September has been a busy month for me in terms of the anime I have watched. I finally had the cash to let me to renew my crunchy roll subscription, which is a service I do enjoy having since it helps me stay current with the most recent anime while supporting the industry. Since I did consume a lot of series this season, and I just started this blog back up, I am going to do a few posts with a crowded backfield.
I’m going to start out on the light side for the most part and focus on the two comedy animes I curiously stumbled upon during my battle against insomnia. As always, I focus more on the storyline and characters than the aesthetics.
MyAnimeList – Wikipedia
I didn’t expect much from this show. I just threw the show on, expecting to only to be able to stomach a few episodes. However, as a result, this show was surprise. This is definitely hit or miss series, where I can see why some people might detest the series while others can find some solid enjoyment. I feel like Rail Wars is one of the few shows that managed to put out a solid showings in the harem genre. Mind you, only a few harem animes have ever been above average, and Rail Wars come close to joining the crop but falls just a sly short. I see this show more as an action comedy with harem dynamics and some ecchi moments.
While clichés are abundant in this show, quite often the show transcends those clichés and puts a unique spin. I feel as if the main characters were well-balanced, with the strengths in how the leads were developed. Naoto Takayama is cut from the nice guy cloth like so many before him. What sets him apart is his obsession with trains and doing good. Perhaps he resonates with me because he is working railway security instead of being a train engineer, but still works hard in a place he had to settle for. I think what makes Takayama better than your run in the mill protagonist is his moments of bravery. The moments he steps up feel natural, I find unlike with all the wimps in the crowded genre, Takayama pulls off the reliable, heroic stand. Another strong point of the cast is Aoi Sakurai. I’m not typically overly fond of the tsundere slot, finding that most often the characterization that accompanies comes heavy-handed. Sakurai is an example of how a character can overcomie the niche she is assigned while perfectly working the role assigned. She has her bitch moments, but the character does enough that shows she’s a good, diligent, convicted person. I think the chemisty and the further development between Takyama and Sakurai is a highlight of the show; the friendship showcases exactly how two strong-willed friends interact and the romantic undertones makes the scenes they share enjoyable.
On this note, I want to look at another two characters. Haruka Koumi is smart yet clumsy, busty girl who seems to be depicted an ideal girl. Yes, I’ve seen this character before. Oh, her past connection to Takayama is fairly cliché as well. Once again we see a character in this genre whose seems to want the protagonist to recall one single incident from their past. However, unlike a lot of times when I see this same exact set-up, it’s not run down our throats. It’s used a mild seasoning, and didn’t over salt the meat. Same case falls with Mari Sasshou. The set up is a childhood friend, but instead of instantly instituting that romance must occur, the show kept Sasshou as a supporting character and simply a friend. The only cliché that didn’t seem evolve is that of the lovable idiot in Iwaizumi. However, not only was I happy that was another male constantly in attendance, he serves his role as comedic relief and source of positivity for the group.
I felt like the plot did enough work to keep things from stagnating. The constant movement prevented us to witness the same scenes over and over in someone’s living room or simply in a class room. The plot incited growth in the characters and bonding between each other. The plot sticks to the premise established, a show about railway security should have them doing some romanticized railway security stuff that you would expect from cop dramas. When all of your main characters are a team, you expect to see them work as team to overcome the obstacles. The show did just that.
I understand there is always going to be fan service, and there is always going to be fan service in this genre. It’s a staple of harem comedy. I am used to it, basically desensitized if you will. So I’m not going to complain about the presence of fan service, I’m going to complain about the execution of said fan service. Throughout the entire show, the ecchi moments seems like a half-hearted gesture to appease some of the target audience. I’m not saying they’re blatantly throwing around panty shots and upskirt looks like some anime. I find that they have a scene here or there, out of the blue, that shows fan service. This lackluster fan service remains of a recent concert I attended. The vocalist had some obscenity in his lyrics. Kick ass. However, every time he had to drop the f-bomb, he would shy away from the microphone and cut his volume in half. If you are going to shy away from the act, then don’t bother with the act in the first place. I’m not big on fan service, but if you’re going to include ecchi moments or whatever, at least do it with some conviction like Highschool of the Dead (which is a series I praised for having majority of the ridiculous amounts of the fan service incorporated in the action scenes or at least continuing on with the plot).
The animation style is par for the course as I didn’t walk away thinking recalling the animation to be particularly good. The comedic moments are there, but there isn’t a consistent amount of laughter for me to suggest this show on comical value alone.
If you like trains, want a little bit of action and comedy with a tad seasoning of drama, then I would suggest giving Rail Wars a chance. Other entries into the genre should take some notes from this pleasant surprise. Rail Wars avoids some of the major pitfalls in the genre, by preventing the plot from stagnating and by have a few strong characters that surpass their harem archetypes. Overall, the show isn’t incredible, it’s decent at its ugliest moments and fairly good at its best.
