The world is in the midst of the industrial revolution when horrific creatures emerge from a mysterious virus, ripping through the flesh of humans to sate their never-ending appetite. The only way to kill these beings, known as "Kabane," is by destroying their steel-coated hearts. However, if bitten by one of these monsters, the victim is doomed to a fate worse than death, as the fallen rise once more to join the ranks of their fellow undead.
Only the most fortified of civilizations have survived this turmoil, as is the case with the island of Hinomoto, where mankind has created a massive wall to protect themselves from the endless hordes of Kabane. The only way into these giant fortresses is via heavily-armored trains, which are serviced and built by young men such as Ikoma. Having created a deadly weapon that he believes will easily pierce through the hearts of Kabane, Ikoma eagerly awaits the day when he will be able to fight using his new invention. Little does he know, however, that his chance will come much sooner than he expected...
If you've spent enough time familiarizing yourself with the anime community, you'll come to realize that we're a demanding bunch. That should go without saying, given just how much anime tend to diverge from most mainstream trends. Because of this, we're always on the lookout for the next best thing. Constantly asking for something innovative. Captivating. Unique. Competent. Something to not only entertain but also to satisfy on some intellectual level. In a way, we're spoiled, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We push for more because we've seen the medium deliver time and time again. Anime isn't afraid of addressing social taboos, nor
does it shy away from concepts that most other mediums won't dare to touch. It's a format that isn't afraid of stepping on a few toes (also, it helps that Japan is batshit insane). So we make demands. We ask for further development. We lobby for anime's continuous growth because we care about the medium... and yet... despite this progressive attitude... every season without fail, we support and exalt the titles that stand as the antithesis of all of the requirements we beckon for.
We could always point the finger at the industry, holding them accountable for the type of shows we get, but that's just pointing out the symptom and not addressing the actual problem. The anime industry is a business, and like any other business, it provides a consumer need. If consumers show an invested interest in schlock entertainment, then guess what? Schlock entertainment is what they'll offer on a silver platter. Ladies and gentlemen, at the risk of sounding like a condescending prick, I write this intro, not for some personal agenda but for us as a community. If we want better, we must first discard inferior goods. Nipping the bud of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress's popularity isn't something you passively acknowledge while twiddling your thumbs, it's a matter of civil duty at this point. If you want change, supporting another cheap Attack on Titan substitute is not the answer. But you know what would be a step in the right direction? Gathering up your pitchforks with me as we burn this title at the stake.
Watching Kabaneri is like watching a 5-car pile-up on a busy intersection. It's devastating, but hard to look away from. With each plume of smoke breathes a new fiery furnace of stupor; divulging deeper into new unforeseen territories of shit writing. Where other shows simply crash and burn, Kabaneri decides to push forward with a broken axle and the power of irrationality to combust its engine. It's a wondrous, smoldering pile of fecal matter on wheels. A beautiful travesty captured in frame by uninspired creators, seeing just how close they could pass their hand over the surface of unoriginality without being scorched by the heat. And trust me when I say that Wit Studio got their hands pretty fucking close. Had they gotten any closer, we'd be naming this 'Shingeki no Kabaneri: Schlock Edition'. To say they're cashing in on an existing fanbase would be an understatement. These motherfuckers took the cash-cow home, milked it dry, then butchered it for any remaining morsels that they could scrape together. Kabaneri isn't just below average, it's the residual excrement that resides at the bottom of the barrel.
The only thing more overwrought than my need to articulate ways of calling this show shit is the actual execution of the show itself. This anime is bad, I cannot for the life of me stress that point enough. There isn't a mountain high enough to utter this phrase to unexpected viewers. So instead, let's trudge through the latest member of the dung heap, as we explore the hidden depths of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.
Set during the time of 'unexplored settings' in the lands of 'who cares about proper world building', we're introduced to our protagonist SeaweedWig-kun (also known as Ikoma), as he grunts around mad at everyone and everything around him, working as a steam smith for his town. In a world overran by kabane (humanoid super zombies), SeaweedWig-kun and the rest of society find themselves residing inside giant walled-in cities to protect themselves from annihilation. With the assistance of steam propelled weapons they—... wait, what am I doing? Silly me, just recite Shingeki No Kyojin's synopsis and call it a day. After all, this is Wit Studio's 3rd repackaging of the same setup.
