This manga is brilliant.
I’ll Send Her Home on the Last Train (終電にはかえします, Shuuden ni wa Kaeshimasu) is a single-volume yuri manga anthology (the works of which originally appeared in Hirari) from Amagakure Gido (雨隠ギド), the lady what brought us Amaama to Inazuma, and boy it is amazing. Or I should say, it is amazing at the very least to me. I am in love with this anthology. I’ve read a ton of yuri manga and this one easily became my favorite upon completion. If I had to say why, I would say it’s since the writing style of the stories in this volume reminds me of my own writing style. Wow! What awful arrogance from me! Gross! But honestly, that’s what I felt, so when I was reading this I had some serious bias. I won’t say I’m as good a writer as Amagakure-sensei, because wow, no, but her approach to things here really invigorated me. It was like seeing a fruition of the ideals I have toward creative writing in visual and written form. It was delightful. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
So now that that’s out of the way, I should say I honestly think Amagakure-sensei did very well here, period. I will try to explain why in this review. Each story in this anthology is very lovely and sweet — even if it’s the bitter kind of sweet. I will probably be rereading these tales regularly and often for all of the foreseeable future.
There are five stories in Last Train, one of which is covered over two chapters, with chapters tending to be roughly about 24-34 pages. These stories are all one-shots, so we learn what we need to know, observe the proceeding events, and reach a conclusion in a short amount of time. The titular story, “I’ll Send Her Home on the Last Train” is the sequel to the story that the volume starts with, “From Aiu Station on the Hiragana Line”.
The tale of these two girls is a nice tone setter that prepares you for the kinds of things you can expect from the rest of the stories in the volume. Both of its two parts are good and it’s a testament to its quality, I feel, that even its first part would be a great short story on its own.
Part 1 opens up with a third year high school student named Seto Asaki coming across a first year named Okuyama Tsune one day on the train. Asaki, our protagonist, has a rather bad personality to start with.
She has a simple, somewhat despicable goal of taking a lazy route in life by riding on a star athlete’s coattails someday. Of course, she’ll first complete some practical goals that will allow her to achieve this eventual end (going to a school with a well-known and prestigious pageant, intending to win it), but her casual confidence in herself makes it seem like no matter what she’s sure her life is going to be easy.
While she is gloating to herself about the genius of her plan, our second main character, Tsune, starts looking over at her. Tsune is a tall, quiet girl who looks a bit intimidating. She’s got blond hair (usually the sign of a delinquent student in Japan) and is wearing a surgical mask (which is another sign) and she rolls up on Asaki without any warning.
Surprisingly, it is for a good cause: a man seated behind Asaki was a voyeur trying to get a look up her skirt with his phone. Since Tsune’s wearing pants under her skirt, she urges her senpai to switch places with her on the train, then spends the rest of the ride in silence. The ride ends, she gets off, and Asaki is unable to thank her. But soon enough, they’re on a train together once more. Asaki is intrigued by this quiet, sniffling giant with terrible hair and queer fashion sense. She ponders her kouhai, and eventually chooses to strike up a conversation with Tsune.
What’s done here is actually pretty subtle. Due to Asaki’s aforementioned bad personality, any interest she has in Tsune comes across as double-edged — born of friendly curiosity and something like a sense of superiority. They get along well, but Asaki has some rude thoughts, basically. On the other hand, Tsune is clearly very innocent without it needing to be told to you. Her posture isn’t great, her gaze looks out a bit long, and her way of speaking is frank, short, and cute in a simple kind of way (as she speaks with a clear accent/masculine speech pattern she doesn’t bother to hide whatsoever). We see that these two are becoming attached to one another and looking forward to their commute-based encounters. And though she admits she’s had a lot of fun with this situation, Asaki claims to see it differently.
This day, while she is being as full of herself as ever, some girls — popular sorts — loudly enter the train car. When they spot Tsune there, they quiet themselves before making sure Tsune hears some badmouthing from them. Tsune tells her senpai not to mind it, they just didn’t click together. In spite of that, at once the self-proclaimed selfish and single-minded Asaki becomes worried about her junior — very worried. That Tsune seems to be shunned in her class bothers her, although she tries to hide it. She awkwardly tries bringing up some subject of conversation — any, if it means she can get her mind off of this. She brings up train stations, because why not? There are things at different stations — things to talk about. But the introverted Tsune has no love for things at other stations, and she pretty much only goes to and from school. The stations are of no concern to her, however…
Oh how I love this; let me count the ways.
This whole page is perfect. In the first panel, Asaki expresses three things: awkwardness at confronting some school drama, worry over her junior’s feelings, and a scary realization that she’s worried at all. This pretty much goes against her values; she only decided to really acquaint herself with Tsune for practical reasons, or so she declared. Tsune would be her “pervert and boredom repellent”, functioning nicely as a distraction at best. Before she realized it, Tsune became something else she valued.
Tsune notices that her efforts to calm her senpai down were ineffective in the second panel, and while Asaki falls over herself trying to transition into some other topic she begins to fall into gloom. As the page goes on, Tsune’s negative thoughts come out through her reasons against caring for the stations. Presumably, these thoughts and feelings are tied to the clique she was rejected from, and they have stuck with her. In any case, her experiences with all these stations has clearly been in some way very bad, making even the idea of going to one of them with Asaki unappealing to her. She declares everything solidly pointless. It is also worth mentioning that once it’s announced that Asaki’s station is coming up, and so she’ll be getting off soon, Tsune’s foul mood starts. Since this is roughly positioned as the center panel, Tsune’s sadness basically becomes the core of the page. Tsune has been mostly stoic up to this point aside from a giggle here and there, so as she grows more and more depressed throughout the conversation, Asaki grows more and more desperate.
