Train to the End of the World – Episode 1

By: Vrai Kaiser April 2, 20240 Comments
three girls in front of a wall with bloody handprints

What’s it about? Two years ago, the implementation of the 7G network had a warping effect on Japan:  deforming the landscape; tanking most technology; and causing human beings to turn into plants, animals, and other bizarre things. It was also when Shizuru’s dear friend Yoka went missing, but Shizuru refuses to give up the search. When a clue finally surfaces, Shizuru doesn’t hesitate to commandeer a lone functioning train car—fortunately, she has friends along for the ride.

This is an anime-original project written by Yokote Michiko.

With this one sentence, a non-insignificant number of you will be able to make up your minds about whether to check out this premiere. Yokote is an absolute legend in the world of series composers, with an ear for snappy dialogue and a fantastic run of stories about well-written women. She’s probably best known for her original work (Princess Tutu, SHIROBAKO, and the underrated Cute High Earth Defense Force LOVE), though her lengthy resumé also includes some excellent adaptations. Not all of her shows stick the landing, but her scripts are unfailingly tight and high energy. If a premise has anything like promise, she’ll be a solid shepherd for it.

Shizuru and Yuka reaching toward each other
You know what to do

She’s also teamed up with frequent collaborator Mizushima Tsutomu. Their last project together, The Magnificent KOTOBUKI, ended up falling apart somewhat due to an unwieldy number of characters and storytelling ambitions that outstripped the limitations of its CG visuals, but the framing for Train Girls seems to have learned from that limitation. The visuals here are primarily 2D, with some admittedly pretty awkward CGI for the train (aside from the control panel, which looks traced in its comparative level of high-detail). It’s not robustly animated but its surreal moments have an appealing bombast, creating a world I was eager to poke around in alongside the leads.

The amount of time spent on worldbuilding means Shizuru is the only really developed character of this first episode. As of now, the other three are sort of single-trait archetypes: Reimi is a teasing gyaru who squabbles with deadpan Akira, and Nadeshiko is the team mom who keeps them on track. That’s not a bad thing, as there’s plenty of time for the show to examine and upset that status quo, but it does mean that the primary appeal of this first episode is vibes. And they’re good ones.

The casual post-apocalypse is a very particular mood, especially now that everyone is painfully aware of how humans can learn to adapt to life-changing stress. After an inciting opener, we come back to a village that’s already cobbled together a new normalcy. Yeah, the old man down the street’s a bear now, but it’s fine as long as he doesn’t get one of his blood thirsts. We still play shogi on Thursdays.

the conductor and Shizuru at the console. sbutitle: "I can't go with you...because reasons...but it looks like you'll be just fine."
Girls-only train car, y’know

Despite a brief bit of awkward writing that results in the new status quo being related twice—once through dialogue and once almost verbatim through Shizuru’s inner monologue—it’s the kind of deliberate nonchalance that’s perfect for weird fiction, and for a travelogue. Mizushima does have quite a few horror titles in his back catalog of varying quality, from Final Destination-esque, genuinely-quite-good-til-the-finale Another to magnificent 12-episode shitpost The Lost Village. I’ve got my fingers crossed for spookiness, so long as that awkward CG doesn’t get in the way.

Just like Kino or Yuuri and Chito, these girls are set up to be drifters through strange lands, the perfect set-up for episodic stories that can really play with the elastic rules of this universe. It’s also hard not to draw comparisons to a certain famous train journey in Japanese literature, though I don’t want to get my hopes too unreasonably high or saddle the premise with intentions it doesn’t have (not every show has to be Sonny Boy, much as I’d enjoy it). Right now, it has a good grasp on how to space out its loudest, wackiest moments with quieter character scenes and eerie bits of background detail that go unremarked on.

Even if the pieces are still disparate, I’m 100% here to spend a season watching these nice girls try to track down Shizuru’s Very Good Friend. Even if it crashes, it’s the journey that’ll have counted.

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