Written by Dawfydd Kelly on 07 Jan 2019
Distributor Manga Entertainment • Certificate 15 • Price £34.99
On the island of Hinomoto the Industrial Revolution has found itself curtailed by the appearance of a deadly virus that rapidly transforms those infected into Kabane; lethally fast, mindless predators of incredible physical durability who thirst for the flesh & blood of the living, that now infest the countryside. To combat it the population have retreated to fortified towns, now know as stations as they serve as stop-over points for the heavily armed & armoured rolling stock that now serve to link the dwindling outposts of humanity.
When an inbound train is overrun and bursts through Aragane Station’s wall, the surviving population find themselves building a new life crammed into the carriages of the Kutetsujo - a train that had already been in the station when the attack occured. However there are two examples of a new breed of humans infected by the Kabane virus but who have undergone steps to prevent the virus reaching their brains. And these two now possess a measure of the Kabane’s strengths, but they can only unleash this for a short time before risking the virus taking them over. (This sounds rather ominous... - Ed)
Now this is a home release that feels like it has been far too long in coming. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri) first aired April 2016 and was one of the first “big” anime live-streaming acquisitions by Amazon for their Prime Video service (I do wonder if the Amazon Video might be part of why it’s taken quite so long for KotIF to get this home release) and surprisingly, KotIF comes with an (actually quite good) English dub? The lack of fanfare and the delay in it coming to our shores is a bit of a shame because honestly this is a very good show there is a lot to like about i.;
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is another excellent effort from Studio Wit, seemingly in the gap whilst they were waiting for fresh Attack on Titan material to accumulate, and continues their track record of exceptionally animated productions – the aforementioned AoT, Seraph of the End, The Ancient Magus Bride, After the Rain to name but a few. This quality bodes rather well for the upcoming Vinland Saga which I am quite excited for!
In the same vein, the cast are an attractively designed bunch of young survivors from a varied array of backgrounds:
At 12 episodes long it’s a concise show that never outstays its welcome, and in that running time it manages a lot of world building without worrying about much in the way of unnecessary exposition. My only complaint would be that the series' ultimate villain is so obvious when he shows up that it becomes a waiting game for when they finally turn on our heroes, and then the resolution seems somewhat sudden (if in doubt, just keep an eye out for the character with the most stunning hair…).
The Kabane however are a most interesting foe. Ostensibly zombies, what with the whole shambling hordes vibe they have going on, there are certain elements to them that hint at a far more vampiric origin to them – the desire for blood (not flesh), the hardening of the heart – their main weak spot – that requires enhanced weaponry to pierce, how some victims can retain elements of their former skills. All things that would usually be more attributable to the more bestial examples of vampire lore, than to zombies. I won’t deny, if a second series ever comes out I’d be most intrigued to see if they explore the nature of the Kabane any further….
Now, as to this release. I have to say there are some… interesting choices in how the show has been presented. The bulk of the series (episodes 1-9) sit on the 1st disk, whilst the 2nd finishes up the series (episodes 10-12) alongside the extra features. This does lend the series an odd flow, given how used we tend to get to watching shows like this in 6-episode bursts, but means that the final trio of episodes can be viewed handily in one go. The transfer however is impeccable, and the show looks fantastic. (Reminiscent of how the Cat Planet Cuties bluray was presented... -Ed)
Overall I cannot recommend this series more highly. It is great looking, has a novel hook, an engaging cast, and a story that can be forgiven some misteps thanks to the excellent character work. Given it has gotten a trio of theatrical releases – two recap films and a sequel movie – hopefully that means a second season could be on the table in future!
Wargamer. Anime fan. Giant robot enthusiast. Congenietal absorber of science fiction & fantasy. Dawfydd is most definitely too old for this ****, but see's no point in stopping now. If only he could cut down on his use of the words 'dude' and 'groovy' in everyday conversation...
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