In my Owari no Seraph review, I created a template to help viewers identify shows with this typical premise. For the sake of saving ourselves time and me not paraphrasing what I've explained in the past, I'll just insert that here as well:
One day, humanity is suddenly attacked by [insert name of threat here] and is brought to the brink of annihilation. But with the discovery of [insert name of weapons or power here] they were able to fight back. We follow our protagonist [insert name here] as he and his comrades use [insert name of weapon or power] to fight the [insert name of threat here] and reclaim humanity.
Kabaneri joins its cousins God Eater, Black Bullet, Knights of Sidonia, Owari No Seraph and others as the new iteration of this tired trend. With the same director, musical composer, theme song performers, script writers, sound director, color designer, and much more being brought back from their work on Attack on Titan, the intent of Wit studio couldn't be more obvious. I could drill this point home further if need be, but every show deserves to be evaluated independently (even if there's very little worth evaluating). And while Kabaneri isn't winning any anime awards in innovation anytime soon, there are a few distinctions made that separate it from the rest. For one, it's heavy use of steampunk.
While the steampunk in Kabaneri is treated with as much relevance as a script for a porno, it was still a distinction that many were initially drawn to. It gave it an identity outside of its overused setup. As pointed out by fellow colleague themegamancave, the involvement of massive trains made to accommodate and sustain people while they travel from city to city, had aspects that were reminiscent of the movie Snowpiercer. This may have given off an impression that the show was possibly going to be more than its doppelgangers (no matter how brief that hope was). With zombies, huge trains, steampunk and an industrial-like setting, Kabaneri could have been an entertaining romp, had it been entrusted in the hands of more capable creators. Even the protagonist, as rambunctious as he was at times, still demonstrated some qualities, that if smoothed out, could have made for a compelling lead.
But that's as far as the show got, by the end of episode one the writing was already on the wall. The show was going to be a trainwreck. Many may not have seen it, but for those that did, we buckled up, grabbed a tub of popcorn and waited for the title to eventually derail. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait long, as Kabaneri started off stumbling, only to further lose its footing on its quick descend downwards (which I would discuss in detail in my spoiler section).
In typical fashion for this type of show, SeaweedWig-kun's homeland is invaded by the kabane after a freak accident causes a part of the wall to be knocked down. Accompanying us on our trainwreck to hell, we're introduced to Mumei, or as I like to call her, Bipolar-chan. While the citizens run around in a panic with the kabane slowly picking them off, SeaweedWig-kun and Bipolar-chan takes matters into their own hands. Bipolar-chan, a 12-year-old terminator, made quick work of the kabane fodder while giving us glances of her prepubescent pantsu. And while this is going on, our protagonist SeaweedWig-kun concocts a plan to ambush a zombie with a weapon he made with what remaining time he didn't dedicate to yelling at people. After the dust settles from all the chaos, our remaining citizens find themselves aboard Thomas the Tank Engine as they leave behind the charred remains of what they called home. And so our adventure begins.
With caked on color gradients, a grandiose soundtrack by Sawano, and nice action set pieces, it isn't hard to see why initial impressions would cause mass hysteria for more Kabaneri. But little did people know, what they were getting was a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the slightest nudge to explode. Even elements that seemed to be a strong attribute at 1st couldn't keep up the façade for long. Take the art and animation for example. Because of the polish look the show draped over everything, many viewers often fail to notice the fact that several scenes throughout each episode were actually still shots, with no more than a shaky-cam effect to mask it. And outside the moments that fight scenes broke out, the actual fluidity of the animation was no higher than the usual standards demonstrated by other studios. Kabaneri was a mess only held together by duct tape. And when it started bursting from the seams, episodes like 9 began to happen. And what little makeup it had to distract from the truth that was there all along, it was no longer enough to fool even the most gullible of individuals.
These slight of hand tricks weren't limited to later episodes either. The degree to which the audience notice these shortcomings depended entirely on their initial investment. And seeing how my invested level was lower than dirt, Kabaneri was an eyesore from the moment SeaweedWig-kun had bright ideas about how the body's circulatory system works.
But even a trainwreck like Kabaneri had some positive qualities. As previously mentioned, the soundtrack by Sawano did wonders for the show. It helped shape the mood and tone of the show's universe. Swelling up whenever the action came to a boiling point or simmering down during quiet moments; whatever the occasion, Sawano had all ends covered. It made the experience far more enjoyable than it would have been had a less talented composer been given the job.
