Synonyms: I’ll send her home on the last train, Return by the Last Train, Shuuden niwa Kaeshimasu, From Aiu Station on the Hiragana Line, Hiragana Line, Aiu Station yori, Otona no Kaidan no Shita, Shoujo Planetarium, Ishuun no Asterism, Eien ni Shoujo
"And so, I thought this might actually be kind of nice." - Seto Asaki
When it comes to manga, it's pretty easy to pass up oneshots for heavier, longer reading material. After all, it's only natural to assume that the longer a story is, the higher the number of opportunities for immersion, emotional investment, and overall enjoyment are, right?
Well, sure. But not always.
The easiest counterargument to the above paragraph is the old saying: "Less is More," and this unassuming anthology, one whose stories are an average of thirty pages long, is one of my favorite examples of this.
"I'll Send Her Home on the Last Train," a collection of oneshots named after one of its chapters, is sort of hit-or-miss, but it's memorable for two reasons:
1. It's more hit than miss.
2. When it hits, it's pretty darn impressive.
So, how does it do it? It does (or it doesn't) in different ways, depending on the chapter.
(If it wasn't obvious enough already, all stories in this anthology contain Yuri, Shoujo Ai, femslash, lesbians, whatever you want to label it as. The following review only applies to those who are interesting in reading this because of, or despite, that.)
"From Aiu Station on the Hiragana Line"/"I'll Send Her Home on the Last Train": As the only two-shot in the anthology, I'll be reviewing them together.
Maybe it's the fact that this piece has two chapters to its name(s) instead of one, but I'm particularly fond of this story's characters. When an author can change his or her character drastically, but while still making it believable, it's successful character development. When said author can do the same thing in such a short page-span, it's even more impressive.
Without giving too much away, the growing relationship between our two main characters, Asaki and Tsune, changes both girls rather dramatically, and said change is sudden, believable, and incredibly sweet all at once.
While some scenes were eyebrow-raisers, on the whole it's funny, it's dramatic, it's touching, it's romantic. And it's hard to ask for more than that.
"Girls Planetarium": I liked this one. The dialogue is entertaining, and the characters themselves have personalities that are well-established (or as much as they could be for a oneshot, anyway), believable, and funny. The bedroom scenes (don't get any funny ideas) were pleasantly drawn, and they were a nice backdrop for the important conversations that took place in there.
However, with the word "funny" in mind, the last few pages are dedicated to the chapter's drama section. Given the tone of the majority of the piece, the tone shift in these pages feels sudden and even unnecessary. Such pacing is often a problem when it comes to oneshots, but alas.
Of course, it's not like the drama ruined the entire piece. It's just that if it had been toned down a little, or a lot, I would have been happier. As it is, it's still a cute read.
"Ephemeral Asterism": This one threw me for a bit of a loop. It's one of the more angsty chapters of the anthology, considering that it deals with a love triangle. Something that's worth mentioning here is the art in the early pages - it's used well to convey romantic hints and it took me more than one read to pick up on them. That's the not-loopy part. The loopy part was how it was resolved, and it didn't really sit too well with me. If you want an ending to a love triangle that goes a little different than the following scenario...
person 1: oh I love you
person 2: oh I love you too
person 3: dang it
... then maybe the uniqueness alone might make this one enjoyable. As for me, not so much.
"Forever Girls": Remember what I said about how this collection is memorable? That when it hits, it's pretty darn impressive?
This is what I was talking about.
For fear of giving anything away, I will just say that in 24 pages, I laughed, I smiled, I felt despair, and I came the closest to crying that I have in a very long time. And yes, that includes when I watched the Trinity of Sad Anime (Anohana Beats: After Story).
Maybe its brevity is an advantage; with less than thirty pages to work with, you might not be expecting the Feels, which allows them to rush out of nowhere, blindside you, and leave you teary-eyed and wondering how the heck they managed to do that.
This story makes the anthology. If there was ever one chapter to read out of all of them, it's this one. My favorite oneshot.
"At the Bottom of the Stairway to Adulthood": I sort of wish this wasn't the last story in the anthology. Still, I'll start with what I like about it.
It's one of the more original (or at least less common) concepts of the anthology, told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl who dislikes her sister and her sister's friends. It's also a cute, not-too-dramatic way to hint at the discovery of her sexual identity.
Now, I know that these chapters aren't supposed to be related, but reading this one after "Forever Girls" left a bad taste in my mouth. The coldness and distaste of the sister-sister relationship is both a departure from the usual sibling relationships you see in anime or manga and too depressingly realistic for my tastes, especially as the younger out of two siblings. In addition, the ending, while surprising, still left the aforementioned bad taste in my mouth. Maybe I'm just a sucker for happy endings, and I didn't exactly get that here.
It's not a bad story by any means, and I probably would have either liked it more if it was on its own or if it was earlier in the anthology. As it stands, I wish the collection would have ended with another story.
Romance doesn't always need to be drawn out for volumes or episodes on end to be good reads or watches. "I'll Send Her Home on the Last Train," while imperfect, still makes a pretty darn good case for this. Its romance is sweet and its characters are very pleasantly fleshed out, something that manga ten times its length can be unable to achieve. Give it a try; it might surprise you.