365 Days of Manga, Day 15: Train + Train

 

traintrain.jpgTRAIN + TRAIN • Hideyuki Kurata (story), Tomomasa Takuma (art) • Go! Comi (2006-2008) • MediaWorks (Dengeki Daioh, 1999-2003) • 6 volumes • Shônen Science Fiction Adventure • 13+ (mild language, infrequent violence, mild sexual situations)
A very faintly neo-Western sci-fi adventure based on an early work by the author of R.O.D. (Read or Die). Upon moving to Planet Deloca, mild-mannered student Reiichi prepares to board the “school train,” a sort of boarding school on rails where he will learn while going from place to place. But a chain of circumstances ends with him handcuffed to Arena Pendleton, a rebellious heiress who yearns to go on the “special train,” where students have anything but an ordinary school life, and are instead tested by a series of adventures. This unique pseudo-school manga makes good use of the “life is a journey” metaphor, with Arena as the sort of Morpheus (from The Matrix) character who offers Reiichi the “red pill” of a more exciting life. (“Get yourself a regular house and a regular job…live a regular life and die a regular death…everything’s all laid out for you, isn’t it?”) On their train ride they get in fights and encounter interesting moral and practical dilemmas, gamblers and terrorists and poor folk. Unfortunately, the art doesn’t live up to the possibilities of the story: for a tale about going new places and seeing new things, the visuals are sparse and generic. The ’90s-style, video-gamey, angular character designs resemble a second-rate Masahiko Nakahira.
** (two stars)
Today’s winner is Heather C. of California! Congratulations, Heather! Prepare to receive a ton of manga! (Well, at least a few pounds of manga.)

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