Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Constantly mistakes were made. After finally sitting down to watch something I’d be meaning to check out I came to wonder why I was even interested in seeing it in the first place. I’m talking about Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. I like to call it “Zombies, trains, tracks, and troubles” with strong emphasis on the last bit. The hype for this series seemed perhaps a bit too much, often trying to shoot for what looked cool rather than substance. And at times reminded me of other series I did not enjoy. Episode 6 was the point when I realized I was struggling to finish this series. And when it was over I heaved a sigh in relief, hopeful this would not get a second season. Don’t ruin it for me.

The plot department was running just above sheer garbage. Which is sad mostly because the concepts had potential but often squandered it in an attempt to look cool and often trying too hard at that. Either that or the how parallel this series was to Attack on Titan. Giant horde of seemingly endless mob monsters that feed on the typical villager human like cattle should the safety or their city walls fall? Check. A military force of troops to fight said monsters with the minimum needed to fight them but no still face a chance of casualty? Main characters loosing their homes in an attack from the monsters! Check. Check. Characters that are demihuman by design, sharing traits with said mob monster while retaining human intellect which grants an edge in fight said monsters? Check. Characters non-local to the general demographics of the plot? Check! Mobs in reality manipulated by an enemy from within? Check. And I wish I were watering this down to make this argument but really, watch the series and you’ll see it. But for as bad as this sounds, it at least tries to make a little more sense than Attack on Titan but not so much more that I’d say put it on your list of series to watch.

There was never a good explanation for a giant tiered walled city in Attack on Titan(AoT), most of the city-stations of Kabaneri’s world had some sense to them. Much in the way cities in Metro 2033 huddled around stations of the metro this series seemed to have a similar approach. While there was no answer for why there were zombies, it seemed a little more believable that some fortified cities could be erected without a total suspension of disbelief. Of course, it’s hard to understand how the zombies are immune to headshots. Or for that matter, able to wield weapons better than one of the most skilled of characters in the series. That happens, a zed that is able to dual wield swords and all but utterly dominate all in its path, and with the intellect of a slug. I’m trying to give this series credit and it just won’t make it easy for me. Constantly mistakes were made. While there comes a point in the plot where there might be a potential vaccine or preventative to being turned by a zed, you wonder why this entire time characters have been putting bombs to their chest. I won’t say that the plot of studying the zeds anatomy was thrown out the window multiple times but…they did it in the very first episode.

Characters seemed to lack any function aside from one of two roles. There were there characters that were meant to push the plot, no matter how poorly. And there were the character that were meant to look cool and do cool things. You have Cabbage Hair Engineer that often forgets he’s an engineer save for when we want to give Cool Guy McSamurai a cool looking sword made of of a veiny metal. Let’s not forget such a memorable character as Arial Acrobatic Loli. What about Foreign Engrish Mechanic?Or how about Plot Villain with daddy issues? These are some of the “cool characters” meant to do “cool things”. When you learn the motivations of the series villain, he just seems so dumb. Mobilizing a “freedom corps” that takes back cities for the people, with a stunning success rate, driving him to be a populist favorite. Sadly, his motivations come from his daddy not loving him enough. Maybe if his daddy spent more time taking the crotch spawn fishing and less time lashing out in paranoid delusions, there wouldn’t be a a problem. Constantly mistakes were made.

Which comes to my main problem with the plot. In every episode I wound up repeating the phrase. “Constantly mistakes were made”. From the very beginning this holds true. Train barreling for the city at full speed, a zombie somehow driving the train with enough smarts to blow the horn. Said train packed full of life changing zeds. You’d think the guys keeping watch would find a train barreling forward, full speed ahead might give one cause to inspect with those fancy telescopes BEFORE giving the go head to lower the drawbridge. But no. Give the all clear and then see the zeds clinging to the side like an Indian bus. What’s that? The heavily fortified gates don’t stop the train? Guess we need to have some reason to push the plot along. Like an engineer that makes a pneumatic piston gun requiring the user to get up close and personal with the zombies. Oh no he was bitten, and strangely he knows in advance a way to save himself from turning that uses a device only David Carradine would employ. And things only get worse from there. From the beginning Cabbage Head had never obtained good samples of zombie organs, meaning his knowledge of their anatony was very incomplete, and yet somehow he knows a cure for the bite? And this isn’t the only hole. We get to a point later in there series where we learn there an an entire outfit of man-made super soldiers, made by people that clearly would have a better understanding of the zeds than Cabbage head. And yet, he somehow is the only male super soldier that isn’t weaker than his female counterparts? This is what I’m talking about when it comes to bad plot. Throughout the series I would repeat this

The plot too heavily relies on things that look cool a bit too much and hinges it on visuals which in most circumstances can be ruined by CG overlain onto animation sequences which only ruin moments of visual awesome. There are even moments of awesome that are done so often that the effect wears off because as stated, they happen a lot. Patch Cabbage’s piston gun, the samuari, Air Loli’s combat style, all of it gets boring. If it isn’t overdone through the series it’s overly cliche in implementation. And this shows a lack on inventiveness on the part of the show’s writing. The train is often in CG with animated characters badly placed in frame. I’d understand if this were some budget tech demo OVA from the 90’s but this series needs that certain standard of polish you expect from the present decade. Speaking of tech demos, this series really falls into that category. The plot wasn’t the best, and there were moments when things seemed shoehorned in as an excuse to draw this or that. Almost as if the show was one big portfolio piece of what could be drawn. And yes I said the CG moments were horrid by present standards. I never said this series was a good tech demo portfolio piece.

It was a trial for me to sit through this series early on with myself wondering why I was having trouble when this series had enjoyable points. By the 6ths episode I was ready for the 12th episode. I wanted a quick exit and the series felt like it was dragging on. The visuals were accompanied by Hiroyuki Sawano, which of course comes with his own brand of musical hype. But even that couldn’t help this series much. Especially when a song or two in the soundtrack contain a spoiler. And that spoiler became a phrase I would say on repeat each time a mistake was made. At least Sawano’s music wasn’t total cookie cutter to the series. Do not get me wrong, while the music wasn’t bad it could have made things worse. At least it was fitting when it needed to be. Trust me, this series had moments where Yakety Sax was so fitting it was almost better than the original score. Honestly though, Yakety Sax was fitting in almost every episode.

So final judgement. I did not enjoy this series and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you looking for an empty calorie anime. Maybe to watch with someone to laugh at the cast consistently making matters worse. The fact that plot was often a left behind in favor of pushing scenes where character Y does X because it’ll look cool. “Because cool” wasn’t enough to keep me interested or wanting to see more. As I write this I’m aware there’s a sequel due in 2018 I can imagine none of the questions from the first season will be answered, and likely the seconds season comes with a realization that the writing sent the plot into a corner. I did not enjoy this series even though I expected to enjoy it at least a little. The big villain seemed cool until you learn his motives and realize that if his dad would have given him a juicebox, this could all have been avoided.

It’s more of a tech demo.

2

-S

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