Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
So, in theory, this episode should be a high point for the series. The gang is finally arriving at Kongokaku, Biba's getting to see the Shogun again (and enact his revenge plan), and with Ikoma lobbed off a train, he's presumably going to be meeting up with Kurusu, who is still the best character in the show.
It - didn't turn out quite like that, unfortunately.
Picking up shortly after the end of episode ten, episode eleven sees the trains arrive at Kongokaku, where Biba forces Ayame to help him gain entrance to the station. As Biba personally sees to the downfall and murder of his father, the Shogun, the rest of the Hunters release kabane into the station - along with Mumei, who has been injected with the black plasma, beginning her transformation into a Nue, one of Biba's artificial Black Smokes. Elsewhere, Ikoma encounters Kurusu and a captive scientist.
That captive scientist does have a name, incidentally, it's just that it was only mentioned once, last episode, and I didn't bother memorising it.
|On the bright side, Kurusu is now prettier than ever.|
So, a lot of this episode is focused on Biba and the Shogun, and on both establishing more reasons why Biba's so keen to see him dead (you know, apart from being left to die on a battlefield along with a metric ton of soldiers), and establishing them both as legitimately awful people. The way they do this, though, is with a slightly confusing cutscene where the Shogun attacks Biba as a child, only to then babble that it wasn't him that did it, it was 'fear.'
Which actually is a pretty powerful image, and one that contextualises Biba's contempt for other people's fear (along with contextualising his own complete hypocrisy in that regard) in quite a nice, poetic way. It also doesn't make any sense, because we're never told why the Shogun would be afraid of Biba as a child, we're never shown what led to him snapping and attacking him - the whole scene is set up as if we're meant to think that the Shogun just did it out of the blue for no real reason, but even the most fearful, terrified person doesn't act like that.
(I did wonder if this meant that Biba was a kabaneri, but since it's never brought up again, who even knows.)
In all honesty, 'a neat idea but it doesn't make any sense' could describe a lot of the plot turns in this episode.
|Seriously, get a haircut, though.|
Biba's method of killing his father is to give him back a dagger that rapidly turns him into a kabane as soon as he touches it, but -- what? Huh? We've only seen the infection transmitted by biting so far, and the only hint we get of what was done with the dagger involves the Shogun looking at his hand and seeing a spot of blood, so did -- what? It's not like Biba covered the knife in blood or anything, because the hilt is white and that would be incredibly obvious, and there's nothing to suggest getting kabane blood on your skin will instantly infect you (in fact, Ikoma handles kabane organs just fine in the first episode). Did he somehow get it to prick him or something? Why did he change so quickly, when every other infectee we've seen has turned over the course of hours or days? I'm very confused.
Equally confusing is the scientist's claim that only female kabaneri become Nue. Okay, um - why? We've been told a lot that this is a scientific disease, not magic (even if it sure acts like magic), so I'm really going to need some kind of explanation as to why the black plasma turns women into Nue, and men into non-Nue super-kabane. We've never gotten any suggestion that the kabane sickness affects men and women differently, so -- why? Is it just because of plot convenience, because having Ikoma as a tiny super-kabane fighting Black Smoke Mumei is more interesting than two Black Smokes duking it out like crumbly Godzillas?
Also, Ikoma, why are you injecting the black plasma into yourself now, after just being told you'll burn out quickly? Why not wait until the three of you reach Kongokaku?
|Ikoma, looking weirdly shiny.|
Apart from that - ehhh. Apart from Mumei's transformation, which was legitimately beautifully animated and involved her growing wings of blue fire (but sure, show, this isn't magic at all), this episode kind of lacked any spectacle, and spectacle-heavy episodes is always where it's at its strongest.
I did, however, really like Ikoma just breaking down and crying - not because I don't like him (although I don't, really), but because it came across as a genuine, relatable human reaction in a series and genre that is so often devoid of them. Like, it wasn't a single tear sliding down his face, it was ugly, noisy sobbing, which is exactly how crying is in real life and never is in fiction. It's a small thing, but I did like it.
(Also, did Ikoma lose his hand? I don't remember him doing so, but then he apparently strapped and bolted his nailgun thing to his arm like a poundland Guts.)
Next episode is the finale, I think, unless there's actually thirteen episodes. Should be incredibly spectacle heavy, so that'll be fun. I'm rooting for Ayame to stab Biba to death.