Take the X Train

How many anime are dedicated to Duke Ellington, the great jazz experimenter? Taking its name from one of his best known songs, albeit with a change from "A" to "X," Take The X Train is itself a bizarre experiment by director Rin Taro. Though I'd seen listings for this 50 minute OVA, it was only until the title was linked on a Bit Torrent site that I had the opportunity to watch it. Seeing that most folks don't recognize Rin Taro in the US, finding a copy on the Internet is likely the only way you'll ever see this title. I think many will find it just a little too old and weird. But I'm getting old and weird too, and for me, it was an enjoyable find of a nearly lost anime.

Toru is a loser. Now he's possibly the best kind of loser because he knows how pathetic he is. His boss won't listen to him, so he winds up refilling drinks for gathered executives. His girlfriend dumps him after a rendezvous, but he's not upset about it; in fact, he'd been expecting it. He's really more interested in the off-road jammer that passes by their hotel anyway. But Toru is hardly expecting to become mentally connected with an invisible train that rides the rails of Tokyo, leaving only electrical spikes along its trail. Although he's finally important, Toru just wants to get back to his own life, such as it is. The X Train seems certain to throw a wrench into that plan.

Take The X Train is a strange looking beast. Though the animation quality isn't bad at all, the character designs are from the school of the intentionally ugly. Everybody in the production is just this side of grotesque. It's sort of a hyper realistic style where no one looks pretty. It's off putting, but Take The X Train doesn't appear to have been made to please anybody. The music is an amalgam of jazz influences, some more recognizable than others, and all of it just a little different. Whether or not you like the music, it completely compliments the visuals.

It's clear from the show's direction that it's intended to be an improvisational riff rather than a classically told story. And just like jazz, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. There are times when things seem too intentionally artsy. Other bits are slow. And yet, I really like what Rin Taro is doing here. It's more along the lines of Spring and Chaos, a show where art is important in and of itself. And to his credit, Rin Taro actually has a decent plot to hang his riffs on, so I wasn't bored. In fact, at times I was surprised that the man responsible for X/1999 and Harmagedon could do something this concise...but then again, he made the brilliant Metropolis, too, so I have to give him credit. He still isn't a great editor, but the man's got talent.

Toru also makes for a good protagonist. He's not a kid any more, though far from old. He fits the average salaryman description in many ways. He's relatable to the audience. I can tire of sprightly young things conquering the universe with angst, but this? This is different. Toru is a little scheming and yet not corrupt. He contemplates the possibilities. And somehow, his fate (which I won't reveal) is shocking yet strangely appropriate. There are still some stumbles in the characterizations of those around him -- no wonder he's paranoid -- but over all, the experiment works.

If you have the opportunity to download Take The X Train, it's not a bad watch. It's different. It won't appeal to many people because it's just a bit too bizarre and a little too content to follow its tunes where they want to go. But what's life for but a little jazz odyssey now and then?

Take the X Train -- mild language, very brief nudity/adult situations -- B