And so we start what promised to be a good arc focusing on Shou. How long that’ll last, I’m not too sure. It’s starting to be a series that grates on me but the character interactions are what I like though.
Iida informs the K4 crew that they’ll be sent to an advanced training school for Public Safety Officers. Aoi sounds excited that this could mean preferential posting afterwards, while Naoto and Shou are even more excited. Naoto because there would be a conductor’s course with some locomotive or another, while Shou is excited on the prospect of tasty food. Koumi slips and says as long as she’s with Naoto, she’s fine.
On the train, Shou and Naoto are geeking out, much to the annoyance of Aoi, and meets Tetsuya Narita, the instructor in charge of training. Having heard of them from Instructor Gonou, they undergo training again, and compared to JNR’s Academy, this was way tougher.
Taking a break in the lunchroom, with Aoi being bumped out of showing a side to Naoto, they see Mari again. Haruka springs into action, moving next to Naoto to proclaim her role as number 1 girl, leading for Aoi to comment somewhat jealously that Naoto must be lucky to be surrounded by cute girls. This though brings Naoto to ask if she’s part of his harem. When the food arrives, it seems Aoi is jealous at the fact he got different vegetables than they did, though Haruka is more concerned that Mari knows Naoto better than she does.
At the shooting range, Aoi is impressed with the semiautomatic pistol she trains with, though Naoto makes a hash of it as usual. Aoi is told to teach him, and she mentions that the crew might stick together, especially if all of them receive the same advanced training, so she doesn’t want him to hold her back, so she’ll be patient with him now.
At the bath, they set up a rotation, and they comment on Shou’s constant state of hunger as due to his high amount of exercise. Noting this, Aoi talks about how Naoto needs to learn from him, preserving his stamina for crunch times, and offers to train him. Now it’s his turn to slip, and tells the two girls that he never wanted to be in the public safety squads, but be a driver.
Asking why he came to the training center, he reveals to Aoi it was because he could drive a train here, yet never said anything because Aoi looked so happy while in training. Pissed, Aoi walks off, with Haruka understandably worried about her rival in the love…quadrangle? I’m not sure if I should add Iida into this. At the bath, Naoto wonders why Aoi thinks it’d be bad to be a driver, remembering his goal to be much like the driver that had taken care of him when he had collapsed.
Getting dragged out of the bath by Haruka, he seems to have passed out, and as Haruka calls for Aoi for help, he comes to. In the worst possible time. Before she can leave, he explains that the driver had saved him and he wants to be like him before passing out. Regardless though, Aoi doesn’t stick around for this, and the next day, still gives him the cold shoulder.
This comes at a head when the group is tasked with driving a train up a 66.7% gradient. With Naoto up in the front pulling car and Aoi in the rear pusher car, they basically have a lover’s quarrel in which their disagreements cause a derailment inside a tunnel. While it was simulated, they effectively fail the section. Naoto confides in Mari saying if he’s fit enough to be a public safety, though Mari encourages him. In his dorm after her shift, she does say he was cool in his uniform. Haruka then tells Naoto that training is cancelled for the next day, no doubt due to their abysmal performance. Mari suggests a day off, and Haruka tells Naoto to be the one to invite Aoi out.
At first hesitant, he sees a note stuck into his bedroom door with Aoi’s note with the simple ‘sorry’, and finally sends the text. The next day, everyone but Aoi shows up, and they get a phone call form Iida, informing them that Naoto need to pick up a very important person.
Going to a nearby chapel, he meets Aoi there, who is strangely in a cute dress. It seems like she too was asked to come, and Haruka comes in her eyes in tears, not knowing they’ve been set up, and lo and behold, a new challenger appears in the form of the idol, Noa, from a few episodes back.
Well, not the Shou-centric episode I wanted, but things seem to be heading towards a head relationship wise. The rather open and frank way Naoto made his ‘aren’t you part of my harem’ statement to Aoi is funny, though at this point, Mari seems to be playing the childhood friend supportive type. A route I hope she knows is hard and has me thinking of Rihoko Sakurai from Amagami’s anime. Friendzoned forever.
Haruka seems to be more direct in this episode, especially at the church, and Iida is playing the ever chaotic behind the scenes cupid. The main paring of course will forever be Aoi and Naoto, Aoi seems to have thawed significantly in this episode, and it’s nice. Unfortunately again, I wanted an episode that was featuring Shou. All we know about him is he is super athletic and with a high metabolism to boot. Why did he join JNR? What were his motivations? Or did he just join because JNR has amazing menus?
It’s a character I hope gets some more screen time rather than the whole “hey here’s a guy we need to complete the set” kind of deal. But I highly doubt that.
Speaking of motivations, we see why Naoto wanted to be a driver, although I doubt Aoi heard it, having left no doubt when he was explaining it, but who knows. Haruka at least knows she has rivals, her most immediate is of course Aoi, Mari knows him more, and then there is the star power that is Noa.
I know a lot of people are putting this series down, the jabs at Rail Wars! with the “what I expected -> what I got” memes about this anime pops up on my Facebook feed at least once every week. But I’ve seen it past that now. It’s starting to be an interesting romantic series. It’s not the greatest, but the character romances are definitely alright.
What I’ve noticed in anime is that some series have some problems with balance between character and plot. Some will ramrod a plot, and it’d be the most amazing setting and fictional history and whatnot. But the characters become a little 2 dimensional, and then the same. Amazing characters with a background that could be done better or a plot that can be better explored.
I guess I’m really asking a lot from a series that is really very niche, and is currently suffering from a confused pacing issue. I’m not sure if it is a pacing issue, or if this is how the manga is going. I do see how the various incidents are connected, due to the nature of my job, but I guess for the average anime viewer, it’s a meh point. It’s certainly not like one of the big names this season (apart from being ridiculed by bloggers), but eh, I’m enjoying Rail Wars!, even if they do play up the fanservice a lot.