On a side note, there was a minor character with a widely inconsistent vernacular. I'm not sure if the voice actor wanted to be British, American or Australian. It's like trying to get Arnold Schwarzenegger to trick someone into believing he's a part of the British Intelligence. The random hammy phrases uttered by this individual got me to chuckle every time. Outside of that, the rest of the cast did fine. But ultimately the biggest highlight from the auditory department was that of Sawano. A man that unfortunately had to sully his hands once again with a project undeserving of his talents.
And speaking about creators that elevated Kabaneri from the shit pile, Tetsurō Araki directorial work once again shines through. No matter the project he takes on, his flare for the dramatic is never underplayed. The man knows how to get the most from the material he's given. Whether he's directing the Spiderman view shots of the 3D maneuver gear in Attack on Titan, or defying physics with the matrix boobs on High School of the Dead; Araki goes all out every time. He's to anime what Zach Synder is to film. Whether you view that as an insult or not isn't of concern, the fact is he never stops delivering his signature flare, no matter the quality of show he's working with.
But this is where the praise comes to an end, as our trainwreck makes its final pit stop. For those of you who've seen the show and had a hard time spotting plot inconsistencies or contrive narrative decisions, don't worry, because I'm feeling extra generous today. Join me in the spoiler section as I break down this idiotic title by each episode. And for those of you who haven't seen Kabaneri yet, scroll down past the "end of spoilers" indication to avoid having this 'masterpiece' ruined to you.
Kabaneri showed cracks in its foundation from the very beginning. This breakdown will cover them all.
The show thinks the body circulatory system works by bullshit logic, with the main character choking himself to stop a virus. There're two kinds of choking: one that restricts blood flow to the brain, denying oxygen intake, and the other is strangulation, which cuts off your air intake altogether by closing your windpipe. Restricting your blood flow or air intake doesn't stop blood from going to your brain, it restricts it. It's like going from a gush of water to a slow trickle. So choking yourself isn't going to prevent a virus from spreading to your brain, all that would do is leave you unconscious and eventually cause death when there's no one around to help resuscitate you. This still doesn't even address the fact that he slit his wrist, which, if you don't know, could cause you to bleed to death. There's a reason it's a common method of committing suicide. So our protagonist committed two acts back to back that would usually lead to death, yet survives both, all for an end goal that logically makes no sense whatsoever.
Even if we put aside how illogical this solution is, and suspend our disbelief to buy into it, the fact remains that our protagonist never informs anyone of this accomplishment. If temporarily cutting off circulation to your brain and infected area is all that it takes to combat this virus, why would he not inform the other citizens about this after he had gained their trust, instead of having them kill themselves with pocket bombs? When you take this into consideration, our protagonist is essentially responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people. For someone who tries his hardest to protect others, he sure does a piss poor job at doing it.
Mumei single-handily wipes out dozens of Kabane with ease. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize what it does for the stakes of the show. If these monsters are made out to be such an imposing force to humanity, only to have them be taken out with little effort by a 12-year-old girl, what does that do to the stakes? Yes, the Kabaneri inclusion spices up the story but is also removes any sense of tension when you have an one-man army on your side.
After saving the lives of everyone, the Kabaneri are scrutinized by the people. This isn't the actions of sensible adults, this is the writers turning an entire population into imbeciles. No matter the time period or cultural upbringing, using weapons to extend survival has always been intrinsic to mankind. Taking precaution to keep them locked up? Sure. But to outright discard them right after seeing their effectiveness in combat? Now that's plain lunacy. To top it off, these buffoonish adults gather in a mob to threaten the Kabaneri, despite seeing their physical prowess against kabane; beasts they could barely take out as a group. This is also where Bipolar-chan began to show her wishy-washy personality; switching from one archetype to another at the drop of a hat.
A kabane has the ability to wield a samurai sword with as much proficiency as a trained warrior. At this point, red flags should be going off in your head. This is insanely stupid, I shouldn't have to explain why this is a huge problem.
Mumei's flip flopping characteristics become increasingly worse. She's always been bipolar before this episode, but this is the point where the writers show that they don't know how to write a mentally disturbed character, from one that simply flip flops between different personality traits. She goes from tsundere, to yandere, to kuudere, to dandere, back to tsundere again. This is terrible characterization. The last time I've seen a character this inconsistent was Slaine Troyard from Aldnoah.Zero.
