in some way (especially some of the men) but it still feels cheap. At least they actually play it straight for the most part & when they draw attention to it, they do it for the sake of parody & comedy (such as Mikisugi’s magic glowing nipples).

Everything in this series is turned up to the proverbial 11 (again, if you don’t get the reference you are way to young or a bit thick), especially the sexualisation of the body & the violence (blood flies everywhere in weird ways), which is both a positive & negative. Positive: adds to the parody levels well. Negative: a lot of people are too mentally ill-equipped to know that it’s a parody.

Yet despite all this excess & hyper-ness (or because of it) I utter adore this series. It has its fault but they can be overlooked because of all the great things that is does well.

Also a quick mention of the soundtrack. That is another thing that works really well. Especially the character leit motifs (the songs that play when characters appear or do an action). Many of the people who worked on the music also worked on Attack On Titan’s OST but they sound poles apart. My favourite track from the series is the transformation theme Until My Body Is Dry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNo0EhDhpBE

Basically, when it boils down to it, the extreme originality & oddness of KILL la KILL is the main reason that you watch it. It does to the Action & Magical Girl genres what Gurren Lagann did to the mecha genre (only better in my view).

It’s fun, it’s stupid, it’s (literally) genitals out insanity & you’ll kick yourself for not enjoying it.