Rail Wars! – 11

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A good action story rule of thumb is that things are always more exciting on a speeding train. A train job is more exciting than a bank job; a bank train job would be the ultimate. Heck, a train shower is better than a shower in some lame stationary structure. Rail Wars! instinctively understands and capitalizes on this fact in its penultimate episode.

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Like the draisine miniarc, the characters are almost constantly on a speeding train here, which lends a lot more adrenaline and momentum. Prince Bernina doesn’t take up a lot of time here, as she’s whisked off to safety by Iida after D4 successfully fends off the thugs and captures two of them in a team effort (and thanks to that really weak taser). With the guest star out of the way, we can focus on the regulars; a focus I favor, especially so close to the end of the run.

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When the other thugs take Haruka hostage and tell them they’ll exchange her for the prince, Naoto dresses up as the prince. It’s a gambit that doesn’t work a moment longer than it needs to for D4’s heavies—Aoi and Shou—to do what they do. It gets a bit hairy, but in the end the bad guys are vanquished and Haruka is safe and sound. Unfortunately, the train’s controls are also vanquished, thanks to all the gunfire.

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That’s what’s so great about employing trains in an action scenario: it ain’t over till the train is successfully stopped. Naoto does the brave thing: deciding to disconnect the engines so the cars behind will slow and eventually stop on their own. Not wanting him to steal all the glory, Aoi stays with him to decouple, but she later reveals the shootout left her wounded. But when Naoto has his chance to jump off, he stays right there with Aoi.

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He says it’s because he was scared, but let’s be real: he’s not the kind of person to save himself and leave someone behind, especially Aoi. He tenderly dresses her wound, and catches her in his arms when the track turns, and for maybe the first time, Aoi looks like she’s finally going to confess. Hey, if they’re about to die, why not?

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Alas, the cavalry interrupts their lovey-dovey moment, but what a cavalry: three DF51s in tandem going down the up line! RW has had a huge wealth of equipment to work with throughout its run, and has always been adept at breaking out the big toys when the situation warrants it. Fittingly, the episode ends with Naoto, looking every bit the shining prince, gallantly carrying Aoi off the train, to reunite with their colleagues.

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Rail Wars! – 10

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After D4’s biggest challenge yet, there’s no rest for the weary, as we go straight into the next mission, which is just as well, as there are only two more episodes left after this one. Naoto & Co. are charged with protecting Prince Bernina, fifth in line for the throne of Atela, as his highness travels in style aboard the Hakutosai to Sapporo for a sister city ceremony. “I thought broads loved this royalty shit!” C’mon, Naoto, don’t you know Aoi? She’s a knight.

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Why Bernina is putting his faith in JNR public safety trainees rather than having his own entourage of highly-skilled royal guards is never explained, but whatevs. Also, we know D4 is more than capable. For his part, Bernie’s is your typical delicate blonde European type, but rather than be an entitled little snot, he’s quite nice and down-to-earth, and really into trains, just like Naoto. I can’t blame him; that Hakutosai looks like fantastic way to travel.

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Unfortunately, Aoi misses the train because she’s chasing someone, intent not just on protecting the prince because its her duty, but protecting Naoto because she looooves him (we can assume). Her blank expression as a wordless response to Naoto’s comment that “anyone she seduces is in for a lot of pain” is more evidence, as if we needed any. Naoto’s kinda got a big mouth this week; he also kinda tells a shorter-skirted (for mobility) Haruka she only has to be bait.

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Shuu can’t hold off two would-be baddies going after the prince, and one of them shocks Naoto repeatedly with a taser, which seems to be set to “tickle.” Even if Aoi’s training involved building up Naoto’s pain threshold, he seems to take a ridiculous amount of shocks. That stalls the baddie long enough for Aoi to swoop in and clean up. We missed Aoi, but her absence for most of the episode gave her surprise arrival more heft. The first threats to Prince Bernie’s life have been neutralized, but there will surely be more as this story continues next week.

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The central twist, which wasn’t all that surprising, is that the prince is actually a princess, a secret known only to the royal family…and Naoto, who busts in on her when he hears her fall in the shower. I chuckled at Naoto’s strategic placement of his head and arms when he made this realization, but it remains to be seen if there’s a connection between her secret femininity and the baddies after her. For now, we’ll rate this as Aoi rated Naoto’s performance: “Not bad.”

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