LOL The Black Smoke. Do I need to say more? At this point, those red flags in your head should be set ablaze. This is where the show nosedives at 100mph.
Impoverished, with little food to feed their people, yet they have enough resources to waste on a celebration? This desperate attempt to add levity only backfires. To top it off they light fireworks... FIREWORKS! That's how you attract hoards of kabane to your location. The show temporarily forgot that it was a zombie survival story and does something far too stupid to be excused. Also, this is where Biba makes his first appearance lol And God knows what that means.
It's the introduction of Biba and the relinquishment of any integrity Kabaneri may have been holding on to. Not only does he collect Kabane like he's a pokemon master, but he's also a genocidal lunatic with little in the way of proper reasoning for any of his actions. Where other antagonists take an inch, Biba takes a mile, and then some. Also, Bipolar-chan's gullible personality is poorly excused with the actions taken by Biba to get her to the mental state she's in.
As far as I'm concerned, the show jumped the shark with the colony kabane monster, but this serves as the most noticeable case of it going off the rails completely. The Kabaneri are now pokemon, with Hyper Beams, agility, and double team. This, my friends, is what schlock action looks like. This is also the moment that many people gave up on the show. There's literally no defense possible to excuse this. The show has 0 value at this point.
This doesn't even touch upon the fact that Biba killed thousands of innocent people for what amounts to him being butthurt.
Mumei is still a flip flopping idiot, Biba is still demonstrating Saturday morning cartoon levels of villainy, and in what was suppose to be an emotional sacrifice, where Ikoma's friend Takumi jumps in front of a bullet to protect him, losing his life in the process, turns out to be just another failed attempt by the show. You see, there's just one problem with this "emotional" scene, he didn't need protecting, to begin with. We've seen Ikoma have chunks of flesh ripped from him by hoards of kabane on several occasions, as well as other life-threatening injuries. The kabaneri are known to have amazing regenerative abilities. So had Ikoma been shot, it wouldn't have mattered all that much. This makes Takumi's sacrifice pointless and only there to add emotional weight for a moment that didn't have any. And after hitting a conveniently placed lever that opens up the train's walls (seriously, what function does this even serve?), Ikoma falls into the river after Bipolar-chan stabs him, in what is the most overused fake death scene in any storytelling medium.
Ikoma turns into Rambo and staples a gun to his arm (because reasons) and takes a drug to go super saiyan, which has the side effect of depleting his life and killing him (remember this); while Biba devises a plan that operates entirely on plot convenience. It required his father to kill him using a weapon that he himself had devised as a trap, with a convenient formula that instantly infuses your blood with Kabane's, a substance that we never saw before (which makes no sense given the prior cases of kabane transformations we've seen).
The show couldn't keep its promise and at least deliver Ikoma as a sacrifice for Mumei's life. Instead, it chose the pussy way out, by keeping him alive (despite what they said just one episode prior to him taking the drug). Ikoma temporarily became a Jedi and used the force to send a train flying off the tracks. They also try to humanize Biba at the last minute with perhaps the dumbest revelation up to this point. Remember, this is a guy that committed multiple genocides because he's a little butthurt, so seeing the show try to add humanity to him at the very last minute is not only unwarranted but plain stupid. And the way he goes about receiving this forced "redemption" opens up another can of worms, in perhaps the show's stupidest mistake up to this point. If Biba cured the Kabaneris with the formula that the scientist had, doesn't it stand to reason that the same cure could work if you're bitten by one? This revelation not only ruins what little semblance of urgency the show had, it effectively erased all the danger of every encounter up to this point. It also negates the struggle that Kabaneris faced with not being completely human. It's astonishing just how many dumb things the show does in the last few minutes of airing. This isn't even accounting for the numerous stupid moments littered throughout the episode. The show went full-retard, there's no other way to describe what happened.
So with all this said, when I see people say the show was good then got bad after a Kabaneri spammed a 'Grand Rey Cero', I'm honestly perplexed, because, from my account of every episode up to that point, the show has always been bad.
