JAPAN: West Japan Railway officially launched an anime-themed 500 Type EVA Shinkansen trainset into revenue service on November 7, marking the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Sanyo Shinkansen.

One of the railway’s nine Series 500 trainsets has been wrapped in a stylised livery to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime television series and manga comic books. The set includes a special exhibition area in one car and has EVA-themed seats, doors and window blinds, developed in conjunction with the television series’ creator and director Hideaki Anno.

Originally built in 1997-98 with a design speed of 320 km/h, the nine Series 500 sets were first used on the premium Nozomi limited-stop services between Tokyo and western Japan over the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen. They were JR West’s first trains to run at 300 km/h, although limited to 270 km/h on the Tokaido Shinkansen because of the tighter curves.

Styled by N+P Industrial Design GmbH of Germany, the small-profile trainsets were noted for their very long noses to minimise the aerodynamic shock when entering tunnels on both lines. Further noise reduction was provided by a new design of single-arm pantograph.

Displaced from front-line service by the arrival of Series N700 and N700A trainsets which have active suspensions to allow 285 km/h running on the Tokaido Shinkansen, the Series 500 sets have now been shortened from 16 to eight coaches for use on Kodama stopping trains between Shin-Osaka and Hakata.

According to JR West, the 500 Type EVA trainset will operate a daily round trip until March 2017, forming Kodama 730 leaving Hakata at 06.36 and returning from Shin-Osaka at 11.32 on Kodama 741.