Review: Train + Train

Train + Train
Story by Hideyuki Kurata
Art by Tomomasa Takuma
Rated T (Teen 13+)
Go!Comi, $10.99

Everyone loves a train. They’re just more interesting than any other means of transit, which must be why the inhabitants of the planet Deloca, although they live in a future time when hopping from one solar system to another is no problem, still ride around on trains. In fact, the Delocans like trains so much that their high schools ride the rails, with different trains for different courses of study and a “special train” for elite students who will go on to lead their society.

Train + Train starts with that premise and throws in a fairly standard set of characters—a feisty girl with a weapon, a wimpy guy with spectacles, a pushy girl to complete the triangle, some armed goons, a dominatrix principal—oh, and a crazed nun—to create an entertaining manga story that combines action, humor, and one really big train, powered by a muscular and lovingly detailed locomotive. A train so big, the students use a car to travel along its length. A train with a “mall car.” If I have one complaint about this book, it’s that I want to see more of that train.

We don’t even get on board until halfway through the book, though. Train + Train opens with young Arena Pendleton laying waste to a trio of goons who are trying to drag her back to her grandfather’s estate. Grandpa objects to her choice to take the special train, which has a whiff of scandal to it, rather than the regular course of studies, but Arena is determined to break out of her staid existence and take some serious risks.

Before long she crosses paths with Reiichi, who is solidly on track to take the standard “general studies” train in preparation for a boring salaryman adulthood. Meek and bespectacled, recently arrived from a more rural planet, Reiichi is the kind of guy who doesn’t make waves. His friend Liae is with him, contentedly plotting their future together, but when she gets into an altercation in the train station, things start to, well, go off the rails. Arena rescues Rei and Liae, the goons come back for Arena, beatings are exchanged all around, and Rei and Arena end up handcuffed together on the special train.

Arena clearly has the upper hand through all of this, and Rei’s passiveness is played for laughs, especially once they get on board the train. At that point he is seriously overmatched by the girls. But he’s learning as he goes, and it will be interesting to see if he grows and develops or just gets haplessly thrown into one situation after another.

Takuma’s art is simple, with the focus kept tightly on the characters; except for the train, there isn’t a lot of background detail, and he seriously overuses flat tones. The fight scenes are frequent but not very explicit, with lots of action lines and no blood; sometimes they are so vague that it’s hard to see what’s going on.

As usual, Go!Comi does a good job of production. The cover closely resembles the Japanese original, with its silver background. The paper is decent and the print quality is good, with few muddy tones. I did pick up on one misspelling and one instance of what I suspect is an awkward translation, but other than that the text read very well. Sound effects are kept with translations alongside them. Extras include writer’s notes on the two main characters and a postscript by Kurata, who reveals that the book was originally a novel and was adapted into a manga by Takuma.

Train + Train is Go!Comi’s first non-shoujo title, and it’s also their first to be pitched at 13+ readers. With its fast-moving story and accessible characters, as well as the strong female heroine, it’s a particularly good choice for shoujo readers who are ready for something a little different.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

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