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Monday, 4 July 2016

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress E12

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
Episode 12

So, we're finally here at the end of the series. I feel like this show had a lot of potential, and it pretty much wasted all of it - the kabane were a genuinely interesting idea (I mean, zombies are boring as all get out, but the hints that they were intelligent, the semi-magical and thematic link to the industrial revolution, and the idea that they could be studied and learned from gave it a pretty fun, engaging spin, I thought), but they ended up reduced to background noise. The super-stratified class structure, and how that kind of society holds up when it suddenly becomes a nomadic one in a cramped space, was an interesting idea that is never explored or even really touched upon. The Black Smokes were a nice twist on established tropes, and came across as actually pretty sinister - but they're only really used to their utmost twice, and then the dramatic third time is just an excuse to make Mumei a damsel in distress. Hell, even Biba, before he appeared, came across as a potentially fascinating and ominous character, only to be a tremendous letdown in person.

So I've been very disappointed so far. Incredibly disappointed even, because I was so impressed by the first episode, and because there had been moments over the course of the show where I thought it might win me back - but it never did.

In the final episode, Ikoma and Kurusu make their way through the ruins of Kongokaku, as Ikoma gradually begins to lose himself to the amplified kabane curse running through his veins. As Mumei continues to rampage as a Black Smoke, Biba reveals himself to be a Kabaneri, and heads out into the field to fight Ikoma. Meanwhile, Ayame organises the escape from Kongokaku, attempting to take the Koutetsujou out of the station.

Sir Barely-Appearing-In-This-Episode.

There's not much for me to say about this episode, because not a lot actually happened. I will say, though, that this episode was perfectly primed to capitalise on this show's greatest strength - its ability to create dramatic spectacle moments, backed up by good animation and an excellent soundtrack - and completely wasted it.

(Oh, on the bright side, though, I mentioned that we never got a reason why the Shogun feared Biba in the last episode, and with the reveal that Biba's a Kabaneri, we do at least have one now. A predictable reason, sure, but I'll take it.)

Apart from a brief and, to be honest, slightly bland fight between Ikoma, Kurusu, and some kabane, most of the episode is taken up with the Ikoma vs Biba fight, which is basically two dudes whacking each other with their respective weapons and occasionally firing hyper beams (but it's totally not magic, guys, it's definitely not magic). While it manages to ramp up a little bit of tension by having Ikoma suddenly lose his sense of self (I think? Or he might have gone blind) because of the kabane virus, I wasn't that bothered, because I knew that he'd turn around at the last moment and defeat Biba, and sure enough, that is exactly what happened.

I do appreciate how they take the time to always animate Biba looking very pretty.
And ridiculous.

Maybe if the show had set Biba and Ikoma's rivalry up a little bit better, I would have looked more kindly on their fight - and maybe, if they had set up any kind of relationship between these two at all, other than 'Ikoma doesn't like Biba for obvious reasons', I wouldn't be annoyed at Biba's sudden, out of character moment near the end, that exists solely to have the series end on an unmitigatedly happy note.

(Or 'unmitigatedly', because thousands of people are dead and the Koutetsujou is on the move again, even more overcrowded than before presumably, and the nation is going to be in political disarray, but nobody touches on any of that at any point.)

Basically, Ikoma uses his vial of white plasma on Mumei, curing her of Black Smoke-itude - there's no kind of fight, or really anything done with the Mumei Smoke, she just kind of wanders around while Mumei has visions, and then collapses so that Ikoma can rescue her - and then collapses. Biba shoots him while he's on the ground, and it's later revealed that he shot Ikoma with his own vial of white plasma, thus returning him to being a normal Kabaneri. 

Ikoma, you could have cut that big fluff of white as well.

These two characters have said a total of three sentences to each other, and before this episode, we'd never had any suggestion that Biba was an honourable person, or the kind of person who wouldn't gleefully drag everyone down with him if he had to go down. In fact, we've established Biba as being petty, cowardly, vindictive, and needlessly cruel in previous episodes, so him bravely going out to face Ikoma in single combat, and then curing him as a noble dying act makes negative amounts of sense for him.

So that's Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, ending with not so much a bang as a whimper. No word yet on if there'll be a second series. I'll probably watch it if there is, because what the hell, I have free time on my hands. 

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