Tuesday’s Top 5: Trains and Train Sequences in Anime

Tuesday's Top 5

I love a good train sequence and I know I’m not alone. There’s a reason why it is a staple of action movies and dramas alike. Trains can let the cast sit back and have those poignant conversations to catch the audience up on details and ensure that the characters can’t escape midway through, they allow for some thrilling cat and mouse, and mostly they allow for an escalated sense of drama because until they get to the next station you aren’t getting off. At least not without a few bumps and scrapes. There’s just something really fun about trains and they serve so many purposes in stories outside of just getting the characters from point A to point B.

Below are some of my favourite train sequences. When I thought of this list my main consideration was how memorable the train or train sequence was within the anime. I’d love to know your favourites so leave a comment below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mention: Full Metal Alchemist – It is amazing how much exposition takes place while the characters are on the various trains travelling around the country.

Number 5: Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail - Natsu Sick on Train.jpg

Okay, the train in Fairy Tail has a number of purposes. Firstly it does just get the cast from point A to B. It also allows for some bonding between team members. It’s also one of the many sources of the ongoing joke that Natsu gets motion sick. And, because it is Fairy Tail, the train and the train tracks are also the sight of a fairly intense battle sequence. Or it would have been fairly intense if the battles that came after it hadn’t completely eclipsed it. At the time when you watch it, the battle seems like a big deal. Whichever way, the train and the fight were well remembered even though its been quite awhile since I put Fairy Tail on hold and I need to get back and finish watching it at some point.

Number 4: Chuunibyou

Chuunibyou - Train.gif

Love and Other Delusions indeed, but the scene that stands out to me more so than any other save the climax of season one is the scene where Yuuta watches Rikku do her thing and stares in amazement as the train door opens and she struts on, before realising he neglected to get on and he is now late for school. It’s a classic moment and one that really defines the relationship the two characters will carry on with for the better half of season one. So while technically not on a train, when thinking of train scenes, this one immediately came to mind.

Number 3: Spirited Away

Spirited Away Train.gif

A rare entry from an anime movie on one of my lists. I’m not the biggest fan of Spirited Away, it’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t really stick. And yet, for some reason the train scene does. It isn’t even a major point in the story as it really is just a visually pretty interlude as we move from one setting to another and stretch out the run time of a story with some striking scenery. However, it did serve its purpose and it is quite an iconic sequence.

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Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

Izetta - Train.gif

As much as I ended up not enjoying Izetta very much as a whole, the train sequence from episode 1 was pretty brilliant. It was exciting, it got me hyped for the setting and time period of this anime, and it was actually the highlight of the entire series. Too bad it peaked in episode 1. But, it does make this train sequence one that it worth remembering because it did exactly what it needed to in grabbing the audiences’ attention.

Number 1: Baccano

Baccano Train.gif

Could there ever have been a different choice for this list? The Flying Pussyfoot is legendary and this train dominates as the setting of the most memorable of the interwoven stories in the series. So many characters have converged in a confined space with their own backstories and motives. There will be laughs, mis-understandings, and blood. So much blood before this train ride is completed. Definitely a train ride to remember even if it does take the better part of a season to see the entirety of it.

Again, this was my list, but I’d love to know your picks below.

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Karandi James
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Tuesdays Top 5: Disappointments from 2016

Tuesday's Top 5

Having covered some of the best from 2016 I kind of felt I should look at the shows that weren’t necessarily bad but ended up being disappointing before I move on to non-2016 specific lists. Actually, this was probably the hardest list to write because there were just so many shows that had so much potential and they just never delivered. My selection criteria this week was that the show still had to be functional as a show (so probably not one of my worst of the year shows) but due to execution it just hasn’t pulled off what it might have aspired to be. Some of these shows are actually pretty good as they are, but they had the potential to be better. Obviously this is a highly subjective list so feel free to list your disappointments in the comments below.

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: Trickster, 91 Days and Joker Game.

Number 5: Food Wars Season 2

Okay, I already know some people are going to dislike this choice but honestly I found this second season a severe let down. Individual moments in season 2 still capture some of the fun energy of season 1 but the competition just drags on and on and to be honest I’m just not that interested in watching continuous cook offs with some of my least favourite characters from the show. It would have been great to spend more time with the support cast and more time just having character moments rather than watching an endless array of food preparation (which I know is a petty complaint given it is a show about cooking).

