The "dream railway paradise entertainment" story is set in a parallel world where Japan did not privatize its national railways.
I’ll admit I only got through the first sentence of Rail Wars!description before passing judgement on it. I decided to watch it primarily on the strength of illustrator Vania 600’s character designs but without knowing much else. The alternate reality and mention of privatisation of the railways evoked images of different government departments duking it out on trains - it had “wars” in the title after all. As is my brain is wont to do, it pattern-matched this idea to what I’d heard about Toshokan Sensou (Library War) which had a similarly ridiculous sounding premise of library backed paramilitary groups battling with government censorship groups.
he is now part of the thrilling and sexy world of trains
Having not previously seen Toshokan Sensou, I decided to watch the two series in parallel, fully expecting to be equal parts amused and baffled by the surreal alternate histories but otherwise underwhelmed. What I didn’t expect was for Toshokan Sensou to be so serious, and for Rail Wars! to be quite so pants-on-head dumb.
There’s a principle in writing drama coined by Anton Chekhov called simply “Chekhov’s Gun”. It’s a straightforward idea with the spirit of it being “don’t include anything unnecessary”; a lot of anime do it anyway as either a hangover from their manga or light novel source material, as a way to entice viewers further than the first episode, or as a misguided attempt to construct a foundation for additional instalments. If that’s Chekhov’s gun, then Seikoku no Dragonar (Dragonar Academy) is Chekhov’s arsenal. It’s frankly staggering how such a multitude of bits of back story and character development are shown but then never utilised again.
evil schemes so laughably ineffective that all they achieved were minor property damage
Daughter of Avalon? Nope. Silvia and Ash’s history together? Nope. Arranged marriage? Nope. Morally ambiguous teacher? Nope. The list goes on and on until by the end you could make a doily out of all of the plot threads that are left hanging. What you do get in Dragonar then is a whole lot of things you’ve seen before but forced together like ill fitting jigsaw pieces. You’ve got the precocious and pink-haired loli from Zero no Tsukaima, the improbable harem of Infinite Stratos and the throw-away fantasy leanings of too many series to name.
Just try all the keys in the bloody pendant. I don’t care whether it’s a metaphor for sex anymore or who out of the numerous girls you made the promise to when you were a toddler, this kind of tomfoolery has gone on long enough. Based on a lot of anime, Nisekoi (False Love) especially, if I ever have children I will impress upon them the perils of making promises to childhood friends because from the evidence, all it causes is trauma further down the line.
Nisekoi’s initial hook is standard “only in anime” fare: the son of a Yakuza boss, Raku, is forced to pretend he’s romantically involved with the daughter, Chitoge, of another gang boss. The two obviously fight like cats and dogs yet must maintain the facade of a couple in love lest hostilities between the two criminal enterprises escalate into a full on street war. I say “initial” hook because although that’s all covered in the first episode, the storyline the series is more interested in telling is about the promise Raku made with an unknown girl when he was younger, a girl who holds the literal key to his figurative heart / literal pendant.
I have this silly rule that when I create a folder for an anime (in an imaginatively titled “Watching” parent folder) I have to watch it to completion. This is why, eventually, I’ll have to finish Samurai Flamenco but is also why I recently powered through Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Bride, the sequel to Samurai Girls. The folder itself was created when the series was first airing in April 2013, and even now I have no idea why given that I’d abandoned that first series when it became readily apparent that it was by some margin, an objectively worse series than Queen’s Blade. And that’s saying quite a bit.
We’ve run out of samurai outfits, why not just put a pirate in there? Why the hell not.
The comparison is expected because both series opt for the “we don’t have much story, let’s throw a whole load of nudity on screen instead” school of thought. Unlike Queen’s Blade though which tempered it’s theatre of flesh with some half-way decent characters, Hyakka is populated unlikable twits. Sure for the former you got utter cretins like Nanael (voiced by Aya Hirano, no comment on the connection) but others like Tomoe and Leina almost made you forget you were watching a series that was spawned from lascivious gamebooks. Hyakka has none of these illusions and presents you with a cast of characters that have all of the charm, wit and pathos of a group of over-sugared four year olds.
How many other males does the protagonist of Strike the Blood know? Two. And females? More or less all of them. This is about as nuts-and-bolts basic as you can get for a premise: bland teenager is gifted extreme supernatural powers and proceeds to play “Gotta catch ‘em all” with the young ladies in his life. Spear wielding overseer? Check, comes free with sword wielding friend. Goth loli teacher? Check. Childhood friend and uber hacker? Check. Superpowered little sister? Check; and the list goes on. And of course the context for all of these females orbiting him? He must feed on them - oh right he’s a vampire - to unlock his magical familiars.
oh you walked in on her undressing again? you scamp!
Feel free to play “spot the jugular vein” during the opening few episodes because with almost every new female introduced, a key to unlock a new glowing critter for perpetual hoodie wearer Kojou is revealed. And of course given the setup, all of the ladies emit supremely suggestive noises and flush the brightest of reds when he begins to chow down on their necks. Yes it’s primitive but, apart from a few absurdlyquestionablescenes, it works thanks primarily to a refreshing lack of pretension and a handful of good natured character relationships.