The one thing I always want in comics, wherever they come from, and seldom get, is a kick-butt action heroine who manages to be smart, formidable in a fight, and still be a bit girly from time to time. And, I prefer her not to be wearing the equivalent of strategically placed bits of duct tape for an outfit, nor should she be ridiculously buxom. In the world of many shojo, or girls, manga, there are quite a few heroines who are neither busty nor scantily clad, but…their strength is usually purity and kind-heartedness, not practicality, cunning, or a great right hook.

Enter Arena. With a never-say-die commitment to making and living with her own decisions, a snarky attitude to beat any wiseguy, and the ability to take out guys three times her size, Arena is my kind of action heroine. And she looks like a normal girl ­ no bustiers or frills to be seen.

On the planet Deloca, students don’t just study in your standard school ­ instead they speed around the planet on a school train, traveling and learning new skills at every stop (and along the way.) Students apply for specific trains that feature the kind of education they want or at least want to aim for, but the one train that everyone avoids is the Special Train. Reputed to be full of misfits, violent thugs, and weirdoes of every description, the Special Train gives you an education you’ll never forget.

Reiichi always thought he’d end up just where he’d planned ­ getting a solid education on the General Studies train and eventually settling down into an ordinary life with a wife and kids. When he meets Arena, though, his world is turned on its head. She’s determined enroll in the Special Train, and if Reiichi gets in the way, she won’t show any mercy, even if it means dragging him along with her. The thing is, once he catches his breath, Reiichi doesn’t really mind…much. Except for the handcuffs.

With suspenseful pacing, engaging characters, kinetic action, and stylized and refreshingly uncluttered art, Train + Train pulls you into its world and doesn’t let you catch a breath until the last page. Then you just want the next volume, immediately if not sooner. This title also straddles in terms of appeal ­ both girls and guys will enjoy it, and the humor and action are balanced out with enough mystery and hints about the characters to make this a smashing start to what promises to be a great series.

Train + Train, vol. 1
by Hideyuki Kurata, Tomomasa Takuma
ISBN: 9781933617183
Go Comi, 2007

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

    View all posts
Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!