March is approaching, and on the US calendar, that means Women’s History Month is coming. This year, I will be celebrating with something feminist-related and anime-related, which I will discuss further on another post some time this week.
In the meantime, I need to address some kind of opposition to the things I will be talking about because of the plans I’m making. Having said that, today I will be reviewing a series that is more about fan service than about trains!
Rail Wars puts us in an alternate present day where Japan’s national rail system had not been privatized. Our protagonist, Naoto Takayama, joins the rail security in-training K-4 squad, despite wanting to be an engineer. The rambunctious group of soon-to-be-adults security team works together to be good rail security guards, when a group called RJ causes all sorts of problems for them, in trying to privatize Japan’s rail system…
…or so says the description I just paraphrased with a few embellishments from MyAnimeList!
I’m sure the much needed plot can be found in the light novel series which this anime is adapted from, but what we got instead is an anime that focuses on a different kind of PLOT!
The running joke of this series is that it contains “trains,” where we find a lot of things “ramming” into the viewership for some “steamy” action that’ll blow anyone’s “smokestack,” and a lot of views of that “caboose.” Okay, I admit, I’m trying way too hard to make these innuendos, but then again, that’s just how ridiculous the animation for this series is!
While I’m sure the series potentially has a neat back-story about this alternate universe, I honestly don’t find very much of it here. If it is there, it’s hidden deep within exaggerated character interactions and references to all the perverted unmentionables. The series is riddled with references to something sexually explicit or implied; and while there are maybe two guys in the entire series we should care about, there are plenty of girls to go around to ogle over instead!
Don’t get me wrong. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy this series for myself. In its entirety, the series is so ridiculous, I was trying to find out if this anime could possibly get any worse! As a reviewer, I do also tend to watch AND complete things that not only may be of interest, but also of critique. You can’t appreciate the good without having a glimpse of the bad, right?
And besides, my inner masochist kind of likes girls in power like Aoi Sakurai, who beautifully demonstrates the (reverse) “Kabe Don,” or wall slam, before our central protagonist!
But despite the male heterosexual mindset that’s being entertained here, I must also stress that this show is not particularly kind to its female subjects. There is a common notion that “feminism” assumes a dominance of women in positions of power, displacing men as the rulers of society and aggressively fight their way to the top in competition with other males. That’s fine and all, but that doesn’t point out the very platform that the majority of feminists will support. Besides, this view would also mean that dominatrices such as some of the women in this series are somehow liberated from their sexual objectification, which clearly they are not! In fact, it is the idea of depicting these dominating women as sex objects that reinforces the patriarchal dominance of men, where even women in positions of power can be exploited for male pleasure. And anyone that argues that this is only fiction fails to understand that stories and art are reflections or critiques of some of the things our society values.
Besides, our main character Naoto Takayama may very well be a prime example of misogyny in the flesh. He seems to have more interest in trains than with the girls trying to flaunt their sexuality before him. Anyone who seems to be getting that much sexual attention without a care must really not see women as people, but as some obstacle or object in the way.
Not that all instances of “dominating women” should be viewed in this light, nor is it true that no woman can get some kind of empowerment from girls like the rail security agents in this series. If there was more development to be found in characters like our two main female protagonists, I could find a strong Aoi Sakurai and an intelligent Haruka Koumi to be very inspiring. There are certainly better instances where such characters can be found, but they are in other anime. Unfortunately for this series, the characters appear to be very one-dimensional and not very compelling to guide us through the story rather than to give the audience a lot of fan service.
On the other hand, there is one character that I did actually like while watching this; and that is our second male lead, Shou Iwaizumi.
In any “harem” series where a central male character is surrounded by a bunch of female characters, Iwaizumi falls under the “best friend” archetype. Like the central character, he is also male; but despite doing amazing things for the protagonist, he often goes completely unnoticed or ignored! But even so, Iwaizumi continues to do what he does best: being a bad ass and starving for attention because of it. Say what you will about the absurdity of his character; Iwaizumi’s the man!
So if you’re looking for a series devoted more to its fan service than to its actual story, check out Rail Wars. And while this is probably not a very good review to do the series justice, don’t worry. There will be plenty of time for me to talk about stuff that actually does empower girls and women!