Hello and welcome back to another “episode” of my weekly ramblings. I have yet to produce a blog on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, primarily because I have not set aside any time to watch the actual episodes! I am making up for that today by bringing you not two, but three episodes of analysis! I hope you find what I have to say interesting, and please comment below!
This is my first watch of the opening, which appears to sum up what we are to expect of the series in the following weeks. Lot’s of badass men and woman wielding steampunk weapons, flying around. The thematic elements brought in, such as revolution, survival, and the difference between Kabane and Human are prevalent, as we are presented with a narrative of the plot through images, lyrics, and the music itself. It will be interesting to see how many of these themes stick around the main series.
The episode opens with a somewhat cute opening sequence between Ikoma and Takumi, in which misunderstanding and traditional shounen guy-friend bonding take over as the main humor device.
Next begins what is the real shit of this series. First we pan across a scene of refuges huddling together in attempt to escape the Kabane. A muddle of confusion, sadness, misery, and other morbid /depressing adjectives fit this crowd quite well. Out of concern, fear, and stress, the town leader begins to interrogate Ayame. Here, the theme of order in society is introduced. In many cases, there is a contrast or conflict in the way that local leaders run the town, vs what higher powers (royalty) believe should be done. In the breakdown of order, the political and social structures are challenged and come crumbling down. In this case, the conflict was solved by the introduction of Mumei’s badass side.
Mumei is a very striking character, as her personality is not commonly found among anime girls, much less around anime girls her age. From the opening and last episode, we know that Mumei has a certain fascination and connection with Ikoma, especially his sense of justice. In this scene Mumei’s character also influences order, as she easily takes charge of the entire situation.
Another interesting thing worth noting is the surrounding Kabanes’ reaction when their buddy gets his head cut off and thrown to the ground. For whatever reason, this infuriates them, and the Kabanes come charging for Mumei. This leads me to believe two things: the Kabane have some level of conscience and/or ability to react to “unusual” scenes, and that Mumei knows something of the Kabane ability. If the Kabane do have some elevated level of thinking, then there is reason to believe that the Kabane have something similar to emotions, which is not to say that they have morals.
The next scene with Ikoma in the train in incredibly dense with overarching thematic details. Before it all starts, we have a precursor moment where Ikoma saves his friend from being hit by a pipe. As it turns out, that feat required an inhumane level of strength and heat resistance. The reactions around him, along with his own feat, lay the foundation for the thematic points riddled throughout. The first thing that really hits me about this scene is the reaction of the other people in the car, including Takumi. The moment where Ikoma looks around the room and realizes that he has the traits of a Kabane brings a couple of themes to mind: group thought, fear culture, and humanity. You immediately see that the entire crowd has posed themselves opposite to Ikoma, symbolizing that Ikoma is alone in a group of humans. Previously, Ikoma had been quite confident in his humanity, but facing group mentality, which is dictated by fear, Ikoma loses his ability to fight back.
The next moment, Kusuru comes by and enacts what he sees as justice. His actions dictate two things for a couple of reasons. First of all, for him to take over a group of people, who previously showed a lack of respect for Kurusu and Ayame, requires that the group has abandoned control over their lives. This phenomena means that the entire group is controlled by (somewhat)irrational fear instead of understanding. Just moments ago, Ikoma was walked around the cabin, and he even helped save them, but none of that matters if he appears to be a Kabane. Secondly, No one questions Kusuru’s enactment of justice, not even Takumi. In fact, Kusuru doesn’t even bother to ask what had happened, and he instead decides to shoot Ikoma. No one seems to be very upset over this, with exception to Takumi.
A moment later, we receive somewhat of a rational for Kusuru’s actions. He states that he has abandoned guilt for the Kabane, and that anyone who is a Kabane should be eliminated as a threat.
I would consider the following scenes to be known as Ikoma’s almost departure. Here, Ikoma says farewell to his humanity, and accepts his decided fate of living with the Kabane. Ikoma’s sense of justice is very black and white, which means that there is no in between for him. He sees himself as either being human, or not human. Luckily for him, Mumei exists. She represents the grey area between them, as she has a foggy moral compass, and therefore is very able to believe in the in-between. Ikoma and Mumei contrast each other, not because they are polar opposites, but because their existences compliment and make up for each other’s faults.
Well episode 2 was pretty deep, so episode 3 should be a bit lighter right?
