Ishihara Toru is an everyday guy with an on-and-off girlfriend and a position working for a train buff. Things become complicated when a ghostly vehicle dubbed the X Train begins to ride the rails, destroying everything in its path. Somehow, it seems that Toru is connected with the X Train by a strange power, which draws the attention of some very dangerous and power hungry people who would wield it for their own...
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.
Warning: if you are not a fan of blood don't watch this!
art: For an 80's flick animation was good. Transitions were clean and cut.
Plot: A unique attribute unseen in most videos on horror. The right flare, right touch, right paint strokes... a lot of good tension building horror tools were used.
art: Characters and some elements were trashy in appearance. Not something you would go home and fantasy over.
plot: was confusing not in a good way. Too many unanswered questions. Mostly caused from the weird turns they made.
Intro: was a mess. I understand they had two stories going on in the
one scene but tell the viewer whom it is they should be paying attention to. Sorry but one at a time!
Audio: Not a very balanced musical attribute. A lot of piano for sure very little drums and so forth.
Overview- you are better off not watching this because you won't gain anything from it unless you are a train fanatic. If you do decide to watch this you wont find your self reflecting back to it ever! In other words, the chances of a re-watch are slim to none.
This is a really, really weird one. After completing it, I was just left thinking, "What the hell did I just watch?"
Let's start out with what sticks out the most: The character designs. Definitely not your standard, stereotypical 'anime' style, but rather a strange type of realism only stretched out a bit verging on the grotesque. Reminds me a bit of Don Bluth characters. And the designs are so...distinctive...you can't get past them in this one-shot story. You're noticing how strange the people look from beginning to end.
But beyond that, the
rest of the artwork (including the backgrounds) are wonderful. And the animation quality is top-notch. Among the very best I've seen for the entire decade's worth of work.
The storytelling style is also a little outside the norm, which is par for the course when you are dealing with the eccentric director Rintaro. Which is fine by me, it seems to work well in this case.
But as for the story itself...well, that's where this really falls down the most. There's some sort of psychic connection between Taro the Loser Boy, and a mysterious ghost train that is 'terrorizing' the railways. Not sure why, and not sure what it really has to do with anything. It just ends up being a hapless, simpering guy who is the sole person who can seem to stop this phantom train, as he runs around getting nosebleeds (from his 'psychic' events) all the time.
And I do mean All. The. Time. That's the other thing (besides the character designs) that I noticed that really stood out a lot. Loser Boy kept getting very visible, active and volumnous nosebleeds over and over and over and over again. It was very off-putting. Ugh.
In the end, I was just left wondering what really happened, and what was the whole point of it all. A visually interesting adventure (minus the quarts of blood dripping from the nostrils, ugh), but all sound and fury signifying nothing.
Toru is the put upon lackey of an add company and learns about a particular train. He thinks nothing of it, but little does he know that he is more closely connected to this train than he realizes...
Pros: The best part of this ova is the artwork. It has a very classic 80's style that is smoothly animated. It has some good gross/spooky imagery that fit the horror theme. It also does a quirky, comic book style word balloons to represent actions at some points, like the sounds of a fight. I had never seen it used like this in anime before and thought it
was interesting. The atmosphere of the horror film was good. I especially liked the pacing and that it had nice long establishing shots to build tension and it tries to have a good pay off in the end. The sound is solid, especially the creepy sound of the train.
Cons: even the art has flaws: all the characters are stylized to the point of being ugly. While the plot is adequate, it takes odd turns and seemed overall lackluster. It has some very silly points that can detract from the overall horror story. The main character is flat, with no real defining features other than being involved with the plot.
Conclusion: this is a popcorn flick to watch once, appreciate for it's quirkiness, and then quickly forget.