Anime at a Glance: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

The train rides along the tracks, covered in blood and grinding the flesh of the deceased below. Under attack from the Kabane, zombie-like creatures that aimlessly kill humanity and have driven humans to near extinction. Heavily fortified trains are the sole remaining method of travel, and it’s far from being completely safe. Kabane are an overwhelming force, they attack unrelentingly and can only be stopped by piercing their hearts which become surrounded by a cage seemingly made from solid bone or tissue after the infection starts. The Koketsujo makes it’s way to the first uninfected station it comes across, Aragane Station, where Ikoma is trying to make a new gun that can easily pierce the hearts of the Kabane.

After many fine adjustments his testing of the new gun ends in failure and he leaves it off for the night. Working as a steam smith during the day, making repairs to boilers and engines, he tells his friend Takumi about the failure of the new gun prototype and they start breaking down the changes made to the gun before Takumi figures out the missing step. As important as his work is, his prototype could change the fight against the Kabane so he goes to rush home and finish his work when the Koketsujo enters the station and everyone is on call to perform maintenance and disinfect the Iron Fortress. A young girl gets off the train bypassing the inspection that catches Ikoma’s eye, and the lord of the station pardons them from inspection. During the inspection of the passengers there is one person who has a cut on his arm, and the Kabane virus is passed through open wounds and contact. The Bushi step in to kill off the suspected infected, and Ikoma attempts to stop them, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself being afraid of everything?” His attempts fall on deaf ears as the Bushi, the military force made to defend everyone in the station, execute the man who turned out not to be infected at all. Ikoma is thrown into a jail cell for his attempt to stop the Bushi, and everyone returns to work as normal.

Later on that evening, Ikoma is visited in the jail by the young girl as she had seen him stand up against the Bushi. Introducing herself as Mumei, she asks if he knew that the man wasn’t Kabane and why he’d bother trying to stop the Bushi. He explains that he didn’t actually know, but he hates that everyone has lost their sanity to fear of Kabane that they’d ignore procedure and shoot anyone on sight for mere suspicion of infection. It’s not normal for someone to be so brave in the face of Kabane, everyone is afraid of them, “You’re weird, I find you interesting!”

The moment comes to an eventful end when the next train arriving to the station makes an explosive entrance, quite literally, and breaks down the wall. It had been overrun by the Kabane and it crashed into the gate at top speed. Freight cars filled with Kabane get flung into the city and the infection begins to spread everywhere. The entire city panics and people try to rush to the Koketsujo to get away. During the chaos, Ikoma uses a lock-pick to get himself out of his cell and rushes back to his house to finish the piercing gun prototype so he could make a difference in the evacuation. Some civilians run away screaming once he gets near his home and he knows that they’ll be getting chased. To draw them towards him, he slices his own arm open and leaves a trail of blood towards his home so the Kabane go towards him instead. He readies the piercing gun and waits for the Kabane to approach his home. They ambushes him by crashing through the roof instead, he aims his gun towards the Kabane’s heart and pulls the trigger. The pressure from the shot rips through the Kabane’s heart cage and pierces through the wall of his home instantly, killing the Kabane. “My gun! I did this!”

His celebration is cut short when he realizes that his arm had been bitten and the infection is in him, changing his skin to a pale purple colour. He quickly reacts and takes a super heated bit of metal out of his furnace and uses some metal straps to cauterize the wound and attempt to stop the infection. It keeps spreading so he bind the straps around his right torso and bolts it on, but that doesn’t help either. In his last resort, he goes to a machine to cut off all the blood circulation to his brain by having it hang and choke him with incredible force. He watches his hand as the infection continues to spread slowly while he suffocates and instantly the infection recedes back, he pulls the lever of the machine to let go of him to find the infection stopped in his body. It’s time to take the fight to the Kabane and get everyone aboard the train and out of the station and begin his journey on the Iron Fortress.

Being made by the same studio as Attack on Titan, the art style of the show and the overall combat follows a similar flow. When I first saw it, I was starting to immediately notice the similarities between the shows as well. The Titans became infected humans which behave like zombies that attack mankind, the cities became trains and stations, and humanities last remaining weapons became steam powered guns, and the enemies could only be killed if a certain spot on their body is penetrated. The lead protagonist wants to join the military and defeat all of the enemies to avenge the people he’s lost and gets infected by the enemy and gains some of their strengths, as well as gaining immunity to the virus. While the show itself is far from original, that doesn’t stop it from being intense and engaging with well done animation and combat. It’s nothing less than you could expect from the studio after everyone has been waiting years to see the next installment of Attack on Titan. The Kabane are an interesting version of the zombie genre as they actually have an added weakness of being able to be killed by having their hearts destroyed, rather than just being decapitated, but having that weakness being protected by the virus creating a shell around it kind of negates it as being a complete weakness. Most people in the show believe the Kabane virus to be some sort of curse, but it’ll be interesting to find out where the virus originated, and why it was spread in the first place.

I can see Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress being a great show in the long run and hopefully we’ll see more of it in the coming seasons of anime.

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