If you are a fan of the high-octane, dark action of Attack on Titan, you might be interested in Wit Studio’s newest anime installation, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. While not as bleak or as powerful as its older sibling, Kabaneri strives to leave a mark on its audience that is not easily forgotten.
The animation reeled me in before anything else. The swift, smooth movements in fight scenes and chase sequences left me drooling. Wit Studio does action in all the right, adrenaline-pumping ways. It may not be the absolute cream of the crop such as Samurai Champloo and other legends, but Kabaneri‘s animation will have you on the edge of your seat all the same. The gangling, undaunted stride of the monsters (Kabane) strikes fear into the hearts of the viewers. The electrifying precision in how our heroes kick butt and take names hypes you up and leaves you wanting more.
In addition to an astounding array of supporting characters, Kabaneri gives us a valiant duo of heroes. Ikoma and Mumei are half-human, half-monster Kabaneri creatures wrestling with the idea that today may be their last day alive as they know themselves. The two exchange some endearing dynamics. Ikoma operates as the brain, Mumei becomes the brawn, but they share a lot of heart. They keep each other sane. They need each other to survive. As the series presses on, you cannot help but fall for these heroes.
The World of Kabaneri
The environment Kabaneri drops us in looms bleakly over its characters at all times. The setup, from the stations to the struggle, bleeds rich and dark detail. Kabane, zombie-like abominations that spread like wildfire, plague these lands. But despite the horrors pounding on their train doors, our cast manages to hold it all together in the face of death. No character goes unexamined. Every episode touches on a new story in this lovingly delivered world.
In fair critique, this show may not stand as tall as Attack on Titan. The same traits and charms are there, but Kabaneri does not hit as hard. The anime gives way to stylistic tropes that sometimes break the mood, something that just wasn’t seen in Attack on Titan. And while categorized as horror, Kabaneri‘s monsters fade into the background after a while. The stormtrooper effect sets in and the Kabane are reduced to cannon fodder. The show, however, lacks little as a complete story. Just don’t expect it to be as harrowing as its predecessor.
And while the anime tropes are strong with this one, the compassion is ripe. The hope and durability of the characters uplift and stay with us. The monsters don’t have to scare more and the plot doesn’t have to drive harder for this show to sweep us up and charm us all the same. I score Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress 7/10 for its expertly crafted world and fiery effects.