Rail Romanesque

Rail Romanesque

Rail Romanesque anime series cover art
Rail Romanesque

Series Overview

Rail Romanesque (レヱル・ロマネスク) is a short, slice of life anime based on a visual novel. It’s also currently airing as part of the fall 2020 season, which makes today’s review a little different from most that I write.

Normally, I would wait to review a series until after I’ve finished watching it. But since only seven out of the 12 episodes of this series have aired so far, that’s obviously not the case this time around. The reason I’ve decided to review this one early is that it has so little going on in it that I know it’s not going to change between now and the end of the series.

Rail Romanesque is an interesting series in that it would seem that a lot of people were misled into watching it — myself included. I’ll discuss how that happened in the following section, but for now, you just need to know that it’s not what most of us were expecting when we started watching it.

Kiko and Aka from the anime series Rail Romanesque
Kiko and Aka

The series is made up of five-minute episodes that follow girls known as Raillords as they come up with merchandise ideas to advertise various rail lines around Japan. Raillords are effectively train girls — the embodiments of various trains just as the girls from Azur Lane are ship (boat) girls.

I know that probably doesn’t sound very good to most people. But at this point, I’m willing to try watching anything that involves turning inanimate objects into cute anime girls. And as far as inanimate objects go, trains are pretty neat.

If the series was actually about what many of us thought it was going to be about, it probably would have ended up being a pretty average anime. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

Synopsis vs. Reality

I’m not sure what the synopsis for this series in on Anilist (because I don’t care enough to look it up), but MAL decided to use the synopsis of the original visual novel as the synopsis for the anime. And, while they now have that synopsis sourced to the Visual Novel Database, that wasn’t always the case.

So, many of us initially read this synopsis and thought the series sounded somewhat decent. This is what the synopsis published on MAL says:

Set in Hinomoto, a fictional version of Japan, where for a long time railway travel served as the most important form of transport. Each locomotive was paired with a humanoid control module, so-called Raillord, that aided the train operator. However, many rail lines had been discontinued due to the rising popularity of “aerocrafts,” a safe and convenient aerial mode of transport. As such, their accompanying railroads also went into a deep sleep.

Soutetsu had lost his entire family in a rail accident and was adopted into the Migita household, which runs a shochu brewery in the city of Ohitoyo. He returned to his hometown to save it from the potential water pollution that would occur if they accepted the proposal to build an aerocraft factory nearby. He woke up the Raillord Hachiroku by accident and became her owner. For different purposes, they agreed to help find her lost locomotive, with the help of his stepsister Hibiki, the town’s mayor and local railway chief, Paulette and others.

Originally sourced from VNDB and edited by MAL

If you’re thinking that the series described here sounds different from the one I described in the previous section, yeah, no kidding. The actual anime has absolutely nothing to do with the plot described in this synopsis. There’s not even a male protagonist named Soutetsu — or even a protagonist at all.

A Short Not Worth Your Time

Maybe if you’re a fan of the original Rail Romanesque visual novel, you’ll like this anime. However, based on other reviews I’ve seen, that seems unlikely to be the case. The highest I’ve seen a reviewer rate it is a 5/10, and that was someone who enjoyed the visual novel. As you’ll see, I rate it much lower.

There are really two problems with this series that have led to its extremely low rating by the community as a whole. First, there’s the whole synopsis debacle that tricked people into picking it up in the first place. Had they known that it was just a short-form spin-off, they wouldn’t have watched it.

But the second problem is the one that I think really makes the series pointless to watch. And that’s the fact that nothing happens and the characters are all pretty bland.

Iyo and Riiko from the anime series Rail Romanesque
Iyo and Riiko

A short series doesn’t have to be bad. They’re generally not as good as full-length anime, but they’re not inherently bad either. Even with only a few minutes per episode, stories can still be told and, in the case of a spin-off, lore and character depth can be added.

The Rail Romanesque anime does none of this. It’s purely fan service, and it’s not even good fan service at that. Even if you’re the most hardcore fan of the visual novel, I don’t think you’re going to care about seeing these characters have corporate marketing brainstorming sessions.

Watching this series is literally like sitting in on a small company meeting in which they’re trying to come up with a gimmicky promotional product. I guess it could be cool if the products devised in this series were actually for sale, but that still wouldn’t make the anime any better.

Conclusion

As much as it pains me to do this (it doesn’t), I have to give Rail Romanesque a 1/10. I really don’t think there’s any reason to watch this series. However, do keep in mind that this rating is coming from someone not familiar with the source material. I’m not going to bump up my rating because of that, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

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