Kabaneri of the Iron Fotress

Last week, upon some recommendations and having a bit of time to burn, I decided to watch one of the more popular releases this season, Kabaneri of the Iron Fotress. It certainly helped that it was an anime original IP, as it more or less guarantees a resolution to its story and I won't have to hunt down all its other forms of media XD

Kabaneri is made by Studio Wit, the studio behind super-hit Attack on Titan, and is once again helmed by director Tetsuro Araki, this time with the score handled by the ever popular Hiroyuki Sawano. The studio hasn't worked out the kinks for making more Titan yet, but they now put their expertise to good use in their own take on the formula. How did it turn out? I quite liked it. Its not quite as good as shows like Re:Zero for its good character dynamics and excellent direction, but I had plenty of enjoyment from watching it nonetheless, and for completely different reasons.

Kabaneri draws clear inspiration from Attack on Titan, with a similar world setup. Humans are forced to live behind guarded walls as the rest of the land is over run zombie-esque creatures known as the Kabane, and their lives are changed forever after an incident led to Kabane breaching the walls and completely destroy the settlement. That is where most of the direct comparisons end however, as the two stories are told in very different tones. Titan's world and story are bleak, grim-dark and a notable air of helplessness around it all, with the mounting losses feeling like just another day in the office waiting for your own turn on the chopping, and even victories are more of glass half full affairs. In that world, every day of death and struggle is just that, one more day, and that tone certainly worked for that series.

In Kabaneri's case, the world is certainly not much safer that Titan's. The danger is always there and ever escalating, but Kabaneri maintains a high spirit of action and high action through it all, as our heroes fight to overcome the Kabane threat in admittedly pretty spectacular fashion in  some strong action sequences, and watching badasses wrecking zombies in this show is pretty entertaining.

Kabaneri's world is not quite as volatile and intricate as Titan's, but its certainly very unique in its own way. The story takes place in a pseudo feudal Japan era with steampunk influences, having katana-wielding samurais alongside steam-powered rifle, and traditional wooden architecture to contrast the heavily-armored trains with guns. Its a refreshing setting for a zombie apocalypse, and Kabaneri's world is most certainly a hella lot more Colorful than titan's. Studio Wit's new production is plenty generous with the shows use of color and light, with plenty of striking colors, beautiful vistas and even the fiery-orange hearts or the kabane gives a spark of beauty to every scene. Kabaneri's visuals is pretty unique, somewhere in the middle ground between Attack on Titan and Studio Gibli's work, so far Studio Wits production values don't disappoint and is holding strong 7 episodes in.

One of the stronger aspects of Kabaneri is its protagonists. Its main lead Ikoma is immediately likable, being an experienced steam engineer working under a rigid caste system with little prospects of a promising future and little control over what is going on in his kabane infested world. But he doesn't take any of this lying down, and is not bogged down by conventional thinking and superstitions, working tirelessly to engineer anti-kabane weaponry while looking for a reasonable reason for the kabane 'curse'. He is earnest in his efforts with a sincere desire to be of use and be appreciated. Far from the often bullheaded Eren whose tireless efforts to kill titans is the only thing keeping him going, Ikoma is more of a talented everyday-man. He is just as afraid as any other person when facing the kabane, but his unwillingness to go down without a fight and compassionate desire to help others leads him to put himself out there anyway. He has a good head on him, capable of thinking ahead of time and is willing to accept help and teachings from others, but is definitely rough around the edges and emotionally sensitive. Ikoma is a relate-able geek trying his very best and its  kind of hard to not root for the guy.

Kabaneri's own badass of a female lead Mumei is also pretty intriguing. A veritable kabane killing-machine, Mumei is quite abit more dynamic of a character than the more one-dimensional Mikasa. Mumei is headstrong, cocky and shows little interest beyond wrecking kabane and reaching her objective. She never means ill, but starts with a distinct lack of empathy to others or their struggles, genuinely feeling surprise that her blunt words and actions, however well-meaning, can sometimes upset others. And that's not too unexpected for her 12 year old self that has spent much of her life killing kabane and puts a little too much sense of self-worth into the fact. She has changed alot through the course of her adventures with Ikoma and co, and it will be interesting to see where her character goes from here.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fotress is an enjoyable action-adventure show that borders on silly yet still kinda awesome. It is certainly more than just an Attack on Titan knockoff, and I'm glad the two can offer very different experiences. Anyone looking for a series to just kick-back and enjoy the ride can definitely do much worse than this series, and I definitely am anticipating to watch how it goes.


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