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Ultraman vs ogres: Trains featuring heroes, villains to run in western Japan

This photo shows Kaiyodo Hobby's "Ultra Train," featuring generations of Ultraman characters. (C) Tsuburaya Productions

MATSUYAMA -- Shikoku Railway Co. (JR Shikoku) is set to begin operating trains wrapped with images of Japanese superhero Ultraman and scary ogres to boost ridership.

    The newly designed trains will operate from July on sections of the JR Yodo Line and the Yosan Line on the western Japanese island of Shikoku.

    One of the designs features an ogre with huge teeth and bloodshot eyes -- a sight likely to take passengers by surprise when it rolls into the station.

    JR Shikoku cooperated with the Ehime Prefecture town of Kihoku in Shikoku -- the only municipality in Japan with the kanji character for ogre in its name -- to have the "ogre train" operate for about 2 years from July 4 on the Yosan Line between Matsuyama and Uwajima stations, and the Yodo Line between Uwajima and Kubokawa stations.

    This photo provided by Shikoku Railway Co. shows the design of the "Ogre train."

    The centerpiece of the brightly colored design is an eye-catching red ogre dubbed Oniomaru, the symbol of the town's ogre-based community development project. Augmented reality technology has been harnessed to spice up the ride inside the cars as well, with passengers able to get a sightseeing guidance from a virtual Oniomaru through a smartphone app. Users can also take photos next to the ogre.

    Meanwhile, the bright red and sliver "Ultra Train," a new "Kaiyodo Hobby Train" featuring various characters, will operate from July 22 this year to around May 2022 on the Yodo Line between Kubokawa and Uwajima stations. It will feature images of 16 Ultraman characters from various phases of the science fiction hero franchise over the years, including the earliest Ultraman and Ultraman Tiga. The train will publicize a "Kaiyodo Ultraman Figure Exhibition" running at the Kaiyodo Hobby Museum Shimanto until May 30, 2022.

    KiHa 32 series single-car trains will be used for both of the new designs. A JR Shikoku representative commented, "The wrapped bodies of the trains attract attention, but on the ogre train, augmented reality is also used and people can enjoy the feature while actually riding in the train. We hope people can become more familiar with the Yosan and Yodo lines through these initiatives."

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Yamanaka, Matsuyama Bureau)

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