“Pending Train is a touching series about human interactions and how a group of people learns to come together. It uses a post-apocalyptic setting to tell this universal story. The main trio brilliantly leads this talented ensemble cast.”
Pending Train, ペンディングトレイン―8時23分、明日 君と (Hachi-ji Nijuusan-pun, Asu Kimi to) in Japan is the latest series from TBS to hit Netflix. It aired on TBS in Japan from 21 April to June 23. It took over the famous 22:00 Friday time slot of the series Why Didn’t I Tell You a Million Times? that finished airing in March. Netflix released all the episodes of Pending Train last Friday around the world. This series is composed of 10 episodes of around 45 minutes each.
Pending Train follows the survival of passengers of a car train that displaced them in a distant post-apocalyptic future. In a way this series does remind me of the classic US series LOST. Indeed, you have characters who somehow find themselves transported to a deserted place while traveling. Though, LOST gave philosophical answers for the how and why, Pending Train gives a scientific answer to the displacement of the passengers. At its heart, this series is a touching story about human interactions/relationships and about this group of people learning to come together. It uses a post-apocalyptic setting to tell a universal story.
IN THE FUTURE
Throughout the first episodes, the story follows this ensemble cast of characters as they learn where they are and how to survive in this post-apocalyptic Japan. They have to find water and food while also trying to figure out how they arrived there and if there is a way to return home. It’s quite compelling to see the story unfold. Surviving in this deserted post-apocalyptic Japan isn’t that easy. It comes with a lot of troubles. This includes tensions with the second car of passengers that was displaced with them. The second car isn’t the main focus of the story but it does affect the story of the ensemble cast we follow. Beyond the survival part, it’s also a slice-of-life with the characters just trying to live.
Each character gets enough screen time for the audience to care about them even the ones who may seem annoying at first. Through some flashbacks, we learn how their life in the past was. This informs their choices in the future. They all have their own little side storyline within the group. But the real main characters are a trio composed of Naoya Kayashima (Yuki Yamada) a hairdresser, Yuto Shirahama (Eiji Akaso) a firefighter and Sae Hatano (Moka Kamishiraishi) a P.E. teacher.
Additionally, I think it’s interesting to have present scenes to show how the families and friends of the characters react to them disappearing. The story mostly showcases Naoya’s brother Tatsuya (Yuto Ikeda) who was just released from prison. He is having a hard time to accept his brother is gone. And his struggles echo Naoya’s struggles to move on. It draws a parallel between them.
Moreover, Yuto steps up to be the natural leader of this group with his goal to save everyone. Behind that goal, Yuto carries guilt over his failures that lead to his working partner to be handicapped. Hatano failed as a teacher but she is inspired by Yuto to do better, she just wants to do good. Then, Naoya is a grouchy person who doesn’t exactly seem to be the nicest person. But on the inside, he has his own struggles. Indeed, he feels guilty about his brother being a criminal and not being here for him when leaving prison. Yet, Naoya in his own way inspires the group as well. He shakes them up.
Slowly, you realize that each of these characters were struggling in the past for different reasons. So, coming together as a group in the future saves them. They create bonds that change the course of their life. Even though, science is the answer to how they traveled to the future, the how can have a different interpretation. The way I see it, they found themselves in this car train because they needed each other. Living this experience is what they needed to grow and move on. A story like this is one that inspires. It’s truly beautiful.
BACK TO THE PAST?
The final two episodes bring the characters back to the past but not their past. They end up going to 2026, the year where the catastrophe that will shake the world is supposed to happen. The reunion scene with the characters and their families is so deeply moving especially Naoya finding his brother. You need tissues because you won’t be able to hold back the tears and probably not just for this scene.
The bonds the characters created throughout the previous 8 episodes come into fruition in the final episodes. They are back in a world that they don’t recognize. They are outcasts because the world is having a hard time to accept the truth that they have brought. You see them on their own suffering, being treated as freaks. So they only have themselves, this group. Indeed, they are the only ones who have been through the same thing. It’s this shared experience that unites them.
