As part of my job as an investigative anime critic, you don’t tend to get surprised by anything, you see enough surreal images, until you see something like Take the X Train. A release which seemingly defies common sense and makes the work of the late Satoshi Kon seem grounded.
For the uninitiated, Take the X Train is a 1987 OVA, based off a novel by Koichi Yamado, produced by Madhouse, and directed by the anime director chameleon himself, Rintaro. The general plot is Toru is a railhead working for a rail company, one day after seeing his girlfriend, the lights at his train station go out, and out comes a ghost train. The train is completely invisible, surrounded by lightning (a lot of lightning), and Toru gets a nosebleed for his troubles. Not surprisingly this gets the interest from a shadowy organization whose logo looks like Panda Express. They kidnap Toru, interrogate him,and realize the when the ghost train is near he develops nosebleeds. Why? Well, when the revelation is revealed, you’ll wonder what the writers were smoking.
Anyway, he escapes, and while on the run he hears on the radio the train gave a Morse code message of where it was heading next. One nosebleed later he gets his high horse in gear with the shadowy organization in tow.
Not surprisingly there are a large group of people gather to witness this spectacle of the ghost train and its field of lightning. On its way there, a little kid gets on the track to look at a firefly, and the train stops for the mother to get her kid. I’m only bringing this up, because this is easily one of the goofiest, and craziest OVAs I’ve ever seen. (This doesn’t include gems like Angel Cop and Genocyber, which are pure insanity.) After the train leaves, he develops another nosebleed. He eventually meets his boss who hypothesizes he has ESP and is controlling the train. What. The. Actual. Crap. So, let me get this straight, the opening of Akira was caused by a railfan? Well, considering everything else in Akira, this honestly isn’t surprising. But this raises further questions, as we’ll soon find out.
Why? Well, the next scene, Toru’s sleeping, the train suddenly appears, and no nosebleed occurs. What’s worse? It’s starts chasing him, in a surprisingly relatively-octane pace. He gets off the tracks, and it told by his boss to get back on the tracks, because there are now Apache helicopters shooting at him. I would say the OVA derailed a long time ago (ignore the atrocious pun) but honestly, the OVA was never on a track to begin with.
One further chase scene later, and Toru is now back in Tokyo, somehow, (even though his mode of transportation is trashed pretty much). He believes this ESP explanation, decides to jump at the “X train” which actually works, and both Toru and the X train disappear. So how do we end this insanity? Well, it turns out, the company Toru worked for and the shadowy organization wanted to create ESP based weapons. Wait, what? And then the rail company’s train kills their boss, and it’s revealed Toru is part of the train (in a Cronenbergian touch) and controlling it.
Take the X Train is for lack of a better term, crazy. It’s 50 minutes of an utterly insane plot, with a surrealistic approach, which makes it perfect for this column. Because in OVA Diamonds, there are plenty of crazy OVAs.