Maiden Railways

By Asumiko Nakamura. Released in Japan as “Tetsudou Shoujo Manga” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazines Melody and Rakuen Le Paradis. Released in North America by Denpa Books. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

We’ve seen the occasional short story volume in North America, but they’re still a rarity compared to picking up long-running series. Sometimes, though, you’re in the book for quick bites… or in this case, short trips. As the title might suggest, this volume’s short stories revolve around trains and train stations. Except for one chapter, they’re not interested in makes and models in a trainspotting sort of way. The train is a vehicle into the heart, as we see various couples and singles meet, interact, and move forward around the train setting. The author is known for being skilled in the shoujo and josei world, and also has some noteworthy BL to her name, including Doukyuusei, which came out digitally here eons ago and which Seven Seas is finally putting out in print this summer. There’s no need to worry about the engineer here – this train is in good hands.

The stories are interconnected only in the setting, though there is a final chapter that shows all the protagonists of the previous stories moving past each other in a nice callback. The first story is mostly from the POV of a young wannabe pickpocket as she gets involved with a husband who thinks that his wife is cheating on him with his younger brother. It’s honestly probably a good thing she’s there, as I found the husband really aggravating (deliberate, of course, but still…) and the story works better from her semi-detached POV. Things work out well, mostly as she’s very familiar with the schedules. (OK, not so well for her, but don’t pick pockets, OK?) The second story involves a love triangle/square among high school students who are graduating, and also involves catching a lover by knowing the timetables- I was reminded of the Monty Python skit about murder and train schedules.

The third story, if I’m honest, may be what a lot of readers are here to see, as it’s the “yuri” story in the book. A high school girl who’s getting romantic attention but isn’t interested… at least not in that person… runs into an older woman who’s breaking up with her lover. Loudly. The difference between the two personalities is the reason to read this (though the height difference is also cute). The fourth story may have been the one I enjoyed the most, as a husband buys cakes every Thursday from a shop, but is hiding a deep, dark secret. Is he cheating? His wife resolves to follow him, but we know the answer isn’t that. This is the story in the book most closely related to trains and their makes and models, and I found it rather sad and sweet. The last story is also sweet and sad, and has two women bonding at the station after the last train leaves about their boyfriends. This is really the only story with a spoiler, so I’ll leave it at that, but it was also quite good.

As noted, the book ends with a story that interconnects all the other ones (though I could have done without the implication that the pickpocket might be romantically involved with the security guy) and shows that this sort of thing happens all the time on this train. It’s a nice gimmick that leads to some well-told stories. Definitely worth a read, and I’d love to see more by this author.

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