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Saturday, 11 June 2016

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress E9

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Episode 9

My word, we're very nearly at the end of the series(/cour), and it really doesn't feel like it. This wasn't a show that was really built for twelve episodes, and I think it would have been more comfortable with a twenty-four episode run (which it might have anyway, but I mean, an initial twenty-four episode run, over the course of two consecutive seasons of anime), where it could have properly established the kabane as a threat before ever introducing Biba into the mix.

Incidentally, Biba's name is still ridiculous, and the fact that there's a track on the OST titled 'Viva la Biba' weirdly does not help with that.

In this week's episode, the Koutetsujou and Kokujo arrive at Iwato, the last station before Kongokaku, which refuses the Kokujo entry, and Ayame decides to part company with Biba and the Kokujo. As Biba meets with the lord of Iwato, he sends Mumei to lower the station's drawbridge - but instead of the Kokujo entering, Biba's Hunters draw a horde of kabane into the station, while Biba himself murders the lord, and his men take Ayame hostage. Biba's plan doesn't end there, as he injects Horobi, one of his kabaneri, with a fluid that transforms her into the heart of a Black Smoke.

And also a Super-Kabane.

This is a very action-y episode, not so much in the sense that it has a lot of fight scenes, so much as it has a lot of 'kabane killing stuff' scenes, including the Horobi Black Smoke smashing up walls and buildings. As such, we don't learn a tremendous amount about the world or story - we learn that Biba can create Black Smokes (although one of his men refers to them as 'artificial' fused colonies, suggesting it's not like the Black Smoke we saw earlier in the series), whose hearts eventually become some kind of super-kabane; and we learn that Biba wants to 'liberate' people from the stations by forcibly tearing them down, and that's about it.

Instead, the episode is mostly focused on spectacle, and it does that pretty well. The kabane invading Iwato, Black Smoke Horubi rampaging, and the rather cruel actions of Biba's Hunters all work together to create an overall image of a truly chaotic disaster, even though none of the main characters are really caught in it - Ayame is taken hostage, but she's safe on the Kokujo, along with Yukina, and Kurusu is the only other person who even gets close to the action, and he mostly ends up confronting Hunters.

But the fact that it's mostly random townspeople getting slaughtered is balanced out by some solid technical execution: Every shot is perfect, there's a sense of rapid escalation, and the Hiroyuki Sawano soundtrack is put to excellent use (and Sawano does have a talent for 'a terrible disaster has struck' songs). The animation is better than it has been for several episodes now, too, which certainly helps.

It's very Attack on Titan.

Despite the main characters not being all that closely involved in the plotline, the episode does end with a considerable change of circumstances for all of them: Ayame is a hostage, Yukina's a prisoner, and Ikoma has been kidnapped, on account of Biba being interested in his blood. Meanwhile, Kurusu's fallen off a bridge (presumably so that he can have a big damn heroes moment next episode or the one after), and Mumei's free, but has now realised that Biba's been lying to her all this time - and also, one presumes, that she's next in line to become a Black Smoke.

We've also had just enough new plot elements introduced to make a few things pretty clear about the next few episodes: Biba is obviously planning to make either Mumei (who is probably his first choice) or Ikoma (if he's suitable) into a Black Smoke/Super Kabane, and it's pretty likely he'll succeed, since having given us a glimpse of a Super Kabane (which has such powers as 'energy roars', so, sure, Ikoma, this is definitely not magic, definitely), the show's likely to bring that back for the final battle.

That, at least, should mean we see the pace pick up pretty sharply in the next few episodes - well, that, and the fact that there's only three episodes left anyway.

Oh, hey, Biba has a belt around his neck. Suspicious.

(It also very likely means one of the two kabane is going to die, and honestly, I'm not bothered which one.)

Next episode, it looks like everyone's a prisoner, and also Biba has for some reason made them all wear plain kimonos. I have no idea why, maybe that's just a thing he likes to do. Apart from that, the preview doesn't show us a hell of a lot, but they're presumably on their way to Kongokaku, so that's always good.

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