Train+Train Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Friday, January 05, 2007
Release Date: Saturday, December 30, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Story by: Hideyuki Kurata / Artist: Tomomasa Takuma
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:Christine Schilling

What They Say
On the distant planet of Deloca, teenagers are enrolled in either the standard School Train or the Special Train, an exclusive education system that takes them across the planet to develop them into above-average adults. Shy and meek Reiichi finds himself onboard the Special Train when a run-in with a rebellious spirit, Arena, turns his life upside-down and forces him to face dangers and situations that help him discover the true meaning of life.

The Review
For those who were left at the station due to Go! Comi's shoujo-laden library, now's the chance to get on board with Train + Train, proof that you can never go wrong with trains and adventure.

Packaging:
The front and back cover are well done and looking sharp, but why oh why do we need the "From the Creator of R.O.D." blurb on the front? Thankfully it is out of the way for the most part, but blurbs should always go on the backs of books (although I do understand the need to draw in potential shelf browsers). The print reproduction is overall quite sharp, with a few areas where the tones got a little dark. Extras include quite a few words from Hideyuki Kurata, which help explain his ideas behind characters and how this manga came to be.

Art:
Tomomasa Takuma's artwork reminds me of a cross between Iwahara Yuji's angular, detailed line work and Hiromu Arakawa's shading and action sequences. Character designs are a mixture of both as well, keeping the design simple yet very appealing to the eye. Overall the artwork is very clean, perhaps too clean as the action artwork can get quite stymied with an overuse of speed lines. Backgrounds are plentiful as well, which is crucial in a title where getting a sense of the fantastical surroundings is important.

Text/SFX:
The English script is a lot of fun to read, keeping up with a good amount of humor and the enjoyable interactions between Arena and Reiichi. SFX are translated with subs, done in the bigger style but they mostly don't try to match up size-wise with the original effects and do a nice job at not covering up any crucial artwork. The one little nitpick I have is with the creator bios, where "Helsing" is misspelled and a little searching could have been done to realize that "Iron Communication" was already released in the US as "Kurogane Communication".

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Attention all passengers of Deloca Coming-Of-Age Railways! Our two educational trains, School Train and Special Train, designed to cultivate our next generation of upstanding citizens will be departing in 40 minutes. It is your choice as to which path you will follow. Will it be the School Train to a regular life, regular job, regular wife and 2.1 kids? Or perhaps you'd rather take the gamble on the uncertainty and spontaneity of the Special Train? It's only the most important decision of your youth, so please take the next 40, or I'm sorry, 38 minutes to make your choice. And thank you for traveling the friendly Deloca Coming-of-Age Railways!! *ding*

Train + Train marks the debut shounen manga for shoujo purveyors and new kids Go! Comi; a story originally created by famed R.O.D novelist Hideyuki Kurata and adapted into illustrated format by Kurogane Communication creator Tomomasa Takuma. Like the rest of Go! Comi's distinct shoujo catalog, Train + Train is a shounen adventure that also has its own flavor and should appeal to quite a broad range of audiences.

The book starts off with quite a bang as Reiichi Sakakusa--an average, no frills teenage boy--crosses paths with his polar opposite in Arena Pendleton, a girl on the run from bounty hunters and detectives. With katana in hand, Arena accidentally pulls Reiichi's destiny into her own during a fight with detectives as Reiichi and Arena become tied together by hi-tech handcuffs that have a time-release lock set for 99 hours. Stuck to each other for the time being, these two must decide within the next couple minutes which train to get on: Reiichi's School Train, the safe path to a regular life, or Arena's Special Train, where troubled pasts are forgotten and destinies are what you make of them. And did Arena just settle the discussion with the flip of a coin?!?!

As he stated in the afterword, Kurata wanted to create a buddy action story that featured polar opposites for lead characters, but this time with characters of the opposite sex. He didn't want a love story, which is why Arena is such the audacious tomboy. She definitely fills the role of the usual hero in the shounen adventure manga, but being a girl puts a nice twist on the story dynamics and sets up some humorous sequences between her and the always practical and pragmatic Reiichi. I have a feeling this manga is going to live and die by its two leads, and so far I like the potential I see with these two. There is good chemistry, with Arena constantly putting Reiichi in uncomfortable situations and Reiichi trying to talk rhyme and reason into his spontaneous partner.

As I mentioned earlier, the story jumps right out of the gates, introducing us to a futuristic world where artificial planets have been created and an odd juxtaposition of technology permeates this parallel universe. There is an element of fantasy in the air, which all comes together to create a world with many possibilities. There is plenty of action as well as Arena and Reiichi are soon fighting off non-human creatures and escaping high-powered attacks from bounty hunters.

After the rush of a beginning, the story does begin to loose a little steam as Arena and Reiichi get familiar with their new surroundings. I'll admit my harem warning bell went off when Reiichi was dragged into the girls' living quarters due to his disposition; but fear not harem averters, that path is not traversed. Instead Reiichi and Arena have to deal with scam artists, low-paying jobs, and militant religious fanatics; you know, all those things every teenager must experience during their road to adulthood.

Comments
I've definitely come away quite pleased with the debut of Train + Train, a shounen adventure manga that manages to avoid being just another title in a market that is saturated with run of the mill stories in this vein. Like R.O.D. novelist Hideyuki Kurata, I'm also a fan of the buddy action movies and so far Kurata has done a great job at introducing his two polar opposites in Reiichi and Arena. They have an enjoyable chemistry that is often humorous and their dynamic creates a whole that is more enjoyable than the parts. Plus, this manga has trains, which is worth at least 100 bonus points.

Train + Train is definitely a manga that will go on my "Must Buy" shelf, especially with the end already in sight at 6 volumes. If you haven't given Go! Comi a chance yet due to their shoujo-loaded library, now is the time to check out the great work they do. I'd definitely recommend this first volume to fans of R.O.D. or Kurata's fun and energetic scriptwriting in general, and fans of Fullmetal Alchemist will feel right at home with this type of buddy adventure.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Go! Comi
MSRP: 10.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-933617-18-3
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Train+Train