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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress E1

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Episode 1
Obieru shikabame.

I've wanted to do an anime ongoing for a while, and with Teen Wolf's close leaving a gap in my schedule (I've become rather used to having three ongoings a week, and besides, Legends of Tomorrow will be ending in a little over a month) and the Spring season of anime - a season that looks like it has a lot of good shows, in stark contrast to the Winter season, which barely had anything - beginning, this seemed like a good time for it. It was between Ace Attorney and this, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, as to which one I should do - and Ace Attorney threw itself out of the running the moment reports came in that the first episode was really not very good.

Set during a fantastical Industrial Revolution, the world of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is beset by the Kabane, monstrous zombie-esque creatures whose only weak spots - their hearts - are protected by a layer of strong iron. In one of the vast railway stations that humanity now takes shelter in, a young train technician, Ikoma, is designing a weapon to pierce the hearts of Kabane in his free time. Things start to go terribly wrong when a train arrives, carrying a veritable army of Kabane, which swiftly set about invading the station.

So, first things first, this - this anime is Attack on Titan. In the best way possible, but it is. Post-apocalyptic future in which humanity hides in walled cities from mindless humanoid monsters who can only be killed by targeting a very specific weak point, check. Protagonist who is consumed with desire to kill those creatures, and who has or gains powers akin to theirs, check. First episode involves the outer wall being broken, check. Soundtrack by Hiroyuki Sawano, check.

Not your most attractive moment, mate.

There are even a few shots which seem to have been almost directly cribbed from Attack on Titan: The shot of the Kabane running over the hills, for one, is almost identical in composition to the same shot in Attack on Titan, and the shot of them ascending the ruined wall is a dead ringer for the iconic Attack on Titan shot that everyone knows. 

It fits firmly into homage rather than plagiarism, especially since a lot of those concepts are fairly broad anyway, but it was still a fun thing to note during the episode.

The series is beautiful, though, gorgeously animated (usually - sometimes the character animations look a little bit strange, as is the case with Ayame, who looks like she was animated by an entirely different team to the regular cast), with the steampunk aesthetic put to good use to create a striking environment of bright, warm colours contrasted against deep greys, blacks, and browns. The Kabane, with their luminescent orange veins, look terrifying, marrying the aesthetics of zombies and the Industrial Revolution in a way that makes them seem positively demonic. 

I made the mistake of reading forums, and accidentally saw people's Opinions
on this twelve year old girl.

Hiroyuki Sawano's soundtrack is, well, very recognisably a Sawano soundtrack, and while I do love Sawano's stuff, it does all sound more or less the same.

The first episode does a great job of ramping up tension, as well, hammering in the terror of the kabane with the opening sequence; then building the world with the arrival of the first train; before having everything go to hell with the arrival of the third train. It's a clear three act structure, which is unusual for a twenty minute anime episode, but works very well here.

As far as characters go, while Ayume and Mumei both seem interesting, the only one we get to know at all is Ikoma, who is basically Eren Jaeger if you filtered him through Inaho Kaizuka, which is to say he has his moments of screaming and declaring his murderous intentions, and his fair share of 'by the way, I'm also a scientist' moments. 

I do like their designs.

The show spends the majority of its first episode developing him, actually. We're first introduced to him building a weapon to take down the kabane, which basically amounts to a stake driver meant to shove a spike through their hearts, and from there see his dissatisfaction with the ruling classes, and his obsession with killing kabane. We even get a very brief glimpse of a tragic backstory, because of course he has a tragic backstory.

So, this was an interesting first episode. It definitely made a very strong impression, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series. The animation is a little odd at times, and the show is so, so very much Attack on Titan with steampunk thrown in, but it was a lot of fun to watch, and looks set to be another great entry in what might actually be a really good season of anime.

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