***end of spoiler***
Whenever a title receives widespread popularity, a slew of variations and rehashes of that project tend to follow. Like in the case of The Matrix, which effectively started a trend of high-concept dystopian action movies like Equilibrium, Ultraviolet, and Minority Report. The anime community has no shortage of this event happening either, with the two biggest recent examples being Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan. Titles that saw with it a huge incentive for the anime industry to pump out MMO augmented reality shows and the next humanity monster survival tale.
The only time these trendsetting tidal waves subside is when the audiences no longer express interest for that product. Kabaneri wouldn't be the last unless we as an audience say enough is enough. And while they're anime viewers who simply love the idea of more Attack on Titan, remember that this will only lead to negative backlash later on. If you consume the same product every day, sooner or later you're going to get sick of the taste. Over-saturation is what kills interest, and as long as you give these half-baked shows a monetary gain, studio heads would see no incentive to stop.
Kabaneri is entertaining in the way watching a dumpster fire could be seen as fun.
Thankfully the only casualty of this trainwreck was the integrity of Wit Studio's staff, and perhaps the brain cells of those that actually thought this had a chance of being good. I really hated this show at first, it was doing illogical things but not to the point of alerting other viewers. So while I sat there uninterested, others saw something "good" or at the very least, entertaining. But then the show got increasingly worse, eventually getting to the point where even casual viewers couldn't possibly ignore it anymore. And as it quickly decreases in quality, my enjoyment quickly shot up as a result.
Kabaneri's writing is impressively bad, like worthy of a Razzie bad. I'm all for dumb fun, but what I don't advocate however is confusing "so bad it's good" titles with actual "good" ones. And while I enjoyed making fun of this show, laughing at each new idiotic plot thread, it is by no means a good title. It's a confused, contrived mess that made for great B-movie entertainment. So while this dumpster fire occasionally whizzed out fireworks for my amusement, I can't promise the same results for everyone else.
Kabanaeri is the malignant tumor slowly eating away at the anime community's set standards of what constitutes as a "good" title. Each new layer is like a slow descent into madness; deciphering your way through the muddled maze of abysmal writing and "so bad it's good" narrative decisions that even experienced viewers would be baffled by. Very few shows left me dumbfounded with its stupidity in the way Kabaneri did. I suffered many convulsions trying to process the sheer level of absurdity that each new episode brought, and just as I thought it was done with its surprises, it manages to pull another rabbit out of its (ass)hat. Unintelligible, uninspired and gasping for air, this anime is on the verge of being comatose. Pulling the plug is the only humane solution left. It reached the apex of nonsensical writing, and there's no cure potent enough to save it from dying of stupidity. This is truly the representation of "schlock" in its unadulterated form.
If you happen to be someone who has a steady job within the anime industry, what is the best possible way to earn some decent $$$ when making an original anime? Is it to try and come up with the best and most original setting that comes to mind? To create characters with seemingly limitless potential? A thought-provoking story? If you think it's any of the above, you may as well be delusional. Wit Studio has it all figured out. Sadly, after milking the dried up and shriveled old cow that is Attack on Titan for a solid three years now, I think they may
have forgotten how to make an actual original anime. Here, I'll paint you a somewhat-clearer picture of the feeling I got upon reading the series' synopsis. Imagine arriving to school with a brand new pair of shoes, right? So as you're walking down the hallway, your shoes are suddenly stepped on by some snot-nosed kid wearing a monster energy T-shirt and a hat turned sideways. That's right, the feeling of true despair.
So humans are at the brink of extinction again, blah blah blah. Only this time, our enemies are much less intimidating than ever before. They are just these mindless glowing zombies that raid trains once in a while and occasionally manage to get into the fortress. Oh, but don't get the fortress confused with the great walls from AoT as they are two totally separate entities and do not resemble each other a single bit. So seeing as regular humans are always as useless as one can be in these types of series, we are introduced to Kabaneri, the humans who got bitten by the glowing zombies and received superpowers because of it. Our main superhero is our boy Ikoma, who is out on a quest of revenge against the Kabane, accompanied by our loli heroine Mumei. These two form an invincible bond and so their journey begins.
Attack on Titan was one of the first anime that got me back into the medium and I still faintly remember the dread I felt while watching the first few episodes. That feeling is completely gone this time around which can probably be entirely accounted for by the lackluster execution, more or less. To say that the Kabane's designs are lacking would be an understatement but we also have these people who can kill a hundred of them within the span of a minute which makes the threat feel that much more nonexistent. Then the setting apparently takes place during an industrial revolution yet they don't put any emphasis on this point what so ever. This could have been a great way to delve deeper into the world and give more depth to the setting if it were utilized properly. I'm not going to settle down for those fucking trains being the only reason this takes places in an industrial revolution. The potential is there but unfortunately it is left untouched.
