Series Review – Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Wit Studio

Sometimes a show can give off the wrong impression.  In the case of the show I am reviewing this week, it gave off the impression that it was a simple rip-off of another popular work.  The basic idea of humanity living in walled cities due to the threat of a race of monsters is fairly similar to Attack on Titan.  The problem is further compounded due to the fact that this series was made by the studio behind the anime adaptation of Attack on Titan.  After having viewed Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, I have to say that the show is much more than an Attack on Titan clone.  However, just because it managed to exceed expectations in this regard doesn’t necessarily mean that the show was great.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The story for Kabaneri is as generic as they come, but with enough differences that set it apart from Attack on Titan.  Humanity is besieged by undead creatures known as the Kabane.  In order to survive, humanity lives in walled cities where the only means of transportation consists of armored trains.  One day, the Kabane attack Aragane Station and the city quickly falls.  An engineer named Ikoma decides to use the attack as an opportunity to test a new weapon.  However, he is bitten, but manages to fight the infection.  Ikoma becomes a Kabaneri, a human-Kabane hybrid.  He meets another Kabaneri named Mumei and they all leave via armored train to find shelter.

That is the plot setup for the first half of the series.  While it is generic, it actually is an enjoyable show at this point.  None of the characters manage to stand out, but each one fills in their stereotypical role perfectly.  For example, Ikoma epitomizes the vengeance aspect, while Ayame fills in the leader role.   My only complaint about this first half is the repeating story element on whether or not to trust the Kabaneri.  It seems that this plot point is used in almost every episode and it gets tiring after the first time it used.

Now about the last part of the season, this is where the show really falls off in terms of story.  The first half was generic, but enjoyable.  I do not understand the need to give us a stereotypical antagonist.  The world was already dangerous enough with the Kabane alone; it felt like overkill to throw in a bad guy.  The whole conspiracy aspect worked very well in Attack on Titan, but here it’s not effective at all.  It adds a lot of extra baggage to a story that was rather straightforward.  All of these supposed twists and turns seemingly come out of nowhere.  If the series had a larger episode count, then maybe this villain could have been used better.  In a nutshell, that is the ongoing narrative in regards to the plot.  It could have been so much better.

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Animation and Sound

While the story may be lacking, the animation of this series is phenomenal.  The designs of the characters harken back to a past era of anime.  It’s refreshing to see a bit of a throwback in this current age of anime.  As for the design aesthetic, this series does not disappoint either.  The steampunk vibe gives this show a rather unique look.  The steam guns, the trains and the general look of the city all present a steampunk feudal-Japan.  As for the animation itself, it is great.  The characters all move with a sense of real fluidity.  The first fight scene with Mumei is one of the best of the series. Her martial arts prowess and cocky attitude make this a stand out fight.  Even towards the end of the series, the ridiculous action is animated very well.

The sound design is just as great as the animation.  While there are no standout vocal performances, each actor carries their character well.  The soundtrack for this series is an absolute revelation though.  Hiroyuki Sawano nails another great soundtrack.  The soundtrack is equal parts depressing and triumphant.  The main theme that plays during some of the action scenes is one of my favorites.  Even the insert songs showcase this level of quality.  The opening and the endings are so freaking good.  It’s rare for me to watch the opening and ending for every episode, but the high quality made it necessary for this series.  Overall, the animation and sound carry the show.  It’s a shame that the story could not live up to this presentation.

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Final Verdict

The story and characters for this series leave a lot to be desired.  Unfortunately, this is the aspect of the series that leaves me with a rather disappointed outlook on the series as a whole.  The story was solid for the first part, but quickly devolved into nonsense with the introduction of the main antagonist.  The animation was so great and the soundtrack matched the greatness of the animation.  There is some entertainment to be had here, but it did not live up to its potential.  I give Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, my Watch rating.  It has a lot of problems, but the animation and sound design make this worth a watch.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

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