Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – Mid Season Review
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress:
Original Air Dates: April 7th, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: The island of Hinomoto struggles against the Kabane, zombie-like beings formed from the remains of the living. They threaten to tear the last vestiges of humanity apart. The only defense against them are the fortresses scattered around the island as stations, with thick huge walls to defend the remaining population. The only way to travel between these stations is via the Hayajiro, massive trains that transport troops and people from one station to another.
A young man, Ikoma, who lost his family to the Kabane, has been working for five years on a new weapon that’ll change the tide of the battle against the Kabane. But during the arrival of a Hayajiro, Ikoma makes the mistake of standing up for a man suspected of being a Kabane. Due to his interference Ikoma is thrown in jail, just as another Hayajiro arrives, transporting in an army of Kabane hungry for the citizens of the city….
Mid Season (6 episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Ikoma starts off feeling like a typical seinen hero, one that’s trying to redeem himself of a tragic past. But he turns into a more interesting hero when his moment of heroism arrives. One that is extremely spiteful and while his actions are noble, they are tinged with bitterness and hatred. The sequence where he resigns himself to his fate, sacrificing himself for the sake of those who despise him, all the while cursing at them makes for not only vivid imagery but a most memorable scene. However, once that moment is over, he seems a lot more eager to return to a typical heroic role, so for those who wanted a more angsty hero throughout, keep your expectations low.
Tom: Ikoma bears an initial resemblance to Eren Yeager, focused on the loss of his loved ones and pushing forward in the fight to defeat, in this case, the Kabaneri. He’s softer than Eren, and outside of the moment Linny described, generally more heroic, less angsty and overall more likable. He’s self-sacrificing, and dedicated to his cause. Perhaps even more sure of himself. Because of Kabaneri’s faster pace, Ikoma’s actions push the plot forward at a much faster rate, keeping Kabaneri chugging along just as fast as its trains.
Linny: Mumei is our badass action heroine and initially she seemed to mainly exist to kick zombie butt and have some dark secrets herself. As they began showing her becoming increasingly reckless, with a lot more tragic flashbacks, I began to worry that they were building her up for a moment where she would fail completely and be relegated to a damsel in distress. Thankfully, that moment comes and goes in a flash, and she is soon back to her bloodthirsty and merciless self all within an episode. That’s not to say that she isn’t given any emotional growth, as she displays plenty of it, and is even shown to overcome her weakness when she needs to do so. While some might complain that she needed to have shown more emotion and struggle when confronted with having to kill a person from her past, I appreciated her decisiveness in taking action and not letting her past ruin her future and the survival of everyone else.
Tom: Mumei is the only other major character of Kabaneri that gets any significant character development and growth. In fact, she’s the only character in the cast I’m really drawn towards. Not that Ikoma is a bad character, but since his vengeful outburst, when it looked like the rest of the cast might abandon him, he’s become a rather conventional hero. Mumei, on the other hand, is the only character with a mysterious backstory that Kabaneri constantly teases us with. From the intrigue of her secret ties to one of the countries’ emperors, to puzzling questions raised concerning how she became a Kabaneri in the first place. It’s these aspects, coupled with her mouthy and pushy attitude, that really makes Mumei the biggest draw of Kabaneri. Because otherwise, Kabaneri’s characters just don’t have a lot to offer. The rest of the cast is paper thin, never unique and hardly original. Characters are defined more by their designs than their dialogue. (Save for random English guy, I love him.) And because we have such a wealth of side characters there’s never enough time to develop any of them, not without abandoning the others.
Linny: Ayame, the princess, started off my least favourite character as she reminded me of the classic Gundam female. One that preaches high morality and principles that constantly puts everyone else or herself in danger ultimately resulting in a ton of unnecessary deaths and losses. She seemed utterly helpless, only existing as a source of drama, making me roll my eyes every time she tried to take charge and only made things worse. Fortunately, she too has been redeeming herself as she wisens up after spending more time dealing with the Kabane. Not only is she one of the few to trust the Kabaneri in the beginning, but she manages to even overcome her own traumatic experience for the greater good of the community and see Ikuma and Mumei for more than just their Kabane traits. And like Tom pointed out, though the show does seem to have a lot of paper thin and predictable characters, they do still make a nice support system for Mumei and Ikoma. Takumi, Ikoma’s friend and sometimes colleague, has got to be one of the bestest best friend ever in anime and I often found myself cheering for him more often than I was cheering for Ikoma. It’s always nice to have characters who while lacking innate skills, still display bravery, loyalty and kindness. And to top it all off, I cannot help but mention Kurusu, our resident bad ass swordsmaster, because he is my husbando of the season. But on a serious note, he’s a well balanced character and I enjoy seeing him remain stubborn and headstrong when dealing with the Kabane and Kabaneri. Some viewers may dislike him for being so against Ikoma and Mumei, but he probably is someone that has had to witness the vicious acts of the Kabane countless times. Thus it isn’t surprising that he is so dead set against accepting Ikoma or Mumei into the fold. He also starts to come around after seeing just how helpful the Kabaneri are, showing that he does have logic to go hand in hand with his fierce loyalty and apprehensions.