There were also minor inconsistencies within some of the writing. Like why the hell do they have the people who are bitten be locked up for 3 days straight when with every single on-screen instance we've had of a human turning into a Kabane when bitten has happened within a time period of 5 minutes max? This show is too stupid for its own good. Speaking of stupid, the drama between the humans and the Kabaneri never disappoints. Despite the Kabaneri protecting the humans for the entirety of the series, if they happen to do a single, usually insignificant thing that the public deems as questionable, they are to be locked up and shunned immediately."You spilled a cup of coffee? Looks like you're no different from a Kabane after all, damn wench!"
The main cast just honestly really impressed me. Our protagonist was a guy who got bit by a Kabane, went through some kinky bondage porn and emerged a Kabaneri. He is as original as one can be, making an oath to himself that he will exterminate all of the zombies after a death of a certain family member. This backstory got me really emotional. It is something that we have never once seen before and is very original. Design-wise, he is sort of what I would picture Harry Potter's edgier twin brother to look like. Having such a strong resemblance to that character may be a good or a bad thing depending on preference. Who knows. It has been a good few years since I've last seen the Harry Potter films so I couldn't really say. We literally know not a single thing about his background and past apart from the fact that his sister, who we also knew nothing about, had died. Such a tragic tale this is.
Our heroine is an awfully cocky and narcissistic brute of a 12 year old girl. She is a strong and agile fighter who helps our protagonist along the way as well as guide him when he is initially bit and turns suicidal. She seems to make a lot of decisions that are considered questionable by the other characters for some reason, like killing a pregnant woman who was about to give birth to a Kabane. This is somehow questioned and deemed not to be acceptable despite the soldiers casually putting every single bitten person to death on a daily basis. Is it morally right or not? Make up your mind already. Her backstory is neither here nor there but is definitely better than Ikoma's as we do get some flashbacks that tell us bits and pieces of her upbringing and how she became the way she is. Despite being extremely obnoxious, she is easily the most developed character in the entire show as by the time the show reaches its climax her personality would have already done a 180 and if she were not so damn stupid, I may have actually of been able to sympathize with her situation.
The antagonist of the series (who we shall refer to as Jimmy because spoilers) is so poorly-written that he almost manages to make the rest of the cast look good while on screen. Jimmy's motivations are extremely incoherent and shallow as well as just plain stupid. He developed daddy issues because his papi used to randomly assault him with a knife when he was 8 years old, as he apparently "feared" him. Hence, his primary objective is to end his father's reign because of the previously mentioned and for the fact that he for some reason let the Kabane destroy one of the cities which little Jimmy was defending at the time. I don't know why or how his father would benefit from doing so but apparently he does. And you know what they say - The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Even after getting his revenge he still goes out of his way to wreak havoc upon the innocent civilians who've got not a single thing to do with this by releasing the Kabane upon them. Ahh so much shock factor ahh such good villain.
When it is necessary, Jimmy also enjoys pulling out the Plot Convenience Serum out of his pocket and injecting it into other characters in order to turn them into mindless drones. This of course has one hell of an influence on the overarching plot as you can imagine since you have people who hate his guts one episode turning into his slaves the next. This was obviously just an extremely lazy way of making the plot progress further in the way the writers wanted it to. What's a good anime without plot convenience anyway? Funny thing is, if the characters had any semblance of a brain inside their thick skulls, Jimmy would have no chance to even get near the fortress to begin with, much less get inside. No side characters stuck out as literally all of them are either useless or obnoxious and on special occasions maybe even both.
Art & Animation / Sound
I have somewhat of an educated guess that Wit Studio may have made a tiny winy ounce of cash with the production of a show a few years back, as well as one more recently. So naturally, it may be worth considering that by now they can put in a pretty decent budget, and so they did. The animation is buttery smooth and the art is very appealing. The choreography is very impressive and engaging whenever the fights aren't entirely one-sided. They used some weird shading technique on the character designs which I think worked well for the most part. The blood and gore looked very fluid and liquid-y. As for sound, I've got no clue. I put IceJJFish and Anton Maiden songs in the background in order to ease the pain, sorry. Opening and ending are pretty nifty though.