Score: 6/10 – Above Average
AKA Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?
MyAnimeList – Wikipedia
Like Rail Wars!, Invaders of Rokujyōma shares an exclamation point in its title. And like Rail Wars is a show that I picked up late one night, trying to conquer my restlessness with some mindless dribble. I find this show is your prototypical harem comedy with one major difference, the premise is perfect to be utilized as the set-up for a Harem anime. At the root of the show, the series is all about fun and I find at time fun is all that you really need in this genre. While this is not a perfect harem comedy by any means, it’s a decent show. The strong start didn’t lead to an exactly strong finish, but the several bright spots saved this show.
As I mentioned before, the premise is what initially hooked me onto this series. One of my pet peeves with the harem genre in general has to do with commonly flawed premises that quite often there is no reason why A) majority of the girls are involved with the story or the protagonist and B) the premise does create a conflict for the plot shape around. Invaders of the Rokujyōma has a premise that addresses those crucial needs in a plot. Why are the girls there? Because they all want Koutarou’s apartment. Where the conflict? Damn it, it’s his apartment. So the protagonist is dealing with invaders of every supernatural archetype, and therein lies your conflict to fuel future plots and character interactions. They don’t leave because there’s something else at sake than just hurt feelings. Is it the premise far-fetched? Yes, but this is a comedy and the promise it delivers from the let-go to the viewers, that this is all about fun.
Another gem in this show is the presence of a love interest in Harumi Sakuraba. While Harumi is typically rendered a supporting cast member, her presence in the terms of the setting is nice. She appears to be the one true leader the crowded field known as Koutarou’s romantic life, but there is a certain sense of loyalty and chemistry between Koutarou and Sakuraba that grounds the set-up. For the most part, this show is about fun and friendship between the would be invaders, with the question of who does Koutarou love early established, this is much more about friendship and fun. I like how they remained committed to keeping that relationship strong while most the rest of the relationships are delegated to the friend-zone, for better or for worse. Sure there is some romantic feelings floating around towards Koutarou, but several potential sparks turn into the foundation for friendship between Koutarou and members of his harem.
At the end of the day, I must admit that Yurika “Princess of Love and Courage, Magical Girl Rainbow Yurika, Cosplay Shoujo” Nijino is the bright spot on Koutarou’s roster. She probably is involved with the show’s best running joke: after all she is a magical girl that everyone confuses for simply some girl obsessed with cosplay. In this joke however she garners some sympathy for the fact she often finds herself as the unsung hero. But at the very least, there is some comedy behind those magical sparking tears of disappointment and desolation.
As the show dragged on, the focus on the premise deteriorates and lost. In the beginning, they were holding contests and playing games to determine who wins the apartment. By the end, the ongoing competition is severely neglected. I understand the plot calls for everyone becoming friends and amicable. However, you cannot just ignore the foundation you built up. I thought there was a lot more potential in continuing the contention between the characters that was simply left to whither away to almost nothingness. And I didn’t expect there to be dramatic, survivoresque backstabbing and pettiness involved, but situations that the competition could be fun and instill growth in the character and their relationships. I guess the bottom line, it feels slightly cheap to start out in one direction and then cop-out. But at least the other stretches of the storyline did serve to further establish the characters and build upon itself. Just thought this could be addressed better than a subtle, anti-climatic emergence of a barney and friends situation.
Maybe I’m just Stonewall Jackson, but I didn’t find myself laughing all too often. For a harem, there were a few moments of comedy, but for the most part I didn’t feel much. I did like the few running jokes here and there as mentioned before, but overall, I didn’t overly think this was an incredibly funny anime. At times the show garner a chuckle, but at the end of the day, I only experienced a burst of laughter on occasion.
I thought the protagonist was fairly bland. I didn’t enjoy the random power he possess, which was never truly explain even though we have been given hints. While I understand the creation of mystery to further the intrigue, a great plot device if used correctly, I didn’t really enjoy not finding out an explanation. I thought for a moment there was a glimmer of hope in the final episode, but in the end, the show like many other harems fail to commit. The ending isn’t really much of an ending. They seem to drop the hint they hope to be picked up for another season. That isn’t anything new to this genre. At least there is some character growth for Koutarou at the end despite bearing any resemblance of a resolution.
This is harem anime that is slightly better than the rest. While the show seems to forget the premise, it remembers that comedy is about fun. If you are a fan of the genre, I totally will suggest this series. The show covers all its bases. Unlike Rail Wars! I don’t think this is a hit or miss for people. I think this comes down whether or not harem anime is your cup of tear.
Score: 6.5/10 – Above Average