Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
To be honest, this episode could have been titled 'Mumei causes a steady stream of PR disasters because she doesn't comprehend the situation she's in', and that's - annoying. We'll talk about how annoying that is, as this show rapidly runs down all the reserves of good will it built up in the first episode, in a moment.
Having revealed themselves to be kabaneri, human-kabane hybrids with a kabane body and a human mind, Ikoma and Mumei agree to be confined to the boiler car until the Kotetsujou reaches Kongokaku, a stronghold of the shogun. When the train stops for water and the people on board begin a funeral for their dead, Mumei leaves the boiler car, tracking a kabane that she senses. Meanwhile, after a small band of citizens come after the kabaneri, Ayame executes a daring plan to prove their loyalty - only to find herself in deadly danger from Ikoma.
Okay, let's talk about Mumei. The episode is basically just a long string of her alienating people and making them more afraid. She openly threatens to kill everyone multiple times, promises not to leave the boiler car before leaving it twice, and plays with children only to immediately and openly ask for blood to eat. If Mumei had meant to be somebody who had never interacted with another human being before, that would make sense, but we've seen in the past two episodes that she spends most of her time around people and seems to be at least a known figure at court, so why is this only a problem now?
|Kurusu, one of the few tolerable characters.|
Not to mention, there are far better ways she could have achieved all of her goals. She wants to ride on the train? Well, calmly and reasonably explaining her situation and making that promise to stay in the boiler car earlier would have saved her a lot of strife. She senses a kabane and needs to find them? Why not open a door, call for a guard, and have them fetch either Ayame or Kurusu? Once they knew about the kabane, she could have been escorted through the train by Kurusu and a few trusted guard. She needs blood? Again, call Ayame. Explain the situation to her.
It's not like Ayame isn't willing to listen, nor does it seem like she has anything better to do.
Mumei's antics are the cause of ninety percent of the conflict in this episode, and it all feels so false - and, from a writing standpoint, is it even necessary? Instead of having Mumei cheerfully tell people she needs blood, why not have her abrasively tell Ayame and Kurusu, and have a guard let it slip to the people? Why not have her sense imminent danger from a kabane and react rashly because of that, instead of having her seem perfectly calm as she breaks her word and goes roaming through the train?
It's just all so, so unnecessary.
|A sad kabane.|
Ikoma's branch of the storyline isn't much better, either, because Ikoma is about as interesting as a block of wood at this point. I was interested in when he first showed up, but at the moment he seems to be a very one-note character - he doesn't like kabane, and that's more or less it.
He's possibly meant to be reminiscent of Eren Jaeger, who was also single-mindedly obsessed with his monster of choice, but the difference is that Eren had a very large supporting cast to balance him out, and his obsessive nature often brought him into conflict with their more balanced, reasonable approaches. Ikoma has Mumei, Ayame, and Kurusu, and Mumei barely has a personality other than 'annoying and mysterious.'
(The best part of this episode, without a doubt, was Kurusu and his sister(?) arguing with each other. It's about three seconds of a dialogue, but it stands out, as it humanises Kurusu, who is otherwise a very flat, one-note 'angry bodyguard' type character. Actually, can we just get rid of Ikoma and Mumei and have the show be about Ayame and Kurusu? That'd be great.)
|So many warm tones in this series, it's nice.|
The episode ends on a slightly creepy (and not in a good way) note, as Ikoma apparently goes zombie-crazy as a result of being stabbed, and pins Ayame down while trying to bite her. There are overtones of sexual assault abound, and it's a very uncomfortable few seconds that's sure to lead in to a very uncomfortable beginning to the next episode. Yay.
According to the preview, the next episode will also see a kabane attack on the train, which might, if we're lucky, get the show back on track. At the moment, though, we're nearing the end of my supply of good will, and we're getting to the point where I'm going to start actively disliking this show if it doesn't pick up in quality.