These episodes are about their harsh return to the world and trying to prevent that doomed future. When they are done trying to prevent the catastrophe, when they have done everything that is possible, their final goal is to survive. In the end, preventing that asteroid to hit Earth is out of their control, it’s the government’s responsability. They come together again to survive. This is an open ending but not a frustrating one. It doesn’t clearly say that the disaster is avoided but it let’s you guess it probably has been avoided. It ends on a hopeful message and a celebration of life. I think this is quite powerful.
A MAIN TRIO AND A LOVE TRIANGLE?
Moreover, throughout the ten episodes, there are clear signs of a love triangle between the main trio. Nevertheless, it’s not your typical triangle. That’s a good thing because I’m not necessarily fond of that type of storyline. It plays out in a way that leaves it open to interpretation without resolving anything. I think it’s the clever way to do it. Whoever you ship, there is a scene that will make you happy. The important thing here is not really who loves who but that no matter what happens, they will be here for each other. Yuto inspires Hatano and he repeatedly saves Naoya, he helps him opening up. And when it matters the most, Naoya is here to save Yuto in the end. It goes full circle. I think this is a better outcome to that love triangle than any resolution that they could have given.
Furthermore, this series gathers a talented ensemble cast lead by a brilliant trio made of Yuki Yamada, Eiji Akaso and Moka Kamishiraishi. On the outside, they each play very different characters who still manage to have a charming on-screen chemistry. Eiji and Yuki can have confrontation scenes but there is still something that clicks between them. I think it is important to have this chemistry between them because when you learn more about Yuki’s character, you realize that he is not really that different of Eiji and Moka’s characters. Yuki delivers an heartfelt portrayal of Naoya’s inner struggles. His performance highlights the different layers of his character. While Eiji Akaso is simply perfect as this everyday person who steps up to be the leader. There is something about Eiji that just feels like he is an ordinary person, like he could be your neighbour and that’s what makes his charm. Moka delivers a more reserved performance which fits with her character.
VISUALS & SOUNDTRACK
Moreover, the scenery in this series is absolutely striking. The sand dunes are so vast, it accentuates the idea of the characters being lost. There is nothing on the horizon except sand and sea. The forest is also quite beautiful. It is a calm and immense place while also being the perfect place for danger. When you have post-apocalyptic futures in media, you often get the big cities in ruins but going back to just the immensity of nature with just a few traces of the past civilization makes for great visuals. You don’t need a huge budget with tons of CG to tell a story of this type, you just need to find the right scenery. And I think Pending Train really impresses on this level. The series also shows Tokyo in a natural light during the present/past scenes.
Takashi Ohmama has composed a wonderful score. Indeed, his music helps creating tensions in some scenes while adding to the emotional tone in others. There is an heavy use of the piano mixed with string instruments and woodwind instruments. I think this mix of instruments play so well for moving tracks. Ohmama really strikes a chord with the audience. On top of that, the main theme of the series is probably the best track. There is something truly powerful about it with an epic touch to it. The background voice is the cherry on the cake in this track. Finally, the end theme is ‘TATTOO’ by Official Hige Dandism. It is a dynamic pop song that you are happy to listen to at the end of each episode.
Pending Train is a touching series about human interactions and how a group of people learns to come together. It uses a post-apocalyptic setting to tell this universal story. The main trio brilliantly leads this talented ensemble cast. Yuki Yamada delivers an heartfelt portrayal of his character’s inner struggles. While Eiji Akaso is simply perfect as this everyday person who steps up to be the leader. On top of that, this series has impressive visuals and a wonderful score composed by Takashi Ohmama. The hopeful ending is exactly what we need right now. All the episodes are now streaming on Netflix, so get some tissues for the tears and press play!
Pending Train is now streaming on Netflix.
Collectables Editor at Future Of The Force.
Star Wars and Marvel specialist, anime expert