Tom: The way I see Kabaneri is it’s more about style over substance, which isn’t inherently a bad thing, especially if that style is impressive enough to carry the thin characters. Kabaneri begins with a gripping opening song by Egoist, known for some of the more epic anime openings in the past decade. The music really pumps you up for the episode, which then is accompanied by stunning artwork. The art for the series is created by the same team that animated Attack on Titan, thus the two share similar visuals elements. But Kabaneri isn’t simply a copy of Attack on Titan. There’s also elements within Kabaneri of older anime styles, dating back to the 90s or even 80s with the way characters have been designed. Also, instead of the heavy western influences of Attack on Titan, Kabaneri has replaced them by delving further down into the steampunk aesthetic along with pronounced Asian influences that give Kabaneri it’s own unique look without relying on its Attack on Titan similarities. The fight scenes are incredibly impressive and the high fidelity of the art keeps your eyes engaged even when the characters may not be doing the same for your brain.
Linny: The visual style and flair do make for some amazing reveals and action scenes. The show really is at its best during combat sequences and is sure to please even those who might not be impressed by its story or characters. That’s not to say that the story or characters are unappealing or extremely lackluster, it’s just that they do not leave as much of an impact as the visuals themselves do.
Tom: Kabaneri doesn’t have the tightest plot, and minor characters can feel like a classic, dimwitted horror movie cast. These moments are fleeting, and easy to miss as Kabaneri catapults us through its plot, keeping the series moving at a constant and quick pace so that the cracks are harder to spot. Characters rarely hang out and there’s always at least one eye catching action sequence in every episode. The music, animation, and voice acting all come together producing such flare and suspense that it’s easy for the audience to get swept up in the events and overlook any of the finer details that may not hold up under intense scrutiny. I often find myself so engaged that the episode is over far sooner than I’d realized and whatever flaws existed slipped from my gaze. Linny is a bit more observant however.
Linny: Being the more keeneyed viewer when it comes to Kabaneri, I was thoroughly disappointed by what I perceive to be a major flaw in Episode 6. For those who haven’t caught up/haven’t started the show yet, maybe come back after Episode 6 if you hate spoilers with a passion. For everyone else, let’s dive in. So there’s the scene where Ikoma and group have to make it up to the train, which is slowly making its way across a track that looks super high up from their current location, while the Kabane colony is snapping at their heels. The very next second, the group is already on the train, while the Kabane is still advancing towards them from the spot which now looks extremely far away again. I just can’t comprehend how Ikoma and co made it to the train that quickly as it looked like there was nothing they could grab onto or climb up quickly enough to make it out of danger. It really took me out of the moment. It made me feel like the show wasn’t putting serious thought into creating tension and drama. It also reminded me of an older episode where the entire group of train passengers are freaking out and screaming in terror as a co-passenger is clearly transforming into a Kabane. But the second, Mumei kills the Kabane, they all immediately start hurling hateful and angry words at her for killing it. Did they WANT her to let it live and eat them? That’s not the impression they were giving a second ago when it was alive. All these sudden switches in attitude and danger levels seem very unbalanced and poorly executed to me and I wish the show would put a little more thought into making such scenes more believable.
Tom: Kabaneri has been relentlessly compared to Attack on Titan since its announcement, both favorably and unfavorably. There’s no denying that Kabaneri borrows a lot of ideas, imagery, and even a few character types. But Kabaneri has grown into something all its own now that we’re a solid six episodes in. It’s less focused on conspiracy and treachery like Attack on Titan was so fond of harping on. Instead Kabaneri seems more interested in humanizing both Ikoma and Mumei and dealing with racism, mistrust, and hatred as these two grow to become accepted by a group driven by fear. The story has also moved away from the more static setting and ventured out across this Kabane infested world, something Attack on Titan has never really ventured forth with, even within the manga. That said, the Kabane are a far less original creation. As we learn more about them we discover the Kabane, often and rightly compared to zombies, have a few additional traits ripped from other occult horror classics. That said, while unoriginal, it’s still entertaining to see exactly what new elements will become incorporated into the Kabaneri mythos week to week.
Linny: As with every show that’s insanely hyped up by fans, Kabaneri is bound to end up being disliked by some who are jaded by the over glorification or those who recognize its flaws and are frustrated by others who ignore them. If you haven’t bought into the hype, but are still curious, pick it up knowing that it doesn’t have the strongest characters and there are some minor inconsistencies. If you are intrigued by the action, Kabaneri constantly delivers, coming up with increasingly dramatic and iconic fight scenes and will hopefully remain impressive to the end.
Tom: If anything, Kabaneri gets even better as it progresses, managing to take the ideas it ripped from Attack on Titan and run with them in a new and interesting direction. Its initial premise is similar, but as Kabaneri continues it becomes a thrilling and engaging action packed adventure all its own. Kabaneri is worth a watch, not because of its similar tone to Attack on Titan, but because Kabaneri offers an dark, exciting, and intriguing world all of its own.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is available for streaming via Amazon.com