Nov 16, 2017
Ignore the negative reception completely; this OVA is amazing. It's not "deep" or "high art for the elite" or any of those other pretentious descriptors, but it's a very inventive, experimental, stylish, spooky, funny and above all else mind-bendingly fun horror-comedy. As far as I'm concerned, everything is perfect - it's conceptually sort of (I say "sort of" because it's always hard to simplify something extremely unique) like the kind of vague, unexplained short horror stories Edgar Allan Poe wrote, if made in the 80s, mixed with a ton of animated comedy and sci-fi elements. Don't worry, though. It's not generic anime comedy.
All the plot
and lore explanations that left viewers confused would've absolutely destroyed the willfully mysterious structure of the work (compare to Poe's similarly mysterious and inconclusive "Manuscript Found in a Bottle", "The Masque of the Red Death" and others). The plot is solid and gets you interested completely in the strange premise, but you'll never know exactly what happened. And hey, that's the beauty of fantastical horror.
People complain the protagonist is "shallow", but he's simply a funny and charismatic everyman (not "charismatic"in the real-world sense, but in that he's entertaining and audiovisually engaging to watch all the way through) dealing with some absolutely maddening events that he's at the center of. I suspect people wanted more dialogue, or even monologues, to give him more personality, but that would have completely ruined the atmosphere - the extremely expressive visual characterization is more than enough to understand what the character is going through.
The film was made as a tribute to the late and great Jazz musician Duke Ellington, and its strange, experimental yet at times very upbeat score perfectly fits the strange story and action.
The direction is outright FLCL-like in its craziness, despite this coming from 1987. Imagine how insane and experimental this looked back then. The animation is generally kick-ass and highly worked with only a few shortcuts used here and there (which you should forgive, for such a niche release). The artwork renders the average (or sometimes even ugly) faces of its Japanese characters in a beautifully skilled way that shows amazing drawing ability; top-notch understanding of how to draw stylized and cartoony yet also organic and subtly realistic characters, mixed together with the knowledge to make them move and emote naturally & believably. Even outright ugly characters can have appeal - look at Ren from Ren & Stimpy for example, or Looney Tunes' Witch Hazel. Those characters are ugly, but looking at them doesn't make you uncomfortable, right? This OVA knew the secret of "ugly appeal" very well.
Take the X Train is mind-boggling, suspenseful, intriguing, scary, technically amazingly animated and drawn (especially so, given it's a niche production) and above all else it's fun as hell.
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