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Saturday, 28 May 2016

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress E7

So, earlier today, we broke 10000 views in a month. Given that the previous record (way back in, I think, either January or February) was just under 8000, this is pretty good, I think. So go you guys.

On a less positive note, I'd like to remind everyone that Mumei is twelve. Twelve. Please cease the barrage of creepy fan art.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Episode 7

So, this is a breather episode, it seems. There are a few problems with that, and I'll get to them in a bit, but it's not too surprising, since a little over halfway through a series (or cour - still zero idea of how many episodes this is going to be in total) is where breather episodes usually fall.

Arriving at a friendly station, the crew of the Koutetsujou is told that they need to leave the next day. Needing to buy parts to conduct repairs; resources to build more jet bullets; and medicine, food, and blankets for their people, it's a race against time to get everything they need, especially as Ayame - seeing that Mumei has never celebrated Tanabata and deciding that the people of the Koutetsujou need a little downtime - decides to also buy a bamboo tree and celebrate Tanabata at the same time.

Okay, so, my main problem with a breather episode in this series is that breather episodes are kind of meant to fulfill a specific purpose in a specific context. In a series that has a lot of struggle and death and darkness, they give the audience a moment's respite, so that they don't become jaded to the general tone of the show - this helps keep audiences engaged and also means that any shocking or unpleasant things the show did before or will do afterwards continue to be shocking and unpleasant.

I don't get why this was so awkward for Kurusu to see, she's just eating.

They also tend to be character development episodes, focusing on exploring character relationships, because that's an easy way to get emotional investment out of an audience in an episode where the stakes might not be overwhelmingly high. Thus, they require that the audience knows and sympathises with the cast of characters already, and then they often reveal new depths or sides to them.

But here's the thing: I don't feel any need for a breather. At no point has this series been dark enough or shocking enough or fraught enough to make me feel like I require an episode spent on lulzy holiday funtimes - what I've actually been crying out for is some development on plot, and while we get a tiny bit of that this episode (via a discussion Enoku has with some people about a power struggle between Mumei's brother, the Liberator, and the shogunate; and also via Mumei's brother arriving at the very end of the episode), most of it is spent having the characters engage in wacky, heartwarming antics.

The overall impression is that the writers think this show is a lot grimmer and darker than it actually is - and while I'm not saying I want it to be more dark, I am saying that it's not nearly dark enough to justify spending one of a very limited number of episodes on what feels like a pretty unnecessary breather.

Oh, hi, Mandatory Deceased Mother.

The other problem is that I don't care about any of these characters, except maybe Kurusu (and even then, barely, he just happens to be the most entertaining of the bunch), so all of the heartwarming character shenanigans are lost on me. I'm not actually invested in the Koutetsujou's morale, just like I'm not invested in Mumei's desire to eat rice, or Ikoma's poorly established big brother instincts. 

It was a fun enough episode, but I don't actually feel like I gained much out of it as far as understanding the world, the plot, or even the characters goes. It felt pretty but empty, trying to wring an emotional reaction out of its audience despite not having done the legwork for it. It almost manages to succeed at a few points, but when it does it's mostly via some quite cheap, manipulative tactics.

The one interesting subplot to me was Kurusu and Ayame's - sort of romance? He seems to be interested in her, and she's not interested. Again, this is a slightly manipulative tack for the show to take, as they try and engender sympathy for Kurusu by showing us hints that his austere, severe persona is just an act. The difference between it and its other manipulative tacks is that it's working, at least in my case. 

Traditional steampunk Tanabata clothing, I guess?

Still, the episode has some lovely music, including a piano version of the ending, so hats off to Hiroyuki Sawano, I guess? Honestly, the soundtrack is what stood out to me most about this episode.

Next episode, we're apparently back to a more action-y pace, as we see Mumei's brother, Biba, and his hunters in action. Is the station they're at going to be overrun by kabane? It kind of looks that way right now. Ah, well, should be interesting, hopefully. Maybe we'll find out more about this power struggle between Biba and the shogunate, especially as the Shogun is apparently his father.


Also, seriously, guys, Mumei's twelve. Twelve. She's a child. 

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