Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon
Hands up who here watched/reads Attack on Titan. Most of you? Good (if not, you should probably get on that. It’s quite popular). Now imagine this: Attack on Titan, but with zombies instead of titans. Oh, and steampunk. Lots and lots of steampunk. That’s basically the premise of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. And as we all know, steampunk makes everything roughly 300% better. Trust me, I’m a scientist.
|I mean really, what more could you want?|
Kabaneri tells the story of Ikoma, a mechanic who works on giant armoured trains that transport people and goods across the country. A number of years ago, a disease spread across the world that turned those infected by it into Kabane – zombies with hearts and bones reinforced by iron. Unable to come up with an efficient way to combat the threat, humans built a number of walled cities to hide in and use trains to stay in contact with each other. After his hometown comes under attack from the Kabane, Ikoma is bitten and, thanks to some quick thinking, becomes a Kabaneri, essentially retaining his humanity whilst gaining the strength, durability and reflexes of a Kabane. He then ends up on a train with a number of other survivors as they attempt to find a safe haven.
|I don't mean to kinkshame, but why exactly did Ikoma have restraints and asphyxiation gear in the first place?|
Right from the start, the first thing that grabbed me about this show was its presentation. The animation style is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and the colour scheme and animation combine to make some absolutely gorgeous moments. The soundtrack is great too, as are the opening and ending. But then again, when they’re performed by Egoist (Guilty Crown, Psycho-Pass) and Aimer (Unlimited Blade Works) respectively, that’s kind of to be expected.
Despite there being a few similarities between Titan and Kabaneri (world ravaged by humanoid monsters, humans building walled cities to keep themselves safe, and the main character being part human, part monster), Kabaneri manages to avoid being a blatant Titan clone. The overall tone of the series is more hopeful, and the main characters are, for the most part, better written and more fleshed out.
Ikoma in particular is a perfect example of an anime nerd done well. He’s a complete and utter geek when it comes to the steampunk stuff, and is even able to design a brand-new weapon capable of killing the Kabane in one shot, but he’s never defined solely by his geekishness. Mumei, Ikoma’s fellow Kabaneri, is another well-written character as even though she has a tragic past, she’s able to mow down Kabane left and right without appearing emotionless or angsty.
|As first impressions go, that's a pretty badass one.|
The supporting cast members aren’t as fleshed out as Ikoma or Mumei, but they’re still memorable for the most part – especially Suzuki (who speaks Japanese with a strong American accent…somehow) and Yukina (who gained massive popularity when fans got a look at just how ripped she is). For roughly the first half of the series, Kabaneri has a strong survival bent, as the cast traverse the country and attempt to fend off the Kabane horde. In fact, the series started so strongly that I was ready to argue that it was a better show than Attack on Titan…
|...but then there's this asshole.|
Sadly, Kabaneri completely jumps the shark towards the latter end of the show, and almost everything that made the show great at first pretty much falls away. Had the series continued as a survival anime, or had it focused on the cast rebuilding a settlement from scratch or something, it would have been amazing. In fact, had it taken any route other than the route it actually took, it would have been amazing.
|"Mumei's not here. She's in sweater town."|
I don’t want to spoil too much, but the show starts to shift the focus away from the Kabane and onto a bland human villain (bad thing). The animation – which was incredibly well-done in the earlier episodes – begins to dip in quality (bad thing). Most of the secondary cast members get even less focus than before (bad thing) and, perhaps worst of all, Mumei gets turned from an absolute badass into a typical damsel in distress (very bad thing). Oh, and they introduce motorbikes. In a steampunk setting (unforgivable).
|Why would you downgrade this?|
Don’t get me wrong, the latter half of the show isn’t awful – there are still some awesome action scenes and moments of genuinely clever and emotional writing. Kabaneri simply goes from being a great show to merely being a good show. Whether or not that’s enough to get you to watch it is up to you, but for me, the saving grace about the second half of the series was that Ikoma’s actions remained in-character, and he remained as well-written and likeable as he was when the series started.
|If becoming a Kabaneri didn't make him impotent, he will be now.|
If you like Attack on Titan, then by all means give Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress a shot. The two shows share some similarities, but they end up becoming vastly different towards the end of the run. Whilst Kabaneri’s quality does drop off sharply towards the end, the first half of the series is still excellent in almost every way. Whilst there is some potential for a second season, I do hope that any continuation of the story will go back to basics.
|More Yukina will always be appreciated.|
Good Things: Ikoma and Mumei are just awesome.
Visually striking animation and great soundtrack.
Memorable supporting cast.
A number of awesome fights.
Bad Things: Show completely jumps the shark towards the end.
Main villain is flat and underwhelming.
Mumei becoming a damsel in distress.
Got a suggestion for an anime I should review? Let me know in the comments, or submit it to ask.fm/ClayDragon!
|"Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Saviour?"|
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has an ask.fm account at ask.fm/ClayDragon. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to figure out what to do with his life. He is very poor at badminton.