Just dreadful in all honestly. Every single individual factor of the show managed to hinder my enjoyment in one way or another. Be it the subpar and messy plot, the gigantic amount of plotholes riddled throughout, the horrid characterization and character development, unparalleled edge, horrible antagonist, shitty worldbuilding, rushed ending.. The list could go on. To make the long story short, it was not enjoyable. That being said, I imagine most people will actually find something here, be it the over the top execution, well-done action choreography or simply poking fun at how bad it is. I myself am not an action junkie so the choreography, while impressive, didn't leave an everlasting impression of sorts and unfortunately I wasn't able to get a kick out of how bad it was either, rather it just left me with the impression that it was trying too hard. It really is the worst thing when an awful show takes itself too seriously. Where is Mitsumune when you need him?
A true trainwreck till the very end. Kabaneri wasn't even a disappointment, it was exactly what I expected from the synopsis. The production studio was unable to keep consistency within its mediocre 12-episode runtime as shown clearly by the spiraling transition of quality the further the series progressed. I want to say that it would have worked better if it were 24 episodes long but I really can't, judging from how poorly they handled a measly 12. I'm really inclined to believe that this was just a cheap cash grab by Wit Studio since they know far too well that they can get a decent amount of income just by having the show have Attack on Titan vibes, and boy, does it have that. Hell, I'm pretty sure I could sum up both of the first episodes using the exact same sentence. Now, a moment of appreciation for Wit Studio... Thank you. And so the second season of AoT is delayed yet again. Satisfied?
A society in the middle of an industrial revolution. Gigantic steampunk-iron fortresses protecting its citizens. Zombies that terrorizes the lands, where large tank-like trains are the only means of transport and communication with the different fortifications. Such is the setting of Koutesujou no Kabaneri: mankind's struggle to survive the everluring doors of death and despair. Zombies threatening mankind is nothing new, yet is arguably oddly entertaining - when it is done right that is. What could have been a simple story about humankind's struggle for survival, sadly turned out into a petty revenge story: despite its flaws, an enjoyable first part, but with a very
lackluster second part. That being said, it has some great visuals and spectacular action scenes.
The story of Koutesujou no Kabaneri revolves mainly around Ikoma who works as an engineer in the train station, while making his very own gun to eradicate the zombies. Incidently, a train enters the station with an infected man, and thus, mankind's main fear became true: infections happening left and right within the fortress itself. This proves for the protagonist a big chance to test his very own weapon, and thus the survival story begins. A thing to note is that action is quite predominant in the series, where story and characterization basically take a back seat, although changes a bit in the second half. It is often well-coordinated, with here and there some causes of the fights itself rather lackluster. This also means that there are quite some gory sequences, full with blood, which may be a no-go for some.
At first sight it can be quite engaging, the protagonist not finding justice in indiscriminately killing the turned human: a confrontation of what defines a human being, yet naturally comes down to kill or be killed. This of course causes ruckus within society itself, in which the population displays the cowardly nature of mankind when pressured or under fear. Now there should be rules to avoid such occurrences (infected entering the city), yet the logic used by the script writers is bland and plain non-sensical at times to say the least. A lot of the rules applied have no real logic behind them, for example thorough body inspections, when the infection is nearly instantaneous, making this particular one mute. There are many more examples within the anime, where some can be overlooked up to a certain extend; this is to say, up to the first half of the story.
What is important to note, is that the anime is initially a simple story of survival with its obvious flaws, but overlookable, as it was not trying to be anything more than that. However, with the introduction of a character, Amatori Biba, the whole anime takes a significant dip in overall quality. In fact, the whole anime essentially turns into a petty revenge story, being the above mentioned character the main "villain", but to this later. There are also special powers in the anime, as well as beings: for instance, kabaneri are half-human, half kabane. This gives a plausible solution of why a small group of people being able to withstand the hordes of zombies. There are different types of zombies to spice the things up a bit, but were minimal, up to a certain point in the anime where it simply became superfluous with various increasingly overpowered ones. The main problem with this is that the anime was still trying to make it as "realistic" as possible, but with such elements thrown into it, it simply lost any credibility it had left.