Number 4: The Morose Mononokean

I’ll admit, my disappointment with this show was entirely my fault. Right from the start it reminded me of Natsume but never quite captured the magic Natsume had and the comparison didn’t do this show any favours. Going forward though this show didn’t really manage to create its own identity and seemed content with being watchable rather than ever really striving for more. Key moments of tension were deliberately wasted and the characters never really got fleshed out beyond a few hints that there were other stories to be told. All and all, this show has a cool premise, is really pretty, is perfectly pleasant and watchable but is equally pretty forgettable.

Number 3: Flip Flappers

I’m surprised as well that this is only number 3 but I guess the reason this didn’t disappoint me more on reflection is because I kind of predicted from the start that unless this show managed to pull everything together it was kind of going to be pretty but not a lot else. When that ultimately happened I was still disappointed but not surprised. Flip Flappers, the early episodes, is fun, energetic and visually stunning. Unfortunately, eventually they have to try to explain why anything is happening and then they feel the need to introduce an antagonist who serves no real purpose and seems to undermine a lot of what they had built in the series. While there are definitely worse shows out there, the way this ends I just don’t see the point in watching it.

Number 2: Izetta: The Last Witch

This one took me by surprise. I really expected this to be one of the shows I would recommend from 2016 after the first 2 episodes. Unfortunately from that point forward the show continued to slide into deep mediocrity. It wouldn’t be fair to say it actually becomes bad because if you compare it to something like Big Order or Taboo Tattoo, Izetta works as a narrative, is visually appealing, and has a range of semi-interesting characters who mostly serve their function. My disappointment again comes from my own expectations on the show but these were built by the first two episodes. It promised one thing and then stripped that away and gave us a watered down version of it. Also, I really didn’t like the introduced antagonist late in the series (so it has that in common with Flip Flappers).

Number 1: Kiznaiver

I really, really wanted to like Kiznaiver. A medical experiment on students to force them to share each others’ pain sounded like a great premise for a story. And there are some really good moments in Kiznaiver but the overall narrative kind of devolves into we should all make friends kind of thing and the experiment itself is mostly nonsense and serves no real purpose. Again, this anime is perfectly watchable and some people really enjoyed it, but I just kept wanting more from it than it was willing to give and so I finished this series deeply disappointed.

Those are my 5 biggest disappointments from 2016.


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Izetta: The Last Witch Series Review

Overview:

In a world torn apart by totally not WW2, soon to be Archduchess of a small European nation Fine travels to find allies for her country against Germania but instead finds an old friend of hers who happens to be a witch. I reviewed this week to week here.

Review:

Here’s the thing, after episode 1 I genuinely expected Izetta to be one of my must watch shows for the season. The first episode was dramatic, interesting, tiny bit of fan service but mostly a spunky young girl in a horrible situation and then we threw some magic in because who doesn’t want a world war with magic in it. It was perfect. Or at least as close as you expect from a first episode of an anime really.

So imagine by disappointment when by episode 4 any sense of tension or drama and been leached out of this flat story about a witch and her friend playing at war (and dress up and politics). Izetta has a fantastic setting and a great premise that it utterly fails to utilise to create anything of note.

Midway through a character is sacrificed. He’s kind of shown up a couple of times. He’s sweet. He’s loyal. He conveniently overhears something he shouldn’t, hints this to a friend who turns out to be a spy, is attacked by said spy, saved by his own people and then mercilessly shot through the head to preserve a secret that is found out less than two episodes later anyway. Sure it makes us realise lives are lost during a war and it paints a bleak picture but the execution (no pun intended) is dreadful.

We don’t care enough about this character for this to have that kind of desired impact. He’s a background, face of the common soldier kind of character who raises that many death flags for himself you are just wondering who will pull the trigger and when. The way in which he ‘overhears’ the conversation is the usual contrived nonsense that is really just plot convenience and his blurting this out to the one spy in his unit is ridiculous. Yep, he’s naive but he isn’t painted as a moron so why? The shooting itself is pretty dramatic. We get a nice lingering show of his face as he realises what is about to happen and that’s probably the most affective moment of this sequence. And as a positive, they use this later in the final episode where his killer faces another soldier who he sees with the same face. Then the aftermath of this drama is entirely washed under the bridge and we move on because there are more important things than actually building an emotional connection apparently.