So we come to Aiu, the titular station of this chapter and the point where Asaki is the most desperate. See, throughout her conversational flailing on the page earlier, she was doing the same thing she’s been doing with Tsune throughout the entire story so far: saying something under a pretext while actually looking to achieve something else. She says she just wants to change the subject, but from her choice of words and subject matter it’s noticeable that she’s trying to cheer Tsune up.
“A cake shop is a common place for a friendly date, so Tsune might like it!”
“She doesn’t like cluttered places? Then how about one that’s quiet?”
“Not there? Some other station? This one has a lot of houses!”
“Anywhere we could go together? How about it?”
She’s practically begging to know of a place that would make Tsune happy by the end. She asks about her own station and there you have it: Tsune’s happiness is at Aiu. When this station rolls around, Asaki gets on the train. She gets on, they talk and spend the ride in pleasant company, and that’s all Tsune needs.
Tsune’s straightforward honesty shatters Asaki. Asaki is two-faced — that’s the most obvious takeaway about her character from page one. She will always put on an act and keep secret motivations, mainly to have an easy go at life. Confronted with Tsune’s true thoughts, she can’t hide herself anymore: she thinks Tsune is cute, she thinks Tsune is great.
IT’S SO GOOD
The chapter ends with Asaki in tears as she realizes her love for Tsune. She doesn’t understand her tears, but I’d peg it as guilt for sure, mixed with an overall swell of emotions. She’s beating herself up over not acknowledging how much she liked her kouhai, and how dishonest she’s been up to that point. Ignoring all her schemes and nonsense fronts put up prior to this, she simply wants to spend more time with the girl she loves.
Absolutely none of this is explained to you. Character emotions and true motivations are all interpreted. Even the narration is vague on how Asaki feels in the end.
I would say that the story is like a flow of emotions that you can share with the characters. The paneling of scenes, the artistic choices for how expressions are drawn, what actions are shown, and the way the characters speak (which I really have to praise, both the translator and Amagakure-sensei herself, because the dialogue feels very natural) all serve to create a very emotionally fulfilling experience. How humans feel does not need to be said, but only empathetically felt. With things I’ve written, I’ve kept that philosophy as a primary focus. It’s essentially an extreme take on “show don’t tell”. With the typical “show” in writing, you’re still giving something away, because excessive “showing” can feel obnoxiously obtuse. With writing like in Last Train, what is shown is rather vague, but it’s made to be understood by many other factors aside from the moment itself. How characters have acted before, what they want, and then how the moment is portrayed: these are the things that matter. If accomplished correctly, you aren’t simply “shown” something, but you really get something. You get into the heads of the characters, and it feels wonderful I think!
If Asaki and Tsune’s story ended here, I would have been 100% satisfied, but seeing that it continued with “I’ll Send Her Home on the Last Train” was a very pleasant surprise. That said, their story isn’t even my favorite in the book.
The writing throughout the tankoubon still bears that emphasis on feeling, which I very much like. Furthermore the four other stories in Last Train all deal with different issues, which is good since that means every one of them is special. My least favorite of the bunch is “Ephemeral Asterism” (which is not the one pictured above), and even it has quite a bit of the emotional style present in the rest of the volume such that I still like and appreciate it quite a bit. My favorite is “Forever Girls”.
My God, do I love “Forever Girls”. “Forever Girls” got me in a bad way. Like Youkai Shoujo, this one-shot delivered a surprise gut punch to me by utilizing an innocuous plot detail to powerful, powerful effect — much stronger than Youkai Shoujo‘s moment, which is nuts. What a great goddamn story. I want to talk about it, but I really shouldn’t. Suffice it to say, it impressed me.
This manga is high quality. I am very glad that I decided to explore Amagakure Gido-sensei’s body of work further. Each story is so good, it makes me sad that the only other yuri work she seems to have published was a one-shot called I’m a Fool, which is great by the way. She’s always been much more of a yaoi artist, and now she’s got a noted work that’s being animated, so I’m betting I won’t be seeing more yuri from her for a while if ever. If I’m missing some yuri of hers, do let me know about it. I desire more greatly. I guess for now I’m going to have to look at her yaoi, though I shudder at the thought. I’d certainly just prefer some more pure love between girls right inside my comfort zone.
As with Amaama to Inazuma, Amagakure-sensei’s art is gorgeous here. I love the way she draws irises with lots of scribbles, and her cartoonish tendencies make me smile. She’s real great at putting a feeling on a page… I’m jealous! Well, not that I can draw at all in the first place. But man, it’s so good. I was blown away by I’ll Send Her Home on the Last Train. You have no idea how glad I am that I read it.
You may purchase this lovely manga from Bookwalker (guide) CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. I highly recommend it; the volume comes with a very short story as an extra — a tiny supplement to the story “Girls’ Planetarium”. It’s cute! By the way, Amagakure Gido’s Bookwalker author page is [here].
Next up: my #1 comfy series, and sadness. Thank you very much for reading.
Amaama to Inazuma