On the brink of an industrial revolution, horrific creatures referred to as Kabaneri begin to surface due to a deadly virus infecting members of the human population, tearing through the flesh of the uninfected populace to satisfy their constant hunger. When bitten by one of these monsters, the victim suffers a fate worse than death by becoming a Kabane themselves.
To escape this plague of undead beings, the remnants of humanity constructed a gigantic wall on the island of Hinomoto to protect the little people they have left against the threat of the virus, with no way in or out the city other than gigantic, armoured trains. After creating a weapon he believes can defeat the Kabane, young engineer Ikoma dreams of the day that he will be able to save humanity with his newly formed creation. However, he is not aware that his chance may come sooner than he thinks, and not as expected.
I’m a little late with this one. In fact, I’m ridiculously late with this one. I didn’t even have this blog up and running when this show first aired, and I never even gave it the time of day back then.
The poster looked boring, the teasers gave the impression that the show was unorigina and I’d heard that in the second half, the story “falls apart” from a lot of people who’s opinions I value.
As a result, I never gave Kabaneri much thought. I dismissed it as something that just wouldn’t be worth my time. That all changed yesterday, when I found myself with nothing to marathon and decided “Hey, some people said this show is pretty fun, so why not give it a chance?”
So I gave it a chance, and after the first episode, I can honestly say I wasn’t wrong about anything I thought before I watched it.
I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room: this show is a humongous rip-off of Attack on Titan. In every single way. Once again, Wit Studio has proven that they can’t do anything else but adapt or create shows that mimic the premise, atmosphere, aesthetic and general feeling of Attack on Titan.
I liked Attack on Titan. I liked it a hell of a lot. It was a great show, it was fairly original and Wit Studio did a fantastic job putting the series together. I also liked Owari no Seraph quite a lot. Sure, it took a lot of its ideas from Attack on Titan, but at least that show had a bunch of original ideas of its own, conveyed a very different feeling and most of all, it had a completely different narrative focus, drawing its attention to a conflict of best friends as opposed to that of “us versus them”.
But Kabaneri does nothing unique like Owari no Seraph did. Nothing is inventive at all. From the hot-headed, angry and angsty protagonist, to the gigantic walls built to keep humanity safe, to the evil threat with very specific weak points all the way to human-kabane hybrids, every single idea that this show churns out is blatantly lifted from Attack on Titan. They are put through the meat grinder until it’s a tragic mess of what was originally a cool concept.
I will give the series credit where it’s due though. The directing is pretty good. This was clearly someones baby and they put a lot of time, effort and dedication into making this production as beautifully choreographed as possible. The action scenes are outstanding and in general things look alright, the setting in particular. That being said, I’m not a fan of the character designs. Half of them are ugly and the other half are just really generic and uninspired. So far Ikoma is the only one who even remotely stands out visually, with the rest of the characters, the females especially, looking like a bunch of generic stock characters from the 2000’s. The art style is unappealing to me, and for a show that’s main strength is its visuals, that’s not a good thing. At all.
As for the plot itself, it’s not been doing anything all that spectacular either. It’s Attack on Titan with zombies with an equally angry and angst-ridden, albeit slightly more creative and inventive, protagonist who happens to become a human-kabane hybrid who will no doubt have special powers and tear the unstoppable threat of the undead to shreds. And it’s all done in the edgiest way possible. The series is constantly trying to emulate the grim and bleak atmosphere of Attack on Titan, but it just winds up feeling like a super angsty nu-metal CD for teenagers. It’s as edgy as edgy can be. It’s trying way too hard. There’s a scene where the main character strangles himself with a belt to stop the spreading of the virus, and it’s done in the edgiest way possible. I get it, it’s logical, but did they have to go all out on the edginess?
And don’t get me wrong, I like edgy stuff, but it’s all about execution. There’s Coheed and Cambria edgy, where stuff is esoteric, deep and actually has thematic importance to the narrative, then there’s Linkin Park edgy, where everything feels overly angry, grim and depressing for no real reason other than “this is what’s cool now.” Kabaneri is the latter.
And to top it all off everything going on is just so boring.
I’m two episodes into this show right now, and I don’t really care about anything that’s going on. I’m not invested. I’m bored. Really bored. I don’t care about Ikoma. I don’t care about humanity. I don’t care who wins or loses. Nothing matters to me at all, other than seeing cool stuff happen in some pretty okay directed scenes.
And it’s probably because I’ve seen this all before. Twice now. Attack on Titan already did it first and it did it better. Owari no Seraph did it again, and also did it better.
This show isn’t special, it has no identity of its own and it’s incredibly dry, boring and overly edgy for no real reason other than to “be like Attack on Titan.” Yet, it misses everything that made Attack on Titan so great in the first place.
I went into this show expecting an Attack on Titan rip-off and instead I got something far worse. I got a boring Attack on Titan rip-off that feels uninspired and lacks any punch or substance at all.
It’s a mediocre spectacle at best, and considering this is regarded as the “better” half of the series, I’m not expecting things to get any better.
But I do tend to disagree with the consensus more often than not, so maybe it will get better for me?
I guess we’ll need to wait and see…
What were your First Impressions of Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress?