This Alice in Wonderland line effectively describes the manga YuriTetsu ~ Shiritsu Yurigasaki Joshikou Tetsudobu (ゆりてつ~私立百合ヶ咲女子高鉄道部) Volume 1, by Matsuyama Seiji. The story involves three little girls (though not sisters) who live at the bottom of a well. They are the Yuritetsu—the Yurigasaki Girl’s High School Railway Club. They recruit a fourth little girl to their club, and go on train trips. But the whole time they never leave their well. Which is to say they travel all around Japan without ever interacting with or even seeing another person, except for one old guy in one panel on one page. Not another living soul in 191 more pages. There are occasionally dim outlines of other people, but these are drawn as indistinct phantoms. Their isolation is truly bizarre. It’s almost as bizarre, though not quite so head-banging, as seeing high school girls drawn as four-year-olds. And these are just two of the many short circuits in Yuritetsu.
The author isn’t inept, he just knows his audience. This isn’t a manga for folks looking to read a good story; that crowd will be somewhere off in the approximately real world reading Aoi Hana, or maybe Asagao to Kase-san. This is a manga for fanboys who like girls, without knowing too much about them, and who like trains, and who pretty much live in wells of their own. Logical consistency can be a major annoyance when all you really want is to see drawings of four-year-old high school girls in swimsuits. And trains. For some, of course, even the trains get in the way.
The story goes like this—Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie, three typical character types (tsundere; food-obsessed wack; quiet computer geek) are the members of the Yuritetsu. They meet Peanut, a new student at Yurigasaki High, and convince her to join the club. Peanut, the girl whose odd pose in the cover illustration suggests she’s just finished reading the manga, is the usual character type that stars in these kinds of quartets, the clueless klutz. Idiocy, so endearing. The girls take trains. They eat ekiben. They go to the beach. They never attend school. The end.
It’s not much of a story, but the story isn’t the point. Yuritetsu is really a travelogue of railway lines in Japan with little girls as your guides and as your companions (isolated as they are from the rest of the world, you don’t even have to share them with anyone). You ride to Hokkaido and stand in the snow; you explore the newly reconstructed Tokyo Station; in a chapter titled “Tetsu-on!” you ride the train to Toyosato and visit the high school where K-ON! was set. And so on. And at the end there are the swimsuit scenes. Ewww. It’s a bubbling stew of fanboy fetishes. It’s probably selling nicely.
So is there Yuri, as vaguely implied by the title?
Oh come on, these high school girls are four freaking years old. But for wellish fanboys the Yuri couldn’t be more obvious. Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie fall hard for Peanut, and who can blame them, she’s such a stammering, wide-eyed dope. So before you know it, they are fighting to stand next to her. They stand next to her a lot. They can’t get enough. And it’s not just two of them at a time – sometimes three, and occasionally all four girls will brazenly defy the conventions of 21st century morality and stand together in, as the French would say, though they would say it atmospherically in French, a group. Who knew it was that kind of manga?
Art—5. Well, the train illustrations are pretty good.
Story—2. Not so much.
Characters – 2. Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie are actually named Mamiko, Maron, and Hakutsuru; Peanut is Hatsune. For the record.
Yuri—2. All girls, so it has to be there, right?
Service—10. The reason it exists.
Overall—3. Of all the short circuits in logic contained in this volume, the oddest may be that this manga could actually be used as a little reference guidebook when visiting different railways, as it includes handy maps and information. The disconnect is that in reality, this would mean opening it up in public, and… ewww.
Scary fact #1 about this manga: there are two more volumes.
Scary fact #2 about this manga: the author has another series involving trains and girls titled Tetsuko na Sanshimai that is creepier than Yuritetsu.
Erica says: Happy Guest Review Wednesday, thanks Bruce and hahahahahah!