Concerning the cast of characters in Koutesujou no Kabaneri, although varied, they share the archetypes common in the genre. There is also a problem when it comes to the characterization of its cast: it is introduced too late for it to take a big effect, which incidentally is introduced mid-way up to the end of the anime. Possibly by that time viewers won't have had any reason to consolidate with the characters as nothing of crucial importance or aspect was known about them. On the one hand there is Ikoma, a young simple-minded smith who wants to create a powerful weapon to counter the kabane with more ease. He has different views on how to treat the infected: yet also shares an aversion to the kabane. His very reason on why he desires to wipe out the kabane is very basic. Despite being the protagonist of the series, he undergoes little character development, even to the point of losing his very identity - which was rather lackluster to say the least, as its implementation was badly executed, feeling out of place.
On the other hand there is Mumei, an initially young girl who is quiet and arrogant, but essentially scared with no people to rely on other than what she considers her "big brother", Biba. As the series progresses, she slowly opens up a bit, just to be "brainwashed" - which in turn leaves the character development she experienced mute. Then there is one of the main reasons the anime took another huge dip in quality, the villain Biba. Although initially presented as an interesting character in charge of cleansing zombies, as well as being implied as an important character to develop the cast, it takes a turn to the worse as his main goal becomes apparent. The very motive behind it is severely lacking and uninspired - what is worse, his very character is terribly basic: just an emotionless and ruthless man, pursuing blindly his objective, while sacrificing everything in the process.
An additional problem with the introduction of the above mentioned character is the implementation of the revenge plan: a handful, or rather a stream of unlikely events just continuously happen in the rest of the series, which is where any remaining logic the series had flied out the window to accommodate it. This could be naturally due to its short airing time, yet it should have been done in a more graceful manner. As for the other characters, there is nobody else of importance to mention or care for, as hardly any fleshing out or characterization was done.
~Animation and sound~
On the bright side, the art style of Koutesujou no Kabaneri was surely refreshing and very well done, having some fantastic detail in both the design of its characters as well as the backgrounds. It is true that in some ocassions the background detail of characters where basic, even when only two were present. It is somewhat out of the norm, but is surely one I'd like to see more in the future. The animation itself was another great aspect, with fluid combat scenes and motions of the characters: fast and graceful slashes, blood, the lightning, you name it. CG is used in the anime, in particular that of the train, but as a whole was easily overlookable.
Concerning the soundtrack of the show, while mostly it is befitting of the atmosphere with the use of classical instruments, drums, guitar, there are numerous instances where there were inappropriate ones that felt out of place. The same could be said about the voice actors, while mostly it was performed in a satisfying manner, quite some characters constantly had an angry tone, to the point of being annoying - such as the protagonist. It emanates the feeling as if the character only possesed one single emotion. As for the opening and ending of the series, although visually very pleasing, it had no memorable music attached to it.
Despite having somewhat enjoyed the first half of series, Koutesujou no Kabaneri was as a whole disappointing: it should have just stuck to a simple survival story about humanity instead of what the second half introduced. This transition made the numerous issues the series had just more apparent, in addition to adding new ones. Now it must be said that the action scenes were an enjoyable watch, but were hindered by the laughable logic behind the events tied to them, as well as the characters. So do I recommend this anime? Is it the second Attack on Titan? Not really, unless viewers are able to easily dismiss the issues as inconsequential, and enjoy the mindless action there is, as the story won't be the main interest.
Why are people comparing this anime to shingeki no kyojin? I mean, this anime by itself is already very good. I dont really understand why people are starting to rate Koutetsujou no Kabaneri lower now that they've watched the last episode. Overall, the last episode wasnt even that bad. IN FACT, it kind of gives way to saying the the story isnt really finished yet, which then leads to a hint that there could even be a second season. If people want to rate this anime, they should at least try not to be as biased as possible. Anyways, Hiroyuki Sawano, as usual, created an
amazing set of OST (original soundtrack). The art was quite good, making it look more realistic. The characters are quite unique, although there is a slight sense of cliche with some of the personalities like Ikoma's for example. The anime really was enjoyable. Even though the ending seems to be kind of rushed, the overall thing was quite good, and it isnt exactly as bad as what some people say. As for the story, i think that the pace was going at a satisfying pace (excluding the ending). The plot really made it unique since it has been a long time since a good post-apocalyptic anime came out after HOTD and SNK.