And so we conclude this short story arc with a little of character interactions, the touch-and-go shipping of Bernina and Naoto, and some more Aoi x Naoto.
Hiding the prince/princess in a room, their assaulter manages to barge in. Taking a hit for Naoto, Aoi manages to kick him away before Shou arrives in the nick of time before he can attack again. After all is said and done, Aoi explains that she managed to get on a faster train and with a little admonishment from Mari, they cool their heads.
Haruka calls them, only that it isn’t Haruka, but the third person in the hostage plot against Bernina. Looking for a hostage exchange but not getting one, he remarks that that just means Haruka means nothing to them, and will be in touch. Naoto berates himself as they look for clues to when/where she was attacked, only for Aoi to say it is times like these where they need or the temporary leader’s cool headed for judgment.
Conferring with Iida, she states that HQ is burying their heads in the sand and they shouldn’t be too rash, and would be joining them as well. Naoto and Aoi share some choice words, mainly with Aoi prodding him to stop despairing and to man up. Mari breaks up this spat and brings Aoi to take a shower with her while Naoto and Shou keep watch. This allows Aoi to calm down, who also warns Mari to be careful.
Stopping at the next station, no one leaves since it was just a locomotive change. Back with Bernina, Aoi and Naoto talk, with Naoto asking about Aoi and Mari. This though leads him to an idea. Swapping clothes, they get to the last stop before Sapporo, and even without reinforcements, they have to continue their VIP duties alone. Iida and other members of the local safety crew escort Bernina away (dressed in Naoto’s clothes).
Back on the train, Shou remarks that they may be great at fighting, but they’re highly disorganized, acting no more than thugs really, to which Aoi says that Shou can be observant at times. Remembering what Bernina was saying, it might be that the thugs were hired by someone further down in the succession line, and all the further cause to not hand him over.
Naoto states that his job is to keep the rails safe for passengers and to fight those who endanger them. Shou snaps him out of his reminiscing, stating he’s itching to have a go at people willing to harm and kill children, while Aoi also wants a chance to do a shoot to kill.
Leaving the next station, the transfer is agreed to, with the prince only being escorted by one female officer. They make the swap, only for the kidnapper to realize the prince is different, Aoi shoots the gun from his hand and Shou bursts into the cab where Haruka is being held in and knocks the man out with his stun baton.
The train continues to speed along, and with the controls smashed, they can’t do much to slow it down. Heading to the foremost locomotive, they are fired upon by the last kidnapper. Aoi asks where the teargas grenades are but Naoto states most trains only carry flares. He then remembers something about the model of the train, and asks Koumi where the Fusee is.
Asking Aoi to take it out, she does so with Shou acting as the decoy. The front of the train is filled with steam and she comes in and delivers a strong kick to knock him out. Making their way to the main car, they attempt everything and the train won’t slow down.
They conclude that the only course of action now is to decouple the cars away from the speeding locomotives, Aoi stays behind to help in the decoupling. With the cars separated from the locomotives, they attempt to jump only for Aoi to wince in pain, having injured herself earlier. Naoto is unable to leave her behind and the gap grows to the point they can’t jump over safely.
Back on the runaway locomotives, Aoi states he’s an idiot even though he states he was just scared to jump. Tending to her injured foot, Naoto states something like this happened before, back in the Ashio line, where they were left alone together in a predicament.
Embarrassed, Aoi asks him to stop staring, stating she isn’t that pretty, even though he thinks she is. She also asks if it brings up memories from the Usui Pass, to which he agrees. Before any more can be said, Instructor Gonou arrives in a faster locomotive train (thus revealing his rail-otaku background, more enthusiastic about the triple engines than the girl next to him).
Eventually by merging into their track, the JNR SAT’s train slows them down to a stop. Carrying her out (like a princess), everyone is reunited.
I dunno what to think about this episode. It certainly is one of those episodes where we get to see Naoto and Aoi get closer, which I imagine has been the very intention of this anime adaptation. I’ve now given up on seeing the supposed antagonists showing up. But for now, I like the little bumps and states on the relationship, the wacky situations an OJT group seems to always get itself caught in, and Naoto’s acknowledgement that he’s being chased by several girls (an idol and a princess among them) but would honestly prefer the nearly opposite tomboy that is Sakurai Aoi.
It was a pleasant surprise, even if my expectations of the show seemed, wrong at first, Rail Wars! didn’t put me off as it went on its run, but made me reevaluate why I was watching it in the first place. I know there are better romances this season, but I do like this, even if the pacing and animation quality are almost seemingly stop and go and not smooth.
With the last episode next week (or this week at time of this posting), we might get one of those so-so endings which leaves things open enough for a possible second season, but with enough closure to end a series. Hopefully.