Actually, my biggest issue isn’t the wasted potential of every possible dramatic moment but the introduction of Sophie. Seriously? Let’s just throw a clone of another witch at Izetta and they can fling things at each other while screaming about their personal philosophies. That will be fascinating. Not.

izetta10

Pretty much from the minute Sophie arrives the story falls apart. No more care for the soldiers, the spies, the alliances, the technological differences, or anything else. Just two overpowered juggernauts having at it while a few of the other characters scramble around trying to maintain relevance. It’s all just very trite. Plus, Sophie is a crazy lady with nothing but revenge on her mind so even if they wanted to go this way, she doesn’t carry her weight in the story. She’s boring and predictable.

Okay, positives. It is pretty. Very pretty. Good music. Some great action pieces scattered throughout. It just could have been better so while what is here isn’t broken you’ll just feel cheated of the better story you could have had.

Recommendation is to watch if you watch more or less anything or are just mildly curious but I’m not going to seriously recommend this to anyone is you haven’t watched it yet. Let it disappear into the vast vat of forgotten mediocre series.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 12

Review:

I’ll give Izetta this, it at least resolves. It may be rushed, the final villain nonsensical, and the final battle may be completely boring to watch but I can’t argue that the story did not finish. I’m annoyed that they seemed unable to commit to Izetta actually sacrificing herself. I’m also annoyed that essentially they allowed the war to end exactly the way the real world war ended rather than allowing the magical sacrifice play a significant role (what is the point of alternative history that isn’t). However, I kind of liked Sieg’s fate as I felt it made that earlier death slightly more meaningful.

Come on, Sophie was throwing trains and they broke the Eiffel Tower for no reason other that because the could. That fight was over-extended rubbish full of action set pieces with no tension just stretching out the conclusion that actually could have been the opening move. Frustrating.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 11

Review:

Looks like we are going to try to bring the war to an end before the end of the series. Basically this episode Izetta uses the stone, Fine has a whole bunch of doubts, Izetta slaps her, they have a heart to heart, and now Izetta is off to face Sophie while Fine is attempting to stay relevant to the story by engaging in further political intrigue. Oh, and Berkman has decided that given Germania are trying to kill him he’ll jump ship to join forces with Fine and company and he knows that since they are the ‘good’ guys of the story that he’ll probably not be killed by them even though he is technically the one who unleashed Sophie on their kingdom.

izetta11b

Despite the sarcasm there, this actually wasn’t a bad episode. It kind of reminded me of the first few episodes where we had intrigue, chases, and a whole range of possibilities for how things could go. Okay, the moonlight flight with Izetta and Fine was definitely just there for people who want to see the two main characters get together, but otherwise most of this episode was pretty functional.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 10

Review:

Well, they didn’t commit to actually having Izetta stay captured by the enemy but at least she didn’t get out of last week’s predicament unharmed (because that would have pushed it way too far). Unconscious for a period of time and then without the use of her legs (for reasons unexplained), Izetta’s condition pushes Fine over the edge and for the first time in this entire war themed anime it seems like Fine is actually devastated by the results of war. Maybe she’s been playing the stoic leader because its expected, but as a young girl caught up in these events her reactions have been pretty much nothing up until now so seeing her all but break down this episode was a nice human touch.

My biggest criticism of this part of the show is Sophie. She’s evil because she is. She’s sworn revenge and doesn’t care if she’ll die or her body will wear out because she was dead anyway. A villain with nothing to lose, no allegiances, and giving no room for reason might seem like they’d be a good match for the overpowered Izetta but it doesn’t make for compelling writing as you can only listen to so many evil cackles over burning cities before you just want to roll your eyes.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.

Izetta: The Last Witch Episode 9

Review:

Finally a second witch shows up and finally Izetta gets an actual taste of defeat. It would be nice if this meant that some of her naiveté will now wear off and she will actually deal with the reality of being pretty much the only line of defence for a country at war. Of course, only next episode will tell us what they will actually do with this development. My only complaint about this episode is the white witch and the fact that she’s clearly a psycho. We get it, you were betrayed and the legend they tell has been given a nice happy ending that didn’t exist. However, introducing a second witch who just wants to burn down the kingdom Izetta wants to save isn’t exactly the most innovative or interesting thing they could have done and possibly it would be nice to see a bit more to this new character’s personality than revenge against the descendants of people who did her wrong.

Izetta is available on Crunchyroll.