Yup much lighter. Episode three opens with a realization of the moral standings of the characters. Ikoma and Kusuru are very much alike, as they both have a black and white way of looking at things. Both men believe that there is only human and not human, no room for a Kabaneri. They have a strong sense of justice and the enforcement of law. On the other hand, Mumei and Ayame both waft around in the grey area, with one key difference between them. Mumei just does not care about laws and morals, and will do whatever she wants. Alternatively, Ayame encounters so many contradictions between her ideal justice and her emotional compass, that she is unable to make clear decisions, and most often sides with her emotions. To sum it up, either way, the men are driven by their stubborn sense of justice, and the women are driven by their emotions.
The rest of the episode continues to focus on the issue of humanity and fear. The burial ceremony is certainly a pinnacle of what defines humans. No other species feels the need to bury or really mourn their dead; humans are the sole exception. This episode essentially exists to remind us that true humanity is not yet dead. Despite the threat of a Kabane attack, essentially the entire passenger population has come outside to mourn the death of the unfortunate.
The series with the mother and unborn baby, along with Mumei and the children, were also very impactful. Mumei tries to make herself fit in more and seem like less of a threat, in part because of Ayame. She plays with the children and they seem to like her (children and animals are decent judges of character). I’m still not sure why Mumei went and kind of ruined the positive image she was building up by asking for blood to consume. The only purpose that held was to support the notion that Kabaneri require blood to continue to be human? This even just happens to coincide with the pregnant mother going full blown Kabane in the middle if the camp. Mumei’s face after she kills the pregnant woman says it all. We learn that Mumei does have a soft spot for children, and does feel guilt over killing humans (the unborn child was presumably human).
We also get to hear Ikoma’s sob story, but it really isn’t anything new/worth sharing. It simply reinforces his belief that he should try to conquer his fears. Additionally, we learn that Ayame actually has some balls/gaul, which is what she needs to gain/show in order for her to take control of all these people.
Episode 4 starts off with yet another plot twist, and drama sequence cut short. The Kabane arrive at the ship, and chaos ensues yet again. Ikoma is snapped out of his zombie phase, and everyone conveniently forgets for the time being that Mumei killed the pregnant lady.
The episode slides into a sequence of events that fall under the theme of rebellion. Ayame is forced out of her position of power, and the said town leader takes control. We begin to see the signs of social reconstruction. The people who have associated with the Kabaneri are forced to join Ikoma and Mumei. The series of events reminds me of something similar to a civil war, which falls under a prominent theme, social/political construct. Once the more conservative leaders take charge, the supposed risk for the train is decreased. Since this is an anime, we know that Ikoma and Mumei do not mean to kill humans.
The following sequence essentially acted as a reversal of power. Ayame and her crew gain control over the troops and the ship after the skilled Kabane. Side note: Mumei says that the Kabanes have the ability to learn, hence the specialized Kabanes. To have this ability to learn, the Kabane must have one of two attributes: they remember something of their past life, or they have cognitive functions. Either way suggests that the Kabanes are not very different from humans.
Back to the point, this time around the inclusive tactics of Ayame pull through. Her ability to bring people together, and acknowledge/accept others’ personal issues is an unparalleled skill. Ayame is coming into her position as the prospective leader of this group of people. When Ikoma eventually makes his way to the front of the train, begging for blood, Ayame is the first to volunteer. She throws aside her status to support the wellbeing of the entire people. This moment speaks to the crumbing social boundaries that stunted this group of people from the very beginning. Humans have a natural tendency towards order and putting individuals or groups in charge that seem capable of leading others. Without any, or a weakening, sense of order, people begin to break off and create their own organized factions. Ayame’s actions lead to the possibility that those who desire more order, as opposed to most everyone being on the same level, will break off from the main group. In other words, even if faced with a common enemy, humans will still feel the need to rebel against each other.
This episode was very heavy on action, which leaving me lacking in material to analyze, so I might as well address something that has been weighing on my mind: the animation. Especially in this episode, and in close ups, the animation is excellent. Sometimes the large scenes with hundreds of unknown characters can get a little bit sloppy, but otherwise the animation is quite solid. There is very good use of contrast, especially when it comes to darkness vs the deep reds and oranges of the Kabane hearts(?). When this anime puts some money to them, the scenes are truly stunning. When Kusuru was fighting with the sword and when Mumei was flying around are highlights of this episode, and really the series this far.
Well I hope you enjoyed my writings on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress! I really will try to keep up with this one! I’m currently working on Kiznaiver and Concrete Revolution, so stay tuned! See you next time!