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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress E2

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Episode 2
Never-ending Darkness

So here's a thing I learned: Chinese subs that have then been translated again into English aren't, broadly speaking, very good. The original Chinese subs are probably fine, but once you start putting things through two layers of translation, both into wildly different languages from the original language and each other, things start to go a bit awry.

Having defeated a Kabane with his nail gun and saved himself from the Kabane infection, Ikoma is now faced with a whole new set of problems. Boarding the armoured train Koutetsujou with the help of his friend Takumi and the mysterious and dangerous Mumei, things rapidly go wrong for Ikoma when the people on the train see his heart glowing with molten iron. Thrown off the train for being a Kabane, Ikoma struggles to follow them, intending to save them when sabotage by the Kabane leaves the Koutetsujou trapped at the station's bridge.

I admit, I didn't like this episode as much as the first. A small part of that was because it was much less Attack on Titan-y, which means I can't make the 'steampunk Attack on Titan' jokes anymore (for now), but a much bigger part of it is that this episode is where the show's little flaws start to show. The animation's slightly odd shiny quality, and the way some characters appear to barely fit in with the world around them, starts to show; the brief moments of not-brilliant CGI are all the more obvious; Tasuku Hatanaka's voice work as Ikoma starts tipping over from 'endearing' to 'irritating' every so often; there are a few odd pacing moments, a few strange dramatic beats that don't quite work, a few soundtrack choices that are a bit too Sawano, a few really odd design choices.

By 'a bit too Sawano,' I do mean 'techno techno techno techno'.

It's not a lot. It's little things, here and there, but the episode is positively riddled with them. In another series, it wouldn't bother me so much, but after an incredibly strong debut for this series, it's a little bit disappointing to see it drop in quality to something that's still good, but perhaps not stellar

It doesn't help, either, that in a lot of ways this feels like a transitional episode - the show doesn't really take advantage of the fertile opportunity given to them by an entire town being under siege, instead merely using it as an excuse to get characters from one situation to another: The people from the town onto the train, Ayame from the daughter of the local lord to being the local lord, Mumei from operating in secret to operating in public, and Ikoma from well-meaning engineer to Kabaneri. 

The episode does so with remarkable aplomb, don't get me wrong, and there are multiple dramatic scenes, like Mumei fighting the Kabane and Ikoma struggling his way to the lever to lower the bridge, screaming about how the people on the train will have to live with the shame of being saved by someone they exiled (even though I doubt that they'll feel all that ashamed - they were doing a pretty good job of justifying it with 'lol crazy Kabane' at the time), but the sense that this is just a way of shoving the characters to the next important plot point pervades the entire episode.

Ayame and Sword Dude.

It's an odd thing, and makes the episode seem weirdly like filler, despite the fact that it's pretty decisively not

That said, these first two episodes have done a great job of setting up one feature of the setting that's probably going to be important later on: The panic and mob mentality that seems to pervade the station's people, both the commoners and the Bushi. We saw it last episode with the Bushi being happy to kill someone who may have been bitten, rather than locking them up for three days as the law dictates, and we see it with the commoners here, who are more than willing to throw Ikoma to the proverbial wolves. You can't really blame them, given how horrific the Kabane are, but at the same time, that's going to cause some problems if Ikoma stays on the Koutetsujou.

(Which he will, because it's literally in the show's title.)


In brighter news, though, we actually got a proper opening for this episode! Leaving aside that every single song that EGOIST has ever produced sounds exactly the same (you could substitute it with Psycho-Pass' endings and I doubt anyone would notice any difference), it's pretty fun, with a lot of Industrial Revolution imagery and shots of the main characters murdering steampunk zombies. Apparently Ikoma's never going to find a shirt, which bothers me a little, because he looks ridiculous, but never mind.

It looks like the third episode is going to have us finding out a bit more about Ikoma and Mumei (which is good, since right now he's just Sir Screams-A-Lot and she's Generic Anime Mystery Girl), along with Ayame trying to stab Ikoma for ... reasons? Presumably it has something to do with how he's half steampunk zombie. Should be good. Looking forward to that. Love a good stabbing.

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